Wednesday, May 30, 2007

REPOSSESSED by A.M. Jenkins


A. M. Jenkins's favorite deadly sins are Sloth and Gluttony. The others are also enjoyed in moderation. The award-winning author of Damage, Breaking Boxes, and Beating Heart: A Ghost Story, Jenkins lives in Benbrook, Texas, with three sons, two cats, and two dogs . . . and has never been possessed by a demon, so far as anyone can tell.

Her latest book is REPOSSESSED, and HarperCollins says, "In this devilishly funny look at the complexities of being a teen, Jenkins tells the story of an unforgettable--and irresistibly endearing--demon's sojourn on earth, where he learns more than he ever expected about humans and himself. "

And Jennifer Hubert of Reading Rants says, "A.M. Jenkins' inspired portrayal of a sympathetic demon and his longing to stay human, so that he might actually be NOTICED by the all-powerful (an apparently, all-too-busy) Creator, is funny, thought provoking, and surprisingly deep."

I will add a hearty amen to both of those descriptions. This latest book is humorous, deep, surprising, and a testament to the many layers of Jenkins writing talents.

Join me in welcoming her as our guest this week at the Cafe.


Mary P: This story has so many layers, including a surprising romance. The love story that unfolds in this is amazingly tender. It started out as a Lust Quest, and ended up--well I don't want to give it away--but Kiriel's quest was transformed into something much richer. One thing that is endearing is that he is often so clueless. Did you know the direction Kiriel was going or did you bumble along with him as he pursued Lane?
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A.M. Jenkins: When I write a book, I generally know what will happen in the end, and then my process always takes me down blind alleys while I'm getting there. I have to back up, reassess, delete, and rewrite. With Kiriel and Lane, same old same old; I knew where they were ultimately heading, and there were the usual dead ends. But most of the bumbling I did with Lane wasn't due to Kiriel--it was due to Lane herself. Girl characters are not my strong point and I kept going off course with her and that made Kiriel's reactions inaccurate. That last scene between Kiriel and Lane took several different rewrites after the rest of the book was done; I knew what happened in that scene, but I couldn't get the emotional arc of it right, and by that point I had looked at the ms so many times I couldn't really "see" it anymore. My editor would read it and say, "Nope, this doesn't ring emotionally true." So I'd tackle it again, trying to nail it without pushing the characters around. I don't remember how many times I rewrote that scene, but it was a bunch. I'm very glad my editor kept handing it back to me instead of saying, "Eh, I guess this'll do."

Mary P: This book, while dealing with many deeper issues, is also packed with humor. There were so many places that I was snorting out loud as I read. Did you have as much fun writing it as readers have reading it? Was there a particular scene that still makes you laugh?

A.M. Jenkins: There were a *ton* of scenes I enjoyed writing in this book, but the only one that ever made me laugh was the bit where Kiriel cries. No kidding.

Mary P: The story touches on several deep theological questions, such as separation from the Creator, which I think you explore particularly well, raising questions but leaving it to the reader to supply the answers. It makes us think which is what I think any good story should do. Were these questions difficult for you to explore?

A.M. Jenkins: Nope. It's hard for me to believe that everybody doesn't think about this stuff all the time. My feeling has always been that religion, the supernatural and the afterlife are *the* most important issues any human has to face. We're alive on this earth for less than 100 years (most of us, anyway), and then there's the question of what happens to us for the rest of eternity. I'd say the answer to that question is crucial. And the answer--or lack of an answer--that each of us comes up with is what provides us with a moral system to live by. Even if you feel that you have the one true and correct answer to the question of eternity, how can you blithely go about your business without weighing your daily choices, attitudes, and actions in terms of that answer?I was just talking about this with a couple of friends, and one presented the theory that most people don't think about the above, that most people don't like to think at all, and especially not when they read books. It made me wonder about YA in general: do people prefer books that present answers and solutions rather than asking questions? I guess this blog is my forum for a few days, but I'd like to know other people's opinions: Is a good book one that makes you think? One that gives you a model to emulate? One that confirms your feelings about something? One that entertains you for a few hours?

Mary P: Do you hoard ketchup packets?

A.M. Jenkins: No, just the little tubs from Whataburger.

Mary P: What are you working on now?
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A.M. Jenkins: I just sent a ms off to copyediting. The book is currently titled NIGHT ROAD, and will be out in spring 2008. This completes what has turned out to be an unintentional trilogy of three weird little books about the supernatural: BEATING HEART (2006), which is about a ghost; REPOSSESSED (2007), about demonic possession; and then NIGHT ROAD, a book about hemovores--blood-drinking humans who are not your typical vampires. These three books are weird not because they're about the supernatural, but because they sound like horror books when they aren't, not exactly. I don't know what they are. I just know I've enjoyed writing them.

~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Amanda Jenkins, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

21 comments:

MarPerez said...

Amanda, congratulations on the publication of your latest book. I can't wait to read it!

Laura Wiess said...

Hi Amanda,

Congratulations! I got Respossessed yesterday, and once I started, I couldn't put it down until I finished. I LOVE this book. I laughed in so many places, and really enjoyed being with every single one of the characters. There's so much more I could say, but I don't want to give anything away. Just loved it!

Amanda said...

Thanks, Mar--hope you like it!

Amanda said...

Laura, I'm glad you liked the finished product. I definitely appreciated your taking the time to look it over and give opinions during the writing process. I'd be lost without my writer friends!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Just surfing by to add my cheers! It's a fabulous read--as is Beating Heart. I'm fascinated by marketing, and I was wondering if you could offer any insights into the cover art. Did you have any role in brainstorming? Do you like it? I think it's quite eye-catching.

Anonymous said...

Amanda, I'm another admirer of this book. I have a student I think will love it.

My favorite part of Repossessed is how Shaun's little brother suddenly has a brother who is kind to him and wants to help him. He's not thrilled at first. Can you talk about how you developed this part of the book?

Cathy

Amanda said...

"I was wondering if you could offer any insights into the cover art. Did you have any role in brainstorming? Do you like it?"

Early on my editor asked if I had any ideas about what I wanted the cover to look like, and it turned out that we were sort of on the same page as far as style. She sent some examples of artists they were looking at, which all looked good to me, and then they chose Will Staehle. The first time I saw the cover I loved it--but was a little freaked, thinking how school libraries might react to the many devil-y aspects of it. But the fact is that any school librarian who wants to avoid trouble isn't likely to order a book about a demon anyway. If I'm going to write a book like this, it would be very wimpy of me to try to rein in the cover in hopes of saving myself some fuss down the line. I think Staehle did a fantastic job on the art, and he and Jennifer Heuer came up with a great design. I love the cover. Let the chips fall where they may!

Amanda said...

"My favorite part of Repossessed is how Shaun's little brother suddenly has a brother who is kind to him and wants to help him. He's not thrilled at first. Can you talk about how you developed this part of the book?"

Hmm, what to say without getting overly passionate about it. I think you probably can see in this book, and in my book Out of Order, a sympathy for the kid who has to cope with learning disabilities. Shaun's brother Jason has ADHD, and he pays a price ADHD kids often have to pay: being disliked by teachers and adults, and having difficulty making friends. In Out of Order, Colt responded to his disabilities by being an real SOB; Jason responds by being negative and shutting himself off from everyone around him. Unfortunately, protecting himself in this way means that his situation is only likely to get worse, because the surlier he is, the less anybody wants to interact with him--which makes him even more negative.

What I liked about the demon in Repossessed is that he consistently focuses on people's intentions more than their actions. And that's how that part of the book developed: I let an ADHD kid meet somebody who ignores the things about him that drive everybody else crazy--who tries to interact with the kid rather than with the kid's behaviors.

Debby Garfinkle said...

Hi, Amanda.

I loved Out of Order. I'm wondering if you approach writing your books with fantasy elements differently than your realistic fiction books, and if you felt any pressure to "brand" yourself as an author and perhaps keep your readers (and publisher?) happy by sticking to realistic fiction.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Amanda: Congrats on the new book. I do love your writing and look forward to reading this one.
Judy Gregerson

Amanda said...

"I'm wondering if you approach writing your books with fantasy elements differently than your realistic fiction books."

No, it's all the same to me. The characters and their worlds are equally real to me whether they're dead, alive, or something in between. It doesn't matter whether in my everyday life I even believe that such a character might exist. My job lies in trying to ferret out the best way to present his/her story.

"...if you felt any pressure to "brand" yourself as an author and perhaps keep your readers (and publisher?) happy by sticking to realistic fiction."

That should be a simple question with a simple answer. Short answer: No. I write what I want to write, and always have. I have no control over how it's marketed or even whether it will sell.

Long answer: I'm a single mother of three kids, two of whom have special needs. Writing is the perfect job for me--but only if it pulls in enough for us to live on. I write what I want to in my own work, but I also do work-for-hire projects where I write what the editor needs. My own work and these w-f-h projects can be very different in subject matter, style, and approach--but most importantly, in the targeted reader age. So far I've been using "A.M. Jenkins" on my own books, and "Amanda Jenkins" on my w-f-h and midgrade projects. So in that way I've felt some responsibility for a "brand." That's nothing to do with realism or fantasy, though.

Amanda said...

Thanks, Judy! I see Bad Girls Club is coming out in a couple of weeks--can't wait to read it!

SAH said...

I love all your books. I wondered if you had any manuscripts stashed away and if your first published book, Breaking Boxes, was the first you wrote.

Amanda said, "Is a good book one that makes you think? One that gives you a model to emulate? One that confirms your feelings about something? One that entertains you for a few hours?"

I love books with great characters that leave me thinking after I've finished reading and that give me fresh insight.

Amanda said...

"I wondered if you had any manuscripts stashed away and if your first published book, Breaking Boxes, was the first you wrote."

Breaking Boxes was the second book I finished, but the first one that really was publishable.

I only have one completed ms stashed away that I will never work on again--I know it doesn't have the depth necessary to make a real book. I have several mss of varying lengths stashed away that I *will* keep working on, because they *do* have the necessary depth--I just haven't figured out the proper way to tell them yet. This could take a while; I started Night Road back in 1995, and just recently developed the life experience to get it figured out. I'm like a dog with a bone, once I decide a story has what it takes. I feel that with enough time, craft, and dedication, I can eventually chisel out what a worthy story needs, in order to be a real book. I hop around from project to project--none of this "work straight through" stuff for me--and I plan on writing till the day I die anyway, so what difference does it make if one particularly knotty book takes 10+ years to write?

abiola abosede said...

this book is really awesome i hope u come out with a sequal

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song said...

Hi Mary:
Forgive me for going through the comments here but I couldn't find your contact info.
I'm an author with a new release--Whale Song-- that is a cross between adult and YA fiction. I am organizing a Virtual Book Tour in August and am looking for hosts. I hoped YA Authors Cafe might be interested.
Please contact me at cherylktardif @ shaw.ca (copy, paste, remove spaces) or through my book's site: Whale Song - a novel that will change the way you view life...and death
I hope to heard from you.
Thanks,
Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Library Goddess said...

I have Repossessed on my nightstand right now. I am looking forward to it.

Damage is one of the books I can never keep on my shelves. I have several copies and I booktalk it all the time. A lot of the kids who check it out are reluctant readers. I have had a few tell me they actually read it and enjoyed it.

crispian123 said...

I loved Out of Order. I'm wondering if you approach writing your books with fantasy elements differently than your realistic fiction books, and if you felt any pressure to "brand" yourself as an author and perhaps keep your readers (and publisher?) happy by sticking to realistic fiction.

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