Interview with Jessica Hayworth: Writing to Please Your Own Intentions

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Jessica Hayworth, author of MARTY MATTERS and MARTY MAYHEM, both available from Little Creek Books.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Oh goodness!  Could I say both? I begin my novels with what I think is a good plan but quickly realize my mind has other plans! I usually do write in a rush, though, as I am so OCD…when I begin something, I cannot wait until it is finished! The words haunt me until they are on paper! 

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Honestly, I can sit down and write a novel in about three weeks. Now, that does not mean that it is perfect at that point, by any means. After that, there are revisions upon revisions. 

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I am definitely a one project at a time kind of gal. With that being said, ideas for other novels show themselves as I am writing. I simply write them down and promise to get to them later.  Some of them are still waiting on me…

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Yes!  I still do. The very first time I wrote a novel, I was scared to show it to anyone! I was so afraid of failure. I quickly realized that I am not writing to please anyone. I am writing to appease the thoughts and intentions inside myself. Those intentions are always to tell the stories of those youngsters who can’t do it themselves. I just have to remember that I am writing for the right reasons, and the rest, well, I can’t worry about the rest.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

No, I have never quit on an MS. I feel strongly that the idea was posed to me for a reason...maybe it was the story of a child in my classroom or one I saw on the news. It can, many times, be the combination of several observations from society. I work diligently to complete it the best I can. 

How long have you been querying? 

For my new project, I am currently querying. At this point, I have been querying for almost two months. I can’t say that my query is perfect, but it has undergone massive surgery…four times. I have learned that querying is no different than laying your heart on the line. Moreover, I have learned that rejections are not personal; the agent is just not the right match for the particular project. I know that as I learn more about the querying process, I will be led to the right agent. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Research. Research. Research. As I am querying, I first do my research. In following many of the agents on Twitter, I have learned that their emails get bogged down by queries for genres they don’t even represent. They also have wish lists for a reason. Take time to research the agents, what they represent, and what specific projects they are begging to take on. 

How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

Amazing! It’s wonderful to walk into a store and see the book on a shelf! As a reading teacher, I have watched my students read book after book. To see my own book in their hands is something I never thought would happen! 

How much input do you have on cover art?

Lots! The illustrator for both MARTY MATTERS and MARTY MAYHEM was wonderful to work with. She read my book and asked me what I envisioned. She worked super hard in order to get every detail correct. She would complete the cover and ask for any necessary revisions. She made me feel comfortable in doing so.She was so patient with me.  In the end, my vision became her vision. It was perfect!

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

Ha! The amount of editing!!! As a reading and English teacher of several years, I didn’t expect so many points of correction! Although the editing process takes several days, in the end, it makes the novel so much better!

How much of your own marketing do you? 

As my writing deals mostly with issues teens face, I attempt to hit them head on. I do as many school visits as time allows. I love to directly place the books into the hands of students. I also speak at reading councils and work with school systems that purchase the novels as instructional materials. I personally think it is important to do much of my own marketing. I want my readers to see that I am proud of my publications!

I also have a website and am on Twitter.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Personally, I think platform should be built as soon as possible. An author should know his/her audience and the situations they face in order to appeal to them. For me, being a teacher allows me an understanding of my readers and the issues they face daily. I don’t guess what they go through each day; I see it. 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely! As an author, it is so important to reach out to potential readers. I feel it is important to give them a glimpse into your world. They can understand more about you and in turn, more about your writing. I know that I respect a book much more if I am able to identify with the author! Social media is great for building relationships!