I recently read Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker and I absolutely loved it! Naturally, when the author agreed to come by Bookish Serendipity, I was thrilled. She has a lot of interesting advice and experiences to share, so you should definitely read on!
1. I love your most recent novel, Chasing Jupiter! What inspired you to write this story!
Thanks! I wrote "Chasing Jupiter" when I was sixteen years old, about the time my first book "Interrupted" was coming out and I was traveling the country doing book signings. The inspiration to write a story about an autistic boy growing up in the 1960's actually came to me after church one afternoon! I'd been helping out with a children's Sunday School class that morning and my special assignment had been taking care of an autistic boy in the classroom. We colored together and he gave me a Christmas list that looked very similar to Cliff's list you'll find in my book--outlining crazy things he wanted like monkeys and harmonicas and, lastly, a rocket to Jupiter. And it struck me to write a story about a boy who everyone thinks is so strange and weird, but who is really special and sees the world in a whimsical, magical way. He really teaches his older sister Scarlett to stop worrying so much about growing up and to just embrace the life she's been given.
2. I read that your first novel, Interrupted, was written when you were 14. Can you tell us a little bit about how the publishing process has been for you? Has it changed from your debut to your most recent?
It was absolutely crazy to sign a contract for my first book only a few days after my 15th birthday. Publishing two novels while in high school was a complete God thing and something I never could have done on my own! But it was amazing to see how my query letters to agents, which I thought would be all rejections, were sometimes met positively and how I was eventually signed by my agent when I was only fourteen! Zondervan had never signed a book written by a minor either, so the first book was this big maze of legal technicalities and figuring out how it would all work. It was definitely much easier to sign the contract for Chasing Jupiter, but the excitement never wanes, whether you're fourteen or sixteen or eighteen. Getting a book published is always a big deal.
3. What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I want teenage girls to be able to read my books and see themselves in it. There's so much of me and my own struggles and lessons learned and hopes and dreams buried within my books, and I was only fourteen and sixteen when I wrote them! I think that they speak to young people on a deep level because they're written by someone who knows what it's like to be sixteen and infatuated with life and love and yet still scared of growing up and facing the future. I just want people to be able to maybe laugh and possibly cry and hopefully understand their place in the world a little bit better after reading either of my stories.
4. What is the best (or funniest) experience you've had since your first novel was published?
One of my favorite experiences was getting to go to the Christy Award ceremony in St. Louis with my dad when "Interrupted" was nominated for a Christy award in 2013. Sitting in a room surrounded by so many influential authors, agents, and publishers--many of whom had books sitting on my family's bookshelf since I was a little girl--was so overwhelming and humbling! To think that my name might one day be included in conversations with authors like that--it was an absolute dream come true!
5. You write historical fiction. What made you want to write this in this genre above all others?
I'm an "old soul", as my grandma puts it. I've always loved history and the concept of historical fiction. It's fascinating to me how books set or written in the 40's or 50's or 60's can still be so relevant today. Our circumstances might have changed, but humans are the same today as they were fifty or one hundred years ago.
6. Do you have any advice for teen or aspiring writers?
Read. Read all the time, while you still have the free time to. And re-read your favorite books over and over again until they become a part of you. And then write about things that are important to you. Write about what you know, as a teenager or as a writer. If you can tell stories that are important and real to you, chances are they will relate to someone else too!
Thanks to Rachel for being a part of Bookish Serendipity. I can't wait to see what you write next!