Sunday, June 8, 2008

Author Interview: Jennifer Ziegler!

Okay, so let me explain what happened:

Jenny and I talked for exactly an hour, thirty-nine minutes, and twenty-three seconds over the phone. It was a lot of fun because, you know, Jenny is just too awesome. However, transcribing = no fun. So I, Reviewer Lazy, asked Jenny to supplement the partial transcription I did with some written questions. The first portion, marked by "Jenny:" and "Steph:", is about twenty-something minutes of the phone interview. (The Book QnA, located here, was another twenty-something minutes.) I'll post the rest some other time when I can go back to the horrors of hearing myself talk. (I sound so dorky!!) The second portion, marked by simple questions and answers, was an email exchange with the awesome Jennifer.


About the Author: Jennifer Ziegler is the author of two teen novels: Alpha Dog and How NOT To Be Popular (review). Aside from being cooler than thou, she is also cooler than moi. (Note: Jenny didn't put me up to this -- she really is. You know. Cos some people are naturals.) You can find out more about her (or more than you care to know) by reading the partial phone conversation below or by checking out her site, Also friend her on MySpace by clicking here.

Now for the phone interview:

Steph: Okay, let’s see, what else am I going to ask... Let’s do some personal questions. Can you describe your road to publication?

Jenny: For How Not To Be Popular?

Steph: Well, for your first novel, Alpha Dog?

Jenny: That’s funny—it is my first physical novel. But I think it was my seventeenth or eighteenth book overall?

Steph: Wow...

Jenny: Because I did a lot of work for hire. I just kind of stumpled into some ghostwriting opportunities where I did mass-market paperbacks, and I wanted to write my own stuff, but this was such a good gig to have as a new, aspiring writer with babies. Because it’s a little different in that they tell you what to write, and you flesh out their stories with dialogue and action. Before that, I was a teacher, and I was able to do an average of, let’s say, three novels a year part-time from home while the babies "slept" and make my teacher salary. So that was marvelous, and I really got my chop to. But then after a while, I wanted to work on my own stories and I was able to use the connections I made doing those mass-market books when I had those stories figured out. I was able to pitch them to some of my favorite editors and they liked it and the rest is, some would say, history.

Steph: Oh, so you pitched them yourself? You didn’t get an agent to do it for you?

Jenny: No, not with those books, no.

Steph: That’s interesting! Okay, so, what are you working on now?

Jenny: Well, not to be evasive, but I really can’t say. I’m doing a couple of projects simultaneously and I don’t know what’s going to enter the world first, so I don’t know which to throw the spotlight on, does that make sense? I’m still doing a lot of promotion for How Not To Be Popular and working on another YA book. And this other project—I haven’t begun writing yet, I’m just fleshing out—is more middle grade.

Steph: That’s so cool—you’re branching out.

Jenny: Yeah, these I guess just pop into your head. Sometimes I’ll be doing things simultaneously because while I’m at work on one project, I typically get ideas for other projects.

Steph: Oh, yeah, that’s so easy to do.

Jenny: [Laughs.] Which I suppose is, you know, because your brain is all on fire and I guess that makes sense that’s when your muse will visit, because that’s where your head is at. I’ve learned that when the muse comes, when I get these really vivid ideas, I really need to stop and detail the idea as much as possible. Because if I wait until I have the time—if I wait until it’s more convenient—the idea will be very stale and have lost its impact.

Steph: I see what you a very weird, non-authorish way.

Jenny: [Laughs.]

Steph: This is a really weird question, but how do you say your last name? Is it Z-ee-gler? Or Z-eye-gler?

Jenny: It would be, if you pronounce it in the correct German, it would be Z-ee-gler, with a long e sound. But down here in Texas, we say it Ziggler, with a short e sound.

Steph: So, Ziggler. I always imagined it would be Z-ee-gler...

Jenny: [Laughs.] Well, I guess that comes from my husband’s family living here in Texas for a few generations and that’s just a Texan pronunciation.

Steph: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Jenny: If I was not writing.... Goodness, that’s a good question. I would still be working with young people and I would still be working probably with books in some way. So I would either be a librarian or teacher. Yeah, I’d probably be one of those. Really, every job I’ve had has had to do with books or writing or young people. So that would just be the obvious alternative. And before I wrote full-time, I was a teacher and I loved it.

Steph: Okay, so, yeah, you’d be that—

Jenny: Or maybe a circus performer!

Steph: [Laughs.] Well, that was random! Okay, so, as a circus performer, what would you do? Would you be like an acrobat or....?

Jenny: Let’s see... I would probably be... I’m the klutziest person around, so I’d probably be in charge of turning on the music at the right time. [Laughs.]

Steph: Well, that gives "performer" a new definition!

Jenny: Oh, yeah, that’s not really performing... Let’s see, I would have to be a clown. See, I’d want to free the animals, so they wouldn’t let me be near the animals, and I’d be too klutzy—to scared—on the tight-wire, so I would have to be a clown. Probably. That’d be the only thing left!

Steph: [Laughs.] I can only imagine you as a clown, dressed up in a clown suit and everything...

Jenny: ...get picked on by all the other clowns...

Steph: ...coming out of that really small car with a lot of clowns around you...

Yeah, that would be fun, to drive the small car. That would be fun. How many people can say, "I drove the small clown car!"? [Laughs.]

But... Okay, so we took a complete left turn, didn’t we?

Steph: Yeah, we did. [Laughs.] Okay, so... I’m looking at your author photo right now. You’re blonde, right?

Jenny: I’m blondish.

Steph: So my question is, do blondes do it better?

Jenny: [Awkward silence.] Do they do... what... better?

Steph: [Laughs.] Do they do it better. Anything. Like everyone says you do.

Jenny: Oh, umm, no. [Laughs.] Well, I can only speak for myself. First of all, because, you know, during the winter months, I’m not that blonde. You can tell my author photo was taken in September after I’d been to the pool a lot. I will say, the natural blondes I know are not stupid. I will stand up for them. The dumb blonde stereotype is a complete stereotype. But do they do it better? I would have to say not necessarily any better than brunettes, redheads, or people who are completely bald. [Laughs.]

Steph: People who are completely bald... Hmm, yeah, gotta include those in here. [Grins.]

Jenny: [Laughs.] Maybe bald people do it better. I don’t know! I don’t—I haven’t tried that hairstyle.

Steph: Well, you know, there’s always gotta be a first time for everything, so if you ever do...

Jenny: You know, when I run off to join the circus and be a clown, maybe I’ll try that. See if it works for me.

Steph: That’s gotta be—you gotta call me up whenever you do that just so I can do a second interview only on that.

Jenny: That would be fun! I would go undercover, go bald, join the circus, just so I can write a book about it so you can interview me about it.

Steph: That’s perfect! So we can start with the whole transformation, from when you turn bald to when your hair started growing back.

Jenny: Yeah, we could even call it "My Life As A Bald Circus"—

Steph: Or hey, you could even call Britney Spears to do the interview along with you because she used to be blonde and then she went bald. So that would be perfect, too.

Jenny: [Laughs.] Well, she must’ve thought balds do it better.

Steph: Well, obviously. And this just proves your point: Balds may do it better.

[Both Jenny and Steph start laughing for a good thirty seconds...]

Jenny: I already know the name of that book: My Life As A Bald Circus Clown by Jennifer Britney Ziegler.

Steph: And then you have to put, like, "Inspired by the interview question of"—

Jenny: Inspired by Reviewer X!

[Simultaneous laughs.]

Steph: Well, this interview is going interestingly well...

Jenny: I’m gonna read on your blog tomorrow, "I QUIT!"

Steph: After I did an interview with Jennifer Ziegler—

—I can’t take it anymore!

Steph's Note: This is where the phone interview is cut off by my laziness. Below is a written interview. If you've made it this far, you'll see it is appropriate that I'm bestowing upon every post on this blog that has something to do with Jenny "Bald Clown".

What is one thing you want to know about the future?

Hmm. I'm not sure I'd like to know anything. To me, it would be like peeking ahead in a great story you're reading. I like to be surprised.

What is one thing you want to know about the future?

Hmm. I'm not sure I'd like to know anything. To me, it would be like peeking ahead in a great story you're reading. I like to be surprised.

What is your dream vacation?

I love vacations where I can blend in with the locals and just go exploring. To me destination is not as important as the manner in which I travel. I'm not one of those people who go through foreign countries inside a little American bubble -- going on tours with other Americans, staying in American hotels, eating American food, etc. I really don't mind getting out of my comfort zone. In fact I find that when I do, I learn so much more. Not only about the place I'm visiting, but about me, about life in general, and about my own culture (in contrast).

What would the movie of your life be called? How might it go?

It could be called "Tex-Mex and the City: The Power of Writing, Coffee, and Spicy Enchiladas!" And it should be a feature-length cartoon with several layers of subtext. That would sum me up pretty well.

If you could have any super power, which would it be and why?

Invisibility. So I could catch my kiddoes being sneaky, play amazing practical jokes, and leave the house without worrying how my hair looks. Oh, and help spy on bad guys.

If you could talk to your teen self now, what would you say? Would she be proud of her future self?

I would say, relax! Have fun! Be confidently and unapologetically YOU! I had a pretty good sense of myself back then (which was nice, since many people that age don't), but I was frustrated that I wasn't the person I wanted to be. In those years I really wished I was cool – you know, a sassy, bold, ultra-smooth type who seemed to possess no self-doubt whatsoever. It would be neat if I could convince my younger self that I'm actually pretty cool the way I am. And that people who seem to have no insecurities are just very good at pretending. I would also talk myself out of that perm.

And yes, I think the teenage me would be pleasantly surprised and proud that the adult me attained our goal of being published. Plus, she'd approve of my cute hubby and adore my kids. But she'd probably demand to know why I never got a tattoo.

Should a sinister partnership entitled Jenn-X exist, what would its mission be?

To get great books into everyone's hands ... disguised as bald circus clowns. ;-)

What is something you would never do? (So in case you do it, we can go back and say nyeh, nyeh, nyeh.)

I would never run for office. People who go into politics have to have answers whereas I'm more of a question person. I like to ponder and explore subjects (in life and through literature). I'm not comfortable telling people what to do. Plus, I'd have to wear suits and heels and disown all my nutty friends and relatives. No amount of power is worth that.

Make yourself a question and answer it.

Name three things that scare you:
1) Harm befalling my children.
2) Geckos. (Yeah. Something about the way they move. And their beady eyes and transparent bodies. *Shudder.*)
3) The creepy guy in the Burger King mask.


Amee said...

Lol! You guys are too funny.

The Burger King guy creeps me out too!

Anonymous said...

LOL! I loved this- absolutely hilarious. :) Can't wait to read the rest whenever you transcribe it.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I enjoyed reading this so far - MORE! MORE!

You said you lived somewhere abroad - may I ask where? Do you have a APO box or something?

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Great job Steph. Loved the interview a ton and you two are really amusing. I bet it was fun to do a phone interview. :0)

Loved the questions/answers too! Very interesting to read.


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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph