Today, we’re going to talk with Janci Patterson, a hybrid author based out of Utah.
She broke into the traditional publishing scene in 2012 with her first book, Chasing the Skip, and has since produced several self-published works. When she’s not writing, she is the business manager for her husband’s company. She has written fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary young adult novels.
Janci was recently selected to be a guest speaker for Brandon Sanderson’s writing course at Brigham Young University. Many of you probably recognize Brandon Sanderson as the NYT bestseller who finished the popular Wheel of Time series. She did such an excellent job at speaking that I felt compelled to reach out to her for an interview to discuss how she became published.
Ryan: Welcome, Janci. I appreciate your time to be with us today.
Janci: Thank you! Happy to be here.
Ryan: At what point did you realize that you wanted to become a professional author?
Janci: I was bored my freshman year of college, and so I wrote a novel. Apparently, that’s what I do when I’m eighteen and bored? Adult me would have played video games.
Simultaneously, I was trying to narrow down my major and had crossed literally everything off my list of possible future careers. I finished my novel in the spring, right around the time that I’d told myself I had to make a decision, and I decided that book thing was pretty fun, so maybe I should stick with it. I spent finals week researching publication instead of studying, but it worked out okay. That book, incidentally, will never see the light of day!
Ryan: What non-writing skill/area of study did you once learn that contributed most toward your writing?
Janci: For my day job, I am a business manager. Let me tell you, having basic business sense is invaluable as an author. If I had it all to do over, I’d minor in accounting.
Ryan: How did you find your agent? Can you tell us a bit about that?
Janci: I got my agent through a referral from a friend and fellow client at JABberwocky. I had a different agent before that–she found me when Everything’s Fine won the Utah Arts Council’s original writing competition on the category of YA novel.
Ryan: Do you have an idea of roughly how many agents or publishers you queried before hearing that yes? And was there a particular strategy on how you selected who to query to?
Janci: This will tell you how long I’ve been at this: before I had my first agent, querying wasn’t as important as it is today. There were plenty of agents and editors who would accept cold partials or even fulls, so I always sent those. Through the mail. And everyone asked for exclusivity. So that experience is in no way helpful to anyone now! But I will tell you that I’m very close to making my 200th entry in my submission (and rejection) spreadsheet. The rejection doesn’t end with your first sale!
Ryan: What do you do when you find yourself stuck or experiencing writer’s block (if you do)?
Janci: I don’t experience writer’s block, mostly because I don’t count on inspiration to do my work. I treat writing like a job. I show up every day. I write. If what I’ve got that day is crap, I write the crap. Then later I fix the crap. But just like you can’t tell your boss that you just don’t feel inspired to do your job today, I don’t let myself off the hook for not showing up to work. My boss, man. She’s rough.
Ryan: Well said. I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but how do you come up with your ideas?
Janci: Whenever I hear about something awesome (or, more frequently, disturbing) I think about where I would put a teenager in it.
Ryan: What is something that you wish you knew as an aspiring writer that you now know as a published author?
Janci: Revision is your friend. I used to finish a book, see all its problems, and figure it was easier to write another book than to fix that one. I’m not that smart, so it took me seven first drafts to figure out all I’d done was write seven books that ALL needed a lot of work, and I was stuck in a revision cave for an unbearable number of years trying to fix them. For me, a first draft is at best 25% of the total work it takes to get a book readable. And sometimes it’s a LOT less than that.
Ryan: What is your favorite thing about being self-published and your favorite about being traditionally published?
Janci: It sounds crass, but my favorite thing about being traditionally published is the advance. As for self-publication . . . I love the people I work with. My editor and cover designer are my favorite people and also spectacularly good at their jobs.
Ryan: What is a project/book of yours that you’d like to share with us? And where can we find your books?
Janci: My second book, Everything’s Fine, came out last summer. Fast pitch: when Kira’s best friend Haylee commits suicide, Kira is desperate to find Haylee’s journal to find out what happened to her friend . . . and to hide the things Haylee wrote down about her.
Ryan: Great pitch. Again, thank you for your time. We’re glad to have you on.
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