Yep, Jennifer has so many wonderful things to share I had to split her interview into two parts! She’s got a heavy hustle going on, and she was willing to share her secrets!
PersephoneKnits: Let’s talk Run with the Hunted! This book was a lot of fun to read. Cyberpunk heist! Where did this idea start?
Jen Donohue: As with a lot of my stories, the idea came from a few different bits of information I knew of, or had read about, and kind of mushed together. Like, I knew diamonds had little etched serial numbers or bar-codes or whatever, and I thought “Well, wouldn’t it be interesting to have information layered in there that wasn’t just their identifiers? Wouldn’t that be a great way to smuggle information?”
Then, I considered what would happen if people who thought they were only stealing diamonds ended up with those stones, and I built my heist team!
PK: Because of the nature of the plot (no spoilers!), it seems like you’d have to outline. I can’t see a pantser getting away with a heist plot without serious note-taking. Thoughts?
JD: I don’t typically outline, no.
And, as I was writing Run With the Hunted’s first draft, I kept saying things to myself and my writing group like “I’m sure it’s important to actually know what’s going on here in detail, but it’s also important to realize Bristol herself wouldn’t know those details, so it’s fiiiiiiiiiiiiine.”
I cleaned that up in subsequent drafts but deliberately kept the heist-y, espionage-y bits a little bit murky and limited by the point-of-view.
The first draft was about 45,000 words, and the published draft is more like 32k. I find I tend to write to see what happens, so a lot of what I cut was me “thinking out loud” to see what was actually going on, some repetitious conversations, that kind of thing.
Looking at the numbers, I’m like “oh wow, I cut 13k words. That’s a novelette unto itself”, but I honestly can’t remember any of what I cut, which makes me feel pretty good. The first draft was also third person, past tense, and I decided to rewrite in first person, present tense.
Bristol’s voice is such a strong one, the rewrite sort of drove itself. She’s fun, sharp, and more than a little selfish. Very informed by Holly Golightly as portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and a lot of her initial dialogue had her calling people darling an awful lot. But she isn’t a hacker, and she isn’t “muscle”, as it were, and so I wanted those supporting characters. Everybody has her own knowledge, skill set, and contacts to rely upon.
PK: What gave you the leap of faith to self-publish or was that always the goal? What would you say to other writers who are considering self-publishing?
JD: My decision to self-publish in part stems from my surprise and dismay at not having an agent and publisher yet, combined with the great reception I’ve had on some of my published stories, like Daddy’s Girl. That’s also what gave me the teensy push to start a Patreon.
I’m fairly independent and impulsive, so I’ve got a werewolf trilogy not quite ready to go, and Run With the Hunted WAS ready to go (and freshly rejected by Tor…), so I figured “well, why not?”
My advice to others who are self-publishing is to do things like purchase cover art and formatting, have a marketing plan in mind, and remember to both love your work and also give yourself a break.
PK: I hear you on the not having an agent yet! I think a lot of people end up going the self-publishing route just to save time. They can get sales and readers without a wait. Are you still querying a novel for traditional publishing? How about the fear of it being harder to get an agent if a self-published book doesn’t do numbers? I believe this is a lie, by the way. I think any good manuscript will sell, regardless of what’s come before.
JD: I’m not worried about self-publishing hurting my chances at getting an agent. Especially with the novellas, which can be hard to place. They’re kind of quirky and have their flaws, and I think embracing that is part of the joy of writing.
If I’m self-publishing, I can just love what I’m doing and set it loose in the world. With the werewolves, I’ve got this dream they’ll boom on their own when I self-publish, and I’ll get picked up, so we’ll see how that goes. But also with the werewolf trilogy, I had this horror of the first book getting accepted, and then the second (or third) books getting rejected, and not being able to handle that. There are always worries about things being out of your hands and not going the way you’d like.
PK: What are your goals for 2019?
JD: For 2019, I intend to actually publish the werewolves this time. There are also more Run With the Hunted books planned, so 2019 might see book 2! An episodic novella is much breezier to complete than a trilogy with the narrative arcs inherent within. I’d like to make another pro sale, too. That’d be great! I’ve kind of had a rough time completing stories, or anything actually, with a very busy puppy in the house, so more writing is always the goal.
PK: Well, I’d love to have you come back and chat about the werewolves trilogy when it’s done!
JD: I’ll happily return for the werewolves, thank you so much!
Next time, Jen shares how she submitted a story every day for a month to meet her goals and how to write enough stories to do that!
Jennifer R. Donohue grew up at the Jersey Shore and now lives in central New York with her husband and her Doberman. Though she got a bachelor′s degree in psychology, she has always wanted to write. She currently works at her local public library, where she also facilitates a writing workshop, and she is now a Codexian and an Associate member of the SFWA. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Mythic Delirium, Syntax & Salt, Escape Pod, and elsewhere. She blogs at Authorized Musings, where she shares fiction and the tribulations of the writing life, and tweets @AuthorizedMusin.