Interview: Jessica Burkhart
Posted January 29, 2009on:
Today is Jessica’s twenty-second birthday so I figured there was no better day than today to post her interview. So if you haven’t already, head on over to her blog and wish her a happy birthday!
You wrote Take the Reins, your debut novel, during NaNoWriMo 2006. However, you’ve been writing for magazines since your teenage years. Can you give us a brief look at your writing history? I started freelancing when I was fourteen. I’d spent months in bed recovering from back surgery and while I rested, I read a zillion teen magazines. After reading so many, I began to think I could write articles and quizzes. So, I started sending out awful queries to editors. It took hundreds of queries before I finally broke in.
I didn’t decide to try book length fiction until I was nineteen. I needed a break from freelancing and wanted to try something different. Since fiction was new to me, I wanted to write about a comfortable topic. I felt that I knew a lot about horses, so I went with it.
I completed the first draft of Take the Reins during NaNoWriMo 2006 and signed with my agent in January 2007. I revised for a few months and got my book deal in May 2007.
Take the Reins is set at a boarding school with a prestigious horse stable. Is this based on anything you ever experienced? If not, is it something you would have liked to have done?
I always wanted to go to a school like Canterwood Crest! My stable was small and most people didn’t compete in English like Sasha and her friends do. The entire world of Canterwood is my equestrian-centered fantasy as a kid.
Out of all the characters in Take the Reins, who do you relate to most? Who was the easiest to write about? The hardest?
I most relate to Sasha. She’s the every girl who worries about boys, zits, school and friends. She’s the easiest to write because she’s most like me. We share a love of chocolate scented body wash, lip gloss, horses and books.
The hardest character to write is Jacob—Sasha’s crush. Sometimes, it’s hard to get inside a boy’s head and think about how he’s supposed to react to a girl who likes him. But it’s also fun to write from a guy’s point of view. Jacob and I do love old school video games such as Super Mario World.
Chasing Blue, Behind the Bit, and Triple Fault, the next three books in the series, all debut this year. Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming books? Maybe a hint at what happens?
Wow, that sounds so scary when you say they all come out this year! 🙂 The upcoming books are so different than Take the Reins. They do have the same elements, but there’s more drama, bigger problems, higher stakes and challenges that Sasha never saw coming. I’m hope readers like the cliffhangers and want to read the next book.
Here’s your shot at self-promotion – Why should everyone run out and buy Take the Reins?
Okay. *deep breath* People should run out and buy Take the Reins whether or not they like horses. If the readers love horses—great! Many scenes happen in the stable and Sasha and Charm might be the best couple in the series. If they don’t like horses that’s fine, too! There are mean girls, boy drama, friendship squabbles and lots of other elements to keep them entertained. My biggest hope is that my passion for horses comes across on the pages.
What’s your like? Do you outline first or just wing it? Do you listen to music while you write?
I start with an outline for the entire book. After that’s set, I do a chapter by chapter outline. My last outline ran just over 30 single-spaced pages (and my editor didn’t complain once! :)) and it covered every major and minor plot point in the new Canterwood Crest book.
When the outlines are finished, I start writing! I love fast drafting and usually finish the first draft within a month. That leaves me lots of time to revise and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote certain paragraphs.I also burn all of my first drafts. Just kidding.
I usually don’t listen to music when I write. I’ve got the TV on all of the time, though!
Name your three favorite of the following: Books, Authors, Movies, Animals, and Bands/Singers.
Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen
Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell (I totally cheated on that one!)
What is one thing that most people do not know about you?
Most people are shocked to learn that I spent a lot of time growing up in the South. I don’t have an accent and when I tell people that I’m from Nashville , I get looks of “Really?”
What advice do you have for your teen readers on getting published?
Start now! Right now! Don’t wait for high school or college. If you want to be published, begin reading, writing and learning about the craft. Study your favorite writers and learn from them. Try writing EVERYTHING from short stories to magazine articles to see what you like. You’ll get experience and it will give you more opportunities to write. Most important—don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too young. That’s never true.
Finally, make up a question and answer it!
So, Jess, you’ve mentioned before that you have a lip gloss addiction. How many do you have?
Umm, let me see. *rushes off to look under the couch, behind pillows, in purses…* I’m coming up with 23. There might be more somewhere. 🙂