Posted in Author Spotlight, Authors, Books, New Releases

Author Spotlight: YA Author Jill Van Den Eng

authorspotlightWelcome to the Literary Library Lounge where I interview fellow authors. Today, I am chatting with YA author Jill  Van Den Eng from Appleton, Wisconsin.dsc_2052limitlesslibrarylounge

Thanks for joining us, Jill.  Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.

How long have you been published? What titles have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

gangbanger-001-2My debut YA novel, “Divided Moon,” was published in 2012 by Solstice Publishing. The companion novel to that, “Gangbanger,” was just released November 15, 2016, also by Solstice Publishing.

I have not self published any titles, as I don’t have the time or money to do something like that. I have published in newspapers, periodicals and online sources as a journalist.

Very nice, and congratulations on your new release. As you know, I also publish with Solstice Publishing and also Limitless Publishing. My first book, however, was self-published by Booklocker.com. I’ve also written articles for magazines and online publications.

Tell us a little bit about your books. If you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. 

I write realistic YA fiction. I like to say they are contemporary, coming of age stories, but have seen “Divided Moon” classified as historical fiction since it is set in the 1990s, as is “Gangbanger.” They are set in the 1990s for a reason (I promise, I am not afraid to write about smart phone technology). Both stories feature main characters who are first generation Hmong in America. They live this divided life in which their immigrant parents want to keep the culture of their homeland and culture alive while their kids grow up in American culture.

I received good reviews for “Divided Moon,” and many say it made them think. The companion novel, “Gangbanger” just hit the street on November 15, 2016, and I am excited to hear what readers think. This story follows Moon’s brother, Ze, and his story as he breaks rank. It was an emotional story to write, that came largely from my gut and knowledge of that bond of friendship that is so strong when you are a teen.

Your series sounds very interesting.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I have a lot of stories to write. I do feel like I am an “issue” writer who likes to cast light on things that people may not be aware of or never thought about much. I am pleased when I hear someone say my book made them think or informs them on something they didn’t know existed. I guess that is my goal, bringing forth things we may not otherwise see to better understand the people around us. That is the point of communication.

As a librarian as well as an author, I agree completely. 

What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I don’t have a “type” of reader. I love them all. I wish more people would read my books. Being published by a small press has some disadvantages, one of them being outside of the library market.  I make an effort to donate books to my favorite libraries so more people have the opportunity to read them. Although then I worry and want to check them out a few times so they don’t toss them for taking up too much space.

I know what you mean about small presses having the drawback of limited distribution, although there are some pluses to them, as well. I’m currently seeking wider distribution and formats for my psychological thriller that I am querying with agents. As far as small press books being outside the library market, I somewhat disagree with that. As a librarian who orders books for our fiction and mystery collection, I’m aware that many good, small press books are not ordered by libraries because they are not generally reviewed in library journals such as Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. However, patrons can request that books not owned by their libraries be purchased. Donating is an option, but not always the best one for an author although exposure is important. 

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. Don’t be afraid or offended by critique. It is so important to see the flaws in your work so that you can improve it. Writing a story is bringing the reader on a journey, you want them to get “lost” in the book, almost in a trance where they can’t put it down. That is what makes reading fun! You can’t get there without a heck of a lot of work on story and prose and generous feedback.

That’s good advice, although you can’t please every reader. I’ve found that editing and revising often take longer than the initial writing which is just a rough draft. 

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Like a lot of writers, I would say the biggest challenge in the beginning is the rejection. It is hard to hear no over and over again, but it is part of the process. Even established authors with published stories get rejected. At least the published authors I know. I often take rejections as opportunities to make the work better and I appreciate it when editors and agents offer advice and reasons the story didn’t resonate with them.

That’s very true. I feel the same. 

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I have taken tons of classes and workshops. I highly recommend the Summer Writer’s Festival at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, as this was a fun place to take a class for a weekend or a week for not much money, and they often have week long or weekend classes that can target what you are writing with good faculty. For those writing for children, I highly recommend joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I have been to regional and national conferences, and they are invaluable for making connections with fellow writers and illustrators, as well as agents and editors.

Yes. Classes and conferences can be extremely helpful for authors especially those connected with professional associations.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I am a Master Gardener Volunteer, although I feel this is a misnomer. I have done the classwork (and got a 99.5% on my final exam), have a garden, and do the volunteer and education to keep my license, but I feel like a noob. I have some advice, but mostly, I am learning from those around me. My goal is to get to a place where I can truly help others with gardening advice.

Nice.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most is my books. I love them all so much! What I like least is marketing. I am still learning about that portion of it, and wish I could give a free copy to everyone, while still making a living off this.

I also find marketing a challenge, and I believe most authors do, as well. They would rather write than promote. Unfortunately, if you can’t sell your books, publishers will no longer back you.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.

Blog: www.jillysbookblog.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JillVanDenEng

Twitter: @MoonOverMadison

Instagram: jill.vandeneng

 

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Author:

I am a librarian at a public library and an author of the Cobble Cove mystery series and other novels, short stories, and articles. My books include "Cloudy Rainbow," "A Stone's Throw," "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," and "Written in Stone," (Solstice Publishing, April 2017). I have also completed a standalone psychological thriller, "Sea Scope" and a mystery, "Reason to Die." I am a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Romance Writer's of America, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer's Association. I live on Long Island with my husband, daughter, and a cat.

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