Hi Jen! Thanks for stopping by my blog to chat. Congratulations on the upcoming release of PS I Miss You, your debut middle-grade novel!
Thank you so much for having me! I really appreciate all the effort that goes into these questions, and the time you put into your blog.
1) Tell me about your road to publication. Did you toss your query into the slush pile, pitch an agent at a conference, or something else?
I tossed my query into the slush pile for this book. My current agent, Brianne Johnson, is actually my second agent, and I queried both times in the standard way. I received lots of rejections along the way, and I am so lucky that I ended up with Brianne. Her editorial advice, tenacity, and perseverance are all such wonderful traits. My first agent was great, too, but wasn’t quite right for me. And that was part of my road to publication, too. The first two books that I wrote were with this agent, and neither of them sold. P.S. I MISS YOU was actually the fifth book I wrote, and that’s not abnormal, as I’ve come to realize. Publication can take more than one agent and way more than one book. But it can happen, regardless of how it takes to get there!
2) In your novel, PS I Miss You, eleven year-old Evie writes letters to her pregnant teen sister who has been sent away by their strict Catholic parents. Evie is questioning her sexual orientation and is missing the advice of her older sister. How did the letter writing format in the novel help Evie tell her story?
I loved writing P.S. I Miss You in letters because I feel like it was a direct line to Evie’s brain. Although letters can be difficult to read in that there’s always the possibility of an unreliable narrator, I think that in my book’s case, Evie’s sincerity shines through. For her, these letters are a lifeline to her sister, and she’s unfiltered in a way that she couldn’t be if I wrote this book in straight prose/narration. The format helped me to write the book, too, in a way—sometimes it felt like my fingers were flying over the keyboard as Evie’s feelings flowed through me!
3) You’ve worked as both a teacher and a librarian for children of all ages. How did these professions help you in writing for the middle-grade audience?
It definitely helps that I’ve spent some time around kids who are the same age as both my intended audience and as my characters. I think middle-school kids are absolutely hilarious, and in my time as a teen librarian, I loved talking with them about the issues in their lives along with the books they loved to read. Kids of that age have so much to teach us in how passionately they feel about things. I think that interest, passion, and fervor for life work its way into my writing.
4) What advice would you give to writers looking for agent representation?
One of the wonderful things about looking for an agent is that you don’t have to “know anyone.” There’s no golden carpet that only certain people are allowed on. For me, like with many now-published authors, I found my agent by querying through the slush pile. I didn’t know agent before I queried her, but I did do my research. I think that’s the advice I’d give: make sure you research agents first. Make sure that you’re targeting those who represent not only books for the age group you write, but also books in your genre. Make sure they’re open to submissions and then have patience. Querying can take a long time, and you may have to go through multiple rounds. But you’re not sending things into a black hole, I promise!
About the novel:
In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.
Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.
About the Author:
Jen Petro- Roy was born, raised, and still lives in Massachusetts, even though she rejects the idea that snow and cold are ever a good thing. She started writing in third grade, when her classroom performed a play she had written. It was about a witch and a kidnapped girl and a brave crew of adventurers who set out to save the day. As a kid, numerous pictures of Jen often featured Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins books clutched in her hand, so it was just a matter of time until she started writing her own books for children.
In the past, Jen has worked as a teacher and a teen and children’s librarian. She loves running, board games, trivia, and swimming, and has a mild obsession with the television show Jeopardy! P.S. I Miss You is her debut novel.
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3 winners will receive a finished copy of P.S. I MISS YOU, US Only.
Ends on March 13th at Midnight EST!
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