Swanky Seventeener Wendy McLeod MacKnight recently interviewed Mia Siegert, author of the contemporary YA novel JERKBAIT which was released by JollyFish Press on May 3, 2016.
About the Book:
Even though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself. Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to feel the weight of each other’s lives on the ice—and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can’t escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world.
Robbie’s future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer. As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie’s secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or go on a journey that leaves them both changed.
How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him?
About the Author:
Mia Siegert received her MFA from Goddard College and her BA from Montclair State University where she won Honorable Mention in the 2009 English Department Awards for fiction. Her debut JERKBAIT will be released May 2016 by Jolly Fish Press. Siegert has been published in Clapboard House, Word Riot, The Limn Literary & Arts Journal, as well as a few other small presses. Siegert currently works as an adjunct professor and a costume designer. She enjoys training horses and watching hockey.
Wendy: First of all, congratulations on Jerkbait! I loved this book so much. And what I really loved was that sometimes you allowed your characters to be quite unlikeable. They felt so real. Without giving away a major spoiler, there are decisions each brother makes that are very human and very flawed.
Mia: Thanks! I really wanted them to be real. A couple of times I really searched myself about how I would have reacted to that situation at that age. There were a lot of things I did that weren’t noble, but they rang true so I wanted to encapsulate that
Wendy: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Mia: It took awhile. I’d always written, but I never thought of it as a thing I would do when I grew up. By the time I was three-years-old I was writing plays and casting them. Seriously. I never considered writing as a career because I was so focused on sports and on the possibility of going to the Olympics and performing at the elite level.
Later, my friend and I began to write fan-fiction about The Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series. This is definitely where the character of Heather comes from, and the part of the book where she and Tristan write fan-fic together. I loved our collaboration, but I was an athlete and was concentrated on my horses so I never considered writing as a career choice.
Luckily, when I was fifteen, I worked with author Judy Troy, put me on the right track with writing well, then at nineteen, my best friend Kale Night encouraged me to utilize my knowledge from working with Judy and write as my riding career came to an unfortunate halt after the death of my horse and my career-ending injury. It was like a light bulb flicking on. I immediately changed paths and decided I wanted to write novels. I decided to go to college, then grad school, and now, at thirty, I have three completed novels and two more majorly in progress.
Wendy: Parts of Jerkbait are really emotionally draining. As a writer, how do you disentangle from that at the end of a writing day or session?
Mia: I don’t. I have openly suffered from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the idea of happiness has always been kind of foreign to me. Writing something as intense and difficult as Jerkbait might break apart some people, but not me. I mean, it was intense, but I didn’t think it was too brutal after my editor had me delete one particular chapter. Admittedly I did need to unwind, mostly due to stress questioning whether I actually could write Young Adult, so I’d do mindless things, like binge watch shows on Netflix or play Plants vs. Zombies. Some people talk about crying when they write, but I only cried once when writing Jerkbait.
Wendy: What was your revision process like for this book?
Mia: Brutal! When Jerkbait sold to Jolly Fish Press, friends said, “Oh you’ll probably have maybe two or three passes.” But then I got my editorial letter, which started with “Brace yourself…” I knew I was in trouble. My editor, McKelle George, made me completely rewrite my book from scratch. She also made me do six passes. At one point, I was travelling in Australia and New Zealand when I got an email for even more changes and a note asking how soon I could get them done. I spent a lot of that trip locked away doing revisions! Most of my revision process involved learning the mechanics and system of the YA category. In many ways it was very similar to the MFA process.
Wendy: Who was the reader you wrote Jerkbait for?
Mia: In the beginning, I wasn’t writing for anyone; I just needed to write it to cope with the end of my toxic friendship with the person I based Heather on. Then as I learned more about YA, the possibility of being a mentor, a role model, presented itself. If I can help, that’s really important to me. I want to focus on people who might not be able to speak for themselves. One of my professors, writer Rebecca Brown, said I write for the ‘marginally articulate’, for people who don’t have a voice. As someone who talks a lot about very distant topics while struggling with getting out my real thoughts, this hit home for me. For the rest of my life, I will probably write about characters who are ‘marginally articulate,’ like myself.
Since then I’ve had a lot of support from professional athletes and organizations (such as You Can Play, Chris Kluwe, and Patrick O’Sullivan) who really get how important it is to talk about the pressure elite sports can place on young athletes. And that pressure is even more pronounced for LBTQ athletes.
Robbie’s Favourite hockey team?
New Jersey Devils, partly because of Adam Henrique, a bit because of his dad, and the rest because he’s straight up New Jersey.
Tristan’s Favourite Broadway musical?
Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde. I think he’d appreciate the adventure and the love story, plus the music is really catchy and it has great choreography.
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Only child, although I now have two step-sisters and two step-nieces. I consider my best friend Kale to be my sibling.
Music to write by?
I write to music (Sigur Rós, This Will Destroy You, Explosions in the Sky) or silence with noise-cancelling headphones.
What were you reading when you were 16?
Honestly, I wasn’t reading much because I was travelling all the time with the horses. I remember reading Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor thanks to Judy Troy. Absolutely traumatizing, yet I loved every second of it and how it changed me as a writer.
A band you loved when you were 16 that you still listen to.
An Italian band called Lacuna Coil. I was really obsessed with them and really into metal.
(Here’s a link to Mia’s favourite song at the time: Senzafine)
Check out the amazing Jerkbait today!
About the Interviewer:
Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a magical small town with a library card as her prized possession. Over the course of her professional life, she’s been responsible for early childhood and child welfare programming, and ended her public service career as head of the Government of New Brunswick’s Department of Education. One day she woke up and decided it was time to pursue her life-long dream of writing books for children. It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is her debut novel and any resemblance to the author is purely intentional. Wendy lives in New Brunswick, Canada with her family, Indy the Wonder Dog, her garden, and a ne’er-do-well groundhog.
Wendy’s book, IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE!, is the story of how 11-year-old Tracy finds a bag of money in a baseball dugout and enlists the help of her best friend Ralph as well as her annoying little brother Lester (AKA Pig-Face) to discover who lost – or maybe, stole – it, in a town brimming with suspects. Along the way, maybe she can figure out why her heart pounds uncomfortably whenever recent-transplant and boy-band clone Zach is around. Coming February 2017 from Sky Pony Press.