Swanky Seventeener Sonia Belasco recently caught up with Sweet Sixteener Jenn P. Nguyen on her YA debut, THE WAY TO GAME THE WALK OF SHAME (Swoon Reads, Macmillan, June 7, 2016).
After getting drunk at a party and waking up next to (a fully clothed) bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, Taylor Simmons needs to salvage her reputation by pretending they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.
Jenn Nguyen fell in love with books in third grade and spent the rest of her school years reading through lunchtime and giving up recess to organize the school library. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans and still lives in the city with her husband. Jenn spends her days reading, dreaming up YA romances, and binge-watching Korean dramas all in the name of ‘research’. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is her debut novel.
Sonia: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Jenn: The first thing I’ve ever written was a fanfiction short story about Dudley for English class in 7th grade. Since then, I’ve always been interested in writing, but I only decided to try to actually write a whole story about six years ago.
Sonia: How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
Jenn: I wish that I could say it came to me in a dream or that I was driving down a road and the beautiful leaves inspired me or something cool like that, but unfortunately, no. A couple of years ago, I was watching a Korean drama (can’t remember which one) and it had one of those love-at-first-sight/instant chemistry relationships, but they couldn’t be together for some reason. While those stories are great, I couldn’t help thinking about how much fun it would have been if they didn’t like each other at first and were forced to act like a loving couple in front of everyone. Then I started brainstorming about why they would have to be together and the love contract (along with Taylor and Evan) was formed.
Sonia: What was your revision process like for this book?
Jenn: After I finished my first draft, I went back to fix big issue problems that I knew I wanted to change. Then off it went my critique partners and former agent before going through a couple more edits. And then it went through a few more edits rounds with my editor. My favorite part of the process was with my editor, though, because her process was exactly how I tackle edits. We went through big picture problems before examining each chapter to see what changes needed to be done. Then I get to make a brand new chapter outline with notes! I love the revision process, but it is exhausting. There were a lot of times when I couldn’t even look at a single page of my book anymore.
Sonia: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Jenn: Tall, brunette, dimples, and a swoony voice…oh, wait, perfect reader, not perfect guy! My perfect reader would just be someone who loves to read as much as I do. Someone who just gets so involved in the book that they forget everything and everyone around them.
Music you like to write by?
It varies. I usually just turn whatever genre I feel like listening to on Pandora, whether it’s musicals or Maroon 5. But I absolutely cannot write if it’s too quiet. The silence distracts me too much. Although recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Korean pop. They even have a station on Pandora!
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
It’s not exactly odd, but I worked at the Subway at the mall for a few months. It was actually pretty fun and I was able to jot down notes for my very first story on the back of Subway napkins!
What were you reading when you were 16?
There weren’t a lot of YA books to read when I was 16, so I read a lot of romance novels. I especially loved the historical ones by Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught.
Do you have any pets?
I have a dog named Noodle that’s a mix of Chihuahua and Jack Russell. Taylor’s dog Oreo is actually based off of him.
Any favorite writing rituals (i.e. things that help inspire you/get you going)?
After I get an idea of a plot, I usually research actors or musicians until I find the perfect image of my characters. That way I can visualize the plot playing out like a movie as I work on my chapter outline and character bios. Having a chapter outline really helps me write, as there’s something very satisfying about checking off a chapter when I’m done. Every check means I’m one step closer to a finished first draft!
Robot revolution or zombie apocalypse?
Do you mean which one would I prefer? Because the answer would be neither! I do believe out of the two that a robot revolution would more likely to happen because we’re so dependent on technology these days, but I’m also fascinated with the idea of a zombie apocalypse. Fascinated and terrified. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t last very long in either situation though. No internet, AC, or hot showers? No thank you.