Swanky Seventeener Jennifer Fenn recently chatted with Sweet Sixteener Jennifer Bardsley about her new YA sci-fi, GENESIS GIRL (Month9Books, June 14, 2016).
Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint has made her extremely valuable and upon graduation Blanca, and those like her, are sold to the highest bidders. Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.
Jennifer Bardsley is the author of GENESIS GIRL, which debuts June 14, 2016 from Month9Books. She also writes the column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily Herald and blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read.
Jennifer F: Without giving too much away, it’s fair to say the characters in “Genesis Girl” have complicated relationships with technology. The book explores how technology can be used for both good and evil. How would describe your own relationship with technology?
Jennifer B: [Insert evil laughter] Two years ago I didn’t even own a smart phone. My husband was constantly bugging me to buy a new phone because I never had my dumb phone turned on. I finally gave in, bought a Samsung Galaxy, and then became addicted to tech a couple of weeks later.
I’ve worked so hard to build up my Facebook page, “The YA Gal,” and my Instagram account, @the_ya_gal, that I’m basically online all the time. Now my husband says that when my phone sits on the kitchen counter it sounds like an electric toothbrush because it’s constantly buzzing.
Jennifer F: Blanca finds strength in different mantras throughout the book. What would be your mantra?
Jennifer B: My mantra would be something cliché like, “You can do it!” There have been so many times where “experts” have told me I could never achieve something that was important to me, that now I try to focus on small steps towards my goals instead of what the naysayers say.
Jennifer F: In some ways, despite the peculiarities of her circumstances, Blanca’s journey reminded me of many teenagers that grow up in the spotlight, tracked by paparazzi (Britney Spears, Justin Beiber). Were those celebrities an influence or inspiration for this story?
Jennifer B: The inspiration for Blanca and the Vestals were 17th century opera stars called “castrati.” These were boys who were castrated at a young age in the hopes they would become famous opera superstars who could hit the highest notes. Some of the castrati died on the operating table, some actually did become celebrities, and the rest were left horribly maimed for life.
Jennifer F: Are you part of a critique group? If so, how did working with your CPs benefit you?
Jennifer B: My critique partner while writing “Genesis Girl” was “Rider’s Revenge” author Alessandra Clarke. I also had a small army of beta readers who provided excellent feedback. I didn’t give “Genesis Girl” to my agent until it had gone through twenty two revisions.
Jennifer F: How did you come up with the idea for your novel? Did you know this was “the one”?
Jennifer B: When I was thinking up a concept to write about, I tried to think of something that had never been done before. As soon as I came up with “Teens who shunned the Internet,” I thought that sounded so bizarre that it might possibly work.
Jennifer F: How did you find your agent/editor?
Jennifer B: When writers become members of SCWBI—which I highly recommend—they receive this massive tome called “The Book” that has everything they need to get started in publishing, including a list of literary agents. I queried at least thirty agents before I found my perfect match, Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.
Jennifer F: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Jennifer B: Anyone who likes YA books with twists, turns, virgins and bad boys should hopefully enjoy “Genesis Girl.”
Chocolate and Nespresso
Oddest job you ever had?
Girl Scout camp counselor in charge of the taxidermy exhibit
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Music to write by?
What were you reading when you were 16?
Anything with “AP” on the title
Favorite Broadway musical?
“Into the Woods”
A band you loved when you were 16 that you still listen to.
Merlin the poodle
Young adult author Jennifer Fenn has been filling notebooks since she was in elementary school. She’s never without a book! Fenn is terrified of corn fields but has jumped out of a plane, eats her cereal without milk, and has run a marathon. She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College’s MFA program. Jennifer lives with her husband, daughter, and Scottish terrier in Downingtown, PA. Her debut novel, FLIGHT RISK, comes out Spring 2017 from Roaring Brook Press.
Teenage trailer trash. Airplane thief. Outlaw. Folk-hero. 18-year-old Robert Jackson Kelley is on the run after fleeing a juvenile home and stealing not one, but three airplanes. Inspired by a true story, FLIGHT RISK is a briskly paced, sophisticated YA novel reminiscent of the film “Catch Me If You Can.”