Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama—a setting that has inspired many of her books. Her nine romantic novels for young adults have been published in seven languages and have won the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, the Write Touch Readers’ Award, the Beacon, and the Booksellers’ Best Award. Her novel Going Too Far was a finalist in the RITA and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Simon & Schuster will debut her adult romance novels in 2013, with many more of her teen novels scheduled for the next few years. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son.
Jennifer, welcome to my blog! I’m thrilled to be able to interview you today!
Thanks so much for having me, girl! Long time no see!
I know you write YA, New Adult and Adult romances. What’s your favorite thing about writing for teens and college-aged readers?
Younger readers tend to be way more enthusiastic! If I get reader e-mail with the subject line “LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I’m pretty sure it’s from someone who enjoyed one of my YAs. And I appreciate these messages so much, because that’s exactly how I felt about my favorite YA writers back in the day.
I’ve seen you mention in other interviews that you listen to the soundtrack of whatever book you’re working on while you’re running so you can continue working on scenes. Tell us a little bit about your process of developing your soundtrack and how that works with your writing.
Sometimes the type of music is particular to the book I’m writing. For instance, my next book out in the United States is called Dirty Little Secret, and it’s about friends-turned-lovers trying to make it big with their country music band. So of course that soundtrack is filled with all my country and bluegrass favorites. (If you’re curious, you can listen to it on my web site here: http://jennifer-echols.com/dirtylittlesecret.html) But more often, I download a bunch of cool songs when I start to write a book, and those songs become the soundtrack. I was a music major before I was a literature major, so for me, the structure and mood of the songs are more important than the lyrics. The songs are background for the book rather than specific material.
Having a soundtrack works great for me. Nowadays, I’ve got so many books coming out that I may be writing one, revising a second, and proofreading a third. All I have to do is dial up the soundtrack, and I can remember exactly the mindset I was in and how I felt about the characters when I first wrote the book.
Like me, I know you’re also a mom. I don’t know about you, but my kids’ schedule is busier than mine! How and when do you find the time to write?
I have only one kid and he is eleven, so at home he’s often doing his own thing. I do take him to lots of activities—football, soccer, drum lessons, rock band practice—but I just park myself in the waiting room or on the sidelines and keep writing. I’ve noticed, though, that his activities are creeping into my books. The hero and heroine of my May 2014 YA are both drummers!
Your novel Going Too Far is an edgy story about a teen girl who falls in love… with the cop who arrested her. I know my fans enjoy stories that push the envelope, so this should definitely be on their lists! Please tell us more about it.
Meg and John are on opposite sides of the law, and on opposite sides of a dividing line between childhood and adulthood. But when she’s assigned to do a ride-along with him on his night shift, they find that they’re only a year and a half apart in age, they’ve actually been in a high school class together…and they have a lot more in common than either of them could imagine when he was first putting the handcuffs on her.
Everyone knows that I love a bad boy! In Such a Rush, you make Leah choose between golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. Tell us more about these boys and your inspiration for them.
Ever since a college class called “Sociology of the Family,” I’ve had a fascination with the middle child—the one who doesn’t feel responsible like the oldest or carefree like the youngest, and often acts out just to avoid falling through the cracks. Though Alec and Grayson are twins, their older brother always created that middle child dynamic for Grayson. But when their brother dies flying a US Navy jet, Grayson steps up to become the responsible adult in the family. And it nearly tears him apart.
Doing hands on research is one of my favorite things about writing. For example, when I was researching Chicago-area gangs for my Perfect Chemistry series, I went on a ride-along with a detective in the Chicago Police Department’s Gang Homicide/Sex Crimes division. It was scary and exciting all at the same time! What’s the most interesting/exciting thing you’ve done in the name of research?
I got the idea for Such a Rush by watching banner-towing planes. They’re usually tiny two-seaters with every spare instrument stripped out of them to make them lighter. The pilots are often very young, college-age, because they’re trying to accumulate enough hours to become airline pilots when they turn 23. These daredevils take off, circle back over the airport, dive for the pavement, throw a hook out the window, and zoom low enough to snag a long advertisement banner that the ground crew has laid out. The banner is so heavy that they have to point the nose of the plane up sharply to keep from crashing back to earth with the load. But if they point up too sharply, the engine will stall. If they make it into the air, they take a few turns around the area, drop the banner so they can pick up another, and do it all over again.
I’m not a pilot, and I’ve never wanted to be. But my dad and brother are pilots and my son has the flying bug. I’ve always thought having that urge to be in the air would be a powerful driving force for a novel. I was with my dad when I first watched the banner-towing planes, and he got me excited about the idea. Then he took me up in his plane quite a few times and talked me through what a pilot would be thinking as she cycled through this death-defying feat.
In my latest YA novel, Wild Cards (due out in the states in October!!) my main character is from the South, which means I had a lot of fun researching Southern phrases! As a Southerner who grew up in Alabama and the author of Such a Rush, which takes place in South Carolina, what’s your favorite Southern saying?
I hope this is your football book—I’ve really been looking forward to this one! Well, you have come to the right source for Southern phrases. I am so immersed in them that I don’t know I’m using them half the time, and my Northern editors make me cut them out of my books because they have no idea what I’m talking about. As for a favorite saying: the South tends to be Protestant, and the ladies here have a reputation for dolling themselves up by adding volume to their hair. What we say about that is, “The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus.”
I’m super excited to read Dirty Little Secret when it comes out in the states in July! Please tell us a little more about it.
Thanks so much, Simone! I’m so pleased with how this novel turned out, and I’m thrilled about the beautiful cover. A lot of country and bluegrass musicians got their start as children, playing their instruments in festivals. They and their parents hope they’ll be discovered by a scout for one of the Nashville record companies. I wondered what would happen if a sister duo grew up playing those festivals, but only one of them was tapped for a record contract, while the other was left behind and hushed away. This book is about the sister left behind, and what happens when she’s finally discovered—by a devastatingly sexy 18-year-old with a lot of bar gigs under his belt and a band of his own that he wants her to join. And he won’t take no for an answer.
All of the chocolate. All of it.
Oh no. I just can’t. There are a million. But I could start with the Dirty Little Secret soundtrack above!
Favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere at the beach: the entire beautiful panhandle of Florida, La Jolla in California, the Hawaiian island of Kauai. I love them all.
What’s the one book you wish you had written?
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.
What’s your favorite movie from the 80s? (Mine is My Cousin Vinny…I quote from it all the time!)
I have never seen that movie, even though it’s set in Alabama! I’ll have to see it now that you’ve given it such a high recommendation! There were so many great movies in this decade, but my vote goes to The Empire Strikes Back. And Han Solo.
Do you think white chocolate should count as chocolate?
No, it’s only cocoa butter with cocoa solids taken out. They separate the two in processing and then put them back together to finish the product. With white chocolate they just don’t put them back together. Well, we need our cocoa solids. Otherwise, what is the point? (Go ahead and tell me I know WAY too much about chocolate. I am aware.)
Thanks for visiting!
Thanks so much for having me, and best of luck with your book in October!