Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you have time to write AND go to school?

This is probably the question I get asked most frequently, but honestly, balancing school and writing has never been all that much of a challenge. For me, writing is a way to relax. It's what I do to wind down at the end of the day. As a result, a lot of times, I end up doing most of my writing really late at night (usually between two and four in the morning), and this works out really well, because if I write after everyone else has gone to sleep, I don't end up missing out on anything while I'm writing.

How old were you when you wrote your first book?

I've been writing for as long as I can remember, so I'd probably guesstimate that I wrote my first "book" when I was five or six. If you're talking novels, I started writing my first serious novel when I was sixteen, but didn't actually finish a novel until my senior year of high school. The first novel I completely finished became what I now refer to as a "practice book," and I wrote several more practice books before I wrote Golden, the summer I was nineteen.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That depends on how busy my life is and whether or not I get to write every day. I wrote the first draft of Golden in about three weeks. The majority of Tattoo was written in about a month. It takes me about the same amount of time to revise a book, and I usually end up revising at least three or four times before the book is ready to hit the shelves. From the day I started writing Golden until its release took about three years.

Where do you get your ideas?

In the shower. Seriously, though, when I'm trying to come up with ideas for books, I start with either a fantastical concept (like a supernatural power) or an aspect of my experience as a teenager (like dealing with cliques or being a cheerleader), and then, from there, I match everyday concepts and fantastical ones, until I find two that fit together. With Golden, I started off knowing that Lissy could see auras, and then it seemed natural to have her dealing with the social hierarchy at school.

Do you get to choose your covers?

I'm usually able to give some input to my editor about what I'd like a given cover to look like. Sometimes I have a really image in my mind, and sometimes, I just have some much more general suggestions. Regardless, I'm lucky enough to have a cover designer who designs better covers than I ever could, and ultimately, the covers are her designs, not mine,

How did you get published?

I wrote a book. Then I bought a wonderful resource, The Children's Writers and Illustrator's Marketplace, which lists the contact information for hundreds of children's publishers and literary agents. I also joined The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and joined a wonderful online writers community. After doing some research, I sent out a bunch of one page query letters, pitching the book I'd written to publishers. And then I wrote another book, and did the same. Wash, rinse, repeat. I started submitting my senior year of high school, and eventually landed a fabulous agent, who sold Golden a few days before my twenty-first birthday.

What are some of your favorite books?

I love books that deal with the supernatural and books that make me laugh. Some of my favorites are Matilda by Roald Dahl, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, anything by Meg Cabot, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

I'm applying to college. How do I get into Yale?

Honestly, getting in to college is always a bit of a crap shoot. The best advice I can give you is to know yourself well enough to know what you really love doing. Make sure your activities reflect what you're passionate about, and find a way to reflect that passion in your application. I also highly recommend writing an application essay that gives the admissions committee an idea of your personality, rather than telling them about something you've done. I wrote one of mine on singing in the car.

Are you ever going to write books for adults?

I guess that depends on whether or not I ever feel like an adult. I love teen television. I love teen books. I love teen movies. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, I still look like I'm fifteen and don't feel any older than I did five or six years ago. I write what I love, and I write about the things that I understand and the things that are important to me. If I ever get an idea for an adult story that really means something to me the way that all of my other books do, I'd write it, but I'm not making any guarantees that that will ever happen.

I want to be a writer. What advice can you give me?

Three pieces of advice.

  1. Read. Libraries are your friend. Read everything you can get your hands on, and if you love it, go back and read it again. And, although your parents will probably kill me for saying this, I also recommend partaking of other forms of fiction. Movies and television, while they won't make you a better writer per se, could teach you something about how to tell a good story.
  2. Write. It seems simple, but I really cannot stress how important it is to actually sit down and write something every day. It doesn't have to be your masterpiece. It doesn't even have to be original fiction. Keep a journal. Write a scene that goes on the end of your favorite book or movie. Just write something every day.
  3. Do stuff that's not reading or writing. Go out and live. Hang out with your friends. Get involved at your school. Don't be afraid to try new things. Most people write what they know, and if the only thing you know is reading and writing, you won't have very much to write about.

Is Tattoo a sequel to Golden?

Nope. Tattoo and Golden are completely different books with completely different underlying mythologies. A sequel to Golden, entitled Platinum, will follow Tattoo in September of 2007.

Do you see auras?

No, but after writing from Lissy's perspective, I'm pretty good at deciding what color someone's aura would be in the Goldenverse.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Transmogrification - the ability to change an object of one kind into an object of another. As in, you wave your hand over a piece of gum and turn it into, for example, a really cool purse or a box of chocolates or whatever else you want it to be. I am a firm believer that this is the most incredible super power known to man - especially if you assume that you can shapeshift by transmogrifying yourself.

What are your favorite television shows?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Roswell, Grey's Anatomy, The Secret World of Alex Mack, So Weird, Instant Star, Party of Five, Bewitched, the X-Men cartoon (old school), and (for guilty pleasures) The O.C. and One Tree Hill.

Were you a Golden or a Non?

I'd like to believe I fell somewhere in between, but I guess you'd have to ask the people I went to high school with to know for sure.