I'm a writer living in Northern California with my husband and two sons. I grew up with the serviceable last name of Jaynes, but then married a handsome Nigerian man, which is why my other last name has so many vowels.
I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in San Diego. Being almost 6 feet tall by the time I was twelve makes it painfully easy to remember my teen years. Even though I was really tall, I didn't like sports—but I did read a lot (and I mean a lot!) of books. Still, I never thought I'd be a writer. Except for a book called How the Rabbit Got His Hop that I wrote in third grade, I didn't write anything unless I had to. Every diary I've ever had stops on or about January 21st because I get bored writing about my own life. I've found that I do, however, enjoy writing about the lives of pretend people.
I didn't do the cheerleader thing in high school I did the... other thing. After high school I went to college at UC Santa Barbara. I majored in English but that was only because they made me decide when I was a junior and I'd taken more English classes than anything else.
The best part of college was living in Scotland for a year. I was terrible at Spanish and never took French, which really narrowed down the year-abroad choices. I met some amazing people there who I still consider some of my best friends all these years later. I also learned how to travel by myself and that when you are on a crowded bus in Rome, don't wear a short skirt.
When I graduated, I kept going up the West Coast until I came to San Francisco where I lived in Haight/Ashbury for many years. Living in a big city after college gives you a lot of inspiration for stories later. I highly recommend it. I met my husband when I was working for a San Francisco weekly newspaper (in advertising, not writing).
After my kids were born, I stopped working and got to stay at home with them for a few years. One day, I was reading to my kids and I started thinking that there weren't enough books about biracial kids and maybe I should write one. How hard could it be? Turns out, it's plenty hard.
Several years and one giant learning curve later, I got an email from an editor who said she would like to buy my story When it's Six O'clock in San Francisco and it came out in July of 2009. Although I didn't have anything to do with the illustrations, I think they look great and I'm glad that my publisher chose Randy to do them.
After I'd been writing for a little while, one of my writing partners started writing novels and although it looked really hard, I thought maybe I should try it. Turns out, there are a lot of voices in my head and sometimes they have interesting things to say. I met my first agent in an elevator (really) at a writer's conference and when I finished my first novel, we signed together. My young adult novel Dirty Little Secrets came out with Walker Books in February 2010. Transcendence, a new novel about reincarnation and the choices we make came out in June 2012 with the sequel to follow in June of 2013.
A: Just like it's spelled. Oh-mo-lo-lu. You can listen to me pronounce it here.
A: Honestly, it didn't even occur to me until I was in my late 30s, but I love to read and I think that helps. I hadn't written anything longer than a grocery list for years when I decided to give it a try. Just goes to show that it's never too late to start something new.
A: That's like asking about my favorite chocolate chip cookieusually the one I'm eating at the moment. As a kid, I'd have to say it was From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L.Konigsburg (I wanted to be Claudia). I also read every book in the All-of-a-Kind series by Syndey Taylor many times over.
A: Most of the time—at least places I'm familiar with. If you look closely, Dirty Little Secrets is set in a modified version of the town where I live and the house is the same layout as one I lived in when I was a kid. Transcendence is set mostly in San Francisco and Berkeley with a little bit of London thrown in—all places where I've lived or spent a lot of time. I tried setting a book where it snowed once, but because I'd never lived in snow, I couldn't get the details right. Sometimes it's easier when you don't have to make EVERYTHING up.
A: There are as many ways to become a writer as they are stories to tell. I started by reading...a lot. While I wasn't a writer as a kid, I was a huge reader and I think that's the best education there is. When you're ready to find out more about the business of publishing, the internet is a great resource. For writers who want to do books for kids and teenagers (and the adults who love young adult books), the message boards at Verla Kay are an invaluable source of information. I'd also recommend joining a local writing group. I'm in SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and go to several conferences a year. Just being around other writers and listening to their stories is often one of the best ways to start your career.
A: While I can't tell you how everyone writes a book, I can tell you how I write my novels. I've done several blog posts on the subject over the years, two of the best are the post on the 9 Point Plot Process and How To Write a Book in 90 Days.
A: Yes. If you're going for traditional publishing (in most cases, I'm not a big fan of self-publishing for many reasons), you need to get an agent to submit your work to publishers. You can research agents yourself (I recommend Predators and Editors)to make sure the agent you're looking at is legit, or check the Acknowledgments page of books you love—I guarantee that the author thanks their agent right up front. Once you've narrowed it down, I suggest going to see them speak at a conference to get a feel for their personality. An agent is a lot like a marriage, and choosing your partner is just as important in this situation. I traveled to a weekend conference in another state to see my first agent speak and it was the best money I ever spent. At conferences, most agents will let attendees submit to them for a period of time after the conference ends which is often the only opportunity you have to submit to a closed agency. You can read more about my agent story on the Writer's Digest blog.
A: I'm sorry, for both legal reasons and time constraints I can't. I trade manuscripts with several writers who I trust to be honest and thorough and you should look for a similar arrangement. Your local writer's organization is a great place to look for either a group that meets in person or exchanges manuscripts over the internet.