Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Conversation with Jennifer Torres, Author of THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES.

Jennifer Torres, Author of THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES
Hi Jennifer, Welcome to the blog! You have an unusual debut situation with three books coming out at once! Since I've only recently become aware of the BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES (Enslow Publishing), can you tell us a bit about them and how it is you're debuting the entire series at once? I can't even imagine, as having just one book coming out is crazy pants as it is!

Thank you for the warm welcome. I’m so happy to be here. I really enjoy your blog!

I came up with the story of Briny Deep one summer night while my son and I were swimming in our backyard pool. The sky was full of stars and we both couldn’t stop staring up in amazement.

I started talking to him about an idea I had for a book, he really liked it and the more we talked about it the more we both started to come up with more ideas for it. Before we knew it a few hours had passed and our fingers were wrinkled like prunes from staying in the water so long.

After some standard writers procrastination I finally wrote a synopsis for Briny Deep and sent it out to a few children’s book publishers. Within six months I had contract for not one – but three books! 

Since acceptance was based on a synopsis - now I actually had to write them. I asked my son if he wanted to help but he said "No, just name the lead character after me" - so I did!

Once they received the finished work - the publisher (Enslow) thought the story should be spread out into a series and I was more than happy to oblige!

This is a story about close friends who are growing up together in the same idyllic seaside town where nothing bad ever happens and everyone knows everyone.  

But when a stranger comes to town, the friends find themselves caught up in a bizarre mystery that leaves them wondering exactly who they can trust in this “perfect” town.

These are middle grade books – and all three are being released at the same time because the publisher believes kids will tear through each one quickly and will want to go on to the next immediately without having to wait.

Interesting. So you sold the series based on a synopsis alone? How were you able to do this? Had you worked with Enslow in the past on non-fiction? For so many debut authors, the road to book sale involved a completed manuscript, massive querying, and the endless submission process. Sounds like you got to skip some of that...I'll try not to be jealous :)

I had written a series of non-fiction children’s books for another publisher several years back. I stopped working with them because at the time I was a newspaper reporter and doing a ton of freelance, plus I had a toddler in my lap most of the time, and it was all too much to handle. So I let the book writing go. A decision I wish I hadn’t made. The newspaper industry basically collapsed soon after that.

I had not written for Enslow Publishers before but knew of them through my husband who has written some non-fiction books for them. They are much like Scholastic in that they are very well known for their presence in school libraries.

He received an email from one of the editors there who was announcing the fact that Enslow was going to begin releasing middle grade and YA fiction. He mentioned it one day when we were chatting and I asked him if he would mind if I submitted an idea to them. He was very encouraging but told me they would probably require the finished product before making a decision.

I sent the editor, David Dilkes, a simple, brief description of my idea and nine days later he replied saying he liked it and asked for a more complete synopsis. After sending that out, it took about two months of back and forth emails before he decided to take it before the editorial board for final approval as a three-book series instead of just one book.

Then a few weeks later I received this email:
“Great news! The series was approved. I’ll send you an email tomorrow with more specifics and our contract terms and then we can get everything rolling.”

Then of course…I had to write them! And I remember being so concerned that when I sent the complete manuscripts to him, he might be like…”um..ok..yikes…”

But thankfully that was not the case; he loved them, and became a real champion for the series.

What a fantastic and encouraging story! So you're in a dual writer family? What's that like? Do you both work from home? 

I appreciate that. Thank you!

I wish we worked from home – that is the eventual goal/dream!
My husband, John Torres, is the sports columnist for our local newspaper, Florida Today. That is actually how we met over a decade ago.  I was working as a business reporter at the time.

I had the opportunity to work at home for two years after I left my job as a reporter. It was fantastic. Freelance work was plentiful but then the industry began to flounder – it hit us especially hard here on the Space Coast because of the ending of our Space Program. Local publications went out of business and so many people were unemployed. I worked as a grant writer for a while and then took a job as the Marketing Director for a non-profit. This is the job that convinced me I needed to revive my dream of being an author. All my coworkers kept quitting because of a very difficult supervisor.  So it was at this time I began sending out letters to publishers – and as you know – one of them offered me a contract. I ended up quitting that job soon after – but made sure to include a dedication to “A horrible boss and soul zapping job that made me realize I had to send out what I wrote because my dreams were not going to come find me.”

Now for my day job I work in marketing and events for Florida Institute of Technology Athletics Department where I’m surrounded by a lot of nice people in a friendly, encouraging environment. But…I still dream of the day when I can write mysteries at home all day in my PJs.

I am so thankful that my husband is also a writer. We share the same dreams and goals. We encourage each other a lot and bounce ideas off each other all the time. He’s written tons of non-fiction sports books and recently finished a mystery novel based a real case he covered when he was a courts reporter. A literary agent is reading it right now, so fingers crossed; I hope he’ll get some good news on that soon.

That's great to have (and give) the encouragement from someone who gets it! And oh my gosh, that dedication is hysterical. My principal at the high school where I teach is amazing, but he's set to retire in another year or two, and honestly, I dread the day. He's the best administrator I've ever worked for.

Back to your MG series -- Can you tell us a little about your favorite character, favorite scene, and snapping together of puzzles pieces that made your writer brain go "Aw, yeah, my subconscious is the bomb!" Spoiler free, of course, since this is a mystery series.

Your administrator sounds like a very cool dude. It’s a true blessing to have people like that in your life. In a sense I also look back at my meanie of a boss as somewhat of a blessing because the shear dread I felt every day I had to set foot in that old office finally made me spring to action, get a publisher, and changed my life in profoundly positive ways.  

Now let’s see, in regard to your question I have to mention that I named several of my characters in the series after my own children. So of course, I have a very personal attachment to each of them!

I had a lot of fun writing the scenes about the secret passageways and dark tunnels to mysterious places that inhabit part of Briny Deep.  
Although I can’t remember who said it, someone once compared the writing process to driving a car slowly through the fog, in that you can only see what’s visible by the headlights just ahead of you, and other things come into view as you go down the road. I really enjoyed the journey of writing this series. Lots of  unusual, interesting characters popped up along the side of my “road” as I went along in the process and I was more than happy to let them in my “car” to ride along with me a while.

Bet your kids love that! I've used a few student names on request, but usually as background characters.

But sadly we've come to the end of our chat. But you can't leave without answering the three burning questions. What are the next 3 books on your TBR pile? The best drink ever? And the song you can't shake lately.

Thanks again for stopping in to tell us about THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES and good luck in this exciting three book debut year!

I just started reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King; it’s really good so far. At the same time I am reading a book that was gifted to me called The Kick Ass Writer by Doug Wendig. It’s hilarious and a lot of fun. After that, I’m definitely going to read a book I've heard really great things about called No Place to Fall by the amazing Jaye Robin Brown.

The best drink ever is coffee. I am a writer after all. And my earworm of late is “In Summer” by the awesome Olaf from the movie Frozen.

Thank you so much for having me! I had a great time chatting with you; it was a lot of fun!
All the best, Jennifer

You, too, Jennifer! And next week, be sure and stop in when I'll be chatting with Rin Chupeco, author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.

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