I met Jessica Taylor at a recent conference, and her upcoming book INVINCIBLE WILD sounded super intriguing! It will debut in Fall 2015, and the cover is coming soon! You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Raised by Wanderers, sixteen-year-old Tal travels the roads of the southern wild in her Chevy by day and camps in her tent trailer at night. Hustling, conning, and grifting her way into just enough cash to save her fifteen-year-old brother, Wen, from bare-knuckle fighting was once enough to keep her dreams of traveling the whole world at bay. Everything changes when the Wanderers set up camp in a little town called Cedar Falls.
There, Spencer Sway, a boy Tal tried to hustle at a game of billiards, keeps popping up into her life—and worst of all—into her scams. Buttoned-up, starched-and-ironed Spencer talks of places where Tal’s truck can’t take her. His promises of traveling across oceans are almost enough to shatter her love of the Wanderer life.
When a boy shows up at camp, ready to make good on a nearly-forgotten arranged marriage to Tal, Tal and Wen make a pact: No matter the cost, they will use their limitless skills of grift to earn the bride price and buy back her future—even if Spencer Sway gets used along the way.
According to your website bio, after graduating with your law degree, you realized, “I’d rather write my own stories than read dusty law books.” Can you elaborate on this and tell us more about your journey toward publication?
I started writing toward publication in May of 2010, when I was halfway through law school. By the time law school ended, I knew I couldn’t bear to practice law, and I knew being a young adult author was my dream job. I wouldn’t say that I left the law to be a writer, but I did decide to take two years to focus solely on writing and see where it took me. It’s always a little awkward to talk about how I made the transition from law to writing because I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to follow in my footsteps. What I did was a huge gamble, and while it paid off, I might be living in a cardboard box if it hadn’t. Really. Okay, not really. But close.
Fortunately, I had an agent within six months and a book deal within the next year. I’d love to tell you that not once did I look back and think twice about the choices I made, but that would be a lie. As if querying and going on sub wasn’t bad enough, not having a plan B was added pressure!
Yes, but it definitely shows the importance of taking risks! According to your website, you are represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency. What do you like most about working with Sarah?
Sarah was the first person to read my work and say yes. When I queried the novel I wrote before WILD, which was a paranormal YA, a lot of agents passed and asked me to submit my next project because the current market wasn’t paranormal friendly. Sarah was the first agent to have faith that there were more good ideas inside me if the first novel didn’t sell. As it turns out, we decided to pull that project after I finished WILD, which went on to sell to Egmont. So, our relationship began on a great note and has continued to be fabulous. Sarah gives very honest feedback, which I appreciate, and she’s always willing to talk through any issues I’m having with my work. When she identifies problems in a manuscript, she’ll often give me specific ideas for how to fix them. If I have other solutions in mind, she’s flexible and willing to listen. I so appreciate those qualities, and I’m certain Sarah’s thoughtful feedback has taken my work to the next level.
It sounds like you’ve developed a great level of communication. Your novel INVINCIBLE WILD debuts in 2015. I love the premise–where did the idea come from and what do you hope readers will take away from it?
INVINCIBLE WILD is truly the book of my heart, so I could write a novella about my inspiration and what I hope it means to readers. It’s all of my greatest loves rolled into one manuscript.
When I set out to write WILD, I knew I wanted to write about a character who lived an unusual life and had her beliefs in her world shaken. I’ve always been fascinated by Irish Travellers, so I saw the opportunity to combine the two. The Wanderers are a fictionalized version of Travellers, and I was inspired by the William Stafford poem, A Story That Could Be True to use the name “Wanderer.”
If I have to get to the very soul of WILD, it’s about three characters who have strong ties to the worlds they’ve always known, and those connections threaten the dreams they secretly and sometimes not-so-secretly harbor. I think this is a universal conundrum for teens and adults alike. But WILD’s message isn’t to take extreme risks or to be true to your upbringing. My hope is simply that WILD will make readers think about their worlds and their choices with a new perspective.
I can’t wait to read it! What are some of your current projects? Will INVINCIBLE WILD have a sequel?
I’m working on two projects, and I’m stoked about both of them. They are YA, of course, and both are magical realism. That’s unfortunately all I can say for now. I hope someday I can tell you a lot more about one or both!
I don’t know what might happen with the world I created for WILD. I can say for certain that INVINCIBLE WILD will not have a sequel. I’m a firm believer that once my story is in the hands of readers, it’s not my story anymore. There’s a slight ambiguity in WILD, which a sequel could erase, and I wouldn’t want to rewrite the story readers have imagined. That said, there is one character who is particularly near and dear to my heart—and that’s Tal’s brother, Wen. There are no formal (or even informal) plans yet, but I’ve mentally written a lovely story about his journey after the novel ends.
Thanks, Jessica, for a great interview!