I was so intrigued by the premise of Jamie Pacton’s contemporary YA LUCKY GIRL that I had to feature it. Jamie Pacton also has a YA fantasy, THE VERMILLION EMPORIUM, with an expected publication date of November 1, 2022.
58,642,129. That’s how many dollars seventeen-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather just won in the lotto jackpot. It’s also about how many reasons she has for not coming forward to claim her prize.
Problem #1: Jane is still a minor, and if anyone discovers she bought the ticket underage, she’ll either have to forfeit the ticket, or worse . . .
Problem #2: Let her hoarder mother cash it. The last thing Jane’s mom needs is millions of dollars to buy more junk. Then . . .
Problem #3: Jane’s best friend, aspiring journalist Brandon Kim, declares on the news that he’s going to find the lucky winner. It’s one thing to keep her secret from the town — it’s another thing entirely to lie to her best friend. Especially when . . .
Problem #4: Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Holden, is suddenly back in her life, and he has big ideas about what he’d do with the prize money. As suspicion and jealousy turn neighbor against neighbor, and no good options for cashing the ticket come forward, Jane begins to wonder: Could this much money actually be a bad thing?
I saw the picture on your website of you writing from a hotel room in Waikiki (I also did this when my husband and I took an anniversary trip to Hawaii in 2014). How do you keep your writing life balanced and avoid burnout?
Oof. I love/hate that we both were writing on vacation— but I get it. For a very very long time I thought that I had to be writing or thinking about writing or paying attending to everything going on in publishing all the time, even on vacation. This translated to a tremendous amount of stress and some truly ridiculous things (like when I went on a cruise and decided to send long daily email updates to all my friends and family in the style of David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”)
Having kids while teaching full time and pursuing my writing dreams helped me find some writing/life balance out of sheer necessity. I simply couldn’t be writing all the time or every day and I had to be okay with that.
And, as it turns out, it was fine. Books still got written; my career moved along; and, I got to enjoy my non-writing life too. With that said, even this many books into my career, I don’t always have balance and I don’t always avoid burnout, but I try. I tend to be very organized, especially with deadlines, goal setting, and story planning, but I also try to pay attention to when my creative wells are low. When that happens, I take a week off writing and fill the well with romance novels, hikes, funny tv shows, baking, and other things that bring me joy.
Sounds like a great strategy. I found the same thing; if I took more breaks, I actually got more done, because my brain wasn’t running low all the time. And I love the premise of LUCKY GIRL. It’s true that a lot of lottery winners never come forward, for a variety of reasons. In what ways, if any, did this story surprise you when you wrote it?
Oh, good question! I had this story in my head for many years before writing it, but it consistently surprised me along the way as I drafted. One of the most surprising things that my research uncovered was just the sheer amount of violence visited upon lottery winners. There really are a lot of people who will do nearly anything to get at that much money, and the main character, Fortuna Jane, thinks about this/worries over it a LOT. I was also surprised how deeply personal this book became for me as I untangled threads of family, loss, failed relationships, letting go, and learning how to be enough for just yourself. At its core, LUCKY GIRL is about what it means to have enough and to be enough, in a world that often wants too much of you, all of which still resonates with me deeply.
Very relatable indeed! THE VERMILION EMPORIUM, your YA fantasy, is set to debut later this year. What did you like most about writing fantasy, and how did the process compare to your contemporary books?
I LOVE writing fantasy, and it’s actually where I started as a writer. I have many, many fantasy books in my drawer, and my first agent signed me for a MG fantasy back in 2015. My current agent signed me in 2018 for a YA fantasy (that I’m still hoping will be published someday), and I wrote my YA contemporary debut, THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY in between fantasy projects as a fun, passion project that I had very few expectations for. I didn’t see myself as a contemporary writer, but as it turns out, I love writing in that genre and readers really seemed to respond to those books. That said, when I wrote THE VERMILION EMPORIUM, it was an absolute joy to sink back into a fantastic world full of magic.
I love writing in many different genres, but what I really like about writing fantasy is the worldbuilding and the scope upon which I can let my imagination run wild. I like figuring out story problems in new worlds and then chasing them down and seeing where they end up, especially when I can introduce forces like magic or mystical creatures or supernatural beings.
With that said, there are a lot of similarities in my fantasy and contemporary writing processes. Both are grounded in creating characters that need something and who I try to make as relatable and fully-formed as possible. Likewise, I think banter and dialogue and human emotions like joy, love, grief, and hope are shared in both a contemporary and fantasy world, and so the writing of these things tends to feel very similar, no matter the genre.
And you do a great job at worldbuilding too! What are some of your current projects?
I have a not-yet-announced, YA fantasy book that will come out from Peachtree Teen in Winter 2024. This is set in the world of THE VERMILION EMPORIUM, and I can’t wait to share more about this story.
I’ve also got a co-written YA contemporary book that will be releasing in 2024. It’s also not-yet-announced, so I can’t say more about it yet, but it’s a very fun, funny romcom that I hope readers of KIT and LUCKY GIRL will love.
I’m also drafting an adult fantasy, working on YA fantasy book 3 in the Vermilion world, and I have two MG ideas that are shouting at me to be written. Which is exciting because I love having a wealth of ideas to work with and explore!
For more information about THE VERMILION EMPORIUM and Jamie Pacton’s other titles, go to https://www.jamiepacton.com/books