This is a tough question, because actually, I've had a lifetime of inspiration! I've always been addicted to thrillers, stories about spies and intrigue, and characters who may or may not be what they seem. As a kid, I even formed a "spy club" with a couple of my best friends. I don't think we really successfully spied on too much (but we did perfect our communication in Pig Latin). And as an adult, I had the thrill of attending the DIA's attache training program for spouses, where we learned the ins and outs of the international intel business (including everything from diplomatic protocol to how to detect--and behave--when being surveilled). Also, DC is literally in my back yard, and I studied political science in college and covered politics as a newspaper reporter. So yeah, I guess my whole life has basically been leading to writing a spy thriller :).
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I can't really do the coffee shop thing. For one, I'm way too social and wind up talking to half the people there. And if I'm not talking to people, I usually end up distracted anyway because I'm busy observing what's going on (all that journalism and spy training, you know ;). So, I generally work at home, on my couch, with my computer on my lap and my dog, Watson, beneath my legs (he's here right now as I type). I don't listen to music while I work (I have kids and silence is golden!). But I definitely crank the tunes when I'm working out and brainstorming.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
I know it probably sounds cliche, but don't give up! Remember, being an author is a profession -- not just a hobby or a "dream." And like any profession, it takes practice, training, and hard work to succeed. No one would ever expect (or want!) a random guy on the street to pick up a scalpel, walk into the operating room, declare himself a surgeon and start cutting away. And we shouldn't expect to become successful writers overnight, either. So give yourself time to learn, and grow, and improve. Don't be afraid to move on from projects that are stalling! Don't be afraid to chuck something and start over! It's okay to have "drawer novels" -- in fact, I have a file full! I truly believe there are no wasted words. Every time you put together a sentence, you're growing as a writer and improving your craft.
Lastly, be nice! By this, I don't mean you can't have opinions, express yourself, or argue why a certain scene/character/plot point shouldn't be cut, etc. But I'm a firm believer that while talent can open doors -- being respectful, pleasant to work with, good at meeting deadlines, etc. (see author as "profession" above), helps keep those doors from slamming in your face. And because writing is a solitary endeavor, make efforts to get out there and meet other people in the business (virtually and in real life). If there's one thing I've found, the kidlit community is full of so many amazing people who will gladly offer support, guidance and friendship. So don't be afraid to put yourself out there!
And of course, keep writing! :)
ABOUT THE BOOKZero Day by Jan Gangsei
Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.
Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.
When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn't know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.
It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?
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ABOUT THE AUTHORJan Gangsei grew up in small-town Vermont, reading Nancy Drew mysteries, putting on backyard shows with her best friend and dreaming about exploring the world. After college, she landed a job as a newspaper reporter covering politics and the police beat, and was astonished to discover she could actually get paid to write and tell stories. Since then, she's lived in Key West, New York City, DC and Barbados. She's now settled with her family in northern Virginia, where she writes full time with a cup of hazelnut coffee in one hand and a Jack Russell terrier named Watson curled under her legs. Her debut young adult novel, ZERO DAY, publishes with Disney-Hyperion in January, 2016.
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa