Thursday, June 28, 2018

0 Janice Lynn Mather, author of LEARNING TO BREATHE, on working through hurt feelings

We're thrilled to have Janice Lynn Mather join us to share more about her debut novel, LEARNING TO BREATHE.

Janice, what was your inspiration for writing LEARNING TO BREATHE?

My experience growing up, and as a young woman, was quite different from that of my main character, Indy. In high school, I was very aware of the concept of girls who were “fast”, and there was a certain belief that if something sexual went on, a girl must have been “looking for it” somehow. When I reached my late teens, though, I started to become more aware of some of the struggles some girls—and boys—around me faced. I worked for a newspaper for a few years, and became even more aware of how common various forms of abuse really are. Indy’s story was, to some extent, a way to make sense of something so common and yet so confusing. Even now, some years later, I struggle to make sense of how many people deal with situations like Indy’s.

How long did you work on LEARNING TO BREATHE?

I wrote the very first draft of LEARNING TO BREATHE in 2004, in one of my first Creative Writing courses as an undergraduate. I’d mostly been writing short stories and poetry up until then, and I wanted to conquer a longer story. Over the next decade, I came back to the story again and again to revise and refine it. I started sending it out to agents and publishers in 2008. I finished the last revisions in the winter of 2017/2018. It’s definitely been an exercise in endurance.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Other than endurance? Perseverance…how to work through hurt feelings… Seriously, I would say this book taught me about the necessity of devoting time to the parts of a writing career that are less inspirational, but that are vital in terms of success.

I can’t say I enjoyed sifting through pages of potential agents or editors and getting reams of form rejections—no one loves that. In the submission process, there was one particular agent I queried who requested the full manuscript, and provided me with some feedback that really annoyed me. But once I was done sulking and complaining to my friends and family, I actually realized she had some valid points. The revision I did based on that initially annoying feedback is, I think, what made the difference in getting doors opened for me to find representation with a different agent, and to ultimately find a publisher that I’m really excited to work with. So I’d say this book helped me in learning to step back from initially distasteful feedback to see whether there’s truth and validity in what is being said. That might be a life-long lesson, of course…

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Along with offering the usual dull, parental advice—be diligent, persevere, have discipline—I’d assure writers still looking for an agent or editor that our friends in the publishing industry are just people, too. I think there can be a lot of intimidation and fear when you know someone has the power to open doors for you—or not. That can be a real hurdle in sending your work out into the world. You want to be professional, respectful, and mindful of any guidelines an agent or editor has in terms of how you query them, but rest assured that they’re regular people, so don’t let fear get in your way.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

My writing ritual is fairly unglamorous. I’d like to say that I immerse myself in inspiring natural surroundings, but in reality, the majority of my most focused work happens sitting cross-legged on the sofa with fairly poor posture, or on a generic second hand mismatched wooden chair that friends have told me is inhospitably uncomfortable. When I’m in dreamy, brainstorming mode, a little music can be nice, but when it’s time to get down to business, I prefer the quiet of a corner of our living room that’s near a sunny window, when no one else is at home. I do like to change atmospheres and sit outside when it’s summer, sometimes. For the most part, though, a few basic comforts (chair excluded) and an environment free of distractions is the perfect backdrop for me to immerse myself in the world of my characters, rather than the world around me.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on my second teen novel, Facing The Sun, which comes out with Simon & Schuster in 2019.


Learning to Breathe
by Janice Lynn Mather
Simon & Schuster Books for You
Released 6/26/2018

Sixteen-year-old Indy struggles to conceal her pregnancy while searching for a place to belong in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Amber Smith and Sara Zarr.

Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow.

When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth.

Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

Purchase Learning to Breathe at Amazon
Purchase Learning to Breathe at IndieBound
View Learning to Breathe on Goodreads


Janice Lynn Mather is a writer and a Bahamian. She is also a vegan, an introvert, a book hog, a drifter off in meetings, an intermittent blogger, a yogi, a grower of food, a brewer of kombucha, a purveyor of all things natural, the owner of an afro, a honer for sunshine, a collector of essential oils and a glutton for the sea. She has an MFA and BFA from the University of British Columbia and an AA from the College of the Bahamas.


Have you had a chance to read LEARNING TO BREATHE yet? Are you able to look for the truth and validity in feedback you initially find distasteful? Are you able to keep in mind that agents are regular people too? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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