Interview, yo! It’s debut MG novelist Ammi-Joan Paquette!

Make some noise for A.J., yo!

We have a guest, o loyal devotees of the great EMU in the sky! Ammi-Joan Paquette is a lovely individual, a world-beater of an agent, and a crazily prolific and eclectic author who is in the midst of a whole cavalcade of publishing-related debuts. Disclosure: Joan is my agent. Oh wait, that’s not actually a big secret, is it?

Today she’s here to talk about her debut as a middle-grade author, made possible by the very recent release of her exquisite novel NOWHERE GIRL (Walker/Bloomsbury). Here, slug down this shot of jacket copy:

Fourteen-year-old Luchi is anything but an ordinary American teenager. Born in a remote country prison in Northern Thailand, her mother’s death pushes Luchi into the outside world–and into the web of secrets that was her mother’s past. A coming-of-age story that follows a compelling character on her journey across continents, and oceans, and into a future she cannot begin to imagine.

SAY HI TO JOAN! Look, that's EMU's Debut Lisa Schulman, 2nd from the right, just follow her lead!

People of the interwebz, say hello to the indomitable Ammi-Joan Paquette!

MJ: I didn’t expect NOWHERE GIRL to have such a thrilling, high-octane plot, but it’s a page-turner! It’s also a fascinating mystery and a multifaceted fish-out-of-water story. Did you start out with all those layers of storytelling, or were they worked in over time?

AJP: My first drafts tend to be very slim—I definitely write short and return to add in layers afterward. In the case of NOWHERE GIRL, I knew where I was going and the basic story arc from the start. Beyond that, though, when it came time for revision there I definitely had to tease out and amplify certain plot lines, particularly with the goal of maintaining a strong arc and solidifying the internal story tension. Because this is a rather quiet story at heart—really, at its core, it is a coming-of-age story about a girl trying to discover who she is and find her place in the world—it was important to keep the momentum and stakes high enough that the readers would care about Luchi and her journey. So I did revise with a particular eye to layering in the mystery and tension for maximum readability. (Imagine my surprise, then, when Publishers Weekly called it a “memorable thriller”! Me, writing a thriller? Who knew!)

MJ: You’ve done quite a bit of globetrotting over the course of your life. How did your experiences traveling to and living in different parts of the world inform Luchi’s story? Were you already familiar with the people and culture of Thailand when the idea for this book first came to you?

AJP: In crafting this story, I definitely drew on my experiences visiting Thailand and traveling to various other countries over the years. For me, so much of the travel experience is rooted in awe and wonder—the world has so many rich, astounding, and surprising places, and there’s something about a deeply location-based story that lends it a special weave of magic. I love being able to immerse myself in a place and make my readers feel as if, even for just a moment, they have set foot on that ground too. What could be better than that?

MJ: One of the things about NOWHERE GIRL that appeals to me the most is its very nuanced look at the psychological, perceptual, and interpersonal complexities faced by individuals with a very specific cultural background who are in the process of leaving that setting to start a new life in an entirely new context. Did this present any particular challenges during the writing and editing processes?

AJP: Tricky question, Mike! (Let me pause a second to go back and read that again…) I don’t know how much of an intellectual process I subjected the actual writing to… in this case, I really just tried to immerse myself in Luchi’s world, put myself in her head if you will. While there are so many ways we as human beings are different, one thing that I believe remains constant is that wobbly, insecure feeling of first setting out upon something that is utterly foreign and new. No matter what you’ve personally left behind, what you’ve known in the past, and what you are moving on to experience—and certainly, every one of those elements work to affect how each person approaches and relates to and identifies with their new surroundings—still, there is some core element which I believe co-echoes within just about every person in a moment like this. And that’s the emotion I tried to draw upon in relating Luchi’s experience.

AJ Paquette, middle-grade novelist.

Ready for launch! Photo courtesy of Kip Rechea

MJ: You’re not new to the world of published authorhood (Joan’s picture book THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES is a useful resource for fairy-observant kids everywhere), but NOWHERE GIRL is your debut as a middle-grade novelist. What similarities and differences are there between the two debut experiences?

AJP: Similarities: You’re delivering a brand new book-life into the world of publishing. What will people think? What will reviewers say? Will it find its readership? I don’t think those questions and insecurities ever go away, no matter how many books you’ve had published. That said, every book birth is slightly different, and between picture book and middle-grade there are certainly unique elements as well. With THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES, I was delighted to find a very responsive and easy-to-define market: parents of young children, children who love fairies, adults who love fairies. I have been invited to do readings at fairy festivals, have done combination reading-and-fairy-tracking adventures, and held my own spot-the-fairy activity events. But with a more serious novel geared to middle-school readers (and up!), it’s a whole new readership and a brand new experience. The truth? I’m still figuring it out as I go along! Every debut is an adventure, and I’m very much enjoying the process of finding NOWHERE GIRL’s readership niche and expanding its audience.

MJ: You’re also scheduled to make your debut as a young adult author with PARADOX, which will be pubbed by Random House in 2013. Do you have any inklings about how your YA debut might differ from your picture book and MG debuts?

My 2 copies of NOWHERE GIRL.

Why yes, it IS exceedingly generous of me to give you one of these. You're welcome.

AJP: As with above—I think the readership for my YA novel will be, yet again, completely different, targeting teen readers directly, as well as science fiction enthusiasts, and perhaps others. Who knows? Right now I’m fully focused on NOWHERE GIRL, but talk to me again in a couple years and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say on the subject!

This is now Mike just blogging and not interviewing anymore: A round of applause for Joan! *applause* She’s a force of nature, really – if you’re like me, you want to work with people who set a high bar, and Joan sets that sucker way up high, in just about every respect.

Okay, funny story now – I pre-ordered NOWHERE GIRL a number of weeks ago, and was waiting for it to arrive at Pegasus Books when I received a gift certificate to a different indie, Diesel a Bookstore. When I went to Diesel, drooling and ready to buy the first 8 things that I found even remotely appealing, what did I see but NOWHERE GIRL in stock! Three copies! I just had to buy one right there off the shelf, of course. But I didn’t want to stiff Pegasus on my pre-order. Thus, I now have 2 copies. So hey, you want one? Joan’s gonna scribble a personalized autograph on it, so yuh huh, AAAAAWESOME prize, babies, awesome. Leave a comment here, we’ll do a random drawing sorta thing to pick who gets it. READYSETGO!

m.

ETA: I guess we need a deadline on entries, huh? Err, yeah. I knew that. Let’s say Friday at 11:59 PM, hokey dokey?

Advertisements

50 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

50 responses to “Interview, yo! It’s debut MG novelist Ammi-Joan Paquette!

  1. Um yes. I would so totally like to win this book! Okay. That’s all. Awesome!

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      DULY NOTED. Your participation is appreciated, and will be remembered when the zombie apocalypse comes down and we’re taking bribes for spaces in the EMU underground zombie shelter.

      Like

  2. Me! Me! Me! Oh, wait… the professional comment. I would love to win the copy of Nowhere Girl and thank you for the insightful interview.

    Like

  3. Cynthia Levinson

    Great interview, Mike. With all of her travels and all of her writing successes across the age spans, Joan is an Everywhere Girl–er, woman. She just looks like she’s 12 years old, even though she has children that age, making her a paradox. I guess she also picks great titles.

    Like

  4. Holy Moly! Joan you have remarkable depth and range in your interests and writing.

    Mike, you totally blew your cover as a street-smart wise guy talking smack and shenanigans with question three. That question took some in-depth analysis, yo.

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      Nuh uh, I’m all about the smack talk! I just got that question from Ask.com! (And thanks for entering, Jim, good to see your name here.)

      Like

  5. beckylevine

    Do I want one? Excuse me while I stop laughing! This sounds like an incredible story. Please enter me in the contest. 🙂

    Like

  6. Wow! The book sounds amazing. And I love, love, love that cover. Enter me, please!

    Like

  7. This book sounds great! I would love to review it for my book blog http://bornbookish.blogspot.com. Please enter me in the contest!

    Like

  8. A picture book, a middle grade novel and soon a YA novel. Joan’s all over the map with her books and apparently with her travels as well. Impressive. Great interview. Thanks!

    Like

  9. I used to live in Oakland, and Diesel was my favorite bookstore! I’d love to win Nowhere Girl – Thanks for the opportunity!

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      Diesel is great, it’s my go-to store. I hope you have equally good options at your current location, Kristin. You’re in the contest, and thanks!

      Like

  10. *applause, applause, applause* for both Joan and a great interview!

    Off to practice high-bar jumps…

    Like

  11. Great interview, Mike! Yes, Joan’s book, NOWHERE GIRL, is most impressive—as is Joan. I loved, loved, loved it. A book that will stick with me for a long time.

    Like

  12. Cindy Strandvold

    Great interview of a great agent by a great agency mate! How was that? Does that win me a copy of Joan’s book?

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      HEY HEY, don’t get hasty – it gets you an entry to win Joan’s book, Cindy. Sheesh, the nerve… 😉 (and thanks for the kind words!)

      Like

  13. Raelene Van Horn

    So I remember Joan speaking at the 2010 Mills college event about her picture book “The Tiptoe Guide to tracking Fairies.” And then I remember holding a “Joan” sign up for Mike Jung to show his fabulous agent. Now I am hearing of a remarkable lady named Joan, who is the author of a middle grade novel called “Nowhere Girl.” Wow, finally I realize it is the same person and each informational piece was an important part of solving a puzzle. Sure I would like to enter the drawing too!!

    Like

  14. Shari Maser

    Sounds intriguing! My daughter is already a fan of the Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, and I think Nowhere Girl would capture her imagination as well. Please enter me in the contest. If I win, I’ll definitely have to share it with her.

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      OF COURSE YOU SHOULD SHARE. But you know, you don’t have to do it immediately! Your daughter can wait ’til you’re done, it’ll teach her life is real. 😉 Thanks for entering!

      Like

  15. Oh, me! me! I would love to win a signed copy of Joan’s book. Thanks for the interview and offering the giveaway, Mike.

    Like

  16. Pingback: A Tale of Two Agents | EMU's Debuts

  17. Wow. I knew that Joan was writing for a lot of different audiences, but this really lays it out. There’s no way she’ll be pigeon-holed!

    Like

  18. If the contest is still on, I’d love to enter. Joan is a super sweet, awesome lady. I love the tiptoe guide and I can’t wait to read “Nowhere Girl”. Thanks!

    Like

  19. lee

    I’m really intrigued by the story and can’t wait to read it!

    Like

  20. The book sounds great – can’t wait to read it!! You had me hooked at “born in a remote country prison.” Love the girl on the cover.

    Like

  21. Okay, so I already bought it, but if I win I’ll donate one to our school library. 🙂 Great interview, Mike and Joan! Thoroughly impressive all around.

    Like

  22. zoraida

    what a lovely cover!

    Like

  23. Love that Joan’s writing for different audiences and challenging the usual conventions! Yeah, I totally want to steal that book from you, Mike…I mean, win it. 🙂

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      You’ll have to pry that book out of my COLD DEAD HANDS, Leigh…unless you win it, in which case I’ll, you know, just give it to you. 🙂

      Like

  24. I love when you feel like you’re in the world the writer created or, on a good writing day, you can make someone else experience the world you’re creating.

    Like

  25. Bee

    Sounds rather introspective and deep to be limited to an MG audience alone. I’d love myself a copy!

    Great interview. Made for a very exciting read. I didn’t know she wrote books too, and not just sold them 😛

    Like

    • Mike Jung

      Well now, it is an MG novel, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to MG readers! 🙂 It’s definitely an exciting read – that combination of exciting/introspective is not an easy trick to pull off, but Joan did it. Thanks for entering!

      Like

  26. Pingback: Got a craving for a great story? Check out NOWHERE GIRL. – Laura Pauling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s