Author Spotlight: Jessica S. Olson
Mar. 12, 2021
We are excited to feature author Jessica S. Olson and her debut YA novel, SING ME FORGOTTEN (Inkyard Press), that just came out on March 9! Enter to win a copy!
|Illustrator: Allan Davey; Design: Mary Luna|
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.
Hi! I am a YA author and mother of three (soon to be four) living in Fort Worth, TX. I’ve loved reading and stories since I was a child, and that naturally grew into a love for writing and creating worlds and characters of my own when I was a teen. My very first attempt at writing a novel was a very bad knockoff of Harry Potter. Throughout high school, I wrote sappy contemporary romance books. It wasn’t until after college that I fell in love with YA fantasy, and I’ve never looked back since!
I’m also a big music lover. I’ve played the piano since I was six years old and the flute since I was eleven. I took voice lessons, participated in musical theater productions in high school and then, again, later on as an adult. I’ve also dabbled in some organ as well, though I’ve never been formally trained on it. That love for and deep background in music really inspired much of the story for my debut novel, Sing Me Forgotten. I like to think of it as my “love letter to music.”
Congrats on your debut YA novel, Sing Me Forgotten! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you so much! Sing Me Forgotten is a gender-swapped Phantom of the Opera—but with magic! I’ve loved Phantom since I was very small, but I always identified so much more with the Phantom than any of the other characters, and I wanted to know what the story would have been like if it had been told from his point of view. That line of thinking led me to gender-swapping this story—making the Phantom a seventeen-year-old girl—so that I could explore some of the things I’m most passionate about when it comes to YA fiction: Showing girls they don’t have to be pretty to have worth and that they don’t have to be likeable to have stories worth telling. The story just kind of grew from there!
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I would definitely classify it as “long and winding” and probably add in some words like “brutal” and “difficult.” ;) I started seriously trying to get an agent when I was in college back in 2009 with a contemporary issue novel. I continued to pursue that throughout college. I finally trunked that novel and decided to switch gears and try my hand at fantasy—not realizing just how much I had to learn about the genre! I ended up querying two fantasy project throughout 2013-2018. When that last project was still out with agents for consideration, I had the idea for Sing Me Forgotten, which I wrote in the spring/summer of 2018 in time to submit for Pitch Wars (a mentorship contest). I was gobsmacked to find out I had been selected for Pitch Wars, which led to a grueling four months of heavy rewrites on Sing Me Forgotten and many rounds of revision. But! It was all worth it when, in February of 2019 (a full decade after I first started querying), I received multiple offers of representation from agents. I signed with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency, and she went on to sell Sing Me Forgotten at auction to Inkyard Press that summer! It was ten years of hard work and hope and rejection, but it was all worth it in the end!
What is a surprising thing you learned from the publishing process?
I think the thing I was most surprised to learn as I got deeper and deeper into it was just what “revision” meant. As a teen and early young adult, I thought that revision was about fixing grammar and moving commas around. It wasn’t until I was well into my third novel that I finally learned the true meaning of revision: hacking up that manuscript to pieces, deleting entire scenes and chapters, rewriting whole acts, etc. It was a lot more than I originally had believed to be the case! But now revision is my absolute favorite part of the process.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m deep in revisions on my next book with Inkyard, which is tentatively set to release in early 2022. It’s another separate YA fantasy standalone, and I think readers of Sing Me Forgotten will really love it. I’m also starting to draft a new project, which will hopefully find its way to shelves one day!
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
I think the advice I’d give to my younger self is the same advice I’d give to aspiring authors: Prepare yourself for rejection and find value in your work whether or not other people do. The road to publication is a long and treacherous one, and it can be extremely disheartening at times. There will be days when you want to give up. Sometimes those days can last for months or even years. But I promise that publishing rewards those who persevere. You will get there. The rejections will always hurt, but you will get better at dealing with it. It is hard, but it is worth it!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I originally majored in French teaching in college with the intent of becoming a high school French teacher. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I switched to majoring in English. I loved learning French, and miss speaking it regularly!
Where can people find you online?
I am most active on Instagram, and you can find me there at @jessicaolson123. I also post very periodically on Twitter at the same handle. You can also find me at my website, www.jessicasolson.com.
Jessica S. Olson claims New Hampshire as her home, but has somehow found herself in Texas, where she spends most of her time singing praises to the inventor of the air conditioner. When she's not hiding from the heat, she's corralling her three wild—but adorable—children, dreaming up stories about kissing and murder and magic, and eating peanut butter by the spoonful straight from the jar. She earned a bachelor’s in English with minors in editing and French, which essentially means she spent all of her university time reading and eating French pastries. Sing Me Forgotten is her debut novel. Jessica is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency
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