Author Spotlight: Jenny Elder Moke

© Brenna Hodge

May 29, 2020

We are excited to feature author Jenny Elder Moke and her debut YA novel, HOOD (Disney Books, June 9, 2020).

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cover © Phil Buchanan

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

Hey hey! I’m Jenny Elder Moke, Jenny to my friends and “Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” to my kids when they want snacks. I live in Austin, TX where there’s a lot of fun stuff to do but it’s too hot to do any of it like eight months out of the year. I write YA because it’s my favorite genre to read! To me as a reader, YA brings a sense of adventure and excitement and emotional immediacy that adult novels lack. They’re my favorite books to read, so I think it was inevitable that they became the books I write. I have a line in my bio that I write YA to recapture the shining infinity of youth, and I mean it! Young adulthood is a precipice, a choose-your-own-adventure threshold of life. In some ways it’s the most exciting time of life, with so much before you. I love to revisit that feeling in my writing.

Congratulations on your debut YA novel, HOOD. Tell us about the book and what inspired it.

Thank you! HOOD tells the story of Isabelle of Kirklees, daughter of Maid Marien and Robin Hood (though she doesn’t know that last bit when the story starts out). Isabelle longs for a life beyond the sheltered walls of her convent. An outcast from the sisters, she seeks solace in the surrounding woods, dreaming of a life of adventure. But those dreams turn to nightmares when Isabelle is arrested by royal soldiers while defending innocent villagers. Now she is the target of the powerful and ruthless lord known as the Wolf, the fearsome right hand of King John and an old enemy of her family. Desperate to keep Isabelle safe, her mother helps her escape and sends her to the last person she expects: her father, Robin Hood.

Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known. She is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, new adversaries with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men against the Wolf, she must find the strength to defy the crown to save the lives of everyone she holds dear.

I actually got the inspiration from watching the BBC version of Robin Hood they did back in the early 2000s. It was fun and cheeky, but still had serious plot lines and consequences for the characters, and I hadn’t seen Robin Hood done that way in a long time. Usually it was either very serious, or very campy (don’t get me wrong, I love Robin Hood: Men in Tights), and I liked that the show walked the line between the two vibes. Then I started imagining what would be an interesting take on a new Robin Hood story, and seeing as how I wanted to be a YA writer, the inspiration struck immediately – his daughter. It was a way to enjoy the best of the legend, while still telling a story that was new to the canon.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

My road to publication feels a lot like the world’s tallest waterslide, in which I spent years and years in a dark tunnel and then suddenly got shot out in the pool with all the other kids. I spent almost a decade on my own, writing and working with critique groups and dreaming of publishing. I queried for years on different projects without success, and had walked away from the possibility by 2017. 

But a friend told me about a fictional podcast competition at the Austin Film Festival and encouraged me to enter, so I did and I ended up being a finalist, which was amazing! I joined Twitter to connect with all the fantastic people I met at the festival, and found the Sun vs. Snow pitch competition by Amy Trueblood and Michelle Hauck. I got several agent requests from that pitch and ended up signing with my agent, and we went out on submission about a month later and got an offer from Disney a few weeks later. The “getting an agent and signing a book deal” part came so fast after so many years toiling away on my own that I was a bit blindsided (in a great way).

 What projects are you working on now?

 I've got some very exciting things cooking that I can't talk about quite yet, but you'll definitely be seeing more of me soon!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you’d asked me this question before I sold a book, I would have given some very prescriptive advice like “study the craft” or “find a critique partner” or something like that. And that’s all great advice! But honestly, the advice I’d give now is remember to have fun. It’s the advice I need every day, because once your passion becomes your business, it fundamentally changes. And remembering why you want to do this, and what joy it brings you, will become so much more precious and important.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

In addition to writing, my other great hobby is martial arts. I’m a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been writing. It helps a lot with writing those pesky fight scenes.

Where can people find you online?

Mostly lurking or hiding lol. But I’m pretty active on Twitter @jennyelder and Instagram @jennyeldermoke. They can also find announcements, book info, and press kits on my website,

Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. She worked for several years at an independent publisher in Austin before realizing she would rather write the manuscripts than read them. When she is not writing, she’s gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jenny lives in Austin, TX.

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  2. This book looks amazing - and the cover is beautiful! So excited for your book Jenny :)
    Megan S.

  3. This books sounds like an interesting new take on this tale!

  4. This sounds awesome! I love retellings and the idea of the daughter telling the tale intrigues!

  5. Love the premise and look forward to reading it

  6. Really looking forward to this one! I love reframed tales.

  7. This book is high on my must read list! I love the cover. I enjoy reading YA more than adult because of the same reasons you do. Congrats on your new book!

  8. I can not WAIT to read this book!! I enjoy retellings and this one sounds especially fun... and my students are going to devour it.

  9. I can't wait to read this book! HOOD looks so good!

  10. Oooh! Would love to read this!

  11. What a neat twist on a classic! I look forward to reading it.


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