“I believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”
Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.
Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave custom behind has never been so strong.
But the Wanderers live by signs, and the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?
Wandering Wild is an achingly romantic journey of tradition and self-discovery—a magical debut.
Jessica Taylor adores sleepy Southern settings, unrequited love, and characters who sneak out late at night. After graduating from law school, she realized she’d rather write her own stories than read dusty law books. She lives in Northern California with a sweet-yet-spoiled dog and several teetering towers of books.
I had the immense pleasure of meeting the sweet and lovely Jessica Taylor at the DFW Writer’s Conference, and she’s pretty freaking fantastic. Her debut YA novel, Wandering Wild, is available now, so add it to your shopping cart as soon as you’re done reading her amazing interview!
These are a few of her favorite things…
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Book: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Song: Acid Tongue by Jenny Lewis
Show: Alias or Lost. Anything J.J. Abrams.
Movie: Little Miss Sunshine
Fairytale: Beauty and the Beast
Superhero: Wonder Woman
Super villain: Catwoman
Superpower: I wish I could freeze time like Evie on the show Out of This World. I could accomplish so much and write lots of books that way.
Motivational Quote or Saying: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E.E. Cummings
Genius superpower! I want that one too! Tell us a little about yourself and what made you become a writer.
I started writing toward publication in May of 2010, when I was halfway through law school. By the time law school ended, I knew I couldn’t bear to practice law, and I knew being a young adult author was my dream job. I wouldn’t say that I left the law to be a writer, but I did decide to take two years to focus solely on writing and see where it took me. It’s always a little awkward to talk about how I made the transition from law to writing because I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to follow in my footsteps. What I did was a huge gamble, and while it paid off, I might be living in a cardboard box if it hadn’t. Really. Okay, not really. But close.
So how did you get the idea for Wandering Wild?
I started writing knowing I wanted to explore themes of “finding a place in this world” and “girl seeking autonomy,” which reminded me of stories I heard as a child. Growing up, I had a great aunt who was of German-Irish-English descent and would tell the most incredible tales of living a nomadic lifestyle as a child with her family in the ‘60s, while stealing and gambling their way into enough money to get by.
What about title and character names?
The title took a lot of work! I actually sold the book under the title, Invincible Wilds, but my publisher thought it sounded too much like a survival story. They helped me come up with the title, Wandering Wild. Character names can be tricky. I usually think of the parents and what they would have named their children.
Great idea. Can you tell us about Tal and what makes her unique.
Tal grows up traveling from town to town and assumes she’ll always lead the life of a Wanderer. When she finds out her arranged marriage might come to pass, she has to confront what she wants out of life. She’s a strong character who is somewhat unfeeling at times—or she pretends to be unfeeling to stop her emotions from getting in the way of what needs to be done.
Who was the easiest character to write? The most difficult?
Wen, Tal’s brother, was definitely the easiest character to write. Maybe that’s why he’s my favorite? He was one of those characters who inexplicably came to me fully formed. Spencer was a little more difficult to write and that’s probably because he’s so different from me. He’s comfortable in his small-town world—at least until Tal comes along.
Which actress could you see playing the Tal? How about her brother, Wen? Spencer?
I see Tal as a very young Felicity Jones and Spencer as Johnny Simmons. Wen would be too hard to cast—I have such a clear picture of him in my mind.
Oh gosh, I totally have a girl crush on Felicity Jones. What is your favorite Wandering Wild quote?
“He wanted to learn how the world worked, and I wanted to learn how to work the world.” The quote compares Tal to her brother, Wen, and accurately describes their desires and their relationship.
Love that! From conception of Wandering Wild to finished product, how long did it take to complete, and what was that process like for you?
Wandering Wild was a NaNoWriMo book, so drafting it only took a month. After that, I edited a few months before the book went on submission. At Egmont, my edits went by quickly and weren’t too extensive. Up until that point, it was fairly straightforward. However, even though I thought the book was done, I realized it needed much more work. Going back in was tough. It’s funny to still see a few Egmont books floating around and being reviewed because Wandering Wild is now a much different story.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, etc.) in bringing Wandering Wild to life?
Wandering Wild originally sold to Egmont, a publisher that closed in early 2015. The book was basically done, but they weren’t able to publish it. I later sold it to my original editor at Sky Pony.
So what draws you to speculative fiction? Do you write in other genres?
Speculative fiction was never really a draw for me—I just happened to want to write this story and I always saw it as magical realism. My next novel, A Map for Lost Girls, is actually a contemporary story and I see myself writing mostly contemporary in the future.
What are you currently reading?
Bone Gap! I think I’m the last person on earth to read it. I wanted to save it for when I had time. The voice and pacing are masterful, but the beauty of the story is the feminist message.
What are you working on now?
My next two books will be published by Dial/Penguin in 2018 and 2019. The first is a contemporary story called A Map for Lost Girls. It’s about two sisters and the way they destroy themselves and their relationship—and how they put it all back together after they’re stranded on a deserted island.
Do you work on multiple projects at once or focus on one at a time?
I only seriously work on one project at a time, but I have a few stories I’ve been dabbling with for years.
What do you do when you get stuck? What keeps you going?
Whenever I get stuck, I let myself give up on a project and work on something else. Once I put some distance between myself and the project, I almost always figure out what wasn’t working.
What do you think is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing hardships. I entered this year feeling like there wasn’t a chance I could continue on this path, and in only a few months, things have turned around in incredible ways. So my advice is to all aspiring writers is to never let your head get in the way of your heart. As far as the easiest, I would have to say it’s writing the actual words.
What was the querying process like for you? Any tips?
I’ve had two agents along the way and I signed with both of them via the slush pile. My most important piece of advice to querying writers is to do your research on agents and don’t settle for someone who isn’t a good fit for you or who doesn’t share your vision.
Best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
I’m repeating myself now, but my advice is this: Never let your head get in the way of your heart.
The best advice always merits repeating.
Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica! We wish the best, and we can’t wait to watch your success grow! And as a bonus, here’s a picture of me meeting Jessica at the Dallas writers conference.
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