This week at Nineteenteen we're delighted to bring you Jen Bradbury, author of the Regency-set young adult adventure novel Wrapped!
Regina and I got to know Jen through the Class of 2K8 promotional group for debut authors, and when we found out she was working on a historical YA, we knew we'd have to bring her here to meet you. Since her book Wrapped has a slightly spooky, Halloween-ish theme to it--mummies!--we thought this would be the perfect week to invite her. Here's her official bio, and then we'll get on to our chat with Jen:
Jennifer Bradbury’s debut novel, Shift—which Kirkus Reviews starred, calling it “fresh, absorbing, compelling”—was picked as an ALA and a School Library Journal Best Book for Young Adults, was a YALSA pick, and made the Booklist Top 10 lists for both Crime Fiction for Youth and Sports Literature. Her most recent release, Wrapped, has been reviewed as “A winning combination of Egyptian mythology, English Regency, and just a hint of romance, this charming caper delivers both historical detail and boisterous entertainment.” A former English teacher and one-day Jeopardy! champ, she lives in Burlington, Washington, with her husband and two small children.
Nineteenteen: Welcome to Nineteenteen, Jen! Your first book, Shift, was a contemporary story set in the US featuring two boy main characters. So Wrapped is a bit of a departure from that…will you tell us how you came to write it? How was it a different experience from writing Shift?
Jen: It is a bit of a departure, I admit. But I'm very lucky to have a supportive agent, and extremely lucky to an an editor who understands and maybe even appreciates that I'm a bit all over the place with my interests. Wrapped actually came about when I was waiting on my first round of editorial feedback for Shift. I was so anxious about that process (and worrying if I could actually pull off what my editor wanted), that I had to figure out some sort of escape. So I dug up an old nugget of trivia that a professor shared in a lit class once about mummy unwrapping parties, and ran with it. The book required a lot more research (which was fun to get lost in as well), and gave me a chance to write in a voice that came a little more naturally to me.
Nineteenteen: Your heroine, Agnes Wilkins, turns out to be quite an intrepid character (which is all I can say without including spoilers!) Do you consider yourself adventurous? What’s the most swashbuckling thing you’ve ever done? And do you speak as many languages as she does?
Jen: Agnes is one of those girls I sort of wish I was, but yes, I am pretty adventurous. We used to do a lot of climbing and backpacking, and we once biked cross country (like the guys in Shift). I have the same longing to travel and see odd parts of the world that she does, but sadly, I've never found myself embroiled in an international conspiracy. And alas, I speak only a tiny bit of French, so I'm very jealous of dear Agnes in that regard.
Nineteenteen: Agnes is an avid reader of the novels of Jane Austen…so I’m going to guess that maybe you are too? What’s your favorite Jane book? And what were your favorite books when you were a teen?
Jen: I adore Jane Austen. Oddly enough I didn't read any of her novels until I was studying abroad in Cambridge in 1995. But I read them all that semester for a class, and loved them all. My favorite is still Persuasion. I just adore those characters and that particular love story. As far as favorite books when I was a teen, I mostly read what I was assigned for school, but I loved most of those. I still reread Jane Eyre pretty often, and Frankenstein was a favorite then and now. What I did read outside of class, oddly enough, was usually sci-fi or comic books.
Nineteenteen: Oh, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne--"You pierce my soul"--has to be one of the most romantic moments in all of JA!
Of course, the “bad guy” in Wrapped is revealed at the end of the story, in best mystery fashion. Are you a mystery fan? Which characters to you have more fun writing—good guys, or bad guys?
Jen: I love mysteries! I forgot to mention the Sue Grafton alphabet mystery series in the question above. I devoured those in high school and still seek out the new ones when she publishes them. But more than being a mystery fan, I'm a lover of anything that makes me want to turn the pages quickly.
As far as who I have more fun writing, it mostly depends on the scene. But generally, the good guys interest me more.
Nineteenteen: Have you been to Egypt? Have ancient Egyptian culture and history always been of interest to you?
Jen: My little sister and I were obssessed with ancient Egypt when we were kids, and still are to some degree. I remember we read tons of Egyptian mythology when we were little, and were fascinated by the stories. While I have never been to Egypt, the sequel for Wrapped is set in Cairo shortly after the events of the first book, so I feel like I have an even better reason to go there someday. Maybe my little sister can make the journey with me.
Nineteenteen: Can we come too? How did you research the history for Wrapped? Did you have any funny research moments, or moments that sent a chill up your spine?
Jen: Generally, I start with an idea to hang it on--in this case it was that weird thing about mummy unwrapping parties. But from there I've got to figure out how to grow that idea into a book. For me, it all grows out of asking myself questions, teasing the story into some kind of shape, and then breaking into a really loose, rough outline. At that point, I stop and research more formally. And the biggest, most wonderful gift that emerged in the my research process ended up being the fact that Napoleon was as enamoured of Egyptian culture as you could hope for, and then the story took off in earnest.
Nineteenteen: What’s next for you…or for that matter, for Agnes? Will we be seeing a sequel to Wrapped, or other YA historical fiction from you?
Jen: I just finished the first pass at the line edits on my next book, another historical novel. It is set in the Punjab in 1947, just as partition of India and Pakistan were finalized. This one is pretty weighty compared to Agnes' adventure, but I'm very excited about it. After that, I've got a sequel to Wrapped, and we just sent my editor two more manuscripts--one contemporary and one historical.
Nineteenteen: Good luck with your Punjabi story, and we'll definitely be watching for more of Agnes. Where can readers learn more about you and your books online?
Jen: Visit me at my website http://www.jennifer-bradbury.com/. Sadly, I don't blog, or tweet, or even have a facebook page. I'm a mother of two small kids! Answering emails is a luxury!
Nineteenteen: Then we're very happy you were able to squeeze in a visit with us, Jen. :)
Stay tuned for Friday, when Jen will tell us a little more about mummy-unwrapping parties in the early 19th century...and be sure to leave a comment! All commenters this week through next Monday evening (that's Halloween!) will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Wrapped.