It's my pleasure to welcome Jennifer Caloyeras, author of Strays (published by Ashland Creek Press in May). Jennifer will be back in coming weeks with an excerpt from the book and more. ~ Sheila
Tell us a bit about your latest book.
My latest novel, Strays, is about a teenage girl with anger issues who is sentenced to a summer rehabilitating aggressive dogs. Here, she’s matched up with a three-legged pit bull rescue named Roman, who ends up teaching Iris more than she ever thought possible.
How do you develop your characters? Are any of them based on real animals or people?
Roman, the pit bull in my novel, has redirected aggression. When he can’t reach the thing (be it object or animal) he wants to attack, he lashes out at the person closest to him instead. I had my own, very challenging experience with our dog, Willie. We took him to over five dog trainers for help. Roman was definitely based on a real animal that was a fixture in my own life.
What was it about the subject that inspired you to write?
I have been the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger (in Los Angeles) for over ten years. Years ago, when I was doing some research, I came across a great non-profit organization in Santa Monica called K-9 Connection that pairs at-risk teens with rescue dogs. I thought to myself, “this would be a great premise for a young adult novel.” And a book was born.How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”
I am a writer who needs a plan. That doesn’t mean the plan won’t change, but I like to start this writing journey with a roadmap of sorts. It keeps me focused. Once I understand what the story is about, I begin an outline. I try to make it as detailed as possible as this makes the task of writing easier. I try my best to keep a forward trajectory and not go back and revise or judge my work until I’ve worked through an entire first draft. Then put it away for a few weeks (sometimes a few months) so I can approach with a renewed vigor. On these subsequent reads, I always end up changing the initial story line and changing character arcs. But the outline works to ground me, even if it completely ends up changing by the book’s end.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am the kind of writer who gets restless easily, so I always like to be in various stages of various projects. The ideal situation for me is to be out promoting a recently published novel, working on revising a draft of a completed novel and hatching out a plan for a new novel. I am lucky to be currently working on three things at once! I am eager, of course, to share my latest young adult novel, Strays, with the world. I am currently revising another young adult novel (I had put it away for about a year and I’ve only recently unearthed it.) This marks my first stab at dystopic fiction, which I find really fun, but also really challenging. And finally, I am whittling away an outline for my very first chapter book which is aimed at middle grade readers. I am, by no means an artist, so I really look forward to what someone might draw to accompany this story.~~~
Jennifer Caloyeras is a novelist and short fiction writer living in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. In English from the University of California at Santa Cruz, an M.A. in English Literature from California State University Los Angeles and an M.F.A. in creative writing through the University of British Columbia.
Her short stories have been published in Monday Night Literary, Wilde Magazine, Storm Cellar and Booth. She has been a college instructor, elementary school teacher and camp counselor. She is the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger and the Larchmont Ledger.
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