Jennifer Ann Mann grew up in New Jersey, the second of four sisters. Her short stories have been published by Highlights for Children, where she won the 2007 Fiction Contest. She lives in Boston in a giant house filled with kids and cats. This past fall, Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books published Jennifer’s debut novel, Sunny Sweet is So Not Sorry, the first book in the Sunny Sweet Series. The second title, Sunny Sweet Is SO Dead Meat will pub on May 13, 2014. Visit her at www.jenniferannmann.com or on Twitter @jenannmann.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I have always been a storyteller—to get out of trouble as a child, to connect with people, to entertain my friends, my husband, and eventually, my children. Also, I remember that throughout my career as a student, the easiest assignments for me were the writing assignments. But I actually never considered becoming a writer until I was thirty-three years old. One day, I was telling a story to my young daughter and her little cousin. It was about a pig that couldn’t stop cleaning. He cleaned his pen. He cleaned the barn. He cleaned the chicken coop. The entire farm was highly annoyed. When I was finished with the story an adult standing nearby said, “You should write that down.” I did. It become “The Cleanest Pig.” The day I sold it to Highlights for Children I knew I was hooked.
Do you write every day? Do you set goals?
At the time that I began writing, I had a full-time job as a financial analyst and two young children. I had to set goals or I would never have been able to get anything done. I would wake up early and write for two hours before children and work. I did this right up until the time that I sold the “Sunny Sweet Series” to Bloomsbury. I finally let go of my position as an analyst this past September. I’ve been a full-time writer for seven months now. It’s glorious. Since this time, I’ve had to set new goals. Now I write from about 9am to 3pm each day. One thing that surprised me about this big change in my writing schedule is that I also found myself writing on the weekends. Before I was a full-time writer, I almost never wrote on the weekends. One likely reason for not previously writing on the weekends is exhaustion. But the bigger reason is that I didn’t get far enough into my writing in that two hours a day to inspire me to continue on Saturday or Sunday. I am now completely inspired right through the weekend. I don’t want to stop because I can finally see the end of stories!
What is the most difficult part of writing?
Plot. Plot kills me. I know that something needs to happen, but what, and how, and when? It’s my failing. I read so much about how to plot, but none of it ever sticks with me. Each time I begin to write a new book, I approach it through character…and then hope and pray that plot happens. I am determined to one day wrestle plot to the ground and pin it. But that day has not yet come.
What is the most rewarding part of writing?
Character. I love character! I love thinking them up. I love discovering things about them. I love hanging out with them after I get to know them. Character thrills me. And not just in my own work, but also in the writing of others. Some of my favorite people in life are characters in books. They are serious friends of mine.
Was there ever a time on the road to publication that you thought about giving up?
It took me a very long time to get a book published. I won’t tell you how long…but it was TWELVE YEARS! I hear a lot of stories about writers who have gone three or four or five years, or even more. But I haven’t heard too many stories about it taking as long as it took me. And yes, there were many, many times I wanted to stop trying. The rejection is very painful. I’ve heard it said that writers need thick skins. They don’t. I’m a writer with a very thin skin—I’m just in pain a lot. I didn’t give up because I’m mega stubborn, or was born to write, or couldn’t live without writing—I didn’t give up for the following reason. My favorite places on earth are libraries and bookstores. I spend all my time in these two locations. So whenever I thought about giving up, I would imagine myself walking into one of my favorite places knowing that I hadn’t reached my goal. After imagining this, I would feel so crummy that I would tell myself that I’d have to stop hanging out in libraries and bookstores. Of course, I’d then keep writing—because staying out of libraries and bookstores was a greater horror to me than the rejections were.
SUNNY SWEET IS SO DEAD MEAT
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publish Date: May 13, 2014
When a bottle of ketchup explodes all over Masha Sweet, she thinks it’s an accident. She’s trying to be kinder to her little sister, Sunny, so she shouldn’t jump to conclusions…or should she? Turns out Sunny has devised a special science experiment that requires Masha to look totally weird all day. But Masha is not having it. If it kills her (or Sunny!) she will figure out how to get them home form the science fair without causing a scene. But add in a pair of little brothers who take Masha on a wild goose chase through the school, a short tour through a cemetery, and a run-in with a cute boy and this whole day is one big scene. Which just might be what Sunny had in mind…she is so dead meat!
To learn more about Jennifer or her books, visit her at the links below.