Jenni Spangler – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Jenni, what about Lindsay’s bio convinced you to sub to her?

Lindsay’s description of her own experience and what she hoped to find in a mentor made me think we’d work really well together. Her book hadn’t been released at the time I applied, but the promo materials made me think I’d love it (I was right!) and there was definitely an aspirational element – I wanted to learn from someone whose work I admired.

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Lindsay, what made you fall in love with The Orphan Thief?

From the first paragraph I knew Jenni was a talented writer. I didn’t even need to finish the sample to realise the story had great potential so I immediately asked Jenni for the full manuscript. It was the combination of characters, atmosphere, period detail, and the original magic system that convinced me this was the book I would love to work on. I was so fired up, I immediately decided to offer Jenni a full manuscript review rather than the first three chapters and letter I had originally signed up for.

Jenni, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?

Impossible to pick just one!

Lindsay’s help was invaluable. Her fresh ideas made a huge difference to the book and there’s no doubt that the edits she suggested helped me get an agent. She was also a cheerleader for my work, and her belief was a confidence boost. Lindsay was also there for me during the exciting/terrifying two weeks of requests and offers, reminding me to keep my cool and ask all the right questions. I feel I’ve made a lifelong ally in Lindsay which is something we all need in this fickle industry.

Beyond our own mentoring relationship, the community Stuart and the #writementor team have built is incredible. So much love and support! I’ve made some friends and I’m looking forward to cheering every one of them over the publication finish line in the next few years.

Lindsay, tell us what it was like working with Jenni.

I’m not exaggerating when I say Jenni was a dream mentee. She was creative and flexible, open to big changes but thoughtful with it, considering carefully and trying my ideas out to make sure she was happy before implementing them. This was so important, and I was so impressed by the way she made the suggestions she went with completely her own. She worked quickly, and has great communication skills. I am so thrilled and completely unsurprised she gained so much agent interest and such speedy representation. I feel very lucky to have made a lovely new writing friend and look forward to us continuing to support each other in this wild and wonderful journey.

Jenni, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?

I’ve never been involved in anything remotely like this, so it was pleasant surprises all the way through. I’m delighted to have found such a friendly corner of the internet and to meet so many talented and dedicated people.

Jenni, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Lindsay.What advice do you have for future mentees? 

Lindsay made this easy for me – she had some amazing ideas and always supported the choices I made.

The biggest change to the book was turning the male villain into a woman, which brought fresh nuance to the character and the relationships in the book. It never even occurred to me, but as soon as I tried a few sample scenes I understood what she meant. Everyone who has read it since says ‘I’m SO glad you made that change!’

My advice to future mentees would be to go into the process with an open mind. Expect to make big changes. Don’t be too defensive or protective of your book – you can’t break it, and there’s nothing to stop you changing things back if they don’t work. That doesn’t mean you have to take every suggestion – just really consider everything thoroughly.

A big part of being a writer is learning to step back from your work and not take criticism personally. You’ll get the most out of a mentor relationship (or crit partner/beta reader relationship) if you can both speak openly with each other about any issues with the work.

Jenni, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Lauren Gardner of Bell Lomax Moreton. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

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I was lucky to get a few calls during that week, which was extremely exciting and slightly terrifying. Everyone was absolutely lovely and kind, and took the time to talk me through edit ideas and how the process worked. I panicked all week about how I would decide (I know I’m very lucky to have that problem) but when I spoke to Lauren I had a gut feeling.

We spoke via skype for about an hour and a half, at the end of which she hadn’t technically said the words ‘I’d like to represent you’ causing me to very sheepishly ask! It was an amazing experience to have someone speak excitedly about characters I’d created, and the ideas she had just felt right. We bonded over 90s movies (Hocus Pocus anyone?) and she talked me through some ideas about publicity which was a worry of mine. After the call I found myself grinning all day and that’s when I messaged Lindsay and said ‘Lauren offered and I think I’m slightly in love!’

What does your writing process look like?

J: Messy! I don’t love drafting so I try to make a rough outline and then draft as fast as I possibly can, so I can get down to editing, which is where the magic happens. I like to entirely re-type the book for every major edit otherwise I get lazy and miss things.

L: Similar to Jenni in some ways. I love to plan and make notes by hand to start with, toying with the plot, naming characters, building a cast list and getting to know them. Then I plan settings and gradually build the world enough that I begin to visualise the scenes like a movie. I tend to plot out a brief chapter plan, but I am also aware that this will change along the way. Then I’m ready to plunge into the cold mud of the first draft and wade through as quickly as possible, because I agree with Jenni; the editing is the magical part.

You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?

J: Just keep the tea flowing and I’ll be happy!

L: Same. All the tea!

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What author has most inspired you, and why?

J: In terms of my writing, I think I was influenced by reading Joan Aiken, Philippa Pearce and Frances Hodgson Burnett as a child. As an adult I’m most inspired by the writers I’ve come to know personally, many as-yet unpublished, because I get to see their writing process up close and feel their passion and dedication.

L: I don’t think I’ve been inspired by any one author as I admire so many, and I read and now write in so many different genres. Sorry – I can’t be pinned down on that one.

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

J: I love the bustle of a coffee shop but it gets expensive fast. I’m lucky to have a box room of my own which I’ve painted a lush, calming dark green and I retreat there whenever time allows. Even better if the rain is thundering on the windows.

L: I have a lovely office where I often work particularly in the evenings with a scented candle lit, but I also like a lap tray on the sofa, and in cold gloomy weather I sometimes decamp to my bed with a hot water bottle. If I’m stuck with my writing a change of scene sometimes helps, and my favorite café is on a cliff-top with the sea pounding just outside the window.

Where does your inspiration come from?

J: The true-but-useless answer is ‘everywhere’. Some things give off a little glimmer of inspiration – the tiniest seed of an idea, or a little tingle at the back of the neck. It can be a photo, a news story, an overheard conversation. I collect them all up in a file called ‘Homeless Ideas’ and every now and then a few of these snippets will fit together and a story starts to form.

L: I wish I knew. Initial ideas appear from nowhere, and usually when I am doing something mundane. I have a whole book of ideas and then it’s when I develop them I start to link them to my experiences,  memories, and things I’ve read about, watched.

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Jenni Spangler’s first love was the theatre. Frustrated with the lack of juicy parts for girls, she began writing her own and never looked back. She writes stories which blend realistic settings and historical events with magic and mystery. The Orphan Thief was inspired by Victorian photography and a strange local custom of writing letters to rats.

Lindsay Galvin

Lindsay Galvin was lucky enough to be raised in a house of stories, music, and love of the sea. She left part of her heart underwater after living and working in Thailand where she spent hundreds of blissful hours scuba diving. Forced now to surface for breath, she lives in sight of the chillier Sussex sea with her husband and two sons. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, swimming or practicing yoga. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, is fascinated by psychology and the natural world, and teaches Science. Lindsay hadn’t written creatively since childhood until the idea for her debut novel The Secret Deep splashed into her mind, and now she’s hooked.

All my social media links are on the landing page of my website http://lindsaygalvin.com

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