Friday, June 15, 2012

Author Interview: Jennifer Shaw Wolf

I can't tell you all how excited I am to have debut author Jennifer Shaw Wolf here on Mommy Authors today! About a year ago I was perusing the client list of my dream agency (Nelson Literary Agency, for those of you who are curious) and there I found Jennifer.  She's from Idaho - like me - attended both BYU-I and BYU - like me - and is now living in the rainy northwest - like me. When I found out she is also a Young Adult writer I just had to contact her.

Since then we've emailed a few times and I've come to think of her as a mentor. I try not to be too needy as a protege, but she has always been super nice about encouraging me and answering any questions I have. Basically, not only is she a fantastic writer, but she's nice to boot!

*Be sure to stop by my site,, to read my review of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, and leave a comment there for a chance to win an electronic copy of the book!* 


Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship. When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? 

RL:  Was BREAKING BEAUTIFUL the first manuscript you ever wrote?  Was it the first manuscript you ever queried?

JSW:  BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was my third completed manuscript, but only the second manuscript I had queried. (The first two were part of a series.)

RL:  If you're willing to share this, how many rejections did you get before you found your agent?

JSW:  I didn’t keep track with my first manuscript because I queried, revised, queried for about six months. With BREAKING BEAUTIFUL I kept a log. I queried 15 agents. I received 11 rejections and was fortunate enough to receive for offers of representation. I know how unusual this is and how blessed I was.

RL:  Can you pinpoint the creation of your story idea to one particular moment/event, or was it such a gradual process that there is no real point of origin? 

JSW:  The story idea came from a writing prompt for an on-line class I was taking. I had to describe an object using all of the senses, except for sight. I wrote about a girl clutching a bloody T-shirt in a dark room. That was the start of the idea. I found myself thinking about where the shirt came from and what it meant to her. The idea evolved into a story. However, I ended up dropping that scene from the manuscript in an early draft.

RL:  How long did it take you to write the book?  (From conception to the manuscript you began shopping around to agents) 

JSW:  My first three manuscripts (including BREAKING BEAUTIFUL) took between 8 and 12 weeks to finish. Successive manuscripts have taken longer, months instead of weeks.

RL:  Knowing how busy your life is (not only is she a mother who is actively involved in her community, but she recently helped organize and host a group of exchange students), how did you find time to write?  Do you have any secrets or strategies you're willing to share?

JSW:  Late nights, early mornings. Lack of sleep. I’m not a good example of how to balance writing and life. I write whenever I have down time. My laptop has gone with me to many sports practices and music lessons. I wrote a lot of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL on the way up to the ski hill.

RL:  On the contrary, I think that makes a lot of us feel better.  For my part I'm glad to know I'm not the only one suffering sleep deprivation.  

I know you originally wanted your story to be named Tigereye, for reasons made obvious throughout the book, but how did it come to be named BREAKING BEAUTIFUL and what is the meaning/significance of the title?

JSW:  I got the news that my publisher wanted the title changed in my first edit letter. After that my editor and I passed title names back and forth. She came up with BREAKING BEAUTIFUL and I loved it. The title is significant because a lot of Allie’s identity and the way she sees herself comes from how she looks. Not only was she mentally “broken” by Trip, but she was physically scarred from the accident. She lost her long hair and her beautiful face was marred. She has to break through her own idea of what is beautiful if she is ever to become what she can be.

RL:  Assuming you've never had to live through any relationship like Allie's, how were you able to give such a clear, believable picture of the emotions associated with being abused? 

JSW:  It was hard. I wanted to make it authentic, but not too brutal. I think everyone has felt powerless or hopeless at some point in their life. I drew on that kind of experience and added to it. I [also] read a lot about emotional and physical abuse, and grieving, especially as it pertained to teens.

RL:  Now being a published author, has your writing process changed at all?

JSW:  I tried to make writing more of a job and found it drove me crazy. I outlined the heck out of the manuscript I sold on proposal and found it blocked me. I have returned to the outline-as-I-go, seat-of-my-pants, writing-because-I-love-it method. It works much better for me. I do take it more seriously, but I am grateful every day for the opportunity I have been given to share my writing.

RL:  What do you know about writing and/or publishing now that you wish you had known when you first started the journey to becoming a writer?

JSW:  Nothing. I was blissfully oblivious and I’m glad I was. I wrote my first manuscript because I wanted to see if I could do it. Yes, having a published novel has always been a dream of mine, but I wrote my first story just for fun. I didn’t know anything about looking for an agent, finding a publisher, or anything else about the publishing process. I’m glad I did it that way. I was able to enjoy and celebrate that first finished draft without any pressure. It was just for me. I wouldn’t change that now, but I also wouldn’t change the experience I’ve gained throughout the process. I think too many people start writing in order to be published. The pressure can block you like nothing else. Give yourself a “starter novel” that is just for you. ENJOY IT.

RL:  When can we expect your next book?  :)

My second book is tentatively called SHARDS OF GLASS and it is tentatively scheduled to come out in September of 2013. I say tentatively because these things can and do change.

Thank you so much for interviewing with us today Jennifer!   For more information about Jennifer visit her official site or her blog  Click here to purchase your own copy of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL.

Readers, don't forget to check out my review of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL on my website:  and leave a comment there for a chance to win an electronic copy of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL.  


  1. Breaking Beautiful sounds awesome. I can't wait to read it. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for posting this interview!!!! Jennifer is a great example of a persistent writer and her success is great. I love the story line to Breaking Beautiful and all teen girls should read it!!! Great blog entry!!!