Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a rising star…
I recently had the privilege of reading one of the best books I’ve come across this year, Raised By Wolves. Believe me when I tell you that it has all the markings of becoming a smash sensation, much like Twilight did for young adult vampire books -only this series is centered around a furrier beast. When I discovered that it was written by a young Oklahoman by the name of Jennifer Lynn Barnes, I knew I had to interview her. See, despite my nomadic upbringing, I spent a good portion of my life in Oklahoma at the University of Oklahoma – I even ran my business based in Norman for years… heck, I even married a 7th generation Okie from Oklahoma State University (a mixed marriage of sorts). Even though I like to ignore that OK connection, (and I do deny it ALL THE TIME), there are many fabulous things that come from the Sooner State. Will Rogers, Barry Sanders, James Garner, S.E. Hinton, The Flaming Lips, Carrie Underwood… all extraordinary talents to hail from Oklahoma. I believe that Jennifer Lynn Barnes is already on her way to being the next great BIG talent to rise from the state, but I think she’s bringing something more global to the table. She is incredibly smart, talented, funny, beautiful and delightfully kind. Look out, Stephanie Meyer’s vampires… Jennifer Lynn Barnes is bringing werewolves center stage!
Day: There seem to be more and more talented authors making a name for themselves that all stem from OK: PC & Kristin Cast, Ally Carter, now Jennifer Lynn Barnes… Have you had the chance to meet any of them and what are your thoughts on the “Okie” invasion?
Jen: I met the Casts at a conference a couple of years ago (Conestoga, in Tulsa), and Ally is actually one of my closest friends. The two of us talk at least two or three times most weeks and sometimes every day, and when I go back to Oklahoma, we hang out, talk about YA, bake, watch spy movies, and have TV marathons. I’m also friends with Rachel Vincent, who’s originally from Oklahoma, and I have secret (or, not so secret, now) plans to talk other YA authors into moving to Oklahoma. An invasion is definitely in the cards.
Day: What made you decide to write about were-wolves?
Jen: I’ve always loved werewolves, and I always wanted to write about them, but it wasn’t until I came up with the specific scenario that Raised by Wolves focused on that I knew I’d found the right set-up to explore my werewolf love! For me, one of the neatest things about werewolves is the idea of pack mentality, and Bryn’s position as a human within a werewolf pack gave her a really unique perspective on things. I really loved writing that perspective – and using Bryn’s feelings about the pack to mirror what many people feel about their family as they grow up and come into their own.
Day: What can we expect to see in Bryn’s future?
Jen: My lips are sealed on that count! There’s not much I can tell you about the Raised By Wolves sequel, Trial By Fire, without giving away the end of Wolves. I will say, however, that Bryn has a lot to deal with. Raised By Wolves is sort of her coming of age story, and then in the sequel, she’s suddenly in a more grown up position, but still sometimes feels like a kid.
Day: Can’t blame a girl for asking. 😉 You definitely have complexities in your character dynamics, which I suppose could make it harder to write at times. Of your characters, which would you say is the most difficult to write?
Jen: Of the characters in Raised By Wolves, the hardest for me to write (and to continue to write in the sequel) is probably Chase. In the first book, he’s really struggling for control over his animal half, and that meant that his personality beyond that struggle and the circumstances surrounding his change was harder for me to see clearly. I actually just got through writing a bunch of scenes from his perspective, just to help me get inside of his head.
Day: Many writers take pieces of the personalities in their life and incorporate them into characters. Do you do that?
Jen: Not consciously, but after the fact, it’s easy enough for me to look at a book and say “yes, this part, that’s a lot like me.” For example, Bryn is smaller and weaker than her werewolf “family” and a lot of them are really overprotective by nature, and I grew up as the youngest (and smallest and one of only a few females) on the block where we lived when I was little, and my actual and honorary big brothers have a tendency to go the overprotective route, too.
Day: What are some of your favorite books out on the market now?
Jen: There are way too many to list, so I’ll go for books I’ve read in the last two months. Out of about twenty-five titles, three of my favorites are Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (the latest in the Kate Daniels series), White Cat by Holly Black (fantastic world building, compelling characters, and a twisty turny plot), and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (great premise and an excellent use of the supernatural to explore genuinely emotional situations).
Day: *nodding head* Great books… all of them. What are your all-time favorite books and authors, or just a book that still inspires you?
Jen: I really, really love Tamora Pierce, and definitely think she’s had a profound influence on my writing, both because she was the first fantasy author I really loved as a teen and because of the way she writes strong female characters, who grow and change and make mistakes and who, despite their unusual situations and sometimes incredible power, still feel very human in the end.
Day: What fictional character (not your own) is your favorite?
Jen: Such a hard call! Really, though, if we’re talking about all of fiction (and not just books), I think some of the leading contenders may actually be from TV shows. Veronica Mars is definitely pretty high up there on the list, as is a large portion of the Buffy cast.
Day: As far as romance goes… do you find it harder writing those types of scenes for Young Adult books?
Jen: I’ve never written anything that wasn’t for young adults, so it’s hard to say, but I can say that I’ve never censored anything I wanted to write because it was YA.
Day: Are you the type of writer that writes simply to tell a story, or is there a message you hope to convey along with the tale?
Jen: I write just to tell a story.
Day: Growing up in Oklahoma, were you influenced at all by books like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders?
Jen: Of course! In fact, knowing that S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was sixteen was one of the things that made me want to start writing professionally while I was still a teenager myself. I wrote my first published novel when I was nineteen, and I don’t know that I would have done that if I hadn’t had such a good role model!
Day: Now for some questions a bit more off topic… Your bio says you were a dancer… What kind of dance did you participate in?
Jen: I danced ballet from the time I was three until I was eighteen, but it was always just something I did for fun. I was, however, on a competitive drill team for a while, where we did a combination of a bunch of different kinds of dance, and after that, I was a competitive cheerleader.
Day: Ever been in a tornado?
Jen: Yes, though not a severe one.
Day: Favorite guilty pleasure?
Jen: Taking a nice, long bubble bath with a good book!
Day: Favorite junk food?
Jen: Ally Carter’s puppy chow (chex mix, chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar mixture).
Day: What traits do you admire in a man?
Jen: Intelligence, kindness, an ability to laugh at himself, a certain degree of (good-hearted) sarcasm, and a smile that makes me want to smile, too.
Day: You wrote a book about girls putting on temporary tattoos and it turning into an adventure… do you have any tattoos?
Jen: No tattoos here!
Day: Football… Being an Okie its a pretty big deal, so are you an OU or OSU fan?
Jen: I am neutral, in that I cheer for both teams when they’re playing anyone other than each other, and stay out of it for games where OU is playing OSU. My family is split right down the center: my brother and sister-in-law both went to OU (as did my best friend from high school), but my mom and my dad are OSU alums (as is Ally).
Day: Now for the really important question… Spike or Angel?
Jen: If I were just looking at pictures of the two of them, I would pick Angel, but taking into account their full personalities, it’s Spike, hands down.
Day: *giggles* OMG, me too! Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer some questions. I cannot sing enough praises of your work and very much look forward to your future novels!
Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, finished her first full book (which she now refers to as a “practice book” and which none of you will ever see) when she was still in high school, and then wrote Golden the summer after her freshman year in college, when she was nineteen. Jen graduated high school in 2002, and earned a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) from
Yale University in May of 2006. She spent the 2006-2007 school year abroad, doing autism research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Please visit her website HERE to learn more about Jennifer and all her works.