2020 Debut Author Interview: Jenny Elder Moke!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Jenny Elder Moke and her novel HOOD, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Jenny on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. When she is not writing, shes gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Keep up with Jenny: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / Facebook

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Jenny: Thank you! It is a conflagration of emotions. Most days it still feels surreal. I queried for yeeeaaaarrrrsssss on multiple projects without success, and then I was selected by Amy Trueblood for the Sun vs. Snow competition and ended up getting my agent a week later, and then we went out on sub maybe a month later, and then it sold five weeks after that. So it was almost like whiplash – years of trying and failing, to suddenly having an agent and a book deal and being a professional author. Emotions are like evolutionary mutations – they take time to respond to environmental changes. So my outward status changed very quickly, but in my head I was still that amateur writer scrabbling for somebody to just look at my stuff. I remember it took me a long time to stop reading MSWL for agents I liked because I had to remind myself I HAD an agent.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what’s the best part of the writing process? What’s the hardest?
Jenny: At this point in my writing journey, the planning/daydreaming/character backstory bit is the absolute best. It’s the purest form of the story, before anyone else can weigh in on it – it’s just me and my imagination, thinking through the pieces, puzzling it all together, adding layers and intersections between characters. I went to one of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing workshops and she said something that blew my mind: that brain stew of images and feelings and imagined dialogue and memories is the actual story, and writing it down is just a translation. So now I let myself hang out in the brain stew longer, knowing that the story will lose fidelity once I try to translate it into words. The hardest bit for me will always and forever be revision. I’m a very linear thinker, so drafting is straightforward for me (and my first drafts tend to move relentlessly forward on the plot). But revision is tricky, and delicate, and involves the story at so many levels – big overall plot/character changes, chapter rewrites, line edits, etc. And you have to achieve them all at the same time. I tend to get so frustrated with revisions that I just completely rewrite things until they feel right. I don’t really recommend that technique, though.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for HOOD?
Jenny: I got it from watching the BBC version of Robin Hood they did back in the early 2000s. It was fun and cheeky, but still had serious plot lines and consequences for the characters, and I hadn’t seen Robin Hood done that way in a long time. Usually it was either very serious, or very campy (don’t get me wrong, I love Robin Hood: Men in Tights), and I liked that the show walked the line between the two vibes. Then I started imagining what would be an interesting take on a new Robin Hood story, and seeing as how I wanted to be a YA writer, the inspiration struck immediately – his daughter. It was a way to enjoy the best of the legend, while still telling a story that was new to the canon.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest?
Jenny: Oh, Robin was hands down my favorite to write. He’s ridiculous in the best way, and he’s so perfectly comfortable in himself he gets to be his best self. The Robin from the original stories was a great mix of being pompous and kind, braggardly and humble, always willing to play a trick whether it was on his friends or on the sheriff. So I really got to lean into that with him. The hardest characters for me to write are always the main characters, because they have the biggest journey. Everyone else around them gets to be kind of static, but the main characters really have to transform. Which means we have to see that transformation – which is sometimes painfully awkward or uncomfortable. It took several drafts for me to really get to know Isabelle – to understand her background, and how it would hold her back, and how it would narrow her world view, and then how this experience of searching for her father and trying to save her mother would open her mind and her world. For a long time I thought she was too soft, but I wanted a character who was more than just a badass. I wanted to see someone who wrestled with the morality of their choices, and how they affected other people. And that ended up being my favorite thing about her – that she keeps her humanity, that core of serving others that she grew up with, despite all the inhumanity around her.

The Book Bratz: What made you choose to re-imagine the story of Robin Hood?
Jenny: What ended up drawing me into this story (and kept me coming back through eight years of rewrites and multiple rounds of querying) was the intersection of high action/adventure and real historical setting. The version of Robin Hood that most people know takes place during King Richard the Lionheart’s reign. And we all know how the animated Robin Hood ends – King Richard swoops in to save Robin from his dastardly brother, the weasely Prince John, and Robin and Marien get married and the day gets saved and everybody dances with a chicken, right? Except in real history, Richard the Lionheart dies less than a year after returning from the Crusades. And then weasely Prince John becomes King John for TWELVE LOOOOONG YEARS. He’s one of the worst kings in history – which is, frankly, saying a lot. He’s so bad that his barons go to war against him to try and overthrow him. So, the history of who Robin Hood would be during that time period really fascinated me – what would happen to a man whose worst enemy becomes the king? What would happen to his happy little family? And it took off from there.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from HOOD?
Jenny: More than anything, I want this book to be what books were for me as a kid – an escape. I want kids to lose themselves in the story, to disappear in the greenery of Sherwood for a few hours and forget the real world and its real struggles and frustrations. And if they accidentally learn some real history along the way, they can’t really be mad at it, can they?

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of HOOD in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Jenny: Right now HOOD is planned as a stand-alone, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t return to Sherwood someday! The kids are poised on the edge of a life-changing event – the First Baron’s War. Plus, there’s that pesky sheriff of Nottingham to deal with…As far as future projects, I have some really exciting stuff percolating that I can't talk about just yet. But you'll be seeing more of me in the future!

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Title: Hood
Author: Jenny Elder Moke
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 9th, 2020

Summary: Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John's ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle's father, Robin Hood. As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf's clutches and find the father she's never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear? 

Thank you so much to Jenny for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about HOOD and can't wait for it to be out in the world on June 9th

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