08 October 2012

Eight years & five manuscripts later... Jeanne Ryan hits a NERVE with tale of truth-or-dare gone wrong

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an 
anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, 
she discovers that the game knows her.
Today I'm excited to host author Jeanne Ryan, whose YA debut NERVE was published by Dial Books in September. Publisher's Weekly describes Ryan's story as "thought-provoking and unsettling" and Kirkus Reviews promises readers will "find themselves flipping madly to the very last page." (It's true! I picked up a copy this weekend and it's heart-thumpingly good.) 

To learn more about Jeanne's work, visit her website or stop by EMU's Debuts where she blogs with other debut authors about their path to publication. 

Q: I must say, your bio alone inspires lots of questions. Let's see if I can put them together into one doozie... What would you say has had the biggest influence on you as a writer: having 11 siblings, growing up in Hawaii, South Korea and Germany, or working on war game simulation? (Phew!)

Jeanne Ryan
A: Hmmm. I guess that moving around a lot probably had the most to do with inspiring me to write. I think kids who have to change schools often either develop one of those personalities that lets them make new friends quickly or a personality that observes everything and processes it. 

Q: How long have you been writing YA, and what do you enjoy most about writing for teens?

A: I started my first novel for teens in 2006. It started out as an adult novel with flashbacks to the protagonist’s youth. By page one hundred, I found that the kid’s story had overtaken the novel so I scrapped the adult parts and went from there. I wrote another manuscript after that but found I kept going back to my natural voice, which I believe is YA. What I enjoy most about this genre is the energy with which these stories burst forth.

Q: Tell us about NERVE, and your inspiration for the novel. Did you have a particularly bad experience with a game of Truth or Dare in your youth?

A: I did a lot of daring and foolish things as a kid, too awful to talk about here. But the inspiration for the book came from watching my niece in action with her phone. Seeing how integral it was to her social life made me want to do a story where phones played a large role. The dares were kind of a metaphor for how we as a society have become willing to give up our privacy, one step at a time.

Q: What's your writing process like? Are you a plotter or pantser? Fast-drafter or edit-as-you-go? And what's a typical day like?

A: I’m a recovering pantser, but I try not to plot too much. My process is typically to start with a short blurb for the story’s premise, write a few chapters to figure out the main character and voice, and then write a ten-page synopsis before fast drafting the rest of the book. Once I’ve gotten the whole story out, I’ll go back and do as many revisions as necessary to flesh out and polish the manuscript. My typical day starts with a workout, followed by a bit of chaos as I get the kids off to school. After that, it’s my time to write for four or five hours, and then spend the rest of the day doing mom stuff.

Q: As you look back on the months (or years) of work that led to the publication of your novel, how would you describe the experience? What was most challenging? Most rewarding? Most surprising?

A: It took eight years from the time I started writing with the goal of publication until my book hit the shelves. The first six were pretty rough, fueled by stubborn, I’ll-show-‘em determination. After completing my first manuscript, I spent three years querying for an agent, and then another two years on submission before we got that first deal. There was a lot of frustration to say the least. The most challenging aspect was forcing myself to keep writing the next thing after being hit by rejection after rejection. Now I’m glad I did, because it was the fifth manuscript that sold.

The most rewarding event was the first offer. Such a relief. And the most surprising milestone was the thrill I felt when I saw my book’s cover for the first time. Finally, my tears were of joy. Definitely one of the all-time highs of the process, and I’m so looking forward to seeing the cover for my next book.

Q: What are you working on now/next?  

A: Another contemporary young adult story called CHARISMA. It’s about a girl with crippling shyness who agrees to take an experimental drug that alters her DNA. The drug delivers as promised but brings with it some dangerous side effects.

Sounds exciting! Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your life as a writer. I'm inspired!


  1. Another fantastic interview! Jeanne's story of how she persisted for eight years is very inspiring, because look what happened when she worked to overcome all those obstacles! Also, I love the sound of her writing process - a few chapters of feeling out the story, a synopsis, and then fast-drafting. Sounds a little like the way I wrote my last book (though my process wasn't quite so intentional or refined). It really worked. And, finally, that next book sounds fanastic, too!

  2. Great interview Jeanne, and even though I know parts of this story, I learned new things too. Dogged determination is, I think, a good 50% of the process. And I loved Nerve. Y'all should all read it.