Jennifer Echols’ most recent book, Such a Rush, with its perfect balance of mystery and love story, has both readers and critics singing her praises, but it is no big surprise to anyone who has followed her career. Echols remarkable writing talent has won her the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and the devoted following of many readers. With nine young adult romantic novels under her belt (and more on the way), as well as her first adult romantic novel set to publish, Jennifer Echols is one busy writer! The Daily Quirk is honored she took some time away from writing to share a little bit about herself and what inspires her as a writer with us and our readers.
Read on for the interview!
The Daily Quirk: Please tell the readers a little about yourself.
Jennifer Echols: I grew up in Alabama and still live in Birmingham, and I’m so happy and grateful to have a job writing YA and adult romance novels.
TDQ: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JE: Run! I just ran my first marathon last February.
TDQ: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
JE: I was writing poems in third grade, and I always participated in every school activity that had to do with writing, but I was also interested in art and music. I was a music major in college before I switched to English. So I’d say I became committed to writing as a career when I was 19.
TDQ: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JE: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
TDQ: Going Too Far features a unique plot involving a relationship between a police officer and a troubled high school student. What was your inspiration for telling this story?
JE: I loved the TV shows COPS and RENO 911. I had an idea for a romantic comedy about a boy and girl who have to do a ride-along with a cop for a school project, and they fall in love with each other. But as I thought about the story, I realized the more interesting relationship would be between a student and the cop.
TDQ: Is there a particular scene in Going Too Far that you especially enjoyed writing?
JE: Yes, the scene where John interrupts a robbery. I’m pretty proud of that one. 😉
TDQ: Many of the scenes in Going Too Far occur while John is on duty as a police officer. Was it important to you to show a realistic portrayal of patrol work, or was that secondary to moving the story forward?
JE: I did want to get the details right, but the story is everything, always.
TDQ: Your most recent book, Such A Rush, touches on some sensitive subjects as Leah’s struggles to avoid fulfilling the “trailer trash” stereotype. This includes some interesting observations on socioeconomics and female sexuality, among other things. Is this something you consciously set out to do in your books?
JE: Again, the story is everything. But I do think it’s important that my books depict women who are empowered and men who value them for that.
TDQ: You often write female leads that are quite flawed, but still make them someone the reader really wants to root for. What’s your approach to building realistic, likable characters?
JE: I really do bend over backward to make my heroines likable because my critique partner and I have noted that our readers are WAY more accepting of flaws in men than in women. So the key is that my heroines can do things that you know are going to get them in trouble, but they must have important, believable reasons for doing them. Motivation is key.
TDQ: When you’re writing, do you have a solid idea what direction the story is going to take before you start, or are you more likely to have a loose outline and let the story play out as you write it?
JE: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely moved from being a plotter to being a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), but I do know generally where the book is going and how it will end. Probably the most frustrating part of my process is that I don’t write in order.
TDQ: Which of your characters can you relate to the most?
JE: Lori in The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer, because she’s the character most like me.
TDQ: You have several new projects in the works, including your first adult romance. How are you approaching that project differently than your young adult novels?
JE: I’ve never had an adult romance published before, but I’ve been writing them as long as I’ve been writing YA. In fact, my agent had one of my adult romances out on submission at the same time Major Crush was on submission in 2005, and we were both surprised when Major Crush sold and the adult romance didn’t. I always wanted have a career writing both, and I’m thrilled I’ve finally achieved that goal. As for writing them, I approach them both exactly the same way. The only difference is the age of the characters and the target audience.
TDQ: As a former majorette, I appreciated the amazingly accurate representation of baton twirling in The One That I Want. You’ve also written on topics like snowboarding, piloting, wakeboarding, and swimming. How much research do you put into the hobbies of your characters? Is it important to you that your characters tend to be so passionate about their hobbies?
JE: It’s important to me that my characters are doers rather than watchers, people who take charge of their lives, take chances, and do something fun rather than sitting on the sidelines. When I’m deciding what the characters’ interests will be, I try to choose something that I know a little about so I can weave some first-hand experience in with the research and the fudging. For instance, I wasn’t a majorette, but I was drum major of my marching band, I went to camp with the majorettes from my school, and I consulted two of them before I wrote The One That I Want.
TDQ: Which of your books are you most proud of and why?
JE: I am proudest of two of them that have been rejected multiple times and may never be published. Fingers crossed, though.
TDQ: To date all of your books have featured female narrators. Would you ever consider writing from a male perspective?
JE: Endless Summer alternates between the heroine’s and the hero’s perspective, as does my adult novel coming out in February, Star Crossed. Alternating between the hero and heroine is the norm rather than the exception in adult romance. I have tried multiple times to write my YA books from both perspectives, or from an all-male perspective (that was my first idea for Endless Summer), but editors seem to think the YA audience will like the female perspective better.
TDQ: You’ve said before that you would be willing to have one of your books made into a movie if the right offer came along. Which of your books would you be most excited to see in movie form?
JE: I don’t think this is what I said. The right offer? I’m pretty sure I would take any fair offer. And I would love for someone to film The Boys Next Door/Endless Summer on the lake where I grew up, giving some extra employment to the town. Alabama has great tax breaks for movie makers, in case any of you are listening…
TDQ: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
JE: Write the book you want to read.
TDQ: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
JE: Thanks, a million times, for telling your friends about my books. The best thing you can do for an author, besides buying her book, is telling someone else about it.