J Mercer - An Alaskan Cruise, Teenagers, and a Mystery
J Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, wishes she were an expert linguist, and is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?). Mercer most enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. As our Author of the Day, Mercer tells us all about her book, Triplicity.
Please give us a short introduction to what Triplicity is about
Triplicity is about three teens thrown together on a one week Alaskan cruise, and "an endless trail of lies." Enter a theft on board and they all fall under suspicion. There's a little romance, a little sleuthing, and a lot of unearthing secrets!
Readers say your characters are very believable and feel real - how did you pull this off?
I like to think I'm observant enough that the little things I see in people that make them unique somehow get into my novels. I do get a feel for a person more than a list of descriptors, in real life and when I'm writing a character, so maybe that's part of it - I come at it as how they feel to me, rather than a laundry list of things to check off. Not to say I'm not deliberate about some things, and I do have lists! But definitely going through (multiple times) and making everything each character does *feel* like something they'd do is a big part of it.
Listen, I wouldn't do most of what Isaiah does, but knowing him, he wouldn't have gone any other way, right? So separating yourself from who you're writing makes a difference too. And I can respect him for that ;)
You also included some romance in this book - why did you take this approach?
Well, I always want a little romance when I'm reading, so I'm not sure I'd write a book without any! Plus, I'm not sure any teenager thrown on vacation with all adults wouldn't at least think about it, if they met someone they were attracted to.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm super great at organizing things (like life and family calendars), and have magic dance hair fingers (see: bunhawks). I'm not too shabby a cook either!
What makes Navy, Isaiah and Jesse such a great group of friends?
They accept each other for who they are. They might lie to each other at first, for different reasons, but ultimately they take each at for face value. Personally, I find them great because not one of them is ashamed of who they are.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Isaiah, I think. He's not necessarily a likable character, but searching out his heart, and what was important to him, and what he was willing to do to get it, was fun. It's fun to step outside yourself a bit and write someone else totally different from you. Stretches the muscles and feels more like playing than when you're writing more closely to your own agenda and life.
Younger readers (generally speaking!) tend to have shorter attention spans. How do you make sure you keep them hooked until the end?
I think the multiple points of view, though they can be hard to get into, help move the story along. I think that provides interest, having the different angles of how each character sees things. Also, the chapters are very short, so that clips things along at a faster pace, and I try to keep the description and summary intermittent and carefully placed, so it adds to the story but doesn't slow it down.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I loosely outline, allowing for whatever changes might come, and then about halfway through I usually do a new outline to incorporate the surprises that have met me on the way. Then when I'm done, I do a plot graph to make sure it all looks good. -- My secret skill of organization wouldn't have it any other way ;)
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
I try to get all my real job work done early in the week, so the last half I can have a clear head and focus on writing. I like to wake up, stumble to the coffee maker, and sit down to write before anything else gets in my head - no social media, no notifications or emails. I'll break for that here and there, and usually stop for a late lunch. If I'm able, I'll work on edits after lunch. At other times, I've written for two to four hours each morning, and spread the real job work out every day in the afternoons. It sort of depends on season and phase of life.
What are you working on right now?
I'm working on almost-final revisions of my next novel to come out in 2020 - Perfection and Other Illusive Things - about a girl who wakes up one morning thinking she's suddenly perfect. All the little things she wanted to change about herself are tweaked to perfection, and what this does to her and her life. You'd think it could only make things better, but, well, that wouldn't make for a very good book, would it?
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I'm mostly on Instagram @jmercerbooks and talk a lot about what I'm reading there - favorite lines and great openings and must reads. If you love books too, come find me there! Major updates can be found on my Facebook page @jmercerbooks or on my website: www.jmercerbooks.com. Of course if you'd like to be on my mailing list, there's a link to that on my website, and I'm on Goodreads also.