Sometimes I forget for an hour or two that she’s with me. Sometimes I convince myself that she was only a dream. Or that I’m crazy.
For as long as Lily Winston can remember, she has never been alone. Iris, a shadowy figure who mimics Lily’s movements and whispers in her ear, is with her always—but invisible to the rest of the world. Iris is Lily’s secret.
But when Lily’s father is killed in a tragic accident, his cryptic final words suggest that he and Lily’s mother have been keeping secrets of their own. Suddenly, Iris begins pushing Lily more than ever, possessing her thoughts and urging her to put together the pieces of a strange puzzle her father left behind. As she searches for answers, Lily finds herself drawn to Ty Collier, a mysterious new boy in town. Together, Lily and Ty must untangle a web of deception to discover the truth about her family, Iris . . . and Lily’s own identity.
At the age of ten, Jennifer Archer made up her mind to become a writer. Then she grew up, became “sensible,” and earned a business degree with a minor in accounting instead. After years of trying to find her way through a confusing maze of debits and credits she realized that, for her, accounting was no more sensible than becoming a World Federation wrestler. So in 1993, she enrolled in a creative writing class, and five years later, sold her first novel. Since then, Jennifer has published several novels for adults, as well as numerous non-fiction works.
Official site: http://www.jenniferarcher.com/
“Let’s get to the root of all questions: What sparked the premise for The Shadow Girl?”
JA: Actually, the spark ignited with a memory of something that took place way back when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I was alone in the restroom at school one day, washing my hands at the sink. I looked up and glimpsed my reflection in the mirror and thought: Who are you? Even though it only lasted a second, I never forgot that weird sense of disconnection from my own image. That memory also tied in with my lifelong love of ghost stories. Even though Iris is something more than a ghost, her story has that same eerie tone that, as a reader, I love.
“While writing The Shadow Girl, which character was your favorite to develop and which character caused you the most difficulty to bring to life?”
JA: Oddly enough, the answer to both questions is Iris. She is the character I had the best time developing, and she also caused me the most difficulty! She was a challenge, and challenges are fun. Iris isn’t a flesh-and-blood girl, she’s an essence. And she’s a mystery. So I had to find a way to give readers a sense of her without giving away too much too soon. And because she “speaks” to Lily in a way that only Lily can hear, I spent quite a bit of time trying to pinpoint Iris’s method of communicating. Would Lily hear Iris speaking as she does everyone else – with a voice and actual words? Or would Lily receive more of an intuitive sense of what Iris is saying? Would she communicate in full sentences, or in a more disjointed way? And how would she sound to Lily? If she has a voice, would it be strong or faint? The way in which Iris presents herself to Lily went through several transformations before I hit on the way that felt right.
“What happened to be your biggest struggle in writing The Shadow Girl?”
JA: Pacing! As my editor pointed out to me after she read an early draft of the book, there isn’t just one mystery to solve in The Shadow Girl, there are three. Of course, all three mysteries are connected and affect one another, so I had to make sure each one unfolded at the right pace – that the answer to the first one is revealed at the right time, and that it leads, eventually, to the answer to the second mystery without giving it away too soon. The same is true of the reveal of the second mystery and how it leads to the third.
“Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?”
JA: Write and read as much and as often as you can. Make writing a routine part of your life. That said, understand that there is no right or wrong way to write a book. Read books on writing, take classes, talk to other writers about their process. Follow the advice you get, try it on for size, and then do what works best for you. For example, I’ve read and heard many times that a writer “should” write the first draft of a book through to the end without backing up to revise, saving that process for later drafts. I’ve tried that, but it doesn’t work for me. I call myself a “two steps forward, one step back writer.” I work my way through the writing of a book by writing new material one day, then backing up the next day to do a quick edit of yesterday’s work before adding more new material. Then the next day, I revise the prior day’s new material before creating more. And so on, until I reach the end. I have a more polished first draft than I would if I wrote straight through without editing. But, of course, I still do several more revision drafts.
“What was your favorite scene to write in The Shadow Girl? Did any bring you difficulty?”
JA: Honestly, I can’t choose one favorite scene. However, one that stands out in my mind is the scene in which Lily finds an old VCR video tape and watches it. I don’t want to say too much and ruin it for anyone who hasn’t yet read the book, but I will say that what Lily sees on that video is shocking to her and has a major impact on her life. That scene is a major turning point in the story. What happens affects Lily emotionally, and I felt the emotion right along with her as I wrote!
Do you have any motivational tactics that you use to write (i.e., websites, music, pictures, food, certain place to write)?
JA: I enjoy making music soundtracks that fit the tone I’m trying to capture in the book. When I sit down to write, I put in the soundtrack and the music helps me to immediately slip back into the world of the story.
“Do you have any other YA projects currently in progress or in mind to write?”
JA: I’m currently writing a story with the working title, Before I Wake. As is the case with The Shadow Girl and my earlier YA novel, Through Her Eyes, this story contains elements of psychological suspense and involves two girls whose lives are connected. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to that particular theme, but my muse seems to guide me there often!
“Is there a certain song (or songs) that you feel really describe the emotions or the characters in The Shadow Girl?”
JA: Music plays a huge role in The Shadow Girl. Lily finds a violin and a musical jewelry box hidden in her father’s workshop. The jewelry box plays a song that she recognizes as having the same melody that Iris has often hummed since Lily’s childhood. That beautiful, haunting song is called “River Flows In You,” and for me it perfectly captures the emotional, mysterious connection between Lily and Iris. You can listen to it here:
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That’s the end of the interview portion of this post. Thank you, Jennifer, for such amazing and well thought out answers and thank you again for stopping by!
And now onto the giveaway portion!