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Interview with J.M Reep, author of Leah

May 3, 2009

Here’s an interview I recently completed with J.M Reep. J.M Reep is the author of Leah, which I review here.

 1. To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I like to think of myself as a writer, but that doesn’t pay the bills, so for my day job I teach freshman composition at the college level. I’ve taught at a variety of schools, but I prefer teaching at the junior college level. I live in Texas, which is where I’ve lived most of my life. My favorite place to shop is a local chain of used book stores, and every time I shop there I wind up spending $30-$40 on books. I’m not sure how many books I have in my collection, but it must be at least 400. 

I started writing novels when I was in seventh grade, and by the time I graduated from high school, I had written nine complete novel-length manuscripts (not to mention a couple dozen short stories and a couple hundred poems). I’ve never written a play; I’d like to, but I can’t think of a good plot that would work in play form. I’ve published one other novel titled The Spring. 

   2. Do you like to read as much as Leah? If so, what do you read and which authors do you enjoy? Any YA authors?

I read a lot, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t read very much YA. I’ve read a few YA books, but most of my reading choices are drawn from “literary fiction” and classic literature. I’m a big fan of 20th century literature; I really like Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jose Saramago. My all-time favorite novel is Nabokov’s Pale Fire; I was an English major in college, and Pale Fire is a novel written with English majors in mind. 

My reading choices, and my lack of experience reading YA fiction, sometimes worries me because even though I consider myself a YA writer, I often wonder if the stories I write are “misinterpretations” of what a YA novel ought to be. I do try to pay attention to what other YA authors are doing, and I like to read synopses and book reviews of other YA novels. What I’ve noticed is that my stories don’t seem to bear much resemblance to most of the other books that are out there. I’m tempted to classify my books as “literary YA fiction,” but I also think that sounds very pretentious! 

What I try to do is write the kinds of stories that I would have liked to have read when I was a teenager.  

   3. Can you describe the road to the publication of Leah?

I started writing the first draft of Leah when I was in college (either 1994 or 1995). At the time, it was the best story I had ever written, so I decided to try to publish it. I prepared what I called a “finished manuscript,” but what I didn’t realize at the time was that the manuscript I sent out was far from finished. At that point in my life, I certainly knew how to write a novel-length first draft, but what I didn’t fully understand was how to revise and edit that draft. So what I [self-]published back in 1996 was, at best, only a “second draft” of the novel. It wasn’t until after I received my copies of the book that I realized it didn’t live up to my own expectations. In short, it was very badly written, and I promised myself that I would someday revisit the novel, rewrite it, and try to publish it again. 

After Leah, I stopped writing fiction for a few years. In the late 1990s I spent most of my creative energy writing poetry, and I even published a number of pieces in small literary magazines in the US and Europe. I also started teaching, and it was my experience as a teacher which helped me learn what I needed to learn about revising and editing writing. By teaching others to write well, I actually taught myself how to be a better writer. 

In early 2007, I acquired a mysterious illness (doctors never could figure out what was wrong with me) that I suffered from for almost a year. Reminded of my own mortality, I recommitted myself to writing. I finished a novel that I had been working on for a few years titled The Spring which I published in early 2008. Again, I self-published. You might be wondering why I’ve chosen to self-publish instead of following the more “traditional” route of going through an established publisher. There’s a number of artistic and political reasons behind this decision, but probably the most important reason is because I prefer to have complete creative control over my work. When I write my stories, they are my own. I don’t have an agent or a publisher pressuring me to be more like Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. I’m free to follow my own muse, and my stories belong to me completely. If they are good, I can take all the credit. If they suck, then I have only myself to blame. 

When I finished The Spring in early 2008, I decided that the time was right to finally revisit Leah and fulfill that promise I made over a decade earlier. So I spent the better part of 2008 rewriting and revising Leah (a process which I chronicled in a blog titled, appropriately, Revising Leah <http://revisingleah.wordpress.com/>). I worked on it for months, reading it again and again, cutting text, adding new text, rewriting long passages, correcting typos and wrong word errors, and basically doing everything I could to make the novel the best it could be. At last, earlier this year, I finished and republished the book. I’m very proud of this new edition, and I’m very happy that Leah Nells now lives in the story that she deserves. 

   4. What inspired you to write Leah?

More than anything else, I think I was just fascinated by the character and the challenge of placing her in the role of the main character of a novel. It’s easy to imagine Leah as a supporting character, but the main character? Not so much. I created the character of Leah Nells when I was in high school (11th or 12th grade, I think). At first, she was the composite of three different individuals:  

First, there’s a lot of myself in her. Each of my main characters in my stories possesses some quality or personality trait of my own self. In Leah’s case, she shares my introversion. I’m not quite as extremely introverted as she is, but like her, I prefer to be by myself. 

Second, she’s also loosely modeled after the character of Laura Wingfield from Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, which I first read in my 11th grade English class. When I read the play, I was drawn to Laura’s character because I had never seen a character quite like her. Like Leah, Laura is isolated from the rest of the world, not so much because of shyness but because she is physically crippled and that has given her a sort of inferiority complex. I’m pretty sure I derived the name “Leah” from the name “Laura.”  

And third, there was a girl in my high school class who was living a life similar to Leah’s. She was shy, had very few friends, and would sometimes spend her free time reading. Once she even brought a big book of trivia questions to school with her, which she read when she had some free time. I only had three or four classes with her during our entire high school career, but obviously she left an impression on me.  

So at some point late in 11th grade or early 12th grade, those three influences combined to form this new character, Leah Nells. I wrote a couple of short stories about her, and I liked her so much that I knew someday I just had to put her in a novel. But writing a novel with Leah as the main character was very difficult because she’s so different from most other main characters that writers create. The challenge for me was could I write a novel from the perspective of a character who almost never speaks and doesn’t have any friends? The result, I think, is a novel that’s a little weird, a little “off,” but I hope it’s a novel and a character that readers find as fascinating as I do. Even today, Leah remains one of my all-time favorite characters.  

   5. What is a hobby of yours, other than writing?

I think I have a very creative personality, so when I’m not writing, I have to express myself in other ways. The problem is, though, that writing is all I’m really good at. I can’t draw or paint very well, and I can’t play a musical instrument. Nevertheless, I do like to take on artistic projects when I’m not writing. For example, a few years ago, I spent time creating word collages — sort of cross between poetry, graffiti, and scrapbooking. I’d take interesting or random phrases and quotes from magazines and arrange those cut-outs on small watercolor canvases. These random phrases and quotes then combined to form something new, something like poetry or an essay, yet something very different and original, too. 

   6. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I think the most important thing that a young writer can do is just have fun with writing. When I was young, I worried about what other people would think if they read my stories, and I worried if what I wrote would be good enough for publication. I shouldn’t have, though, because what I didn’t realize then is that there would be plenty of time to worry about that stuff later. When you’re young, you ought to just indulge in that wonderful creative spirit and boundless energy that you have and take full advantage of it. Choose stories to write that you think will be fun and exciting to write, not stories that you think the world expects from you. If you’re having fun while telling a story, then you’re doing it right. 

   7. Describe yourself in three adjectives.

Quiet, intellectual, patient. Other people who know me might use different adjectives, though. 🙂 

   8. This or that: reading or listening to music?

Wow. I don’t know. Both reading and music have been so important in me; I really can’t imagine my life without either of those things. I was at a teacher training conference a few months ago, and one of the activities we were asked to do was to decide which material things are most important to us — those things that we cannot live without. I was able to whittle my list down to two items: my collection of books and my collection of music. Everything else I can do away with.  

When I was younger, I used to listen to music while I wrote stories because listening to music would give me an emotional charge and inspire new ideas. I don’t write while listening to music now, but I do still listen to music all the time and it does still inspire my writing.  

  9. What is next for you in the book world, if anything?

Right now, I’m writing the first draft of a new novel titled Juvenilia. (I’ve also been chronicling that process in a new blog by the same name located at <http://www.jmreep.com/juvenilia>). My three novels, LeahThe Spring, and Juvenilia make up a series of books — a sort of trilogy, actually. Each novel is a separate story — you can read one without feeling required to read the others — but the three stories are linked together by their setting (they all take place in the same fictional universe — the same high school) and they all share the same general theme of struggling to figure out who you are and where you belong in the world. Because the three stories are all set in the same fictional universe, there are some moments of crossover: some of the main characters in one novel might appear as minor characters in the other novels. In fact, I’m planning to let Leah Nells make a very, very brief appearance in Juvenilia, even though she isn’t the “star” of the new book. Leah doesn’t appear in The Spring, but a couple of the main characters fromThe Spring are mentioned in Leah. The new novel is coming along well, so far, and I hope to publish it by 2010 or 2011. That will complete the trilogy, and what I’ll write after that is anyone’s guess!  
 

I hope that brought more insight as to how Leah came to be, and of J.M, too.

Thanks for reading!

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Leah by J.M Reep

April 19, 2009

 Title: Leah

 Author: J.M Reep

 Release: March 22, 2009

 Publisher: Lulu

 Edition/ Number of Pages: Paperback, 229

 Contains: Coming-of-age, Drama, Relationships.

Analysis of Book (1-10 on each aspect):

Writing: 8

Plot: 8

Characters: 9

Wow Factor: 7

Leah Nells is a fourteen-year-old girl who doesn’t quite know how to deal with the social aspect of the world. Throughout most of her life, she has been quiet and introverted. She doesn’t have any friends and spends most of her time reading books. Leah’s parents try–without any success–to get her to meet society’s standards, but even casually talking to people is not as easy for Leah.

At the beginning of the book, Leah is entering high school. Of course, this brings a lot of anxiety on her because she encounters other teenagers who don’t understand the way she is. And then comes David Parks, who is a boy from Leah’s history class that she becomes infatuated with. Leah is tongue-tied around him, but gosh how she likes him. Will Leah find the courage to be the person she wants to be? And just who is that person?

This is one of those under-the-radar books that is purely awesome. It was first published in 1996, but a new, revised copy was released in March. The book was a pleasure to read. I loved Leah, the main character, a lot. Whenever she felt bad about her introversion it made me sad. This is probably because I can connect with the person Leah is. For one, I love to read books like she does. Also, although I’m not as extremely introverted as she is, I still am somewhat. I know what Leah felt: like she wasn’t good enough for the world; like no one understood her. As for the characters, they were very credible. From Leah, to Leah’s parents, to David, and the others. The shy-girl interpretation of Leah was fulfilled correctly by Reep. I will say that this book does not reach a high climax, and that it’s main plot is not that intense, but it is still a great read. Above everything, the thing I loved the most was the ending. It was just impacting and made me lie in bed, thinking about what this book is truly all about: accepting yourself. Of course, you won’t know the ending unless you read it!

You can buy it or READ IT FOR FREE AS A PDF FILE here

P.S: Wait around for an interview with the author of Leah, J.M Reep, soon!

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Seven Book Babes (4)

April 19, 2009

What I discuss:

  1. Leah by J.M Reep
  2. Just Like That by Marsha Qualey
  3. Sunnyside Blues by Mary Carter
  4. Relay For Life
  5. American Idol

Have a great week!

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Seven Book Babes (3)

March 29, 2009

🙂

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Seven Book Babes (2)

March 22, 2009

Enjoy!

What I talk about:

-Envy by Anna Godbersen

-Julia Hoban (author of Willow)

-Shine by Neesha Meminger

-Picking classes for Junior year

-Midterms next week (early release Wed. & Thurs. and no school Friday)

-Car show at my school Thurs.

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3/15/09: My First Seven Book Babes Video!

March 15, 2009

 

Enjoy!

What I talk about: 

-Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman

-Envy by Anna Godbersen

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I’ve Been Interviewed!

March 15, 2009

Lisa Schroeder, author of Far From You, has interviewed me for her blog.

Here’s the link: http://lisa-schroeder.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-heart-book-bloggers.html

Or read the interview here:

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be doing interviews with some of the fabulous book bloggers out there.
First up, my pal Vanessa. You may remember Vanessa who helped me with a vlog to celebrate the release of FAR FROM YOU.

1. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a reviewer of YA books? My name is Vanessa. I live in south Florida. I’m almost sixteen. I’m your average girl (except for my addiction to books), I hang out with friends, listen to music, and aspire to do great in school. I started reviewing for myself. For about nine months the blog was unknown. Then I started another blog (https://whatvanessareads.wordpress.com/ ) and started making contacts with other (awesome) book reviewers which led me to exposure and the courage to contact authors like you!

Note from Lisa: I’m so glad you did!

2. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a reviewer? My favorite parts include getting my opinion out there, making friends that have the same interest in reading, and meeting super cool authors like you, for example. The free review copies don’t hurt. I dislike sitting down and typing up a review, making it flow and sound like a story, especially if I have a lot to say. I think that’s why I do VLOGs (http://youtube.com/vanessathebutterfly) or podcasts.

Note from Lisa: I’m super cool? Wow, thanks!

 

3. What’s your process of writing a review? How do you handle it if you have more things you don’t like than you like? I normally sit down on my bed and write bullet points of what I liked and didn’t like on paper. After I finish writing everything, I look over the amount of good things and bad things and decide on a grade or rating. When there’s more things I don’t like I do write about them. However, if around 70% of the review is negative I normally don’t review the book. (If you really think about it, I won’t finish a book that’s that bad, so I barely do these bashing reviews.)

4. Have you ever had an author write to you, upset about a review? Thankfully I haven’t. I think this is so because overall in my reviews I don’t say I just despised the book…. I explain my reasoning. To me every book has at least one miniscule flaw… I have yet to read a perfect book.

Note from Lisa: No perfect book? Okay everyone, hurry and try write that. Vanessa is waiting!

5. I’m curious if you finish all the books you start. Do you comment on your blog about a book that you don’t finish? Not most of the time. I don’t really like telling people they shouldn’t read a book just because I disliked it… who knows? Maybe they’ll love it. I normally tweet (http://twitter.com/vanessacaterina) about not liking a book as I’m reading it.

Note from Lisa: I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one left in the world who doesn’t tweet.

 

6. How many books would you say you read, on average, per month? Where do the majority of those books come from? Per month it’s usually around 5 (in the summer it’s more, obviously!). Sadly lately I haven’t read that much. Most of my books come from contests, review copies, and about every six months my mom takes me to the local book store to buy about 15 books (yeah, I know, she’s awesome like that), and sometimes I do pitch in my own money. That’s enough for me to survive, haha.

7. What’s one interesting thing about you that not many people know? I’ve been wanting to start a collab channel on Youtube like fiveawesomegirls or vlogbrothers to get to know other book lovers better for a really long time! This all however, came into place when Sarah from Sarah’s Random Musings contacted me about starting one. We started today (March 9th)! We talk about our lives, books, and other random things. We’d love it if you checked us out and subscribed athttp://youtube.com/user/Sevenbookbabes . There’s many book bloggers taking part in this. 🙂

Note from Lisa: How exciting!

8. If you were going to order a dozen cupcakes, what flavor would you get and who would you share them with? Vanilla. Yes, just plain old vanilla. I’m classic like that… haha. I would share them with my mom, dad, stepmom, 12-year-old brother Robert, 22-month-old brother Junior, my friends who always put up with me: Danny, Hayley, Pablo, Connor, Ryan, Paul, and Fatima. ❤

9. What books are you especially looking forward to in the coming months? Willow by Julia Hoban, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, You’ve Got Blackmail by Rachel Wright, One Lonely Degree by C.K Kelley Martin, Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott… among others.

10. If someone wants to send you a book to review, how can he/she contact you? I’d love to review your book! You can contact me through e-mail at whatvanessareads (at) gmail.com. I normally reply within a day or less.

I enjoyed thinking up answers for this interview since the questions weren’t easy and typical. Thanks so much Lisa!

 

Thank you for being here! It was fun getting to know you better!