Jessica Leader, author of Nice and Mean (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin) for tweens, is a teacher and writer. She earned her BA from Brown University and her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Nice and Mean, her first novel, was featured on the Kids IndieNext List and was a finalist for a regional Crystal Kite Award. She grew up in New York City, spent seven years in Kentucky, and currently lives in Washington, DC with her family.
1. Do you have a favorite place to write?
Peg me as unadventurous, but I really like to write in my office. It’s cozy; there are postcards of bookstores I love; any kind of tea is just a stair-flight away. I can also be found at Tryst, the DC coffee shop that lets you sit forever and serves terrific food, but much of the time, I’m too lazy to get my heiner up there.
2. What do you love most about writing?
Hmm, great question! (Translation: I have absolutely no idea; let me think about that!) I guess I would say that I love when I reread something I’ve been working on and have a genuine emotional reaction. This is especially true for scenes that are sad, because it’s hard to write something sad without telegraphing, “This is sad! The character is sad! Be sad now, reader—be sad!” in place of evoking something real.
3. What is the hardest and easiest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part of writing for me is crafting opening pages with an engaging conflict, a sympathetic main character, and a unique setting, and doing it all without an info dump. Identifying the right place for the story to begin—even for a scene to begin—can literally take me years.
The easiest part of the process for me is creating rounded characters. That has always come easily to me, probably because I think waaay too much about the people I know.
4. What five words best sum up your personality?
Oh gosh! I don’t think I would tell the real truth in a format like this, but I will say that I love potty humor, doodling, and cake.
5. Other than writing, what else do you love to do?
I love when my oldest friend, a serious squash player, takes me into her squash club and generously hits balls with slow-running me. I also love reading to little kids, especially ones I’m related to and playing nerdy reading-and-writing games.
6. Describe your perfect day.
Swimming in the ocean, friends and family, reading, napping, cake.
7. Do you have a writing schedule?
After my family is out the door, I write as much as I can before I teach in the afternoon. If I’m revising on deadline, I write in the evenings, too, but I usually need a deadline to motivate me to do that!
8. What are your past, current, and/or next projects?
PAST: Nice and Mean (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin), about two opposite girls who face off in their seventh-grade high profile video elective.
CURRENT (soon to be on submission): Another middle-grade novel, currently called Not That Girl.
CURRENT AND ACTIVE: An international monetary mystery with twins, crime, and a fictional fruit called a linquet.
Thanks for sharing your writing life, Jessica!
You can find out more about Jessica here:
Facebook: My author page is Jessica Leader Author https://www.facebook.com/jessicaleaderauthor
Where you can actually find my author self.
Advice for writers, reviews and recognitions for Nice and Mean, and a baby photo of me looking like the devil.
Which I sometimes remember exists.