DEBUT DISTRICT is a regular feature on Artsy Draft in which I post appreciation towards debut releases through author interview, book blitz, listopia, review, and other related content.
Sooo… We’re back at it again with more debut author’s appreciation post! In today’s episode, I have Jennifer Dugan, the author of Hot Dog Girl, a debut contemporary book which will release tomorrow (on April 30, to be exact!). We talked all about behind the scene process of the book, Jenn’s writing journey (I’m quoting her, “It’s not an over-night success!”), and also how Jenn deals with challenges and writing blocks!
Hi, Jenn! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Tomorrow, your debut book, Hot Dog Girl, will be released! How do you feel about it?
I am so excited! This is the culmination of almost exactly a decade of hard work, so to see it finally coming together is amazing.
Hot Dog Girl sounds like a really cute contemporary, yet very bold and unique with its main character and setting! Where do you get your ideas and inspirations to write Hot Dog Girl?
I really have no clue where my ideas come from! Scenes tend to just jump into my head—usually mid-shower, when I can’t write anything down. This is… not ideal, ha! For Hot Dog Girl specifically, though, the original seeds were planted while I was visiting a local amusement park. I saw an employee in a princess costume and thought it would be such a fun setting for a book! I knew right away that I wanted to write about a girl who worked there, but I also knew that I didn’t want to write about the princess. I tried to think of what the most ridiculous costume would be, and Hot Dog Girl was born.
I agree! It definitely sounds fun and it really attracted attention! And how long does it take for you to write it?
That’s a tricky question! I tend to draft fairly quickly. In general, I can have the first draft of a novel done within 3-6 weeks. I’m not a plotter at all—something I am actively trying to change—but for now, I need to write the whole book to understand what the story truly is. After drafting, I let it sit for a bit, and later come back to revise. Revising is where the real work happens, and that process takes much longer and involves a lot more planning. I generally do one or two revisions on my own before sending it out to my CPs. And that’s before my agent or editor even sees it! So even though the drafting process is fast, getting it to a completed stage takes much, much longer.
Phew! That’s a lot of steps and works. But do you always know that you want to be a writer? Do you mind to tell us about your writing journey!
I have wanted to be a writer, but there was a period of time in my early twenties where real life got in the way. I did still freelance for various local newspapers during that time, but aside from trying to work in as many puns as possible, I didn’t have much of a chance to stretch my creative writing muscles.
I got back into writing seriously about ten years ago, but I was not at all what you’d call an “over-night success.” It took me many books and countless rejections before I wrote Hot Dog Girl, which is my debut. Things did move quickly for this one though!
I pitched Hot Dog Girl in a twitter pitch event called #DVPit, which helps connect marginalized authors with agents. It got a fair amount of attention and I quickly found myself with seven offers of rep, which was wild after so many years of querying. I ultimately signed with Brooks Sherman, and we went on to sell Hot Dog Girl at auction to Stephanie Pitts at Putnam/Penguin. It was all very exciting and surreal!
Oh my God! What a wild journey! And as you mentioned, you faced many countless rejections before Hot Dog Girl. Are there any particular challenges during the writing process of this book?
In general, this book came very easily to me. It was the first time I really embraced my voice and told the story I wanted to tell versus trying to write to the market or trying to tell the story I felt I was “supposed” to.
However, there definitely was still work to be done. While the voice came easily to me, pacing did not. I have an editorial agent and he was a big help in sorting things out before we went out on submission. My editor is, of course, also a pacing genius and she got us the rest of the way after that. I have learned so much about my craft from them!
That sounds incredible! And speaking of challenge, what do you do when the writing block strikes in?
Since I also write comics, I’m generally juggling multiple projects at a time. If writer’s block hits on one, I tend to step away for the day and work on something else. Most of the time, switching gears like that will help jumpstart the words and I’ll still end up making progress that day.
If I’m having a day where my brain is just not cooperating at all, I take it as a sign I’ve been pushing myself too hard. I will take a day (or more, if deadlines allow) and read a book or watch a movie. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts too. I’ve found you need to fill your creative well if you want to keep producing content. I have a tendency to embrace the grind, but I’m trying to be more mindful of taking time for self-care. I know it’s crucial for long term success!
That’s a clever strategy! Since you mentioned about reading, what is the first book that made you cry?
I’m not sure if it was the first book that made me cry, but I have VIVID memories of sobbing over Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls in elementary school.
What’s your comfort zone when it comes to genre? Is there any genre that you won’t read for million years?
I tend to read a lot of contemporary, so that’s my go to. I’ve been starting to get into fantasy more in the last few years, too. I can’t really think of a genre I would absolutely refuse to read, but hard sci-fi isn’t usually my first choice.
Oh, hey! We have similar taste in book genre! [high-five!] Now for the rapid question… name your three all-time favorite books, go!
There’s no way I could possibly answer this! How about the last three books I read that I adored and am utterly obsessed with instead? They are, in no particular order, Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds, You’d be Mine by Erin Hahn, and Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan.
These books sound awesome! And I’m about to read You’d be Mine too! What about your favorite under-appreciated book?
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke. I adore this book! It should be on everyone’s tbr if it isn’t already.
NOTED! Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It really depends on the day. If it’s an emotional scene, I feel completely wrung out when I’m done. (That happened a lot while working on my 2020 release!) If I’m writing fun scenes or swoony scenes, then I feel like I can take on the world after my writing session.
That makes sense. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I’m really sensitive and have a tendency to get in my own head a lot, so I have to be in the right place to be able to read reviews of my work. I do have friends that send me the really kind ones. I know that reviews are for readers, not authors and that not everyone is going to love my book. And that’s okay!
I love your opinion about book reviews! Lastly, who’d you recommend to read Hot Dog Girl?
And that’s the end of my interview with Jenn! If you’re looking forward to read her book, it will be released tomorrow and you can find all of the details and information below!
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.