Hey, everyone! Victoria here and today is the launch of New Adult stars week! We have some awesome authors stopping by. They'll be answering some burning questions and giving away copies of their books!

To kick off the week, I'd like you to welcome Author Jennifer Echols to the blog! She's been writing about college students and Upper YA characters for a while, and now has her first official new adult title called Levitating Las Vegas coming soon through Pocket Star books!

I met Jennifer last year at the Romance Writer's of America Nationals Conference, and she really is a new adult all-star writer!

Without further ado, the interview!

How did you personally get into new adult fiction, and why did you choose to write about college-aged protagonists?

In 2005, my first contract asked me to write two YA novels. The first was a romantic comedy (Major Crush), but my editor told me the second could be whatever I wanted. My idea was to write another romantic comedy about two teens who have to do a ride-along with a cop, either because they’re doing research for a school project or because they’re in trouble and someone wants to scare them straight. These teens would eventually fall in love. But as I thought about the story, I decided the tension would really be between one of the teens and the cop. Could the cop be the love interest? I discovered that there are several districts in the US that allow 19-year-olds to be cops. And so Going Too Far was born. It was definitely not a romantic comedy when I was through—it was something much darker—but since my editor had told me my second book didn’t have to be a romantic comedy, I thought I was safe. And I have never been more confident in a book.

When I turned it in, though, there were complications with my editor accepting it as the second book on my contract. She asked me to go back and write another romantic comedy, and that was The Boys Next Door (which was published by itself and later published in a collection with its sequel, Endless Summer). Eventually we had to sell Going Too Far elsewhere, to MTV Books, which at the time was accepting much edgier YAs than some of the other publishers.

How did you come to be published the traditional route with agent representation? What were your struggles and hardships since your material is about older characters with higher sexual content than most YA books?

I’ve heard so many stories lately about young writers being frustrated with the querying process. At the risk of sounding like some old curmudgeon who says he used to have to walk to school five miles in the snow uphill both ways, I just want to remind everybody that it’s sooooo much better than it used to be. I finished my first manuscript when I was 20 years old (and yes, today we would call it NA, because the hero and heroine were freshmen in college). There was no internet. I queried agents and editors and got back form letter rejections a year later. I did have some minor success along the way. I got an agent for manuscript #2, but he couldn’t sell it. I got a different agent for manuscript #5, but she couldn’t sell it—it was a YA, and at the time (1995 or so), YA was all but dead. In 2001, I got a “good rejection” from an editor at one of the big New York houses for another YA, manuscript #7. She said she almost bought it, and would have if the YA market had been stronger. That broke my heart, and heartbreak hurts a little more when you’re pregnant. So I stopped writing for a couple of years. But in 2004, I came back strong with #8 and #9. By then, there was internet! It was much easier to research what a query letter really ought to look like, and which agents really wanted to represent the kind of novel I was writing. And in 2005, #10 sold.

But my struggle had everything to do with having no knowledge and no contacts, and writing in a vacuum. It had nothing to do with writing racier manuscripts with older characters. As far as that goes, I have always just written what I thought would make a good story. Personally, I think the cusp of adulthood is a fascinating place, and romance is an interesting and exciting exploration. I’d much rather read about that than an innocent younger teenager’s antagonistic relationship with her mean friends or her mom. It’s just my preference, and I’m writing the book I want to read.

In fact, looking back through my many failed submissions, I see that I proposed an NA series to my agent way back in 2007. But there was no such thing as NA, so she never sent it to an editor. In other words, I have been standing right here in NA forever, but the market has finally come around to meet me—just like a lot of my friends who have been writing erotica forever have suddenly hit the New York Times best seller list in the wake of 50 Shades.

Levitating Las Vegas is a paranormal romance. What made you decide to write in this genre of NA?

The original idea for this book actually started as another failed attempt at writing a YA romantic comedy. It was one of the ideas that I floated past my editor, and that she rejected, before we settled on me writing The Boys Next Door. She didn’t mind that it was paranormal. The reason she turned it down was that they already had a book set in Las Vegas coming out a couple of months before mine was scheduled.

I loved the idea, though. And in 2008, when I didn’t have a book out, the economy was crumbling, I’d turned in Forget You but nobody was buying it, Going Too Far and The Ex Games were scheduled for 2009 but I had no other contracts, and it looked like this might be the end of my career, I wrote Levitating Las Vegas during NaNoWriMo. Now, I knew I should not be making the characters 21 years old if I wanted to sell this book. It wasn’t YA, it wasn’t adult, and there was no such thing as NA. But the idea had evolved in my head since I first thought it would make a good YA book. Now the characters needed to be 21—old enough to go in casinos and bars and get in all the fun trouble you would expect out of a Las Vegas adventure, but young enough that it still made sense for them to be under their parents’ wings, more or less, and lied to about their magical powers.

Jennifer and me at RWA Nationals


By the time my agent sent this book out, NA did exist, but the New York editors definitely had not gotten on board. My agent wisely advised me to change the book into a YA, which I did. But it didn’t sell. Editors said things like, “These characters are YA age but they seem older.” Oops. Then, at the RWA conference in 2012—where we talked, Victoria—everybody was abuzz about NA, and I realized it was finally going places. I told the editor of my YA and adult books at MTV Books/Pocket that I wanted her to read Levitating Las Vegas in its original NA form. She did, and she bought it. So I have you and the rest of the NA community to thank for making this dream come true. I said of Going Too Far that I’ve never been more confident in a book, but this one ties, and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think.
Thanks for joining us Jennifer!

About the Author:

Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama—a setting that has inspired many of her books. She has written nine romantic novels for young adults, including the comedy MAJOR CRUSH, which won the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the drama GOING TOO FAR, which was a finalist in the RITA, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Book Buyer’s Best, and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Simon & Schuster will debut her adult romance novels in 2013, with many more teen novels scheduled for the next few years. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Where to buy Jennifer's Books


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Post a Comment

  1. what a phenomenal Interview! I just finished Levitating Las Vegas and it was so much fun :)))
    It's amazing what a journey you had and how many different agents and publishers. But I'm excited that now that we finally accept that there is NA you are going to write all the stories you ever wanted, without making them older or younger!

    Do you have more NA in store:)?

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    1. So lucky Danny! I can't wait to read Levitating Las Vegas. Sounds amazing and if it's anything like Jennifer's others it will be great :D

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  2. Danny, thanks so much! The proposal I'm writing now is contemporary NA, and I would loooooove to write more books in the Levitating Las Vegas series. I think I'll get the chance to do that if the first one sells well. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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  3. Great interview, I am a great fan of NA and to think manuscripts were getting turned away because it wasn't recognised was a huge loss. But I am so grateful now that this is turning around. I must check out your books. Levitating Las Vegas sound great :)

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    1. So exciting to see the category really getting it's steam!

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  4. Wow, talk about perseverance! I'm thankful that you kept trying, Jennifer, because you're very talented.

    It's interesting how things change in publishing, and how slow NYC was to embrace books with college-aged characters. I'm glad that things are changing now, and like YA broke out in a huge way, it would be awesome to see the same for NA.

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    1. We've seen some amazing growth! I'm so excited to see where it goes :-)

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  5. I've yet to read anything by Jennifer Echols but I've seen her books around. After this interview, I'm salivating at the mouth to get a bite into one of her books!

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    1. Oh, they are so good! Love Story was my very first NA! I'm so grateful that it was. It was great :-)

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  6. What a GREAT story! LOVE IT. Fun interview!

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  7. Jennifer was way ahead of the curve! If only someone had listened...

    But she's here now and I don't kow about anyone else, I love her books all the same. :)

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  8. Thanks you guys!

    Ashley, I was told at one point years ago that I should not set a YA in college or even have a YA character obsessed with getting into a good college because readers didn't want to think about that and it wouldn't sell. Publishers don't make up this stuff. So I think they had some specific experience with trying to launch what we're now calling NA and having it not sell. Now the market has changed (thank goodness!).

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    1. It's definitely curious. I know self-pub titles and ebooks really launched NA, so I'm wondering if the demographics of people with eReaders (versus the demographics of the reading population as a whole) have really have influenced its popularity... or what other factors lead to these shifts in genre/category popularity. Interesting to think about.

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  9. Great interview! Love your work! Thanks for the opportunity to win~!

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  10. Thanks Brianna!

    Everyone, I've just learned that my publisher is sending me a few ARCs of Dirty Little Secret, which is coming out July 16 and is set in the summer between high school and college. If any of you review NA and you're not already signed up to get an ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster, I can send you one of mine--just e-mail me at echolsjenn at yahoo dot com.

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    1. FYI to everyone, it's also up on Edelweiss. I was just approved for it today. =)

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  11. This was such an awesome interview! I loved reading through all of Jennifer's answers. Also, can I just say how so very happy it makes me that she stuck with it because her books all rock my socks off! I can't wait to read Levitating Las Vegas, it sounds like it will be all sorts of amazing!
    -Katelyn

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    1. So glad she did too. So many great reads :D

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  12. Great interview! Definitely inspiring and interesting to hear about the background of these books--much more there than I would have expected!

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  13. Hooray for Jennifer! :) How exciting!

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  14. Very interesting interview! Jennifer, I love how you turned the cop into the love interest. Bravo at experiencing success at such a young age :-)

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    1. OMG that book is amazing! It was the second one I read by her. So good and Officer After is just so dreamy!

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  15. I also realized I've been writing New Adult for years: Science fiction, historical fantasy, etc. Once I get them thoroughly proofread, I'm sending the manuscripts out to agents!

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    1. Great! Make sure to check out our pub tab. We've got lots of folks listed there that take NA! Best of luck :-)

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  16. What a great interview, I can't wait to read the book!! Thank you for the opportunity :-)

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  17. Thank for the interview! I haven't read anything by Jennifer, but I received an eARC of Levitating Las Vegas so I'll be reading it soon!

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  18. Jennifer is amazing... I admire her determination and drive. Cingrats on your success. Those naysayers from your early years don't know what they were missing out on!

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  19. Thanks for the interview, Jennifer! Loved GTF!
    LG

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  20. Cant wait to.read this book!!:)) I didnt know it was that hard to be an author but at least it worked out.:)

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  21. Great interview! I love hearing about the ins and outs of publishing! I also forgot how much I loved Going Too Far and this reminded me!!

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  22. I'm glad Jennifer was so persistent in getting published because I love her books!

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  23. I love Jennifer Echols books. Great interview!

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  24. I look forward to reading these books! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  25. I absolutely love Jennifer Echols. Going Too Far was my very first YA book and the one that opened my eyes to this genre! I absolutely loved it! :)

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  26. Great interview. I haven't read any of Jennifer's work but I now plan to remedy that. Going Too Far sounds right up my alley (pardon the pun).

    I've really enjoyed this series. Thanks for bringing it to us, NA Alley. :-)

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  27. Great interview! Jennifer Echols is one of my all-time favorite authors--I've always connected with her sarcastic wit in her writing, and I love hearing about the back story for Going Too Far, because that's one of my favorites :)

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