Monday, February 20, 2012

A Weekly Adventure Interview with Jo Treggiari

Introducing: Jo Treggiari

Jo Treggiari was born in London, England, and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Roccasinibalda, Italy and California. Her first attempts at writing were when she started revising classic fairy tales at age eight. I met Jo, you guessed it, on Twitter!

After reading her tweets about the process and later, publication of Ashes, Ashes, I picked my own copy up, read it, passed on just how much I enjoyed it, and here we are now! 

Weekly Adventure: What is your genre of choice, and why? 

Jo Treggiari: I don't really have a genre of choice. I've written a middle-grade, boy-centric fantasy, a post-apocalyptic adventure YA. My latest WIPS include a punk rock contemporary, an urban adventure fantasy and a neo-gothic. Those are all YA and I like to think of them as having a common thread of adventure in them but that's the great thing about YA; it's so diverse and all-encompassing.

WA: Can you tell me more about Inkers - neo-gothic horror - and your other works in progress? 

JT: Inkers is personal the same way that Fierce (the punk rock book) is personal to me. I feel that the protagonist shares certain fears and insecurities that I had as teen though she reacts in a more proactive way (which I admire) to stresses in her life. It's also a mix of urban, contemporary with fantasy which I also find very appealing, and I truly got to write some scary shit. I'm hoping that if I don't get an agent with my 2 books on offer (I have a selkie fantasy as well) that I can go back out with Inkers and get someone.

WA: How many books have you published? (self or otherwise)

JT: I have two published books. The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton which was published by a small, indie press, and Ashes, Ashes which was published by Scholastic Press.

WA: Tell me about Ashes, Ashes.

JT: It's a post-apocalyptic adventure story set in a near-future New York City which has been ravaged by pandemic and global warming, and tells the tale of 16 year old Lucy, the sole survivor of her family who barely ekes out an existence in the wilds of what used to be Central Park until she is forced to join a survivor's settlement where new dangers await her.

WA: You've lived all over, I bet that is a wonderful thing to tap into while writing for both character development and location settings. Do you have any memories from childhood that have inspired events in any of your books?

JT: I think that most of my childhood memories somehow make it back into my writing. Funny how the older I get the harder it is to remember what happened last month but those first memories from childhood are still with me. There are more of them in my first book perhaps but Lucy's memory in Ashes, Ashes of climbing on the Alice statue in Central Park is one of mine. I'm very interested in what constitutes bravery and what makes people afraid and I drew on a lot of my own fears there. Then there are more pleasant scenes like the one where Lucy is picking beans with Grammalie Rose. I used experiences I had as a child with my Nonna in her garden.

I think it wouldn't have been possible to destroy NYC to the extent that I did without loving it so much. I'm glad you enjoyed that aspect of the book, though enjoyed may not be the right word.

WA: Where can I buy copies of your book? 

JT: It's available pretty much everywhere. 

WA: What are you reading right now? 

JT: I'm reading a few books at the same time (and rarely for me, they are not all YA)- The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser (non-fiction), Everlost by Neal Shusterman (YA), The Company: Portrait of a Muderer by Arabella Edge (adult) and The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip (fantasy). 

WA: What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (a favorite quote or a personal motto)  

JT: I am still surprised when I hit those rough bumps. They are inevitable even in a story that has been well-plotted and almost seems to write itself. I just need to remind myself to keep on until I get past it and that for me at least the first draft bears no resemblance to the revised manuscript I let my beta readers read. I put my head down and force my way through to the end and then go back and fix everything. I'm not saying I don't wallow in self-pity some days too but knowing that writing is hard work with the occasional golden day, actually helps me to keep going. Butt in chair is probably my favorite motto.

WA: What advice to you have for other writers out there? 

JT: Read. Persevere. Keep writing. And do it for the love of it.

WA: What cautions do you have? 

JT: Be prepared for everything and anything. Finding an agent, getting published; these are most writers' ultimate goals but once you've achieved them, it doesn't all  necessarily roll out from there in a perfect career path. I've had 2 agents leave the business and leave me stranded. I'm un-agented at the moment and having a hard time connecting with someone new. And my first publisher ended up being very shady; I haven't had a royalty statement from them in over 2 years.

WA: Do you work on more than one project at a time? 

JT: I'd like to and I have tried it in the past but it just doesn't work well for me. I end up with two patchy, half-finished manuscripts rather than being able to focus completely on one.

WA: Do you have a process? (outlining, character creation, location, etc)  

JT: I'm a pretty bad outliner but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters' back story and their personalities and making lots of notes. I spend almost as much time figuring out the story's setting. I have specific notebooks for each manuscript and I make sure to always have a pen and paper with me so that I can jot down ideas. I also have a story board near my desk with pictures related to whatever it is I'm working on for inspiration. And I generally know the beginning and ending of the book before I begin. It's the middle which is often only partially plotted. Once I have started writing, I tend to think a chapter or two in advance.

WA: Where do you get your ideas from? What/who inspires you? 

JT: Everything. Life. My past, my dreams, my hopes. Magic.

WA: If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing? 

JT: You know I haven't had an easy time but I wouldn't change a thing (except maybe make the process of finding my 3rd agent a little easier than it is proving to be). I've learned so much from the upheavals and twisty turns of the publishing business. I think to be an author in today's climate you have to be tough and everything I've experienced has toughened me up. That being said, sometimes I wish I could just ignore all of it and merely focus on writing stories.

WA: What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment? 

JT: My skin is much tougher than it used to be. I welcome constructive criticism especially from agents and editors- those are real gifts- but everyone has an opinion and there are some people out there who delight in being as cruel as they can be. I think you have to experience it and let it wound you before you can move on and learn how to let it roll off your back. My greatest compliment and joy has been from other YA authors; I've found it to be such a supportive, nurturing community, and from fans of my books.

WA: Who is your greatest influence(s)?

JT: I have so many. From my mother to my son and daughter and sister. I am continually inspired by other writers and there are many I aspire to someday be half as good as.

WA: Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter & why? (authors, non-authors) 

JT: You always post great links (@weeklyadventure); also  author Sarah Darer Littman (@SarahDarerLitt), @HarleyMaywrites is freaking hilarious, author @Olegbemisola is wonderful, and authors @cherylrainfield, @dpeterfreund, @stacy_kramer always have something to say about the process of writing; all the book bloggers, and booksellers. Oh and I follow actor Simon "Shaun of the Dead"  Pegg.

WA: I LOVE Simon Pegg, he's one of my favorites to follow too, so is Nick Frost

WA: Do you have any other passions besides writing? 

JT: Hiking, baking, lego, my kids, travel, knitting on and off and I'm learning how to hook rugs, painting, photography, nature, sharks.

WA: When did you know you wanted to write? 

JT: I started writing little stories to entertain my younger sister when I was about 8.

WA: Do you have a day job? 

JT: Yes. I write resumes for people who can't write their own.

WA: Final question, why do you write? 

JT: Because otherwise I would implode. Or explode. Because there is no greater joy for me than finding the right words and getting a story down on paper. 


In Jo's Words:

"I was born in London, England but grew up in Canada, Roccasinibalda, Italy and California.
I used to work in the music industry and eventually owned my own indie record label. The first CD we ever put out was by a gangsta rap group. We also did alt rock and punk.
I have trained as a boxer. I could have been a contender. (Not really).
I started writing stories for my little sister when I was about 8. Often I would rework fairytales so that the princesses had a little more grit. Then I would write them out on white paper, roll them up and tie with a red ribbon. Later on in high school I penned personalized naughty limericks by request. I love dogs, crows, and octopi. I blog. And I enjoy baking desserts.
I've just finished a neo-gothic horror YA called Inkers which was the most fun I've ever had writing."


You can follow Jo Treggiari on Facebook and Twitter. Copies of Ashes, Ashes are available in hardcover and for the kindle, as is The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton.


  1. Wonderful interview, ladies! And Jo, I commend you. I'm on agent #2, so the fact that you've been down that road three times just proves that you've the got the tenacity to go far in this biz. And by the way, Ashes, Ashes, sounds amazing! On my way to put it on my TBR list.

    Thanks Aryn, for introducing us to this talented author!

  2. You're welcome! I'm having a lot of fun and meeting some great people. :)

  3. Thanks Anita and Aryn! Tenacity is what it's all about!