Today I’d like to introduce to you Jessie Andersen AKA J. Andersen author of the YA novel The Breeding Tree. I found this book compelling. And compare it to George Orwell’s classic 1984 that I read as a teen, The Breeding Tree is a wakeup call for the next generation. Check out my review here. After reading it I had to interview the author for a deeper look.
Here’s the back cover copy if you’ve not yet read The Breeding Tree
When seventeen-year-old Katherine Dennard is selected to become a “Creation Specialist” in Sector 4, the opportunity sounds like a dream come true. But Kate soon discovers the darker side of her profession – the disposal of fetal organs and destruction of human life. It makes sense, really. In a society where disease and malformations don’t exist, human perfection demands that no genetic “mutants” be allowed to live. For Sector 4, “survival of the fittest” is not just a theory – it’s The Institute’s main mission.
When Kate discovers that The Institute is using her DNA to create new life, her work gets personal. In order to save her unviable son, she’ll have to trust Micah and his band of underground Natural Born Rebels. The problem is, if The Institute discovers her betrayal, the next body being disposed of could be hers.
Jessie, thanks so much for coming today. I’ve got chai latte tea and chocolate chip cookies. Take a seat on my slightly lumpy couch and let’s get started.
Cookies for breakfast! Perfect!
In my humble opinion The Breeding Tree is phenomenal and well-written. I am more than curious about the why behind this novel. Why write about genetic engineering and genocide?
I’ll try to make this long story short. It started with my first book, At What Cost. When I first realized I needed to write a book, I began praying about a topic. God told me ‘abortion’. I told him no. lol. He made me do it anyway. AWC was a YA contemporary. Once that was published, I thought I was done.
I’ve always wanted to write a dystopian novel. 1984 and The Giver are two of my all-time favorite books! If I had my way, I’d have started with a dystopian and hit that big swing with The Hunger Games and Divergent; however, nothing came to mind. It wasn’t until I finished another contemporary that I finally got the idea for The Breeding Tree.
I didn’t intend it to even touch the subject of abortion. After all, I’d already written that book, but as the story grew, I realized God wasn’t done having me write about that topic.
Because this was set in the distant future (or not so distant) I could embrace the concept of teens being trained for a medical career early on. What research did you do to create this world?
Maybe I shouldn’t confess this, but I do very little research. The only thing I looked up was double checking facts about fetal development… things I was pretty sure I already knew, but wanted to make sure my facts were right. I may interview someone about a specific detail that I want accurate, and I did shoot a gun to get those details right for book 2, but I don’t spend endless hours researching.
How long was this world in the creative stages of your mind before you actually set it to paper? And of course we want to know how long between concept and publication?
This one came on pretty fast. Once I get a concept, I mull it around for a few weeks or maybe a month or two. Then I sit down and hash out an outline. I’ll also brainstorm with a few friends. Usually, I’ll see one scene clearly, and it’s never the first chapter! I write that and then back up to see what’s going on around it.
As for concept to publication, the earliest writing I have saved on TBT is from March 2011. It was a scene about the great-grandmother being one of the last natural born humans in the community. I signed the contract for TBT in Nov of 2014, and the book was published in 2015. Now, it only took me about eight months to a year to write, but at the same time I was writing this, I was going through the editing and publication process for At What Cost, which was published in June of 2012. Whenever I’m not going through the publishing process for one book, I’m writing something new. I have three other completed books right now and one in the works. Gotta keep busy while I wait.
What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome on your road to publication?
No one wanted the story. It was a rough go that way. I can’t tell you how many notes my agent and I received about loving the writing or the characters but not resonating with the story. I think it’s different kind of story for YA because I write from such a conservative perspective. Much of what you see in the secular YA market is NOT from a conservative perspective. We also heard a lot of, “dystopian is on its way out.” So I feared I missed the trend. Like I said, if I’d had the idea for a dystopian five years earlier, that would have been great! In the back of my mind, though, I knew that dystopian would never go out. (Look at 1984 or Fahrenheit 451)
What was the one lesson you learned during this process that made you a better writer?
Ooh, tough question. I think I learned 2 things. 1. The whole process taught me about God’s timing. I would have loved the timing to be different, but I had to be patient. 2. I learned to have a plan, but not to hold so closely to it that I can’t deviate from it. There were things that came up in the story that took me on a different path. Instead of fighting that and sticking to my original plan, I let myself follow the plot bunny down the rabbit hole. This is difficult for a planner like me.
Do you have a word of advice for writers with a heart to tackle controversial topics?
Lol. Part of me wants to advise people to run away screaming when it comes to writing controversial topics. BUT that’s not what you should do! Controversial topics are hard because, well, they’re controversial. You will be rejected. And you’ll be rejected because people don’t want to hear your side of the story. Tell it anyway.
I think more and more, our society tends to try to shut down the conservative perspective on controversial topics. We see it in the news all the time, but that’s all the more reason why we need to write about them in a way that opens the eyes of the next generation. We have to be a voice for those who have never heard our perspective. So write! But know that it’s not going to be an easy go. Realize that some of those nasty reviews you get are because you’ve hit a nerve. We are marching into dangerous territory, and we must do so to lead the way for others to do the same. Who’s going to help clear the path with me?
It has been a blessing to have you with us today. Before we go I want to know if you have any writing projects in the works you’d like to talk about.
I always have projects in the works! Books 2 and 3 in The Breeding Tree series are done. I have another contemporary that’s completed and with my agent. Yes, it’s another controversial topic: Abstinence this time. I think it’s going to be especially difficult to sell because while it deals with abstinence, it has some sexual encounters. Sometimes you have to put the characters in difficult situations in order to give them choices to make. We’ll see how that goes. Lastly, I’m working on my first NON-controversial book. At least it is at this moment. Lol. Who knows, that might change by the time it’s completed.
Thank you so much for hosting me. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you and your readers.
I’ve loved this time together as well.
I’m giving away one e-book of The Breeding Tree, and one e-book of At What Cost.
Awesome! Okay, everyone who reads my blog needs to comment. You can ask J a question about her books or writing or just request you name be put in the drawing. Pass this blog along to your friends and let me know and I’ll give you an additional entry. I’ll contact the winner for their email info to pass on to Jessica. The drawing will take place and the inner will be announced on Friday.
More about J. Andersen
There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. She now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J. without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.
Ways to follow J. Andersen:
Instagram: https://instagram.com/jvdlandersen Snapchat ID: jvdlandersen
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