Meet J.L. Willow.
J.L. Willow voraciously read everything she could get her hands on as a child and continues to this day. She was inspired by the way words on a page could capture the imagination, beginning her journey as a writer at just six years old. When she’s not holding a pencil or a book, she can be found belting her favorite musicals or studying to become a mechanical engineer. Days off are spent relaxing with her family in New Jersey.
Social Media Links:
Hi J.L.! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! My name is Julia. I’m a senior in high school prepping to study mechanical engineering. I published my first book, The Scavenger, at the beginning of my junior year and my second novel, Missing Her, will be launching May 8th of 2019.
What has been your favorite writing experience so far this year?
Already, this year has been pretty crazy for me. My favorite memory, though, probably has to be when I recently visited an elementary school to talk about my experience as an author. Many of them were first graders, which is the same age I was when I started writing, so it was really cool getting to talk with them. They seemed very mature for their age, and they had some really great questions for me.
As a six year old till now, how has your stories changed and developed?
When I first started writing, most of my stories were reflective of what I was reading at the time. I wrote some “books” that had pretty much the exact same plot as Harry Potter, and it wasn’t until I got older that I started to create original concepts. There were a few stories I wrote with vampires and werewolves, but I eventually settled on realistic fiction because that’s what I was most familiar with. And that’s how The Scavenger came to be!
Tell us about your Youtube – or should I say Booktube – experience so far.
I’m not going to lie — when I first began, I was pretty nervous. YouTube is such a competitive platform and I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to make a name for myself. But I have a really great following on other platforms, especially Instagram, and they were quick to help me to establish my channel. Overall, it’s been a really great experience and I’m so thankful for everyone that takes the time to watch my videos.
How much research went into the creation of The Scavenger?
A lot of research. Going into it, I had no idea how to handle a police investigator as one of my MCs, and involving something as expansive as an underground drug network was something I never had to handle before. Luckily, I had a great editor that helped me along the way and made sure to fact-check my work. It really made the book stand out from other novels in the YA genre.
In your upcoming release, Missing Her, what made you put a character into another character’s mind?
Years ago, I read a book called The Phantom Effect. It was a super intense read (I recommend it to any hard-core horror fans out there) and it followed a serial killer that had to relive his crimes through the eyes of his victims. We’ve seen the serial killer story countless times on paper and screen, but that put a new twist on it I had never seen before. I remembered the impact that book had had on me until, years later, I started writing Missing Her. I had this really intricate storyline about this girl and her best friend, but I felt like it was missing something. That’s when I remembered my inspiration from The Phantom Effect, and started fooling around with perspectives until I had nailed down the perfect combination.
Was there any scene in either of your two novels that didn’t make the cut even though you may have tried tweaking the MS in its drafting stage to keep it in?
There was one scene that I really enjoyed writing between Vanessa and Eliza’s mother that I ended up having to trash. As Vanessa is attempting to talk to her missing best friend’s mother, tensions get really heated and the heightened emotions create a heart-wrenching scene between them. I really tried to include it, but it just didn’t work with where the story was headed. I saved the scene in a separate document just so I can still have it on hand. Maybe bits and pieces of it will make their way into another book one day.
What was it like publishing The Scavenger?
It’s a pretty well-known fact in the writing/publishing industry that the first book is the hardest. You’re going into a competitive, complex field pretty much blind. At least, that’s the way it was for me as well. I did as much research that I could before publishing The Scavenger, but there are some lessons that you won’t be able to learn without actually doing it. All things considered, the whole process went pretty smoothly. Of course, there were a few things I wished went differently, and I took all of those things into consideration when I began prepping to publish Missing Her.
Has any particular role, booktuber or writer, challenged you this year?
Immersing myself in the “booktube world” was definitely difficult for me. I’ve made some videos in the past (casual family vlogs and such) but it was pretty intimidating when I first began to sit in front of the camera and talk. I found that the first few videos I made were mainly focused on feeling out my comfort level and trying to find my voice as a YouTuber. It’s important not to focus on the competition in the industry, or your content won’t be authentic; it’ll just be aimed on pleasing the consumer. I wanted to avoid that, so I took the time to create a platform that was purely “me.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
The most common question that I receive is why I’m choosing to study mechanical engineering when I have such a passion for writing. I don’t believe that anyone has to pick one passion to pursue. There’s no rule that you can’t have more than one dream. I’ve let that belief guide me through my time in high school and into college. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a new passion along the way to add to my repertoire.