I was recently asked by an interviewer how it came about that I majored in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri. This was my answer:
I actually went to MU as an early childhood education student, learning to teach children in Kindergarten through third grade. Kids are my jam. I spent many years as Childcare Director at churches in Montana, and Denver, and then in Kansas. My favorite age group is 2-3 years. I adore them and they loved me. It was an extremely satisfying job. Eventually, my bad back made it impossible to hold little ones and I turned to old passions … and I’ve always been a writer.
I read Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was 7 years old and it sparked the fire in my spirit for fiction. When I was 9, I won the Young Author’s Contest with a parable of Why Rabbits Have Short Tails, and when I was 10, I won with a book about aliens called Rainbow on West Avenue. The books were added to my elementary school’s library for other children to check out. That felt really good. I also had a book from when I was 8 years old in the library called Brother and Puppy, and when I got it back, I looked at the “check out card” and saw that my own little brother had checked it out more than anyone else. Awww.
When I was in the 8th grade, my teacher sent one of my poems to Read Magazine without telling me, and one day I got an envelope with the magazine in the mail from my teacher saying, “You are a published writer!” That was awesome. I spent my high school years writing short stories and dark poetry for high school publications throughout the district, like Inklings and Lodestar.
I had the beginnings of many novels in my notebooks and believed I could write a book at any time, but I just never did it. (Youth Overconfidence. Lol.) Since college, I’ve had a children’s story in my brain, but even with my ability to teach small children and having five of my very own, I never could manage to get the book into “kid language.” I keep wanting to add dialogue and world-building, and things get waaaay too wordy. But I don’t want to lose any part of the story. Also, I am very, very picky about my illustrator.
I spent many years being an artist. I am a portrait artist (See the Before/After album at www.facebook.com/Haskinoriginals) and I COULD do my own art, but I want someone better than me. I want HIGH quality art, and that’s EXPENSIVE. So, one day I thought, if I can write a book, I should just do it. Then I began the journey into my first book about a mythical tribe of cannibals in Belize.
I asked my best friend (since preschool) if she’d read it and give me her thoughts. I was still writing it, but I wanted her opinion. We met at Applebee’s over cokes and appetizers and she LOVED IT. She explained that she had been reluctant to read it because many people had asked her for an opinion but had horrible books, and she hated being in a position to have to tell them so, or to lie. But, she genuinely loved my book, and was so pleased that she did. She and I started meeting weekly at that Applebee’s between our homes and she’d read what I wrote and we’d talk about it. What could make it better? Where we could go from there? What would happen next? It was our thing. We were writing it together.
Then she got cancer. A year later she was gone. I shelved the book. I couldn’t do it without her.
Then one night, I had a dream. In this dream, I saw a scene, one scene, but in that scene, I knew an extraordinary amount of backstory. As I opened my eyes, I saw credits scroll and the thought hit me upside the head, “It’s a book, stupid. Go write it.” So, at 6 am on a Sunday morning, I rolled grouchily out of bed, grabbed a notebook and pen, and decided that I would write down the scene I saw and every bit of back story that I had known from the scene.
I wrote for thirteen straight hours. When it was 7 pm, my husband called me for dinner and I was just finished. I had over twenty pages of notes! No more dreams came that night, so the next day, I typed out everything I’d written down into story form. I alternated days of writing and days of typing, and more came and kept coming. I wrote that book (and typed it) in two and a half weeks. I wrote the second book in the following two and a half weeks. Then it took me almost a year to write the third book because I kept changing things and needed to make an epic end befitting the series and it had to include both physical and magical warfare.
I got an agent who got me a small publishing contract that turned out not to be the best fit for me, so I paid $2,000 to get my rights back and published it myself. The first book is dedicated to my best friend, the one who really believed I could do this. I share it with her. Even though it isn’t “our” book, it only happened because she believed in me.
After that I wrote a book about a solar storm’s global EMP strike and the girl that had to make it from Washington D.C. to Cape Canavarel in three months with an autistic boy and a little girl, if she wanted to make it on the last shuttle for Mars, with the sixth colony. Do they make it? Once I started editing it, I had another idea…
So I wrote about a post apocalyptic world where the Earth is mostly burnt up but cloud cities travel around from one good patch to another, with a city in the clouds and a village on the ground that works the land and tends the livestock for the city. The girl in it is trying to discover who murdered her father, and stumbles onto a plot to chemically-enhance the population through the air supply.
I was in the editing phase on that book and I was adding in some details to the world, the book was done, I’d drawn concept art, maps, the sequel had an outline, everything, when a thought occurred to me. I asked myself, “Is what you’re writing right now a bestseller?” I stopped and thought about the YA hardbacks I got in OwlCrate, and saw on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. I compared my book to “real” published books being marketed today and without question, my answer was, “no.”
My next thought was, “Why not? Why waste your time writing books you KNOW aren’t going to be a bestseller? It’s what you want, right? Readers, customers, fans.” Aah, the day I get cool fan art… *sigh* Anyway, I decided that I was going to stop writing that book and start something over. Do it right from the beginning. I got on line and learned some things about making a bestseller, and what the other bestselling authors had to say, and I started doing that.
At that point, I began to learn. I wanted to learn marketing to make my books do well, and to learn writing, to make better books. I wrote and shelved probably six books. With the end of each one, I had the idea for the next book, and instead of editing the book I’d finished, I set it aside and began the next one. The better one. Each book I wrote was better than the last as I learned craft and editing. I put several first drafts on Wattpad, just for fun and they actually did okay.
I started going to conferences and joining groups, like Saavy Authors, Missouri Writer’s Guild, Kansas City Writer’s Guild, and Nebraska Writer’s Guild. I entered into my first writing contest, Ink & Insights 2016, and made it into the top ten winners at number 8. Networking and learning can mean the difference between a starving artist and a well-connected author. I have loved getting to meet all the people and receive all the feedback I have gathered.
My second book launched as a #1 New Release, but I didn’t know how to keep it there, so it slid right down the charts. So I got online and I learned more about marketing. I learned the value of keywords and categories and covers.
The third book launched in March 2020 as a #1 New Release for the first month.
My published trilogy does well now that I know how to market, and they are about to get new covers (for the last time). The Freedom Fight Trilogy is a young adult fantasy romance, and I have a YA scifi/romance (Hierarchy of Blood) on preorder now, awaiting a cover reveal. I haven’t released anything since my trilogy, so I’m very excited about this next book. It is the first of a new trilogy. And I also have the first of a YA steampunk series ready to edit and publish. Then I have a standalone that I plan to re-edit and publish.
All together, I plan to put out about 10 books in the next three years. Depending on my cover artist and what I can afford and when. It’s a huge goal and it makes me kinda sick to think about it, but if your goals don’t intimidate you, they aren’t big enough. That’s what I’ve always been taught. I’ve got my goal poster on the wall, and I’m ready to focus on my writing career.
Being a literary agent and publishing house editor has given me a love for authors, as well as being one myself. I want to help other authors succeed and to do that, I need to get there.
I have set aside my publishing house job and I am doing editing under my own company name (www.frontpageediting.com) for now, and focusing on writing for myself. So I am really excited about this new chapter of my writing career. I even hope to get back to blogging my journey. Follow me at: www.jenniferhaskin.com/blog.
*I am always writing a new book and need all the help I can get. So, if you enjoy beta reading and/or leaving reviews, contact me any time for free copies. I hope you enjoy all my books! But I’d love to hear what you think either way.
Until then … all my best.