Debut District: Author Interview with Jennifer Dugan of Hot Dog Girl

DEBUT DISTRICT is a regular feature on Artsy Draft in which I post appreciation towards debut releases through author interview, book blitz, listopia, review, and other related content.

Sooo… We’re back at it again with more debut author’s appreciation post! In today’s episode, I have Jennifer Dugan, the author of Hot Dog Girl, a debut contemporary book which will release tomorrow (on April 30, to be exact!). We talked all about behind the scene process of the book, Jenn’s writing journey (I’m quoting her, “It’s not an over-night success!”), and also how Jenn deals with challenges and writing blocks! 

Hi, Jenn! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Tomorrow, your debut book, Hot Dog Girl, will be released! How do you feel about it?

I am so excited! This is the culmination of almost exactly a decade of hard work, so to see it finally coming together is amazing.

Hot Dog Girl sounds like a really cute contemporary, yet very bold and unique with its main character and setting! Where do you get your ideas and inspirations to write Hot Dog Girl?

I really have no clue where my ideas come from! Scenes tend to just jump into my head—usually mid-shower, when I can’t write anything down. This is… not ideal, ha! For Hot Dog Girl specifically, though, the original seeds were planted while I was visiting a local amusement park. I saw an employee in a princess costume and thought it would be such a fun setting for a book! I knew right away that I wanted to write about a girl who worked there, but I also knew that I didn’t want to write about the princess. I tried to think of what the most ridiculous costume would be, and Hot Dog Girl was born.

I agree! It definitely sounds fun and it really attracted attention! And how long does it take for you to write it?

That’s a tricky question! I tend to draft fairly quickly. In general, I can have the first draft of a novel done within 3-6 weeks. I’m not a plotter at all—something I am actively trying to change—but for now, I need to write the whole book to understand what the story truly is. After drafting, I let it sit for a bit, and later come back to revise. Revising is where the real work happens, and that process takes much longer and involves a lot more planning. I generally do one or two revisions on my own before sending it out to my CPs. And that’s before my agent or editor even sees it! So even though the drafting process is fast, getting it to a completed stage takes much, much longer.

Phew! That’s a lot of steps and works. But do you always know that you want to be a writer? Do you mind to tell us about your writing journey!

I have wanted to be a writer, but there was a period of time in my early twenties where real life got in the way. I did still freelance for various local newspapers during that time, but aside from trying to work in as many puns as possible, I didn’t have much of a chance to stretch my creative writing muscles.

I got back into writing seriously about ten years ago, but I was not at all what you’d call an “over-night success.” It took me many books and countless rejections before I wrote Hot Dog Girl, which is my debut. Things did move quickly for this one though!

I pitched Hot Dog Girl in a twitter pitch event called #DVPit, which helps connect marginalized authors with agents. It got a fair amount of attention and I quickly found myself with seven offers of rep, which was wild after so many years of querying. I ultimately signed with Brooks Sherman, and we went on to sell Hot Dog Girl at auction to Stephanie Pitts at Putnam/Penguin. It was all very exciting and surreal!

Oh my God! What a wild journey! And as you mentioned, you faced many countless rejections before Hot Dog Girl. Are there any particular challenges during the writing process of this book?

In general, this book came very easily to me. It was the first time I really embraced my voice and told the story I wanted to tell versus trying to write to the market or trying to tell the story I felt I was “supposed” to.

However, there definitely was still work to be done. While the voice came easily to me, pacing did not. I have an editorial agent and he was a big help in sorting things out before we went out on submission. My editor is, of course, also a pacing genius and she got us the rest of the way after that. I have learned so much about my craft from them!

That sounds incredible! And speaking of challenge, what do you do when the writing block strikes in?

Since I also write comics, I’m generally juggling multiple projects at a time. If writer’s block hits on one, I tend to step away for the day and work on something else. Most of the time, switching gears like that will help jumpstart the words and I’ll still end up making progress that day.

If I’m having a day where my brain is just not cooperating at all, I take it as a sign I’ve been pushing myself too hard. I will take a day (or more, if deadlines allow) and read a book or watch a movie. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts too. I’ve found you need to fill your creative well if you want to keep producing content. I have a tendency to embrace the grind, but I’m trying to be more mindful of taking time for self-care. I know it’s crucial for long term success!

That’s a clever strategy! Since you mentioned about reading, what is the first book that made you cry?

I’m not sure if it was the first book that made me cry, but I have VIVID memories of sobbing over Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls in elementary school.

What’s your comfort zone when it comes to genre? Is there any genre that you won’t read for million years?

I tend to read a lot of contemporary, so that’s my go to. I’ve been starting to get into fantasy more in the last few years, too. I can’t really think of a genre I would absolutely refuse to read, but hard sci-fi isn’t usually my first choice.

Oh, hey! We have similar taste in book genre! [high-five!] Now for the rapid question… name your three all-time favorite books, go!

There’s no way I could possibly answer this! How about the last three books I read that I adored and am utterly obsessed with instead? They are, in no particular order, Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds, You’d be Mine by Erin Hahn, and Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan.

These books sound awesome! And I’m about to read You’d be Mine too! What about your favorite under-appreciated book?

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke. I adore this book! It should be on everyone’s tbr if it isn’t already.

NOTED! Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It really depends on the day. If it’s an emotional scene, I feel completely wrung out when I’m done. (That happened a lot while working on my 2020 release!) If I’m writing fun scenes or swoony scenes, then I feel like I can take on the world after my writing session.

That makes sense. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I’m really sensitive and have a tendency to get in my own head a lot, so I have to be in the right place to be able to read reviews of my work. I do have friends that send me the really kind ones. I know that reviews are for readers, not authors and that not everyone is going to love my book. And that’s okay!

I love your opinion about book reviews! Lastly, who’d you recommend to read Hot Dog Girl?

Everyone!


And that’s the end of my interview with Jenn! If you’re looking forward to read her book, it will be released tomorrow and you can find all of the details and information below!

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Title: Hot Dog Girl | Author: Jennifer Dunn | Publisher: Putnam | Genre: ContemporaryYoung Adult | Publication Date: April 30, 2019 | LINKS: Book Depository (Affiliate)

Are you looking forward to read Hot Dog Girl?

Paper to Popcorn: Dumplin’

Paper to Popcorn is an occasional feature on Artsy Draft in which I do review of a book to movie adaptation.

Book

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
 
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
 
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

★★★½

Title: Dumplin’ | Author: Julie Murphy | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Genre: ContemporaryRomanceYoung Adult | Publication Date: September 15, 2015 | Format: eBook | Source: Anybooks | Read for: Diverse Divers Book Club January 2019 #BOTM | Links: Book Depository (Affiliate)

[su_spoiler title=”→ Trigger Warnings!” style=”simple”]Body hatred, fatphobia. sexism.[/su_spoiler]

Movie

Dumplin’ (2018)

The plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mum’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow in her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.

★★½

Title: Dumplin’ | Director: Anna Fletcher | Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Anniston, Odeya Rush, and Luke Benward | Genre: Comedy • Drama | Released Date: December 7, 2018 (US) | Links: NetflixTrailer

I read this book and watch this movie as part of Diverse Divers Book Club. This review supposed to be posted earlier this month, but I wasn’t able to do so because I got caught up with graduation ceremonies, but better late than never, right? Anyway, I’m trying my best to remember my emotions and feelings towards these two, considering I read and watch it quite a while ago.

The Friendship

First thing first, let’s talk about the differences regarding Willowdean’s relationship with her friends. There are a few differences between the book and movie, especially on the timeline. I feel they’re rushing it on the movie because I got caught off guard by how fast everything happened on the screen. For instance, the meeting of Will and Callie on the pool happened a little later in the book. We got the opportunity to get attached to Will and her universe first, the friendship between her and Ellen, and also Will’s very own personality. I think these are very crucial aspects of the plot since it will make us more sympathetic to each character. While in the movie, the scene where Will meets Callie for the first time basically acts as the opening scene and one might interpret Will’s attitude towards Callie as petty. I’d say this is such a wasted opportunity, especially for those who watch the movie without reading the book first. And the other thing that bothered me quite a lot is Amanda nonexistence on the movie. I understand that it’s nearly impossible to fully transfer everything from the book to the screen when it comes to adaptation. But I just feel a bit surprised that they decided to completely erase her.

The Romance

The romance within the book and the movie were both unnecessary in my opinion. I personally feel this story should be focusing solely on Willowdean’s journey of finding self-acceptance, building a better relationship with her mother and also Ellen. While the book had it worse for this aspect (c’mon, love triangle?), the movie also didn’t do any better especially with the cast. I don’t feel connected to Bo’s character at all and I feel Benward is a little too old for this character (yes, even when he’s clean shaven). And again, they decided to ditch Mitch from the story? I’m not the biggest fan of the love triangle, but I ship Will and Mitch more than Will and Bo.

The Mother and The Dead Aunt

Ah, finally my favorite part of the story. The mother-daughter and aunt-niece relationship. While the book brings a meaner side of Willowdean’s mom, the movie successfully makes her a lot more likable, thanks to Anniston. When I read the book and get to any part of the conversation between Will and her mom, all I want to do is scream and yell at her because I couldn’t stand her. But on the screen, she has a different persona, I’d say. There’s no mention of close-minded opinion that featured quite a lot in the book, which is something that I’m completely grateful for (may I remind you of “It’s flattering to get catcalled.” and the assumption that having a boyfriend will cure your problems?). As for Lucy (one of my favorite character!), I think the movie missed the opportunity to feature a lot of her wise sayings from the book.

Overall…

I’m one of those people that will get pissed when an adaptation is not done properly and this is one of them. However, I think the book is quite decent and a lot better than the movie where everything feels rushed. I appreciate the issues of fat-shaming that Murphy tried to bring within her book, while also covering the relatable aspects of teenagehood lives, including self-acceptance, best friend fighting, and family issues. As the final notes, I decided to give the book 3.5/5 stars and the movie 2/5 stars.

Remarkable Quotes

[su_quote]Will. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I’ve thought too much about what people will say or what they’re gonna think. And sometimes it’s over silly things like going to the grocery store or going to the post office. But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn’t good enough. But you don’t have to bother with that nonsense. I wasted all that time so you don’t have to. If you go in there and you decide that this isn’t for you, then you never have to go back. But you owe yourself the chance, you hear me?[/su_quote]

[su_quote]Maybe ’cause you don’t always have to win a pageant to wear a crown.[/su_quote]

[su_quote]There’s nothing good about losing someone. But maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.[/su_quote]

[su_quote]This is me. Back me up or back the fuck out.[/su_quote]

Have you read this book or watched this movie? Which one is better in your opinion?

Join us on Diverse Divers Book Club if you want to support diversity in stories!

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Diverse Divers Book Club: January 2019 – Dumplin’

Hey everyone! Merry Christmas for those who’s celebrating! I hope you’re having a great one! I’m so excited that we’re getting closer to 2019. Aside from major planning that I have for my blog, I started a book club with the lovely Lili @ Lili’s Blissful Pages called Diverse Divers. Our main goal is to connect readers from all over the world who are willing to support diversity in stories. If you support this idea and want to read more diverse books in 2019, then you can join us on our Goodreads’ group or follow us on Twitter for more daily updates! We are planning to read one diverse book each month, along with discussion, reading sprints, post link-ups, prompts and possible moviethon if the book got adapted into a movie! And I’m so excited to announce that based on the polling that we did last week, our book of the month for January 2019 is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy!

As I previously said, we’re going to have discussions, reading sprints, post link-ups, prompts and moviethon! Read more for further details of each events!

[su_label type=”black”]Discussions[/su_label]

There will be two types of discussion. Feel free to choose whichever suits you the best!

  • A throughout the month discussion
    If you wish to have a casual discussion that last throughout the month (24/7), feel free to join us here! There will be a spoiler-free and spoilery threads, so no worries!
  • A bi-monthly discussion (Jan 13 and Jan 27)
    If you wish to have a more intense discussion with the rest of the reader, feel free to join us here! We will discuss the first half of the book (Chapter 1-31) on Jan 13 and the rest of the book (Chapter 32-61) on Jan 27.

[su_label type=”black”]Reading Sprints[/su_label]

For those who wants reading buddies and having quick chat about the book, feel free to join us on our reading sprint every Wed/Fri/Sat/Sun at 8-9 p.m. (GMT +8) on Twitter. You can share how many pages you are in, how do you feel so far about the book, what do you think of characters, or just about anything, really! We don’t mind!

[su_label type=”black”]Post Link-ups[/su_label]

Lili and I will publish our blog post after we completed the bi-monthly discussions. For those who wants to write a post about the discussed book, you can join our link-ups to share your post with other readers! This is a great way to connect with fellow bloggers and increase your blog engagement. We will also share some of the post on our Twitter account! Here is a series of options that you can choose to write, you can write one of these topic or if you’re feeling enthusiastic, you can combine a few of these topics into one single post! The possibilities are endless!

  1. A review about the book
  2. What you like & don’t like about the book
  3. A creative post (aesthetic board, printable graphic, playlist, etc!)
  4. A book & movie comparison
  5. Bonus: Answering our prompts!

[su_label type=”black”]Prompts[/su_label]

For those who’s not sure about what to write in a post, you can answer a series of questions that we’re giving to you! You don’t have to answer all of these questions, of course, so no pressure at all!

  1. What did you like best and least about this book?
  2. Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?
  3. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?
  4. If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?
  5. Which character in the book would you most like to meet?
  6. Which places in the book would you most like to visit?
  7. What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents? What other title might you choose?
  8. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?
  9. How original and unique was this book?
  10. Did the characters seem believable to you? Did they remind you of anyone?

[su_label type=”black”]Moviethon[/su_label]

We’re planning on doing a moviethon since this book got adapted into a movie. However, we’re still trying to figure out the ideal date and how are we going to watch and discuss it. We’ll update once we can figure everything out, so stay tune!

[su_label type=”black”]Doesn’t have access for the book?[/su_label]

If you’re looking forward to join and read Dumplin’ along with us but doesn’t have access for the book, you can read the book for free by using an app called AnyBooks! This is where I’ll read mine too! Unfortunately, this app is only available on Android. So, please let me know if there’s any app that Apple users can use to read this book!

[su_label type=”black”]Banner + Button[/su_label]

This is our banner for January 2019 that you may use in your blog post!

And this is our book club button that you may use in your blog sidebar!

And that’s it! If you have any further questions or suggestions, feel free to hit us up on Twitter or on our Goodreads’ group! We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can improve our book club and enhance experiences for every members possible! Until next time! I’ll see you in January once we started Dumplin’!