Stephanie: Hello, Jodie! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. How did you discover indieBRAG?
Jodie: I was searching for some outlets for promoting my book that were self-published friendly and found bragmedallion.com through a Google search. Once I was there, I decided to submit my book for consideration.
Stephanie: Please tell me a little about your story. Missing Emily.
Jodie: The story is really the answer to the question, “What if?” What if my friend from Croatia and I could have had some sort of contact with each other when we were teens.
Stephanie: It looks like Ami is going through a difficult time. Is there a particular issue she is dealing with that you found a challenge to write?
Jodie: Ami is going through a difficult time. Her father suddenly decided to move in with his surgical nurse, her baby cousin dies, and her boyfriend returns home and doesn’t write to her as he promised. I had been through all of these experiences, though not exactly as happened in the story, so it wasn’t terribly difficult. It was just a matter of writing it down. Actually, it was therapeutic.
Stephanie: What message would you like your readers to come away with when reading your story?
Jodie: In 1991, I was 17 years old and I was dealing with my own problems. I was so consumed with what was not going right in my life that I had no idea there were kids on the other side of world living through civil war and experiences like Nada encountered. Part of it was because I was so focused on just getting through each day in my own life; part of it was because of the lack of or slanted coverage in my local news. So I’d like readers to take a moment and realize that it’s a big world out there and there may be people a lot like you going through something worse at this very same moment.
Stephanie: When I read the detailed book description you sent me, at first I thought this was non-fiction. Then I looked up the genre and it is young adult. Is this story purely fiction or is this based on a person or event in real life?
Jodie: No, this is definitely reality based. I went through all of the major experiences Ami does in the story. And Nada went through the vast majority of major experiences she did in the story – including her father having to move to Italy to work and getting threat letters. A couple of the other major events didn’t occur exactly, but, according to my friend, were similar, had happened to others, or were plausible.
Stephanie: Are there any challenges to writing young adult?
Jodie: You have to put yourself in the teenage mindset, though it wasn’t all that difficult. Since the story is somewhat historical and I was a teen at the time period about which I was writing, it was relatively easy. I think writing like a teen of today with cell phones, computers, texting, social media, etc. would me much more difficult.
Stephanie: Please give me a little back ground on Nada and her family life.
Jodie: At the beginning of the story, Nada lives in Rijeka with her mother, father, and younger sister; by the end, her father has moved to Italy to work. Her religion is Catholic Orthodox so she is labeled a Serb, though she’d never been to Serbia. Her parents came to Croatian early in their marriage. She is like other kids – goes to school, likes to swim in the ocean, ride bikes with her friends, and talk about boys. Her family is close and they get along well, though her parents are insistent on Nada going to college and getting good grades.
Stephanie: Why did you choose Rijeka in the Republic of Croatia in Yugoslavia for your protagonist to have a pen pal from? What are some of the issues and hardships people face there that young readers might not know?
Jodie: I chose the locale because that is where my friend who I consulted when writing the book came from. In the early 1990s, Croatia was in a civil war and she was labeled a Serb living in an area of Croatia dominated by Roman Catholics or Croats. During that time, I only heard about “Serb insurgents” on the news, but where Nada lived, Croats wanted to drive out the Serbs and in other parts of the former Yugoslavia where the majority of the population was Croats, they wanted the Serbs to leave. I tried to bring out all of the hardships faced by Nada during the story.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Jodie: Keep writing and when you’re drafting the story, just get it down. Don’t worry about using proper grammar, punctuation, or even if it’s good. That can all be fixed. Just get it out of your head, be honest, and be authentic.
Stephanie: What do you like most about writing and could you please tell me a little about your process?
Jodie: I like creating something and letting people get to know me a little bit through my writing. My process can change depending on what I’m writing. I usually use a combination of free writing and outlining. I outline the basics and some character traits, and then I write. After I’ve written a good portion of the book, I go back and make a more detailed outline and character sketch.
Stephanie: Who are your influences?
Jodie: My writing influences are Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ayn Rand, and Natalie Goldberg. Those and the variety of local writers I’ve had the pleasure of encountering through my work with a local nonprofit, Midwest Writing Center.
Stephanie: How much time do you dedicate to writing a week? And where in your home do you like to write?
Jodie: I have a home office where I write. For the novel I’m currently working on, I have two story boards I pull out and sit on my desk. I write numerous hours each week, but my work on my novel varies depending on where I am in the process. Currently, I’m on the home stretch of finishing a novel so I’m working to complete a chapter a week which takes a couple of hours. In the past, I’ve worked on a novel an hour a day. It just depends on where I am in the process. If I’m still conceptualizing, I might not do any writing work on it all or just take notes.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Jodie: It is for sale on my website. It’s also for sale at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and other online retailers. It is distributed by Ingram and Baker & Taylor, too, so book stores are able to order it.
Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?
Jodie: Whether you like paper or e-books, please keep reading. There’s no better gift you can give yourself. And when you’re going through a rough time, count your blessings and remember it can always be worse.
I live in the Iowa Quad Cities with my husband, daughter, son, cat, and dog. In addition to Missing Emily: Croatian Life Letters, I have two published poetry collections: Crush and Other Love Poems for Girls and The Other Side of Crazy. I’m currently working on a historical novel as well as poetry. When I’m not following my literary pursuits, I operate a freelance writing and editing business helping people say what they want to say, Wordsy Woman Word Sales and Service. I enjoy reading (of course), hiking, walking my dog, and solving puzzles on my tablet.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jodie Toohey, who is the author of “Missing Emily”, one of our medallion at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, “Missing Emily” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.