After a shy 16-year-old is outed as the illegitimate daughter of the Republican nominee for president, she joins his campaign as part of an attempt at damage control.
“The moment my horrible yearbook photo first appeared on millions of television screens, sending jaws dropping, phones ringing, and joggers tumbling off their treadmills all across America, I was in the middle of my AP US History final.”
What was the origin of your idea for THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT?
A few years back, there was sort of a cluster of political scandals, culminating in the revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger had fathered an illegitimate child. I remember seeing this photo of the boy taken by paparazzi and thinking, “That poor, poor kid.” It got my mind whirring about what it would be like to be a teenager in that situation, but thrust into the political limelight in a more central way. Would you want to escape? Or would there be a part of you that longed for acceptance from the family you didn’t know you had?
Kate is the illegitimate daughter of the Republican nominee for president and she winds up hitting the campaign trail with him and her new family. After reading your book, I was convinced you had been on a presidential campaign circuit. It is an incredibly realistic portrayal. What sort of research did you do prior to writing?
Well, thank you! I had a few friends who worked on the Obama campaign back in 2008, so although I didn’t volunteer, I’d had politics on the brain for a while. Arun Chaudhary in particular was helpful through his Facebook posts—he became the first ever White House videographer after his central role in the 2008 campaign and his photos, updates and videos gave me (and all his viewers) a great sense of what day-to-day campaign life looks like. I also read some riveting political nonfiction, like GAME CHANGE and Meghan McCain’s DIRTY SEXY POLITICS for further inspiration. But mostly, I made it up and fact checked later. Luckily, my imagination didn’t stray too far from reality!
You have an MFA in Drama and a background in acting. Are there any similarities in the two forms of artistic expression: acting and writing?
I think my background in acting has been enormously helpful to my writing process. Mentally, I do sort of “act out” the roles of each of my characters, figuring out the way they think, their motivations, the way their backgrounds give them each an individual window on the world. I sympathize with everybody I write, especially the antagonists. I think having studied drama also gives me a sense of narrative rhythm, both in terms of natural dialogue and the beats that each scene needs to hit.
I have seen firsthand (and drooled with jealousy) over your organizational skills in terms of world-building. How much of a detailed planner are you? What do you think is the most important aspect of plotting?
I do plan quite a bit—and most of it ends up getting chucked out along the way! My plot structures tend to be a little too neat in early drafts, and then I sort of muss them up and deepen them during the revision process. But I couldn’t write without a plan. My scenes would just meander and drop off a cliff. And anyway, I love planning. I love outlines, spreadsheets, character quizzes, ridiculously oblique timelines. The idea development stage is my favorite part of the writing process by far.
What are you working on now?
I’m several drafts into a companion novel to THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, tentatively titled WHEN WE WERE OUT. It centers around a girl who goes a little overboard as an activist after her best friend comes out of the closet and accidentally becomes a national gay icon—even though she’s secretly straight. It’s about best friends and first love and loneliness and legendary pirates and Homecoming and all sorts of stuff.
What advice would you give to writers, especially teen writers?
I have sort of contradictory advice. One: Write every day. Even if it’s just a sentence. When you do a little work on a project every day, you start to write all the time, while you’re driving, in the shower, just before bed. When you skip a day, you sort of have to start all over again. Two: Relax. There is no rush. You do not have to be published by a certain day or a certain time. You will be published when you’ve written something that’s ready. And whether your very first novel is a masterpiece or it takes ten novels before any agent will even read past the first five pages makes no difference at all in the end. What matters is that you’re sitting in a chair every day and learning a craft by working on it. And I highly recommend always having a project on the go. Unless you’re Harper Lee. Actually, even if you are Harper Lee. It would be amazing if she would write something else.
Jenn Marie Thorne writes YA fiction from her home in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her dashing husband, two adventurous sons and trusty hound Molly. An NYU-Tisch grad with a BFA in Drama, Jenn still enjoys making a complete fool of herself on at least a weekly basis. Other hobbies include writing about herself in the third-person, studying classical voice, learning languages, and traveling the world with her family.