Today The Writing Cave has a very special visitor, young adult author and fellow Iowa SCBWI member Jan Blazanin. Her latest novel, A & L DO SUMMER is now available from Egmont USA. Welcome Jan!

What’s your writing process? Do you plan or plunge?

I’m a planner. Before I start writing I develop character sketches for each of the important characters. It’s a good thing I do because if I get halfway through the story and forget a character’s hair color or last name I can refer to the sketch. Another thing I do is put together a detailed outline of the plot with several paragraphs explaining each scene. Although I never follow the outline exactly, it keeps me from having that sinking feeling of having nowhere to go in the middle of story. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps preserve most of my sanity.

Preserving sanity is always a good thing. Speaking of, the A&L summary hints at troublesome triplet pigs. Any hints on what happens there?

Sunflower, Daisy, and Rose don’t mean to be troublesome, and they certainly don’t want to be pig-napped and trapped on the second floor of Cottonwood Creek High. But there they are, and somebody has to deal with it. What happens next is not the way I’d choose to spend my Sunday night.

Wow, who can resist that teaser?! After I read about the piglets, I’ll need some new suggestions. What are your three favorite reads so far in 2011?

There are so many amazing books to choose from that I could spend all my time reading. Although I enjoy the occasional novel written for an adult audience, most of my reading selections are for young adults. Three that stand out are Mockingbird by Kathyrn Erskine, Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, and The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. Mockingbird is the sweet, sad, and funny story of a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Going Bovine had me laughing out loud from beginning to end. And The Hunger Games kept me up at night wondering what would happen next. Those women are talented writers!

No joke! I could read the Acknowledgments section of GOING BOVINE all day 🙂 What are you working on next?

I recently finished the first draft of a young adult paranormal novel in which two teenage girls from different worlds and times must complete a quest to save the people they love. It has a long way to go before my agent sees it, but it’s a great feeling to have that first draft under my belt. 

Ooo a time element, nice! What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read in your genre, write as often as humanly possible, study your craft, listen to knowledgeable critiquers and follow their advice, develop a tough skin, and never give up. 

If you could switch lives with any character in any book, who would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. Characters lead hazardous lives because authors like me are always throwing problems at them. Look at how poor Katniss suffered in The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins gives her characters no slack at all! Thanks for the offer, but I’ll take my chances being my boring self.

I’m not sure how Katniss would do at our book club, so we’d appreciate you being yourself too 🙂 Being my cheese-freak self, I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

I love Brie! It’s moist and squishy and has a fragrance that makes my mouth water. Brie is fantastic with apples and nuts and berries and crackers and wine and—thanks for interviewing me, Sarah! I’m off to the store for some Brie!

Can’t blame you there! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jan. Learn more about Jan Blazanin and her books at her website and on Twitter. Also check out Jan’s interview with the lovely Pat Zietlow Miller at Read, Write, Repeat.