Jennifer Soosar was born and raised in Toronto and watched too much 'America's Most Wanted' growing up. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, Flash Bang Mysteries, and the Toronto Star. Her debut psychological suspense novel, PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION, was published by Black Opal Books in 2017. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She has a degree in anthropology.
I started writing short stories when I was in elementary school. The teenagers who hung out at the local shopping mall food court were my first inspiration. They all had long, wild, feathered hair—even the guys—and wore skin-tight jeans. They smoked, swore, and scratched their initials into the food court tables with switch blades. They wore “Iron Maiden” t-shirts with graphics of grinning, rotting corpses across the front. I was both interested and terrified of these teens, so I started writing about them. Of course I didn’t know anything about them so, in writer fashion, I had to make it all up! The first story I ever got published (at age 13) was about a gang of delinquent teens.
The work of Stephen King was another big early influence, especially his short stories in Night Shift. He wrote about darker things and this gave me permission to write about darker things, too. I wanted to write about the things and the people who scared me. It’s an ongoing theme in my writing.
In my 20s, I wrote a bunch of feature-length screenplays, but soon discovered that selling a screenplay was near-impossible. I went back to short stories. I learned that you should never scrap any of your ideas because you can re-purpose them. I took some of my old screenplays and re-worked them into shorter form. My story published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (‘Profane Pilgrims’, May 2016) is one example of that.
Once my kids were a little older, it seemed like a great time to get started on the novel I always wanted to write. Parent Teacher Association began with only one idea: ‘a thriller set in an elementary school’. With this in mind, I outlined a basic story with the main conflict being between two characters—a parent and a teacher. The whole thing grew as my imagination took the concept to a darker, creepier place than your typical school environment, but that’s what makes it fun.
While hammering out the first draft during the late summer of 2014, I was excited to learn about the annual ThrillerFest conference in New York. One of the best things about it was PitchFest, an opportunity to pitch your novel to literary agents. I quickly signed up for the next one because I wanted to give myself a hard deadline to finish the book. I now had nine months to produce an 80,000 word manuscript good enough to pitch face-to-face to agents.
The deadline weighed constantly on me. Between thoughts of “what have I done?” to worries that I could deliver, the deadline ended up being the best favor I could have done for myself. There was no way out of it. I had to ignore all the fear and doubts and just keep pounding the novel out. Months went by and it started to take shape. By late June 2015, I finished what was probably the fifth or sixth draft. It was finally time to head down to New York City.
ThrillerFest was an amazing experience and I learned so much. I ended up pitching Parent Teacher Association to ten different agents and nine of them asked to see more. While I didn’t end up landing an agent, I did meet a fellow author who was published at Black Opal Books. Later in the fall, I queried a few publishers, including Black Opal. Five months later, in March 2016, the acquisitions editor at Black Opal said she was delighted with Parent Teacher Association and wanted to publish it. It took another fourteen months to see it in print and I went back to ThrillerFest this past July as a Debut Author.
For me, the most motivating thing with writing is getting something published and that’s why I’ve kept up with doing short stories in-between larger projects. The turn over is faster and it’s very satisfying to get even a small, flash fiction piece published. It definitely keeps you going, and helps build your author resume faster.
It’s good to get a momentum going with your writing, where things are moving at a certain pace. You’re pushing work out the door and working on new ideas. But publishing is very slow. That’s another thing I’ve learned. You need to develop a lot of patience and start planning your projects on a schedule, thinking at least two or three years ahead of time.
One writer I’d like to spend some time with is Ernest Hemingway, to visit his house in Cuba and go deep sea fishing on his boat, Pilar. His life seemed so interesting with all the travel and adventure. He was inspired by his surroundings and life experiences. I admire his clean, straightforward writing style. He could express complex ideas with just a few basic words. That is hard to do.
Parent Teacher Association
A troubled teacher. An aggressive parent. A town's deadly secret.
Fresh out of a mental hospital, Lizanne Demeter is thrilled to get a second chance at her career when she's hired to teach third grade in the backwater town of Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania.
But hopes for a peaceful new life are ruined when Naomi Seabrook, a demanding ‘helicopter parent’, pushes Lizanne to the brink.
While struggling to maintain control of her classroom, Lizanne begins to unravel the secret behind Naomi’s hell-bent agenda. As deadly clues emerge, Lizanne suspects Naomi is guilty of more than just overindulging her child.
With her life teetering on chaos, Lizanne risks everything to expose the shocking truth. But first, she must race against her own spiraling sanity to prove herself a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine—the kind of teacher who makes ALL the difference.
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9/23/2017 11:47:48 am
Thanks for having me on the blog, Amy!
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.