Eighteen Kisses, Laura Jane Cassidy

Writing.ie | Magazine | Children & Young Adult | Interviews

By Vanessa Baker

A girl disappears on her eighteenth birthday. No body is ever found . . . Could a video from the party hold a clue?

Jacki King loves being back in Dublin – she’s enjoying the music scene and interning at Electric magazine. She still has flashbacks to the murder case she solved the year before, though her friends, especially Nick, keep her distracted. Until, one day, Jacki’s frightening nightmares begin again. And when the police contact her about a local missing girl, she knows the two are connected.

Two years before, on her eighteenth birthday, Kayla Edwards disappeared. No body has ever been found.But now Kayla is communicating with Jacki from beyond the grave – and she won’t stop until the truth is revealed . . .

At just 25, Laura Jane Cassidy has published her second novel Eighteen Kisses. Focusing on Jacki King, a teenager who uses her ability to communicate with dead women to help solve their murders,Eighteen Kisses, comes out 3 May, and is a follow-up to Angel Kiss.

Cassidy, who plans to develop the series over four books, says the concept was one she had on the backburner for a while. “I just remember always having an idea to write about a girl who could find missing women, or could find what happened to them. I never really thought about starting the book though. So I had the idea for about six months before I thought about starting it. And sometimes I would write the first chapter or whatever, but it wasn’t really working and I couldn’t really get past the first chapter.”

She says the idea for the young adult crime series developed naturally. “I think it was just a combination of different things over the years. Like when I was younger, a lot of women went missing in the area where I live – well, a lot for Ireland. There was kind of three or four in a triangular area sort of around my town. So when I was seven or eight, I remember how my friends’ mothers would be like, ‘Oh, don’t walk home alone, make sure you walk in twos,’ and all that. So I think that sort of impacted me because I was always wondering, I remember asking my mom, ‘Where are these women? How can there be no trace of them whatsoever? Even after years?’ So I suppose that was always in the back of my mind.”

Then, at her mother’s encouragement, Cassidy attended a workshop on commercial fiction through Inkwell Writers. “After I went to that, it kind of just took off. I was really inspired by listening to published writers talk about how they work. I’d read a few books and things, but I really sort of connected with one writer in particular, her name’s Sarah Webb, and she just gave really good advice for actually starting a novel and finishing it through to the end.”

After the workshop, she says it took her about three months to get the initial draft of Angel Kiss finished. “The first draft, I was kind of excited about the story, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going to go, so it’s like I was finding out about the book as well. So I couldn’t wait to see what happened, even though I was making it up. But the second and third drafts were quite difficult. Because it’s easy to get the first draft down – or relatively easy – but when I had to go back and rewrite it then, I found that really challenging. And the third draft in particular, because I knew it was nearly there, but at the same time, wasn’t up to the standard that it needed to be. So it took a lot of work then. I worked on the third draft just for one month of January. I’d taken time out of college and I just basically stayed inside for nearly an entire month because I knew I just had to sit down and finish it once and for all. So, yeah, the second and third drafts of the first book were really difficult but totally worth it in the end.”

When she was finished the first draft, Cassidy e-mailed the first chapter to Webb, who said it had potential. From there, she decided to focus all her efforts on sending the book to publishers and agents and trying to get it published.

She was studying drama at Trinity College Dublin at the time, and was called in to meet with her tutor after missing too many seminars. “I don’t think she expected me to hand her a novel, but I handed her the second or third draft of my first novel and was like, ‘I’m actually rewriting this because an agent wants to look at it.’”

Cassidy then decided to take time out of college to focus on writing. She says she may consider going back one day, but would likely study something other than drama.

The entire process of finding a publisher took about eighteen months, says Cassidy. She got about six or seven rejections from publishers, while some worked with her a bit before changing their minds, and others didn’t even bother to respond. “You hear stories about J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer getting loads of rejections. After the first few, you build up a resistance, a bit, to it.”

Cassidy eventually got a two-book deal with Puffin. While she was waiting to hear back about Angel Kiss, she took advice given to her by other authors and began working on her second book. Though she ultimately had to rewrite it because the characters had changed so much during the editing process of the first book, she found it useful to have a head start on Eighteen Kisses.

The two-book deal meant Cassidy didn’t have a lot of leeway in getting out the second book, with a first draft expected in about six months. “Having a deadline for a first draft is kind of intimidating because your first one, there’s no expectations, there’s the possibility that no one will ever read it, you don’t have to show it to anyone. But with the second one, there was people kind of sitting there waiting for it to arrive in their inbox. So I think you just have to put that aside and write it for yourself first or remember the excitement you had about the story. But I did have to get much more disciplined with the second one.”

She says her first book was such a learning process, it served almost as an apprenticeship. “I had no idea, before I got the book deal, the standard that I’d have to get to or the amount of work that you’d have to put in. So I think I really needed to take the time out to kind of learn the process and the craft. I think when you have a deadline, you know you have to get it done. So it’s great to know that people are waiting for the book as well. Because with Angel Kiss, I always kind of believed that it would get published, just for my own sanity. But withEighteen Kisses, you knew it was probably going to be out there in a year. So that was a big boost as well.”

When she began writing Angel Kiss, Cassidy hadn’t given much thought to her target market, but has received a very positive response from teen readers all over the world.

She says she’s always enjoyed the mystery element of crime fiction, but been turned off by the extreme violence. The young adult genre provides a happy medium where Cassidy can tell crime stories without the gore.

As a full-time writer, Cassidy treats writing like a 9-6 job, devoting mornings to working on her books, and spending afternoons dealing with other aspects of an author’s life, like publicity and updating her entertaining and colourful blog, www.laurajanecassidy.com

She began researching her third book in January and began writing it in March. She hopes to hear about a publishing deal in the next few months.

Cassidy says she has other ideas for books, all of which revolve around teen characters and fit the young adult genre.

Eighteen Kisses will be launched 3 May in Eason on O’Connell Street, all welcome!

About the author

(c) Vanessa Baker May 2012

Vanessa Baker is a freelance journalist and M.Phil Creative Writing student at Trinity College Dublin. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism with Combined Honours in Human Rights from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She can be reached through her blog: http://bakervan.wordpress.com/ or via Twitter:https://twitter.com/#!/vanbakes.

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