An interview with “Jerkbait” author Mia Siegert

Today’s an exciting day here on the blog! One of my favorite debut authors of 2016 agreed jerkbait-coverto an interview. I’m so happy to promote Mia’s amazing book JERKBAIT, which has twins, hockey and theater, in addition to a beautiful, heartbreaking story about two brothers accepting who they are and fighting for the chance to be honest about their identities.

The publisher of JERKBAIT, Jolly Fish Press, recently announced that it is closing its doors effective October 31, which means that purchasing JERKBAIT and other Jolly Fish Press books in the next 10 days would help the authors who have rights reverting back. Mia and many other authors need to sell books by the end of the month, and I know you’ll love JERKBAIT, so click here and choose your favorite book seller to order today.

So without further ado, an interview with Mia Siegert!

mia-siegert-headshot

1) JERKBAIT is one of my favorite 2016 releases. What inspired you to write this particular book?

MIA: It’s actually a bit semi-autobiographical. When I started it, I was Tristan and Heather was my former best friend. I wanted to cope with the abrupt end of my friendship and also go through some things I’d experienced. Robbie’s passion for hockey mirrored mine with horses. I was around their age when my horse, Grando 181, died unexpectedly from a horrific colic. A few months later, I had a career ending injury with a particularly bad fall and was left with nothing as I was a mediocre student at best and had no plans for college. I also had an encounter with an online predator who later turned out to be a convicted sex offender. By the end of the edits, I realize that Robbie mirrored a lot of me. I just gave him some hope that I didn’t have.

2) Tristan and Robbie are both amazingly deep characters. Do you have a favorite twin moment in the book?

MIA: I’ll settle for two: the cafeteria scene, and the scene where they talk about Robbie’s best friend Raiden and something Robbie did that was morally questionable. The cafeteria scene’s the punch-in-the-gut one and really shows Robbie’s bravery. The later conversation is probably the moment where Robbie shows us (as the reader) how close he feels with Tristan although Tristan doesn’t realize this.

3) There are a lot of difficult moments that both Tristan and Robbie have to overcome – from family expectations to suicide attempts to homophobia. What do you hope readers will gain from their stories?

MIA: I think every reader will get something different out of it. If I had to narrow it down to just one thing, I would say getting over the mental health stigma since so many people are afraid to talk about mental health. Recently I watched a YouTube video where someone mentioned that most people are willing to accept visible disability but when it came to the brain people would respond by saying, “just get over it” or “hang in there.” The ableism from that is really problematic.

I hope that with this, people might have resources to mental health. If there’s an LGBTQ+ athlete, the back of the book has contact information directly to You Can Play, an amazing nonprofit for LGBTQ+ athletes.

4) You’re a fan of Sigur Ros and stated that their music helped you write this book. What is it about this band that speaks to the atmosphere of JERKBAIT and/or your writing process?

MIA: Wow, you really paid attention to my Twitter! That’s absolutely right that Sigur Rós influenced JERKBAIT directly, but also everything I write.

Sigur Rós is very spiritual for me, partly because their music literally saved my life. Having songs that are in Icelandic and some in their made up language Hopelandic help provide vocals as an instrument rather than something required for the music to succeed (I’m a huge post-rock fan in general).

Their song “Ny Batterí” stood out to me in particular before writing JERKBAIT. The opening line is loosely translated as, “Barbed wire stapled in my mouth” which gave me the image of a fish on a hook (jerkbait). They return to the line in a different way, “We set off into the unknown until we destroy everything and are dominant once again. Once again in the back where we ride, the barbed wire returns, ripping open an old, healed wound.” Not giving away a spoiler but there’s a chapter where this is very, very relevant. The song ends detailing suicidal ideation but “daren’t risk it. Instead I turn myself off. Alone again.” I knew at that moment what I was writing, even though then I was so sheltered and protected I thought I was Tristan instead of Robbie. I was protecting myself.

For what it’s worth, when they play it live, Jónsi starts by creating just “noise” with his guitar and bow. I don’t know how else to describe it. They’re not notes. It’s just noise. And it becomes music. Beautiful.

5) What drew you to writing YA?

MIA: It was a complete accident! I actually solely wrote (and studied) literary fiction prior to JERKBAIT. After writing JERKBAIT, a friend said, “Oh, cool YA story” and my response was, “… YA?” It absolutely terrified me because I didn’t know much about the genre. I was very fortunate that the YA community was so accepting and willing to help since I had (and still have) a very steep learning curve!

6) Tell us a fun fact about Tristan and Robbie that we wouldn’t learn from JERKBAIT.

MIA: If Craig asked, probably Tristan would have made out with him.

Robbie actually likes Michael Bay movies.

7) How did you hear about You Can Play? Tell us about their work and how purchases of JERKBAIT can help support this program?

MIA: I love hockey. I have for a long time as a NJ Devils fan in the era of Martin Brodeur. I’m not sure how exactly I found out about the organization–maybe the NHL made an announcement about partnering and the allies but, immediately, I was interested. When I announced on Reddit that my hockey book was acquired, someone tagged co-founder Patrick Burke, who immediately got me in touch with Anna Aegenes. It took about a year but we partnered together, and made sure that You Can Play had their logo on the book and a full back page so LGBTQ+ athletes would know where they could go for help.

I ran two fundraisers so far with copies of JERKBAIT for You Can Play and have committed to donating 25% of in-person sales (like at an event) to You Can Play. The book is helpful in raising awareness about You Can Play as many people seem to be reaching out on their own to help out or seek help for themselves.

8) What’s something you want to tell LGBTQ+ teens and young adults, especially athletes?

MIA: Right now, it might suck. Depending on your sport, it might suck a little longer. But there are organizations like You Can Play. When one’s depressed, it’s really hard to think there could be something to help, but you’re directly connected with a large network of athletes, people who understand the struggles. You’re not alone. They can and WILL help you.

9) What are you working on next?

MIA: I have an LGBT+ YA about the dark side of the horse show world based on when I used to compete and some of the shady things I witnessed, another YA retelling of a lesser-done fairy tale that’s almost a murder mystery (also LGBT+ though that’s kind of a given!). I’m also polishing up the final touches on an adult thriller retelling.

10) Since your publisher (Jolly Fish Press) has announced that it is closing its doors at the end of October, how can readers and writers continue to help support you, JERKBAIT, and your pledge to You Can Play?

MIA: There are tons of ways to help.

Following You Can Play, subscribing to their newsletter, RTing them, getting out the message will help. Also they have a donation button (I used that when I did my in-person event and will do that for all future events).

For me, there are a lot of ways to help. I have a Patreon with neat rewards. (Visit Mia’s Patreon here.) Even a dollar pledge makes a huge difference to help my living expenses.

Requesting copies of JERKBAIT at your library immensely helps. Also leaving reviews on retailer websites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Each review usually leads to about ten sales so I can’t stress how helpful they are to authors like me since new publishers will look up numbers and rankings. Direct sales are also super appreciated. 🙂

JERKBAIT is also available on Audible.

Mia Siegert received her MFA from Goddard College and her undergrad from Montclair State University where she won Honorable Mention in the 2009 English Department Awards for fiction. Her debut JERKBAIT has gained attention from SB Nation, Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, AndPOP!, MaximumPOP! UK, VOYA Magazine, Paste Magazine, Teen Librarian Toolbox, and was recently produced by Audible, narrated by Raviv Ullman (star of Disney’s “Phil of the Future”). It was listed as one of Goodreads Best YA books of May 2016 and Top 12 Indie YA from Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Mia has partnered with You Can Play, a nonprofit helping LGBTQ athletes. In her youth, she trained with the chef d’equip of the United States Show Jumping team.

So, I’ve been doing Pitch Wars

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve been so tied up with day job work and family things that I’ve barely had to time to think, much less blog, and on top of that, I got into Pitch Wars in August! That was one of my biggest goals for this year, and I was selected by the lovely and amazing Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, who wrote Firsts.

pitchwars-logo I entered Pitch Wars in 2015 with a different manuscript and a lot less experience in the publishing world. It was the first manuscript I’d completed since (maybe) grad school if I’m generous with the term “completed,” but I had been working on it for two years. I thought it was good – edgy, sharp – and I thought it was the story I was supposed to write. It had been with me since high school, and I loved my characters, so that meant it had to be the story that was going to get me an agent and published and begin my career, right? Wrong!

While I still love last year’s submission, Fall to Pieces isn’t a bad book, it isn’t my best work. I didn’t push the boundaries and explore like I have with my manuscript that got me into Pitch Wars. I attacked my latest manuscript with a passion, and it made me uncomfortable in ways that FTP never did. Yeah, FTP is gritty and dark, but I’m proud of my newest manuscript in every way possible.

Formerly titled Still Breathing, my tentative title is The Wreckage of Us. As with everything in publishing, that’s subject to change at any time. Once upon a time, it started out as a contemporary friendship story, and it has blossomed into an LGBTQ contemporary with paranormal elements that explores mental illness, disability, friendship, loss, and accepting yourself. Even though half the time I’m kicking myself and wondering why in the world Laurie decided to spend two months working with me on a book that I can barely find a genre to describe, I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished.

In two weeks the agent round arrives, and we get to put our pitches and first 250 words in front of agents who can choose to request more. I’ve been talking with friends about the fact that it’s a public selection process, and while it’s daunting to consider that some of us might not get any requests, I’m to the point (today at least) that whatever happens happens. I’ve done the best I know how to do with my revisions, and I wrote the best book I could.

I’m so excited about this manuscript. I never honestly thought I’d get into Pitch Wars, but here I am. When the announcement went up in August, I was having dinner with a writer friend that I haven’t seen in years. I completely overlooked my name, but I saw several of my friends’ names and I was excited for them. I told Sarah that I didn’t get in, and about that time, I started getting emails, texts, and DMs. Sooooooo, I looked again. I still couldn’t believe it. Sometimes, almost two months later, I still feel like it’s a dream, even after two full edits of my manuscript, writing a pitch, and changing the title. It’s funny how things happen.

I’ll try to post more regularly from now on. Hopefully things are settling down a little as far as all of my big deadlines hitting all at once. I’ve got some fun posts lined up that I’m working on, so check back soon!