Jessie Andersen is the author of At What Cost?, a thought-provoking romance novel for young adults available from Astraea Press.

Jessie lives in a small town in Western New York with her husband and three kids. Jessie was an English teacher, volunteers at her local library, and sings in her church band in addition to writing.

We are so happy to have had a chance to chat with her!

MTAR: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jessie: I’m a wife and mother who loves to read. Always have. I can’t keep up with all the books I buy. (Darn Kindle!) The kiddos and I spend lots of time at the local library, especially during the summer, when they have the summer reading program. I’m also involved in a writer’s group there called the Write Circle. Aside from writing, I sing in the church band, and attend various kids activities, just like any other mother. I live in a tiny town—the best kind, in my opinion. *wink*, but I grew up here, so I’m a little biased. I love dystopian literature, coffee and chocolate.

MTAR: What do you do when you are not writing?

Jessie: Most of my time is spent hanging out at my kids’ activities. The other half is spent trying to get the baby to eat or fall asleep. It’s a busy life.

MTAR: What inspired you to write your first book?

Jessie: I was reading a ton of what my middle school students were reading. I kept thinking I could write stories like the ones I was reading…so I did.

MTAR: Why did you choose Young Adult literacture — besides having to teach it?

Jessie: Because YA rocks. Ever since I started reading YA while teaching middle school, I became engrossed in the fast paced, wonderful stories I found there. I’ve never gone back.

MTAR: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Jessie: As a kid, I love Amelia Bedelia books and Nancy Drew stories. Now, being a writer, I have the most respect for Laurie Halse Anderson’s works. She’s an amazing influence for teens. I’ve met her in person; she’s down to earth and super nice. I have to admit that I’ve always been drawn to dystopian literature, even before it was called dystopian. I read 1984 in high school and later taught it. What a great book. Then there was The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Followed by The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and stories like “Matched,” by Allie Condie.

MTAR: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Jessie: Finding an agent would be my biggest challenge. It took me about three years of dry querying. But it was worth it. Once I signed with Steve Hutson of Wordwise Media, he sold my book quickly.

MTAR: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Jessie: Right now, I use Facebook and Twitter. I also do a lot of blog interviews and tours. Since I’m aiming towards teens and teens are on the internet and social networks a lot, I better be there too.

MTAR: Can you tell us about your first book?

Jessie: At What Cost follows the story of a teenager named Maggie. She quickly finds herself in a predicament: she’s pregnant. There’s no way she can tell her family because of the dynamics between her and her parents, so when her boyfriend suggests abortion, it seems like the only option that’ll work for her. But every choice has its consequence and she soon finds out that a decision she thought was simple isn’t so simple.

MTAR: What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why?

Jessie: That’s a tough question. I like different scenes for different reasons. I like the doctor’s office scene for its intensity. I like the dance scene for its snarkiness. I like others for their development of character.

MTAR: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Jessie: In At What Cost, I don’t know. I’ve heard that Aunt Rachel needs her own story. Maybe a companion story to AWC. In my forthcoming book, The Unviables, I  love Saul. He’s a minor character, but he’ll be more of a major player in Unviables-2. Also, the abortion theme seems to come out in my writing in one way or another.

MTAR: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

Jessie: Probably that my main characters had no chemistry. Eek. That one hurts, especially when you’ve spent six months trying to write that chemistry.

MTAR: What has been the best compliment?

Jessie: The best compliment was when my agent asked me if I’d be willing to mentor some young writers.  I mean, I know he likes my writing or he wouldn’t have signed me, but for him to say that, I was like, “Wow, he really does like my writing.”

MTAR: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Jessie: First of all, if you want to be a writer then go for it! Don’t stop. Don’t give up. It takes a LONG time to learn this craft. Actually, you never stop learning. Second, don’t be afraid to try something new. (a new POV, a new style, a new tip you read about.) You may stink at it at first, but after a while, you may find you’ve grown. Third, learn grammar. You can’t bend the rules unless you know what they are, and believe me, even after teaching English for several years, I’m still learning my grammar! A lot of times, good grammar will set you out from the crowd.  And last, trust your gut. Write the stories that are in you. Don’t follow the trends. It’s the only way to be true to yourself.

MTAR: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Jessie: I’d like to say thank you! I’m continually humbled and honored whenever anyone buys my book. It still amazes me. I hope you continue to love my stories in the future.

MTAR: What would your fans be surprised to know about you?

Jessie: I’m pretty ordinary… I was a competitive swimmer in high school. And I participated in NYSMA and made it all the way to All Eastern (The entire eastern seaboard) singing competition. But that was way back in high school. Life is much different now.

MTAR: Dogs or Cats?

Jessie: Dogs, but only because my hubby hates cats. I’d have both if it was up to me.

MTAR: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Jessie: No matter what mistakes we make as kids or as adults, there’s always redemption and forgiveness. That doesn’t mean our problems just go away; it means we can learn and grow from all our choices, good and bad and become better people as a result.

MTAR: What books have most influenced your life most?

Jessie: The Bible

MTAR: What book are you reading now?

Jessie: Torn, The Maze Runner, Every Other Day, and I just finished Crazy Dangerous.

MTAR: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Jessie: New to me: James Dashner, Penelope King, Andrew Klavan, Shannon Dittemore

MTAR: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Jessie: The Unviables is a dystopian novel. The government is trying to control the people, as in any dystopian, but this is a really new society, only 4-5 generations old, so they’re still perfecting their practices and securing their stranglehold on the people. The main character, Kate, is studying to be a creation engineer, which means she’s the one who will create the next generations in test tubes, since all the women are rendered barren when their eggs are taken at birth. When she becomes aware of some of The Institute’s practices, she decides she needs to rescue some of the unviable children from destruction. But in order to do that, she has to break every rule she’s ever followed and form an allegiance with the rebels, people she doesn’t even believe exist. Enter love interest Micah, a bunch of rebels who live in a hidden city, and various military men bent on creating new ways to torture the people (–Oh, not torture, The Institute doesn’t used force. Let’s call it “convincing”–) new ways to convince the people to follow their line of thinking, and you have the perfect set up for disaster.

MTAR: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Jessie: God

MTAR: Do you see writing as a career?

Jessie: Yep. I’m a stay at home mom, now, but I consider writing my full time career. Well, as full time as I can get in between feedings, play time and dirty diapers.

MTAR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Jessie: I’ve always liked to write, but recently, my mother gave me a packet that I made in the third grade, which stated that I wanted to be famous for writing a book. So, I guess it started then.

MTAR: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Jessie: A few things: 1) the balance between promoting and writing. I’ll go days with out writing because I’ve been promoting. 2) getting back into it when I’ve been out of it. If I’ve taken a few days off for whatever reason (promoting, vacation, kids) it’s hard to get back into the swing.  I have to force myself to sit and write.

MTAR: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Jessie: Getting to what I considered the end and then deciding I needed to cut ten chapters off the front and rework the whole thing.

MTAR: Through your research do you typically learn something new from each book you write and what was it?

Jessie: You always learn something new. Be it about a specific procedure you’re researching or something about yourself and how you write, it’s a constant learning process.

MTAR: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Jessie: I think the biggest challenge for me was making the abortion procedures and the emotional toll of abortion real. I’d never had one, so I didn’t know first hand what it was like. Thank goodness for people willing to share their stories with me. I interviewed of people who regretted their abortions and those who didn’t. It was through those stories, I was able to make Maggie’s experience as realistic as possible.