Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spotlight: J. Andersen

J. Andersen
author of At What Cost

It is my pleasure to host J. Andersen today. I've been reading her recently released book, At What Cost, and started to think I'd like to know a little more about the author and her inspiration for the story. For those of you who haven't read it yet, I'm a little ways into it and am loving it. J. Andersen is a talented writer, and she graciously consented to answer a few of my questions.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Abortion has always been an issue on my heart, so when I started praying about a topic for a book I felt compelled to write, abortion came to mind. At first, I resisted. I didn’t think I was qualified enough to write something of that nature, but I was given a lot of resources along the way.

As for writing a book itself, I was reading a ton of what my students were reading. I fell in love with YA and kept thinking that I could write something like what I was reading…so I did. J

One of the fringe benefits of being a secondary English teacher! Love it!

How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t.  I’m great with chapter titles, but I couldn’t think of a title to save my life. It had a bunch of different names, none of which worked until one of my former students, Rachael, gave me “At What Cost.” The funny thing is, she doesn’t remember this. J

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That there’s always another option. I think people tend to jump into decisions based on which one would cause the less pain or which one would be the easiest in the long run, but that’s not always the best choice. Sometimes, going through the hard stuff makes us better people.

That is a very important lesson to learn. Your character had to make a grown up decision but only had the experience of her youth. But I totally agree with you, adversity builds character.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I always think so when I’m not looking at the manuscript, but every time I was given the chance to change stuff during the editing process, I’d look at it, expecting to change all sorts of stuff, but I’d end up not changing a thing. Maybe some wording here or there, but I think the story is really where I want it to be.

That's a great feeling as a writer. And what you ended up with is amazing!

What are your current projects?
I’m working on one called THE UNVIABLES. Actually, I’m working on the second in a series of THE UNVIABLES, but the second doesn’t have a title yet. It’s a YA dystopian. In the first story, Kate—who’s studying to be a creation specialist—discovers that The Institute where she lives and works is breeding humans with unapproved DNA, which means the biological parents have no idea they have children. If something doesn’t go quite right, the fetuses are disposed of. Add in a sexy lab partner and a bunch of rebels from the hidden community trying to take down The Institute and you have the ingredients for chaos.

These sound awesome. So much could happen in a plot like that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plotting the rough draft. I’m working on a book right now and I find myself procrastinating all the time. When I do write, I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph before I’m distracted. Once I have my rough draft, I’m golden. I excel at tweaking, editing and revising.
You sound a lot like me. Maybe it's another fringe benefit of being an English teacher. We do tend to spend a lot of time tweaking and editing and revising... occupational hazard. ;)

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think Laurie Halse Anderson would be among my favorites. Her work is so real and she doesn’t shy away from tough topics. She presents them in a way that is approachable for the average teenager and gives those who’ve been through similar experiences something/someone to identify with.

Thanks for hanging out with me today, J. Andersen! I enjoyed getting to know more about the author behind the book. Want to find out more? You can check out J. Andersen's website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Now here's a little more about At What Cost:
At What Cost by J. Andersen
During her junior year, sixteen-year-old Maggie Reynolds expected to shop for prom dresses not maternity clothes. Now, instead of studying for the SATs, she’s reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Maggie’s ‘Mother Dearest’ lives in fear that Maggie will somehow taint the family name, so Maggie can’t turn to her for help. Meanwhile, her father is oblivious to anything but his 9-9 job. And her boyfriend, Justin?  She’s pretty sure he’ll stay by her side.

While Maggie wrestles with her options, Justin offers a solution: abortion. It would solve all her problems quickly, easily, and effectively. And her parents would never know, which means they won’t throw her out and cut her off like they’d always threatened if she got herself knocked up. But an easy decision becomes difficult when Maggie’s aunt discovers her secret and sets out on a mission to stop the abortion, putting a kink in Maggie’s plan. Now Maggie must decide which choice she can live with: abortion or teenage motherhood. Either way, it’ll be a tough road to travel.

Interested? You can pick up your copy from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or Astraea Press for only $2.99. Check it out!

As another special treat, here is an extended excerpt from the book (Thanks, J. Andersen!):

“You’re pregnant?” It was a harsh half statement, half question punctuated with clenched teeth.

“Wha—?” Maggie was too shocked to realize what had happened, but when she looked back to where she stood, she spotted a sheepish looking Lauren mouthing the words, “I’m sorry.”


“Well, are you?” His grip on her tightened.

“Justin, you’re hurting my arm.”

He let go and motioned for her to sit with a quick thrust of his hand toward the table, but his eyes revealed his anger. He was furious, but then she saw a hint of fear hidden behind his golden irises. In those moments, she was five years old again, the day she’d broken her mother’s favorite vase. Her mother had loomed over her, drilling her for information. Pointed and yelled. This time, it was Justin.

“Are you, or aren’t you?” His eyes crinkled, his brow furrowed, and a deep crease appeared on his forehead. Trying to control his reactions proved to be impossible, and soon, his leg bounced under the table, and he wiped the nervous sweat on his palms off on his jeans.

This still wasn’t the place to talk. The cement walls of the school were beginning to feel like a jail cell; anywhere she went, Maggie felt trapped.

“Can we talk about this after school?” Maggie said, trying to be assertive.

His knuckles turned white as he clenched his fists. “No, we can’t. If you’re pregnant, I need to know.”

This wasn’t how she had pictured it. She was supposed to plan the conversation and the place. Definitely not in the corner of the cafeteria with people walking by who might hear her secret, a secret she hadn’t decided how to handle. Thank you so much, Lauren!

Justin grabbed her wrists from across the table. “Maggie, it’s a simple yes or no question. Are. You. Pregnant?”

She could feel the rage rolling off him in waves, and she knew stalling was not an option.


The silence grew louder, and Justin didn’t move. He stared at her, his eyes shifting across her eyes in a quick staccato. She didn’t know she could feel so uncomfortable, so she tried to ease that discomfort by looking away. When she met his gaze again, he glared at her, not saying a word. He never spoke. Not when he let go of her wrists, not when he got up from the seat across from her, not when he left the room.

Not a single word.


  1. Great interview! Bought the book! Excited to start reading!

  2. Thanks for the interview, Leah! I had fun being here today. I'd love to host you on my blog as well. ;) Oh, and I totally love your blog background. I use Cutestblogontheblock too. :)