We’re wrapping up Featured Fig Intern Week with Jean-Paul Bass. Jean-Paul is from Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to New York last year to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing: Children’s Literature and Fiction at The New School. She enjoys reading and discussing books, and if she could finish writing her YA novel before she graduates, she’d be rather pleased with herself.
One thing that bothers is the idea that in order for a female to be strong, she has to be really masculine. She can’t be emotional and has to be a better fighter than everyone else. I’d really like to see more strong females who aren’t just boys in girl’s clothing. Why can’t she feel sad and cry when she’s in pain and still kick butt when she needs to? Hermione Granger was a strong female character who showed her emotions and used her wits instead of brawn to fight back and yet she was still very feminine. I’d like to see more girls like her in YA fiction.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It’s funny but the best writing advice I’ve ever received was not from one of my writing professors, but from a classmate. I was having trouble finding the right voice for the narrator and he told me to just write what comes naturally. It sounds so simple you almost want to say, “Duh!” but I think a lot of authors fight their natural writing instincts to make their characters sound more cool, funnier, or moody and it comes off as fake. To tell a story authentically and connect with the audience, I had to stop fighting my instincts and write what felt right and not what sounded good.
What’s your weirdest/most unique hobby?
I am addicted to podcasts, specifically ones that are like the old radio dramas with large casts of characters, music, and sound effects. My favorites are the serialized stories. The one I’m listening now follows the survivors of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. I love listening to them while I’m on the train and finding new ones to add to my collection.
What draws you to YA fiction?
I think YA fiction is some of the most diverse and interesting writing out now. The risks that YA authors take with their characters and plotlines are unique to the genre. And imagination is running rampant: Pretty much anything you can imagine you’ll find in a YA novel. Originality is important in YA fiction and I’m really into stories that can take something old and make it fresh and unique.