INTERVIEW with Janae Marks

FromTheDeskOfZoeWashington_Cover.jpgHi Janae Thank you so much for agreeing to be on my blog, Can you tell us about From the Desk of Zoe Washington?
Thanks so much for having me, Liv! Here’s the official blurb for FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON:

Dear Marcus…

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write next. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? The truth is somewhere out there, and Zoe is determined to uncover it. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from her mom and stepdad. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship, and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. It’s been Zoe’s dream to become a star baker, and she can’t afford to mess anything up. Her best friend and neighbor Trevor would’ve been her confidante through all this, but Zoe’s not speaking to him anymore. She’ll have to figure this out alone.

With bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies. This captivating novel by debut author Janae Marks follows one courageous girl as she questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right, even in the face of great opposition.

The book will also be out in the UK on March 5 under the name THE FARAWAY TRUTH.

What inspired Zoe’s story?

I was actually inspired by real events! I was really into the first season of the podcast Serial, which tells the story of a young man serving a prison sentence for murder, who may actually be innocent of the crime. Then I got into the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. Both got me thinking about wrongful convictions, so I started researching them. Since I write for kids, I wondered what it’s like to be the child of someone in this situation, and the story developed from there.

Zoe loves baking and wants to convince her parents to allow her to enter the Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge, did you ever try to convince your parents of something and if so what?

Not exactly, but when I was Zoe’s age, I wanted to be on Broadway! I was super into musical theater. My parents were always supportive of all of my extracurricular interests growing up. They paid for me to take singing lessons and acting classes. In the end, I wasn’t quite talented enough, but it was fun to try. I’m grateful that it didn’t take much convincing for my parents to let me pursue my interests.

I’m a terrible baker but my mum makes a killer Rum Cake and I love attempting to make it, what’s your favourite thing to bake?

I don’t bake nearly as much as Zoe, but I enjoy it when I do. Over the last few months, I baked different cupcake recipes and shared photos of them with my book on Instagram under #ZoeWashingtonCupcakes. My favorite recipe from this challenge was chocolate cupcakes. They sound simple, but the recipe I used was super delicious. I can’t wait to make them again.

Sometimes when I read a book, I recognise myself in a character. Is there any character in your book that you see yourself in?

I see myself in Zoe and her determination to pursue her dreams. I was just as determined during my publishing journey! But I also see myself in Zoe’s mother. Her actions aren’t perfect, but she’s trying to protect her daughter. As a mom myself, I know what that’s like.

Did you ever feel any pressure when writing this story?

I didn’t while writing ZOE since I wrote it before I had an agent or book deal. I was able to write and revise it at my own pace. Now, I’m working on my second middle grade book, and it’s more nerve-wracking because it’s already scheduled to come out with my publisher next year. I can’t take my time working on it since I’m on deadline, so the pressure is on!

What advice would you give Zoe?

Great question! I’d tell Zoe not to grow up too fast. She wants so badly to not be treated like a little kid, now that she’s twelve, but she should also enjoy her childhood while she can.

Finally, if anything, what do you want readers to take away from this book?

I hope my readers are inspired to follow their dreams and are empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Zoe.

If you want to purchase From the Desk of Zoe Washington then you can do so from these retailers in the US:

Barnes & Noble


And from here in the UK where it is known as the beautiful The Faraway Truth:

Chicken House Books

Also here’s the pretty UK cover which I HAD TO preorder

Faraway Truth.jpg

Janae Marks (c) Jerri Graham Photography.jpg

​​Janae Marks has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children from The New School. She grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter. FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is her debut novel. You can follow her on twitter  |  instagram

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