An April Update

Hi friends. I’m here. I’ve been here. Sort of.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Salt Novel
I finished my first draft toward the end of March, and when I say “finished,” I mean “incomplete but as done as I could get it with the energy I had available.” I was just so toast. So I turned it in. And have not really written a lick since then. And … oddly … nor have I missed it. I’m sure the desire will return. But I just worked on TWO different novels for about 20 months straight (and Truest before that), so this month off has been delectable and much-needed. I haven’t even hardly thought about my novel much … except on my long drive to South Dakota yesterday. Then I thought about it lots.

I’m reading a ton actually. But, as you may know, I don’t especially like to review books on my blog unless I really loved them or have lots of thoughts about them I want to share. I went through a slew of books that I don’t think really warranted blog posts. I’m reading When We Collided by Emory Lord right now though, and it’s pretty great so far– though I could spot future darkness in it pretty early on. Vivi– one of the main characters– is a mix of Stargirl and Theodore Finch. So. Maybe you can imagine.

I also read a couple romance novels at the suggestion of a blog I love. They were … okay. A little plotless. (Not that I’m much for plot.) But I think YA is where it’s really happening, folks.

Plus, there are SUCH good books coming out next week. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh both come out next Tuesday, and they are my most-anticipated books of the year (plus, of course, Melina Marchetta’s book in the fall– but that’s a given!). I got an email today that my copy of The Raven King actually shipped today, so … IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS IS COMING EARLY. And in April.

Work is good. It’s a season of a lot of events, plus a lot of hard conversations about financial aid. But exciting things– REALLY exciting things– are happening at the university, so it’s fun to be around for it. I’m in South Dakota as I type this, here in Sioux Falls for a week of college fairs. Today’s went rather well, plus I got to see a friend/alumnus who works at one of the schools.

I’ve been so blessed to be invited to a few events in regard to Truest. I was on an author panel for a literacy conference; I was invited to talk to some juniors at Elk River High School who read my novel for their English class (and have to write essays about it– love). See pics below. I’m also going to be sharing with the Walker Library next month and speaking for a career day at a local school. It’s fun to still see people reading my story eight months after its release.




This might seem silly or small, but it’s been such a treasure to spend so much time with friends in the past weeks sans draft. I have the very best ones, and it’s been so good for my heart to engage in long, meaningful conversations with them and to see their faces and to not have to worry about rushing off to work on a manuscript.

Literally wearing six IcyHot patches right now. Haven’t written in a month and still my wrists hurt.

I want to do more. It’s so hard to scrape together the time. But I know that’s also sort of a cop-out excuse. I blogged every day in 2013, which is also when I was get Truest ready for querying. Maybe I need more things to blog about. What do you visit this blog for? What would you like to see more of? Please leave a comment. You don’t know how important it is for this blogger to know there are people out there in the interwebz reading these words.

jackie lea

Dear Diary: September 2015 (Five Truths About My Novel’s Debut Month)

dear diary sept 2015

  1. It was a watershed month. I crossed that invisible line from “writer” to “published author.” It was a turning point in my life, and I’ll always remember September 1st, 2015, when my dreams became reality.
  2. It was amazing. Everyone was so happy for me. I got to celebrate with nearly 200 people, most of whom have walked this incredible journey with me and love me dearly. I cannot explain to you the way it felt to go into three bookstores that day and to see my book on shelves at every one. Especially that very first time. Cindy and I were searching for it and couldn’t find it; then from a row over, I heard Cindy say, “It’s here.” And there it was. A published book that I wrote. Characters that I had breathed into life. Even the booksellers at all the bookstores were so excited for me, had me sign copies, displayed them proudly.
  3. It was scary and hard. It was a supernova of action … and then the silence of space. It’s hard to go from having EVERYONE talking about your book to basically radio silence. It’s this tremendous build up and an explosion of interest and then, relatively, nothing. It’s terrifying. You start to wonder, “Did I spend four years of my life on something that people cared about for fewer than three weeks?” You start to compare yourself to the other novels that debuted the same day (one of which rocketed up to #1 on the NYT Bestseller List almost immediately). You start to cry.
  4. It was a month where kind words at the right moment made all the difference. In the midst of fear and negative reviews and dead air, people spoke up at the exact right moments and each one was like a miniature rescue. A sweet comment, an enthusiastic review, an excited tweet … these mattered this month when I was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Please never underestimate how much your kind words mean to the authors who write the books you enjoy. It’s like an instant battery-recharge. It’s the strength to continue. It’s, as I said, a miniature rescue mission. Tell artists when you love their art.
  5. It was step one. Sometimes I, in my ultra-dramatic ways, felt like, with the debut day come and gone, that it was all over. But I’m wrong: everything has just begun.

Win-Win-Win, Pt. 2

win winAlmost exactly two years ago, I was undergoing a dilemma: how much religion to include in Truest. You can read about the solution I chose (using a parable) here.

Did it work?

On the one hand, you have people saying things like, “Published by HarperCollins Publishers (and not by any of their “Christian” imprints or subsidiaries), this was the most deeply and poignantly Christian YA book I’ve ever read.”


“I also loved the way that Jackie approached the topic of religion. As a teenage girl who, like West, struggles with a relationship with God, it was refreshing to hear all of these characters talk about God but not be God-like saints.”


“Loved the spiritual theme interwoven in the book. Rescue, redemption being a greater priority than perfection. Uncertainty in the midst of a certain God. Great deep stuff than teens need without being preachy. Ironically a book that will be sold in the YA section with a clearer Christian message than most of those sold in the Christian section.

On the other hand, consider such things as, “Yes, there is religion in this book, which scares a lot of people (present company included!) but it is done is wonderfully. Even though West’s father is a pastor, there is absolutely nothing being preached or forced down the reader’s throat. It’s just his occupation, and a part of their family’s identity, not their entire existence.”


“The faith aspect of Truest made me super nervous, but I thought it was handled beautifully. There’s a lot of stuff about God and belief, and pretty much all of the main characters are devout Christians. Normally, this sort of thing would have me running for the hills, but Truest doesn’t come across as preachy and most of the discussion of god is of a more theological/philosophical bent, and I love those things.”


“Personally, I really appreciated this story having the underlying discussions, thoughts, and questions about God. God wasn’t the center of the book or the story, but He certainly wasn’t kept completely separate either. And even though several of these characters have faith, they’re still imperfect people. Do I always condone or agree with the actions of the characters? No. But I really appreciated a book in today’s society where the main character wasn’t just coming out and saying they don’t believe in God, or they don’t know what to believe, or they’ve had nothing but horrible “church” experiences and thus want nothing to do with God or religion. It was refreshing and I want more. Yet, these characters don’t have it all figured out. There’s just as much that they don’t know as they do, and I think readers who might not enjoy religious aspects in their books will appreciate that these characters weren’t just trying to teach the reader a lesson about God or religion. It never felt like the story was trying to teach me as the reader a lesson but that Jackie Lea Sommers was truly just telling a story. Any lessons the characters learned were lessons for that character and not a moral trying to be taught to the reader.

So, verdict?

I don’t know. It’s not up for me to decide anyway. But I’m happy, and I feel like I was faithful to myself, my God, and my story, and that’s enough.

Truest Release Day!!!

I’ve waited a long, long time for this day … and it’s finally here! My debut novel Truest comes out today!

Thank you to everyone who has bought or will buy a copy, to everyone who has requested it at the library, and to everyone who has supported me through this crazy journey to publication. I don’t deserve you.

Thank you, Jesus, for making me a writer.

Website Insert_Final FINAL FINAL FINAL

Available at
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Books a Million


Better yet, buy locally!
For those of you in the Twin Cities, I recommend
Wild Rumpus
Red Balloon

So Much Truest Around the Web Today!

Guysguysguysguysguys– my book comes out TOMORROW.

(In case you hadn’t heard.) 😉

I hope you’ll check out this Epic Reads Tumblr post, where I share my favorite romantic quotes in YA … and Epic Reads shares two from Truest.

Over on the Debut Dish, I describe my book in just five words and tell you the strangest thing on my desk. There’s also a giveaway of a hardcover copy of Truest!

There’s another giveaway at Adventures in YA Publishing; I also tell you my favorite thing about my novel, which has been true from the very beginning till now, nearly four years later.

And finally, my lovely writer-friend Kathy Ellen Davis blogs about Truest and how she’s helping me celebrate (hint: it’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given!).


1 Week Till Truest: Sneak Peek!!!

t1Yes, that’s right: ONE. WEEK. LEFT.

One week till you can start reading Tru– oh, just a moment.

*confers with the powers that be*

*whispers, “whaaaaaaaat?!“*

*scurries back to you*

BIG NEWS! You can start reading Truest

Click the picture below to read the first few chapters of Truest, and then go pre-order it! I have links to all your favorite online bookstores at!


 Also, if you’re local, please consider coming to the launch party:
Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 7 pm
University of Northwestern
Nazareth Great Room

Food, door prizes, an opportunity to buy Truest and have it signed–
and simple, easy, free parking. I hope to see you there!

Truest Around the Web

A few bloggers have been so kind to host me on their lovely sites. I’ve gotten some tremendously thoughtful questions about my book, my writing process, and myself. I hope you’ll check them out and give their sites some traffic!

The Little Things Blog: this interview really focuses on mental health themes

Brooks Editorial: this interview discusses my creative routines and addresses burnout

Write Lara Write: this one dives into my writing process and I share the best and worst writing advice I’ve been given

2 Weeks Till Truest: Q&A with Truest Author Jackie Lea Sommers

t2It’s safe to say that I’m freaking out (in a good way!). Two weeks A fortnight* till my book is released!

*way cooler 🙂

Back in June, I asked folks if they had any questions about anything Truest-related, with the intent of writing this blog post. Today I’m answering those questions!

What inspired the characters?
In January 2012, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was published, and when I read it, I loved the character of Augustus Waters so much that I quit working on the story I was writing at the time and told myself, “I’m going to try writing YA. And I’m going to start with a character I LOVE.” What resulted was Silas Hart, who was the cornerstone around which the rest of Truest was built. So, while Silas and Augustus may bear similarities, it was not that I wanted to re-make Augustus Waters but that Gus (and John Green) inspired me to start writing for young adults and to start with characters before all else. Hence, I named the town Green Lake. 🙂 Thanks, John! DFTBA.

Who is your favorite character? Who is not your favorite but intrigues you the most?
Silas is my favorite. Silas would have been my dream boy when I was seventeen. Laurel fascinates me. So does Whit. And Gordon too. I’d love to know more of Gordon’s history. I’d like to explore more of Whit’s future. I’d be remiss to not mention that I also adore West. I knew I’d be spending several years with these characters; I made them into people I wanted to spend time with.

Does this mean you’ll write another story about them?
Maybe! I’d love to revisit Green Lake 4-5 years down the road and see what trouble Whit has gotten himself into.

What comes first in your writing process, plot or characters? Do you have a system for keeping track of details like character back story?
Characters. My stories are character-driven vs. plot-driven. Even if they were plot-driven, I would still start with characters. As far as keeping track of details: my brain is a bit of a steel trap. I also do a lot of work-arounds, for example, maintaining “West’s summer calendar.” Some of the backstory I had to write just to write it– just to know it, even if it never appears in the story. I wrote out a sort of “History of Green Lake” to establish the long-time friendship of some of the characters. Even those most of those stories don’t appear in Truest, it helped me to approach the story differently, with a greater sense of history.

How many of your own traits did you put into your characters?
I can be a bit bossy like West; we’re also both deeply curious and love to read. Silas and I are both writers and “get” each other on that level. He has writer’s envy just like I do. Laurel and I have had similar thought patterns. In fact …

How did you learn about Laurel’s strange condition? What research did you have to do?
To keep this spoiler-free, I will just say that Laurel’s issues are something that I have also experienced back in, oh, 2003 or 2004. Although I did do additional research, much of what I wrote came from personal experience.

If one thing from your book (other than the characters) could be real, what would you choose?
Probably WARegon Trail or August Arms. Or Collier. Or “Ransom Avalanche.” Clearly, I want many, many things. Ha!

What was your revision process?
I spent six months writing the first draft of Truest, then another year polishing it (with the help of a writing group, a local editor, critique teams at a writing workshop, and beta readers). After signing with my agent, he suggested some additional revisions before we put it on submission. After I signed with Jill Davis at Katherine Tegen Books, she and I revised for nearly a year before we got it just right! Then, of course, there is copyediting … Let’s just say that I’ll believe I’m finished revising when I see it in print! 🙂

Was there a scene that really tripped you up?
Yes, the ending was tremendously hard for me to write. As the author, I had taken these characters I loved and put them through hell … and I didn’t know how to get them out it. I remember sitting on my couch, crying for West and Silas as if they were real people, real friends I was powerless to help. An incredible conversation with my dear friend Kristin (one of the women to whom the book is dedicated) led me gently to the book’s redemptive conclusion.

after truest 3Have you written anything from Silas’s POV?
Well, aren’t you in luck! I’ve actually written two important scenes from Truest from Silas’s POV, and they are posted over at It’s a password-protected site (since it’s full of spoilers!). The password is the final word of Truest.

Will you write anything more from his POV?
I have a scene or two I’m thinking about tackling. Stay tuned!

What if I have spoiler-y questions?
Hop on over to and ask there! I think my favorite part of this entire journey is interacting with readers after they’ve read the novel, and I’d love to chat with you there!

To learn more about Truest and to pre-order your copy, check out!

3 Weeks Till Truest: Book Recs from the Truest Characters

t3Three weeks. Three. Weeks. THREE WEEKS.

You have to understand that when I got my book deal, publication was ninety-three weeks away. Yes, you read that right.

It’s been a long, long journey. An amazing one.

In that time, I’ve finalized Truest, written and set aside a second book, and written and started revisions on a third. In that time, I’ve read who knows how many books.

Today the four big readers in Truest are sharing their own book recommendations with you.

recommendations updated

(In case it’s hard to see …
West recommends: Collier by Donovan Trick, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, & Questions about Angels by Billy Collins
Silas recommends: Questions about Angels by Billy Collins, Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings, & Collier by Donovan Trick
Laurel recommends: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, & The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Gordon recommends: Collier by Donovan Trick, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, & The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis)

Learn more about Truest and pre-order your copy at!