The Penmen Profile: “Jerkbait” Author Mia Siegert

by Rebecca LeBoeuf

mia-headshot-smSouthern New Hampshire University professor Mia Siegert writes contemporary young adult, adult thriller and literary fiction in the form of short stories, articles, personal essays and now novels.

Published May 2016, Siegert’s coming-of-age novel, “Jerkbait,” was identified as the top new release in Teen and Young Adult LGBT Issues by Amazon. “Jerkbait” follows two identical twins as they grow up, one of who struggles with coming out as gay in the professional sports world.

Have you always written? 
I seriously got into writing original work when I was nineteen, but used to write a ton of fanfic starting around age thirteen. Originally I thought I wanted to write screenplays rather than novels!

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
I’m a staunch believer in letting the story dictate itself, aka pantsing. When I was in the process of getting my MFA from Goddard College, they had a motto: “Trust the process.” That rang true to me despite tons of experts in the field saying one should never attempt to write anything without an outline. One needs to do what’s best for them, but, that said, letting the story dictate itself is the most helpful for me. I have no clue what my characters will say or what they’ll do. The names I choose are the first that come to mind. I let my fingers do the typing as a vessel for each story. In fact, recently I was talking about writer’s block with my agent (Travis Pennington of The Knight Agency) and we discovered my unusual struggles emerged from me trying to write like everyone else and breaking away from the organic style of writing as I went.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
I often struggle with confidence and overthink. Many writers need to slow themselves down to produce really strong work with editing along the way, but I’m the opposite. McKelle once told me, “you get stuck in your head,” and Travis agreed with that. We discovered that the faster I work on something, the better it becomes because I literally don’t have the time to worry about what people will think – I just have that end deadline in sight.

What has the road to publication been like for you? 
It took 208 rejections before Travis and McKelle George from Jolly Fish Press took a chance on me, and I considered that to be one of the faster tracks. A lot of agents were interested in my work and it was heartbreaking to keep hearing, “I’m not sure why I’m not making an offer.” When it finally happened, I was in so much disbelief I don’t think I actually ever celebrated.

How do you market your work?mia-book-cover
I reached out to a lot of book bloggers, nonprofit organizations and professional athletes for help with “Jerkbait” since I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I didn’t expect to be taken seriously as I’m with a small publisher and no one had heard of me. I was really surprised at the feedback with people wanting to help. Because of this help, I was actually able to partner up with You Can Play – an amazing nonprofit devoted to helping LGBTQ+ athletes. I’ve done two fundraisers for them so far and I’m intending on many more.

What do you wish you knew when you first started writing?
To not be hyper-critical of other authors. The more nasty a person is, the more, “this is absolutely terrible,” it’s a sign that the person having those thoughts really isn’t very good. The writers who are most humble and genuinely want to learn and support fellow authors are the ones who excel. I also wish that I knew to only listen to feedback that resonated with me.

Who are the authors that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
My reading genres are pretty broadspread, but I really like Louise Erdrich, Gillian Flynn, Eric Rickstad, Douglas A. Martin, Jaimy Gordon and many, many more. They’re minimalist and to the point. They’re exciting because of how direct they are.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
Jaimy Gordon’s “Lord of Misrule” (because it’s INCREDIBLE), Douglas A. Martin’s “Once You Go Back” (because it’s just stunning) and “Story” by Robert McKee (because although designed for screenwriters, there’s so much about the craft and how things work, it’s educational… even as a pantser!).