Monday, August 29, 2011

Who is Jeff Hirsch? The author, Suzanne Collins recommends so highly? An author interview.

Two things drew me to The Eleventh Plague, the debut novel of Jeff Hirsch. One: the atmospheric cover. I was completely taken with it. I had to learn about the world it conveyed. Two: Suzanne Collin's endorsement. I'm sure she gets asked to blurb novels ad nauseum. I've never seen her endorse a novel--until now. Of course if you guys know of another, let me know! Anyway, I'm sure she wouldn't waste her influence on something she though was ho-hum, so I definitely wanted to read what she describes as "An excellent, taut debut novel." I did and I'll post that review on Thursday, the day of the novel's release.

I also wanted to know who's the guy behind this book. Who was able to score such a coup and capture Collin's enthusiasm? That's the motive behind this interview. I contacted Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague to find out.

1) You went to school in California. Are you a native New Yorker or a West coast transplant?

Native east coaster but not native New Yorker. I grew up in Richmond, VA. I moved to NY after college (in a failed bid to become the next Marlon Brando) then drove across country to San Diego for grad school. I made my second cross country road trip (this time awkwardly piloting a 17 ft rental truck) when my wife was transferred to NY. We've been here about 6 years now.

2) You have an MFA in Dramatic Writing. What did you major in as an undergraduate? Is writing as a profession  something you always knew you wanted to do? If not, when and how did you reach this epiphany?

I always wrote but for a long time I thought it was just something I did for me while I pursued being an actor. That's what my undergrad was in. I distinctly remember one night in NY. I had just gotten home from a long and tiring 9 hours at my day job. It was freezing cold and pouring rain and there was an audition I was supposed to be at in an hour. I knew there was absolutely no way I was going back out there. That's when I realized that someone who was passionate about acting, who really loved it, wouldn't let a little fatigue and bad weather keep them from it.  I asked myself what I did love that much and that's when I switched to writing.

3) Are you writing full time or do you have a day job? If you have a day job, what is it?

Nope,  not a full time writer yet. (One day. Fingers crossed!) I work at a small non-profit where I help organize a yearly conference and a festival and do a little writing for them as well.

4) Why have you chosen to write YA? Do you have any plans to write for adults in the future?

No plans to write for adults, but never say never I guess. Why YA? I think there's something about the essential struggles of being a teen, figuring out who you are, dealing with constant change, that still resonate with me. YA is so much about first experiences and how we're transformed by them. There's an intrinsic drama to that that I think is great fun to write about. 

5) Tell us about your journey to acquiring a literary agent.

It was just a straight query situation actually. I sent out to Sara and a few others. Shortly after I did I got the runner-up slot in an SCBWI unpublished novel contest and emailed all the agents I queried with that info. I had a couple weeks of very exciting talks with agents and went with Sara. She really seemed to like the book and get what was working and what wasn't. 

6) What was the inspiration for your debut novel, The Eleventh Plague? How long did it take you to write  your first draft of the story? Is this a stand alone novel or the first in a series?

An image popped to mind one day of two people burying someone late at night on a hill overlooking the ruins of an old shopping mall. The rest of the story came from trying to figure who these people were, what their world was like and how they wanted to change it. It was quite a long process actually. As best as I can figure I started the book sometime in late 2006. I queried Sara with it just shy of 4 years later.  The plan at the moment is for this to be a stand alone.

7) Tell us about your writing process. Do you meticulously plot out your stories or are you more organic and  write as it comes?

A little of both actually. The book I'm working on now I figured out the major arcs for the main characters and the overall thrust of the story and am improvising off of that. I used to go completely by the seat of my pants but I find that having a few things planned in advance actually makes it easier to improvise since you know you have a path you can always come back to if you get lost.

8)  Take us into the writing day of Jeff Hirsch. How do you write and manage your time?

I'm a write-every-day-slow-and-steady-wins-the-race type. I generally get home from work, try (and often fail) to hit the gym, have a little dinner and then write for 2 hours or so. The time I have left generally involves my wife, Netflix and pie. These days I'm shooting for 4000-5000 words a week. 

9)  Can you share your plans for any future projects with us?

Not sure how much detail I'm supposed to get into yet, but the next book is called (for the moment at least) Magisterium. It should be out Fall of 2012, again with Scholastic. It's about a girl named Glenn navigating a world that's been divided in two. Other than that I'll keep it a little mysterious for the moment.
Thanks so much Jeff for letting us get to know you better!
To keep track of Jeff and what he's up to in the coming days and beyond, go to
THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE releases Thursday, September 1, 2011 by Scholastic.
Stop by here then and check out the review!



  1. waiting on it ,lol it a while on my goodreads acount

  2. Great interview. The book sounds really good, and like you, the cover really appeals to me. I'll be watching for this book - and this author!

  3. Roro: It's worth the wait!

    Cindy: Thanks. I'm all ready looking forward to his next book!

  4. I have been seeing this book pop up in lots of places!!!
    You did a fab interview, too.

  5. Just ordered it...I feel better now...

  6. Jeff is one of my favorite people on the planet. I love THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE! Great interview!

  7. Patty, Elana: Thanks for popping in!


I enjoy reading what you have to say. Seriously!