Rosie, the first horse I ever jumped.
Library Visit, Kentucky
Common Core curriculum for STARFIRE
My beloved mare Maddie, the next best thing to a winged horse!
School Visit, Miami
JENNIFER LYNN ALVAREZ
Hi and thanks for visiting my website! I'm an author, horse-lover, underdog advocate, and dreamer. I've published two middle-grade series starring flying horses called The Guardian Herd and Riders of the Realm and now I'm dabbling in YA thrillers. But first I wrote The Pet Washer, my indie novel, and I have many other projects underway. I like writing about animals and, occasionally, about humans. Here's the story of how I became a published author!
I was born in Southern California, but I grew up all over the western U.S., attending new schools in new states about every two years. My family was not military, just nomadic. After each move, I found myself immersed in a new school culture--and so I learned fast to become an observer. I studied the kids in each town and attempted to adapt to their ways, their slang, and their clothes. I was the perpetual outsider.
I brought my pets and my diary with me everywhere I moved--two things I couldn't live without. I recorded my thoughts and feeling into my diaries, and I also wrote stories and poems. After school, I volunteered at local stables so I could ride horses for "free". I set a goal when I was very young to become a published author and to own a horse.
I wrote my first novel, The Spotless Forest, when I was nineteen. I submitted the full length novel to publishers (back then I had to print the entire manuscript and mail it), only to have it rejected for being "too long for middle-grade readers" (this was pre-Harry Potter).
After earning my degree in English Literature from UC Berkeley, I obtained a job in finance of all things, and quickly bought my first horse for $2300--an off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) racer named Splash. She reared every time I rode her, kicked me twice, and trampled me once. Needless to say, I loved her dearly.
Then unexpected events derailed my writing for fifteen years--I fell in love, got married, and had a baby! This wasn't part of my life plan, but it's turned out to be the best part. I had a second baby, and then adopted a third! My husband and I moved our beloved children, pets, and horses to a little ranch in Northern California. When my youngest child entered kindergarten, my fingers twitched to write again.
In 2012, I wrote and self-published my third novel, The Pet Washer. It's about a local girl who works at a pet salon and gets dragged into the royal life of a vacationing princess. I began speaking at schools and libraries and selling copies of The Pet Washer at local stores, out of my car, and online. I was the publisher, book designer, publicist, sales team, social media expert, editor, and web designer--and while it was a blast--I had little time left to be the author! I needed a team.
So I decided to break into traditional publishing with a young adult vampire book, get famous, and then make deals for the books I really wanted to write! 70,000 words later, I had Dead Girls Don't Cry and I queried it far and wide. It was soundly rejected. The vampire market was dead (or undead if you like). I was too late.
Down and out and decimated by the great American recession, I wrote in my "Jennifer (Recession) Diaries" blog that since finding a job had become as impossible as getting published, I would get published! I threw away the twenty years of rejection slips I had taped to my wall and I declared my intentions to the world, in ALL CAPS I might add, and perhaps in bold as well (which was bold considering I had no idea what I was going to publish).
Eight days later, I was driving home and I became engrossed in a wild daydream. I imagined a herd of pegasi migrating in the clouds above my car. One was pregnant--a white mare named Lightfeather. She was struggling to keep up and determined to survive as her herd pulled farther ahead. I knew the foal in her belly was special but also a threat to the herd. By the time I got home, I had the plot to STARFIRE.
I forgot all about my publishing dreams as this book took over my life. It wrote me. My 11 year-old daughter began to read STARFIRE as I wrote it, and she became enthralled, asking for a new chapter each morning when she woke. I wrote like mad to accommodate her, and I did not come up for air until the first draft was finished. I'd always been warned not to write "talking animal" books--that publishers don't like them--but as I edited STARFIRE, I realized it was the book I'd always wanted to read as a kid. And so I decided to query it.
Since I'm not one to take rejection personally (see racehorse story above), I queried an agent who had previously passed on my work. She loved STARFIRE and offered immediately to represent it. She sent the manuscript on submission to editors and HarperCollins Children's Books acquired the novel in a four-book pre-emptive offer, which I was delighted to accept.
In hindsight, I'm grateful STARFIRE is the book that broke through because, unlike the vampire story, this is the book I feel I was born to write. It is the sum of me and my interests--horses and underdogs, heroes and bullies, and a special colt watching his herd, wishing he was not an outsider. It's the story for anyone who's ever felt left out, or different, or alone, but who believes in their heart they can belong and, perhaps, make a difference. It's my story, and now, it can be your story too.
While STARFIRE is the book that started my career, I feel I am just getting warmed up. Stay tuned because this author has a lot to say and many stories still to tell.
Thanks for reading, Jennifer
Photo by Crystal Alvarez