Sixteen-year old Cassie Renfield has seen the mark since forever: a glow around certain people as if a candle were held behind their back.

The one time she pointed it out taught her not to do it again, so Cassie has kept quiet, considering its rare appearances odd, but insignificant. Until the day she watches a man die. Mining her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Cassie searches her past, her philosophy lessons, even her new boyfriend for answers, always careful to hide her secret. How does the mark work? Why her?

Most importantly, if you know today is someone’s last, should you tell?

Source: Jen Nadol’s website

A little bit about Jen: I grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, hometown of Taylor Swift, John Updike and A.S. King.

Jen Nadol in High SchoolThis is me in high school. I liked to dye my hair, shop at thrift stores and listen to a lot of Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Erasure. My favorite book was The Stand.

I went to college at American University in Washington DC and graduated with a Lit degree which spent the next twelve years collecting dust while I worked in human resources for a national retail chain.

Now I live north of NYC in an old farmhouse with my husband and three young sons. I still love thrift stores, listen to just about anything from Mozart to My Chemical Romance, and have way too many favorite books to name.

THE MARK is my first novel.

OBS: How did you come up with the story for The Mark?
Jen: I had written another book which, in hindsight, was terrible. I was ready to shelve it and try again, but didn’t have anything specific in mind to write about. I was mentally sifting through possibilities, looking for something interesting, and the idea just came: what if you knew it was someone’s day to die? Right away, I could see some of the conflicts and scenes that would play out. It sounded like something I’d read so I decided to give it a go.

OBS: Do you have any advice for those who want to become writers?
Jen: Write a lot. Even when you don’t really feel like it. Even if you think what you’re writing is lousy. I think good writers have a little talent, but a lot more practice, patience and discipline. This is an art that can definitely be learned and something that I think you get exponentially better at the more you do it.

OBS: Who are your literary influences?
Jen: Definitely Stephen King. I loved his books growing up and still re-read my favorites regularly. Most of his books are very much “real world”, but with a paranormal element thrown in, just the kind of stories I write. There are probably a thousand other writers who’ve taught me something in their books, but he’s one I can really single out.

OBS: How did you develop your characters? Did you base your characters attributes on people you know?
Jen: I don’t. People ask this a lot, but my characters truly are fictional. I wouldn’t even say they’re composites of people I know or have known. When I’m thinking about the role a particular character will play in the story, I start to get a mental picture of them and a feel for the way they act. It’s kind of an ephemeral process, I guess. They form from who I need them to be for the story to go where I want it to go.

OBS: Who was the toughest character to write? Who was the most fun?
Jen: Lucas was probably the toughest because he went through a number of changes as the story got edited. I loved writing Cassie since we really get inside her head, but Petra was probably the most fun and the easiest.

OBS: What inspired you to leave the “corporate world” and become a full-time writer?
Jen: I actually left to stay home with my first son when he was born. I’d had a job of some sort since I was fourteen, so having that “working” part of my identity just disappear was kind of a shock. I decided to really try to write, something I’d always “meant” to do. It ended up the perfect outlet and, even if I’d never gotten published, I know I would have been glad that I gave it a shot.

OBS: Do you have a specific process for writing? Outlines, free writing, etc.?
Jen: There are usually a few key scenes that come to me early on when I’m starting a book so I write those first. It’s almost always the beginning and the end, then two or three important things in the middle. When I write them initially, they might not even be a complete scene, just some key dialogue – internal or with another character – or description. What’s important is starting to get the voice and feel of the story on paper. It’s kind of a random process. As more things come to me – a line of dialogue, an important story element or scene – I’ll write them or, if I’m pressed for time, jot a quick sentence or two describing what has to happen. When I’ve collected enough that I understand the story arc and main characters and subplots, then I start working on it chronologically, from page one, until I’ve got a first draft. All of this takes about a year. Then, the edits begin…

OBS: Do you have plans to writing a sequel to The Mark?
Jen: Yes, there’s a completed sequel that Bloomsbury’s just acquired. We’re starting edits now and I think it will probably come out in 2011.

OBS: What kind of research went into The Mark?
Jen: I read a lot of philosophy. Way more than made it into the book. For the medical stuff, I consulted with my mom who’s a nurse and a friend who’s a psychologist. And I did some reading about some other things that it’d be a spoiler to elaborate on.

OBS:Did you have any musical or literary influences while writing The Mark?
Jen: Nothing musical, but I did have an a-ha moment reading Lisa McMann’s: WAKE (her ears have GOT to be ringing, I’ve told this to so many people). It was in the middle of my final round of edits and my editor had asked me to try to “tighten up” the writing a bit more. I thought I understood what she meant…and then I read WAKE. It was a huge eye-opener. Lisa McMann’s writing is so clean and tight – I finally understood exactly what my editor was getting at.

OBS: What would you do with Cassie’s power?
Jen: Probably exactly what she does.

OBS: What would you do if today was your last day?
Jen: I’d write a letter to each of the people who are important to me. Then, I’d spend every last second of it with my kids.

OBS: What is one thing you would like your fans to know about you and your book?
Jen: I’ve always been a huge book-lover, but having a book out there has put me in touch with so many amazing people – bloggers, writers, librarians, publishing folk, book sellers. I’m thankful to be part of a community of people so enthusiastic about books and reading and thrilled to have a book to pitch into the pot for enjoyment (hopefully!), discussion, debate…whatever!

Thanks Jen for the awesome interview and telling us more about your book. I absolutely love the concept and the tag line on your book cover made me want to read it immediately. Want to chat with Jen? Check out the links below.

Check out Jen’s website here:

And even more on her Facebook here:

You can also Twitter with Jen about The Mark here:

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