Friday, May 1, 2020

Jordyn Taylor (GSAS ’14) on Her Debut Novel “The Paper Girl of Paris”

Jordyn Taylor
Look out for Jordyn Taylor’s (GSAS ’14) debut novel, “The Paper Girl of Paris,” coming out on May 26th with Harper Collins. It is a Young Adult (YA) novel about the French Resistance in World War II. We sat down with her to find out about her inspirations, her writing process and her favorite books.

Jordyn is an adjunct professor at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and a deputy editor at Men’s Health, where she oversees content across all online verticals and edits stories for the print magazine. Before her role at Men’s Health, she worked at Mic, first as a health reporter and then as a breaking news editor during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

What did you study at NYU?

I did a master's degree at the Journalism school. I was in Yvonne Latty's Reporting the Nation/Reporting New York program, where we learned to produce multimedia stories on a local and national level. As an undergrad at Hamilton College, I double majored in History and Theater—in other words, I started at NYU with almost zero journalism experience. That changed pretty quickly; it was the fall of 2012, and not long into my first semester, we were covering the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a presidential election, and Hurricane Sandy.

Jordyn Taylor: her story continues

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?

In my third and final semester, our class took a reporting trip to Birmingham, Alabama. I wanted to cover some fun human interest stories, and I ended up finding a senior citizen's theater troupe (called the 'Seasoned Performers'!) and a delightful Jewish food festival held by Birmingham's small but mighty Jewish community.  

How did your education at NYU shape what you do now?

It was the foundation for...everything! I wouldn't have landed my first journalism job post-graduation (as a reporter the New York Observer) if Sylvan Solloway at the career center hadn't helped me get an internship there first. I've stayed in journalism since then, so every day, I'm using the reporting and editing skills I learned at NYU. (This past fall, I really got to brush up on those skills when I taught an introductory journalism course to NYU undergrads!)

What is your debut novel, “The Paper Girl of Paris,” about, and when will it be available?

"The Paper Girl of Paris" is a young adult novel out on May 26, 2020 with HarperTeen. It jumps back and forth in time between Alice, a girl in the present who inherits a mysterious Parisian apartment locked since World War II, and Adalyn, a girl who joins the resistance in Nazi-occupied France.

Here's the full synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.
Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back.
But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

This is your first novel - can you share your writing process with us?

I wrote "The Paper Girl of Paris" in roughly 3.5 months—my process was somewhat unique! It started when my agent learned that Harper Collins was looking for an author to write a YA novel about the French Resistance in World War II. I "auditioned" for them by writing two sample chapters based on their idea, and they made an offer.

From there, I had to build the rest of the story. Some writers let their stories unfold as they go, but I'm a big planner. To begin, I mapped out each of my main character's internal and external journeys in four-act structures. I knew exactly how each plot line would end before I even started writing, which probably saved me time down the road—no writing myself into corners!

Before I started writing the rest of the book, I spent a month exclusively on research. I read a mix of primary sources (including various diaries of women in the French Resistance) and secondary sources. It helped that I was a history major in undergrad, and that I've always been interested in World War II. I went into the project with a good amount of background knowledge. Still, there were an infinite number of questions I had to answer to make my scenes feel more real: Under France's rationing system, exactly what food would people of a certain socioeconomic status be eating for dinner? What did the streets of Paris sound like during the Nazi occupation? What would people have worn to a party, given the availability of certain fabrics?

After making my way through a small mountain of books, it was time to write. Because I have a full-time job, I had to maximize every minute I wasn't at work. I used the Microsoft Word app to write on my phone while I commuted, and then I wrote in the evenings and all day on the weekends.

Sometimes a blank cursor can be overwhelming, so I like to test scenes out by handwriting them. I also read sections out loud to my husband, Tim: I find that if the words feel awkward and clunky to say, they're probably also awkward and clunky to read!

What are 10 books you've read in the past year that you'd recommend?

It's so hard to pick! I'm usually reading a few books at the same time. Here are a few recent reads that I absolutely couldn't put down:

"The Secret Life of Violet Grant" by Beatriz Williams
"Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys
"The Great Alone" by Kristin Hannah
"Three Women" by Lisa Taddeo
"Educated" by Tara Westover
"Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid
"City of Girls" by Elizabeth Gilbert (NYU alumna - WSC '91)
"The Unhoneymooners" by Christina Lauren
"Red, White & Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston
"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens

What do you do as deputy editor at Men’s Health?

I work with editors across all our online verticals to make their stories as strong as possible, from the ideation phase all the way through packaging them to go out in the world and be read. I'm also directly responsible for editing all of our sex and relationships content, both online and in print. Sometimes I oversee larger projects, including recent print packages on men's friendships; the new meaning of grit; and a large survey on Americans' sex lives. We have a small, close-knit team, so everyone helps each other out a lot—I end up working on a bit of everything!

It's an exciting time to be working at Men's Health, as our society's ideas around masculinity are shifting. I love getting to help our readers navigate these changes and become healthier and happier versions of themselves.

What health or relationship tips can you share with the NYU alumni community now that many alumni are staying at home?

We recently published this roundup of romantic date ideas for couples quarantining together or apart, because Netflix and chill is going to start to get old.

Preorder "The Paper Girl of Paris" from your nearest indie bookstore:

Follow Jordyn on Instagram to keep up with everything she is reading: @jordynhtaylor.

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