I’m not that patient. When I get an idea I usually begin planning and writing right away. For Dr. Fixit, I was falling asleep one night when this question popped into my head: what would a post-apocalyptic landscape be like as a sort of Oz-esque world for kids? After that, my brain wouldn’t let me sleep until I had figured out the main characters and the basic plot. Then I began writing it the next day.
That’s usually how it works with me.. My brain never turns off.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
That’s a loaded question! Like most writers, I don’t think I ever really feel my work is complete. There’s always something to edit or revise or otherwise fix. That’s why I don’t read my own books once they’re published (with the exception of short public readings of course). I’ll always find frustrating cadence mistakes, continuity errors, and other miniscule issues that nobody but me will ever notice. When it comes to the storyline itself, I know it’s finished when the climax scene makes me cry.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
First and foremost, I want the kids who read my books to feel the excitement and wonder of adventure like I did when I was little, reading A Wrinkle in Time and Alice in Wonderland. That said, I do write with a message in mind. Literature has always been the epitome of the human microscope, and for me children’s literature is the strongest lens. “Guts and Glory” is all about the importance of family. If my young readers finish the story and run to hug their loved ones right away, I’ve done my job.
Does writing come easy for you?
When I’m focused on writing for the market, or for a made-up audience who doesn’t think like me (it happens more often than I’d like to admit), or for anyone or anything outside of the world where I’m supposed to be, it’s hard. If I stay inside the world of my story it comes naturally, as if I’m living the adventure myself.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
Lack of time and energy. As a mother of five with full-time a day job, time and energy are extremely valuable commodities for me. I used to think I was naturally a night person, but I’ve come to realize that I just became one over time so I could get a few hours of peace time to write.
As for the writing itself, the most difficult part for me is simply letting go. I connect so deeply with my characters, my story and my world that if I really give myself up to writing, hours and hours and hours will go by where I’ll miss everything else in my life: lunch, my kids coming home from school, helping with homework, kissing my husband when he comes home from college, dinner, tucking my children in, even sleep. I’ll “wake up” having to use the bathroom really bad, shaky-starving, and exhausted like I just ran a marathon I can’t remember. That can be bewildering to the point of scary at times, so I fight it far more than I should.
Oh, and the end. Endings are always hard because I don’t want anything to end. Ever.
Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?
I honestly can’t remember a moment of my life when I wasn’t a writer. That said, Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine was very much a life-changing book for me. It was the first story I ever wrote where I truly felt satisfied with the storyline, even proud. It’s also the first story that got me out there into the public eye. It’s the first book I’ve had published by an outside publisher, and over the past few years I’ve been on the radio, podcasts, in newspapers, magazines, cons and live readings, promoting it and answering questions from readers who know and care about my characters, my world and my story. It’s been absolutely amazing, and while I still have to work a day job, the “Guts and Glory” books have pulled me closer to my dream career than anything I’ve ever written before.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I was raised mostly in Spokane, AKA the white-bread capital of Washington state. Before that I lived in small-town Idaho. This means I never had much of a chance to see diversity or experience different cultures than my own Beaver Cleaver upbringing. Not that my life was perfect as a kid. Without going too far into personal details, let’s just say that escapism became a distinct necessity of my everyday life from a young age. These things worked together to create in me a writer who melds typically Western mythology and legend such as faeries, King Arthur and American ghost stories with the stark reality of child abuse and neglect. My characters are always damaged — sometimes metaphorically, sometimes overtly — but always looking for a way to mend their cracked selves by becoming larger than life and defeating their own demons in the form of whatever literal evil they face, thus proving to everyone — themselves first and foremost — that they’re worthy of love and acceptance.
Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?
My ADD brain has to have background noise. What that is changes every few months, from music, to a fan, to a documentary on NetFlix, depending on my mood and the season. I also need to have something to drink at all times. Yes, sometimes it’s alcoholic, but usually it’s hot tea or some kind of beverage I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone through so many different kinds of juices, pops, coffees and teas that I don’t know if there’s anything drinkable I haven’t tried at this point. At least, nothing they sell here. Sometimes I also burn incense if I need to focus particularly well. I have a beautiful roll-top desk which I use for promo pics and such… but not usually for writing. The last time I wrote at my actual desk was during my master’s thesis. Usually it’s with my laptop on the couch, my feet up under a blanket.
And now you know my dirty little secret.
What are you working on right now?
I’m completing the final book in “Guts and Glory”, Rise of the Nefarious Numbots. I’m also excited about a new manuscript titled Blight, which is a Young Adult religious dystopia — my first YA ever. I just got another idea last night for a new Middle Grade fantasy that’s so new I’m going to keep it mysterious for now…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?
Sixteen-year-old Squire Carroll will bring light to the Under, whether her god wants it or not.
At what age did you discover writing?
I was about five years old when I realized writing was for me. I remember walking into the kitchen after I finished reading a particularly great story. I asked my mom, who was washing dishes, what someone who wrote books was called. She said, “an author”. From that point on I was an author. Besides wanting to be a mother (which goes hand-in-hand with writing for kids), nothing else ever mattered to me again.
What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?
I like to read good stories. I know, “good” is highly subjective but for me it means a story I can sink my teeth into, one where I can lose myself, one that makes me feel, think, and remind me that I’m part of the amazing, adaptable, fascinating human race. From Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time to Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series; from “A Rose for Emily” by Nathaniel Hawthorne to “What is Man?” by Mark Twain; from C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia Chronicles” to Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” epic; from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables; I love every story that touches my soul and sings my spirit. Currently I’m reading James Joyce and Piers Anthony, both for fun. That’s just how I roll.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Oh man. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Hands down. Her ideas are so perfect, and so close to the kind of story I strive to write, that I’ll be honest — I am highly jealous of her story. There are sections of the “Harry Potter” books that I wish I’d thought of — especially Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and the very idea of a wizarding school — but Collins’ whole world makes me bite my thumb at her out of jealousy.
Have you written any other books?
I’ve written a lot of books. Most of them aren’t worth reading. That’s how you learn how to write.
Describe your writing in three words.
Strange journey home.
Where can people learn more about your books?
At my blog: www.jessica-rising.com and my author page on the Second Wind Publishing site, http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!jessica-rising/c1z33