I got to chat with one of my favorite authors, Jessica Park. *squeals*!! Here is the exclusive interview with the NY Times best-selling author of Flat-Out Love! Enjoy!
1. What’s a typical day like in the life of Jessica?
Lots of laundry and cleaning up after pets. Oh, and sometimes I write. When I’m really in the throes of a book, I’ll write for 12-14 hours a day. During those times, there is minimal showering, odd outfit choices, and frequent trips to a very understanding Starbucks.
2. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
My mom has been writing a dog lover’s mystery series since I was about 15. She lured me into coauthoring a fun culinary mystery series with her, and we did five books in the series. After that, I branched off on my own and wrote Relatively Famous, my first YA book.
3. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
In fifth grade, I wrote a very long piece on Clara Barton… and the “soilders.” That was not a big hit. That same year I did a long creative writing piece about the day that my mother and I adopted an orange kitten from a particularly dirty house. I included lots of details about how exactly the house was unfit for humans. Or pets. Also not a big hit.
4. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way, either growing up or as an adult?
Two authors who I really admire are Pat Conroy and Elinor Lipman. I think both are undeniably gifted writers, each able to capture characters in really remarkable ways. Conroy, in particular, has the ability to absolutely tear a reader’s heart out, and I love that. If I can pull off a shred of what they do, I’d be happy.
5. How does your family feel about being related to a NY Times best-selling author?
They’re not particularly happy because I make them all address me as, “Princess New York Times Best-Selling Author.” It’s a mouthful, so sometimes they shorten that to a four-letter word.
6. Where do you get your ideas from? Do they come to you or are they inspired by true events?
Oh, gosh… From everywhere. Sometimes I’ll get the spark of an idea from real life, and then twist it into something fictional. Listening to music, letting my imagination run and build on a theme… Sometimes that gives me a scene that I want to write and then I build a story around that. I’m not a quick plotter, so it can take me months to really get a handle on a story idea.
7. Do you work with an outline or just write?
I used to work off of a very detailed outline, but the more I write, the less I seem to need that detail. I’m getting more confident that I can handle a scene without knowing exactly what it’ll be before I get there. It actually makes writing more fun because I’ll get to a new chapter and think, “Well, here we are. I can’t wait to see how this plays out!”
8. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you get out of the funk?
I get bouts of writer’s block in terms of coming up with book ideas. I really envy authors who are just overflowing with tons of stories that they want to write. I’m getting fussier and fussier about what is worth my time to write. Music helps a lot to combat that, and finding the “right” new song can pull me out of a stupor. Falling asleep is a great time to come up with book ideas, although the danger is that you fall asleep and forget them. I have emailed myself from my phone before with late-night notes.
9. What part of the writing process is the hardest for you, whether it’s first draft, rewriting or editing?
The plotting. I love this part in some ways because I enjoy puzzles, tying everything together. But it’s a tricky, tricky process and can be very frustrating. My real struggle is coming up with the concept that I want to focus on in a book. Once I have that down, so much else falls into place.
10. Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what do you listen to? (btw just downloaded “Shallow Cars” cue the awwws! SOOO good)
Constantly. I don’t think I could write without music, which is funny because I used to need total silence. These days I’m so dependent on setting a mood to really capture what’s going on with characters that silence would be tough. I have a Spotify list for my latest book: For new work-in-progress At some point I’ll break it down to match up chapters and songs. “Litost” by The Ambassadors was on repeat for hours one day as I wrote a particularly emotional chapter. Ditto for “The Chain” by Ingrid Michaelson. In Like Lions is a local Boston band who I totally adore, and they were kind enough to let me use their music for the enhanced edition app version of Flat-Out Love. Seriously, they are addictive. Troy Ramey is the lead singer, and his voice will knock you to your knees. He could sing the damn phonebook and I’d swoon.
11. What inspired Flat-Out Love?
The original storyline was a play on Snow White (you might see some remnants of that still!), but my plot got crazy complicated and I bagged it. I’d also seen this bananas blog some couple had done that featured a video of the two of them with a Flat Rick Springfield, carting him to stores, having him stand behind their lawn mower, hanging out of the car window… It was very odd. Funny, but also not totally funny because there was a creepy, sad element there that fascinated me. I started obsessing about WHY someone would have a Flat Somebody. What if it was a family member?
12. Did you have a “glamorous college life” like Julie hoped for? What was your experience like?
Um, glamorous? Beer-soaked? Yes. Kidding, kidding… I loved college. Really loved it. I went to a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, and despite the disgusting weather, I had a blast. I’m still close with a bunch of people from college.
13. Are you still planning on releasing chapters from Matt’s POV? *SQUEALS*
I hope so… I’d love to do this! I’ll have to see if it makes sense to do this now or to write another book first.
14. Are you an adrenaline junkie like Matty? If so, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done?
Oh, hell, no! Years ago I had a brief spell where I thought it’d be a barrel of monkeys to go jumping out of a plane, but that insanity did not last long. I hate heights. I hate danger. I hate fear.
15. Do you like to travel like Finn? Where would you most like to visit?
I’m such a homebody in so many ways! I’m not nearly as adventurous as Finn, but I’d love to go to England and Ireland one day. Or a tropical island. With a resort. And cocktails. And no work.
16. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? Hardest?
I had so much fun writing the chapter when Julie puts hinges on Finn while Celeste stands by. I can still hear Celeste yelling, “Flat Finn is having second thoughts! Flat Finn is having second thoughts!” It’s a special chapter because although it’s very funny, it’s also pretty poignant. That day was a big deal for Celeste. The hardest was probably the night of Celeste’s sleepover. I loved writing it, but there is so much intensity there and a whole array of emotions to cover. I had to manage the shift from one to the other in a way that felt natural. Lots of late nights of tweaking went into those scenes.
17. Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why?
Flat Finn. I think he’s particularly charismatic and charming.
18. What would you say to that person?
“How YOU doin’?” *wink wink*
19. You’ve been working with DigiGlyph to release a very fun, unique app for Flat-Out Love. Congrats! Like a movie on the go; it’s a very modern way of storytelling. What made you want to create it? How did that come about?
DigiGlyph approached me with the concept, and I was floored. Nothing like it has been done before, so we are really breaking new ground. While I don’t like bungee jumping, I do like taking other kinds of risks. I love the whole idea that storytelling can be multi-dimensional… reading the way we are used to is wonderful, obviously, but the idea that readers can experience a book in an entirely different way? I couldn’t say no to that. The book essentially “plays” with scrolling text (you can control the speed) while beautiful images, music, and sound effects fade in and out for different scenes. There is so much stuff packed into this app, and that’s why it’s been taking so long to get it out. The team is frankly too smart, and the app is actually more advanced than the devices are (iPad, Kindle, etc.), so they are having to write code that tricks the iPad into understanding the app. It’s bananas.
20. What project are you working on now?
I just finished writing a monster of a book that will be published by the YA/NA division of Amazon Children’s Publishing on May 21st. (I don’t think I’m allowed to reveal the title yet!) It’s a whopper love story set during my characters’ senior year of college. It’s very intense, very graphic in parts, and hopefully very moving. It’s a big step up from Flat-Out Love, but I’m hoping that my readers stick with me!
21. What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?
I got really beat up over the two days that Amazon had a feature story about me on their gateway page last spring. It was such an honor for them to do that for me, but the downside was that I had a stream of reviews post based solely on the Kindle preview. I got absolutely torn apart by people who really had no business rating a book like FOL, but I’ve still got reviews up there saying, “Well, no wonder she didn’t get a publishing deal. She can’t write.” I had line-by-line criticism of the first chapter… Oh, on and on. It was brutal, and I cried more than once. I’m pretty tough, but some of those reviews were pretty awful.
22. What has been the best compliment?
A number of people have written me and shared their own stories about their family history and loss, and to hear they felt I handled the issues in FOL well and with respect meant the world. It’s really one of the reasons that I write; to connect with readers, to touch them and move them deeply. Hearing that I’ve accomplished that, and sometimes helped people to heal, means the world.
7 Smooches Showdown
- New Year’s resolution
Write another book. Prove those nasty reviewers mentioned above wrong.
- Bagels or Lox?
Lotsa lox! With capers.
- Pet name for you as a kid?
- Favorite sandwich?
BLT with fried egg and extra mayonnaise.
- Flat Adam Levine or 1 online chat date with Adam Levine?
FLAT ADAM! I don’t care for his chit chat.
- Craziest thing in your fridge right now?
Leftover risotto with three kinds of mushrooms, cream cheese, caramelized onions, tomato, basil, and scallions. Made myself. Yes, I did. For real!
- If you were a superhero what would your power be?
The power to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Or the power to clean the house in a matter of minutes. I know, these are scintillating, right? But, man, what I’d give… Oh, and to go a more traditional route, I’d like to be able to fly at top speed. I have friends around the country who I’d love to see more often, and a number of close author pals who I haven’t even met yet! Tracey Garvis-Graves, I’m coming for ya’! Then Colleen Hoover! Then Tammara Webber! Then…. Well, flying would be awesome.
I’VE DECIDED TO DO A GIVEAWAY!! Because it’s Christmas and it’s Day 3 of #ChristmasReads week, one of you lucky subscribers will win an e-book copy of Flat-Out Love!! But there’s a catch, it ENDS MIDNIGHT!! Happy Holidays!