New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, and way too many feckless animals. She is the author of five novels: gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, and, in January of 2012, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, twice been a #1 Book Sense Pick, and been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, and garnered a Listen Up Award from Publisher’s Weekly.
She is hard at work on a new novel titled SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY, expected in 2014.
*some details may change before publication of next novel...
Q. What inspires your writing?
A. Southern landscapes. Especially Northern Alabama and parts of the Gulf Coast. Those landscapes seem to shape people I am interested in writing about.
A GROWN UP KIND OF PRETTY really grew out of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is so green and fertile. I got the idea for a VERY fertile family, with three generations, each only fifteen years apart, living in this landscape on a lot where a secret had been buried. I also thought the land was so rich and fecund, that there would not be a way to ever truly bury a secret in that landscape. Anything you tried to hide in that soil would take root and get stronger and more frightening over the years, and eventually spring up into some kind of terrible alive strangling vine. Of course, the first thing I thought of hiding there was human remains...
Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?
A. This is interesting, because you say author, not writer. I think of myself as a writer, actually, or sometimes a novelist. I almost never use the word author. I wonder why? Maybe because it seems so disconnected from me, Writing is what I do, every day. That’s what I am.
The author is that person in the blue sweater on the book jacket who barely looks like me; it took several hours and a team of sexy Italian stylists to construct the mighty edifice that is my hair in t\hat picture, and then I stood in a sun drenched Manhattan loft while another man snapped a MILLION pictures and said things like, “ COME AT ME WITH YOUR EYES! YES! BE-YOOOO-TIFUL, YESYES. NOW ROAR TOWARD ME! LIKE A LION! ROAR WITH YOUR EYES!” That’s not my life.
But you since you say Author, not writer, I think you mean the best part about being published? In that case it is easy.
Readers. It’s so amazing to have readers. I was just on tour for A GROWN UP KIND OF PRETTY, and thought it is my fifth novel, it is still surreal and wonderful to meet people who have met my imaginary friends and know them, know their histories and their flaws, and will talk with me about them.
Q. What is the toughest part of being an author?
A. The lack of control. You have to, at a certain point, let a book go out just as it is and never touch it or change it. You also can’t love it in that same ownership-drenched way. It isn’t yours anymore. You sold it. You have to release it to readers and put your heart into writing the next one.
Q. If you could not be author, what would you do/be?
A. I would teach. I love to teach writing, especially to grad students. I love working with people who are deeply engaged in finding/creating/exploring their own voice. I would like to be teaching right now, but I am a mom/ and a novelist and I find I can only do two full times jobs without snapping and running with loon-foam dripping down my face directly into the sea like a lemming.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Staggering Toward Hope. Or maybe The New Improved Staggering Toward Hope, Now With Less Cussing.
But not much less.
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
A. To Kill a Mockingbird.
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. I do not know. I am not terribly introspective. And I am very much like tofu in that I am formless in a lot of ways. I take on the qualities of whatever I am beside. I have to be careful where I put myself as I soak in so much of the environment. Like how you never put tofu near the litter box, because sooner rather than later it will take on the flavor of cat doots. So I have a hard time saying I AM LIKE THIS CHARACTER. I don’t have a very clear idea of what I am like.
Q. What character from all of your book(s) are you most like?
A. I think some of my characters are take on traits I see in myself that scare me, and those are always the hardest characters to write. I think the sisters Laurel and Thalia from THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING are the opposite ends of my possible spectrum, and I am terrified of becoming either one of them. I think one of them ends the book closer to the person I hope to be. I had to write that book in third person to get some distance from them.
Q. What is your favorite season?
A Fall. The first time I kissed the man who would become my husband, it was winter in Florida which FEELS like fall anywhere else, and the air had that apple-crisp autumn sharpness to it. Now when fall comes and the air tastes like that I just feel happy, every year.
Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book(s).
A. In Virginia, I stayed with my best friend of almost 20 years instead of in a hotel. She has a Boston Terrier named Leroy who is the weirdest, sweetest dog alive. He likes to nurse on people’s forearms, and I was so exhausted and so homesick for my own dogs I just let him. I came home with DOG HICKEYS on my arms.
Q. Are you working on something new?
A. Yes. It’s called SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY. It’s about a zoo keeper and a single mom who have both experienced miracles. They meet under unusual circumstances--- in the middle of a robbery.
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A. Thanks for taking time to read this interview! If you aren’t familiar with my work, I hope you’ll give one of my books a try. You can read the first chapter of my latest here: http://www.joshilynjackson.com/