Sunday, 27 February 2011

INTERVIEW: Jessica McHugh

A lot of people tend to know all about the big author but we at Falcata Times, also like to bring you the small guy (or in this case woman.) Jessica is the author of a number of short stories and currently 7 full length novels and whilst she isn't a full time author yet, its the heart and determination that made us sit up and pay attention to her.

We will shortly be reviewing The Sky: The World for you and hope that you'll help support those on the way up just as we do.

Here Jessica chats about writing, about cats and about marathons of America's Next Top Model...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Jessica McHugh: I think it's true to a certain extent. Sometimes I do feel the affliction over the gift and I definitely believe that writing is something I have to do, but I also want to do it. My pen isn't like an inky gun to my head. I have a greater love for it than that. For me, the affliction stems from the fact that I can't do what I love all the time. That's the only torture for me: knowing that I'd be a much happier writer (and person) if I could focus on my books all day instead allowing a full-time job to interrupt.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JM: I was always a storyteller. If you asked my parents, they might switch "storyteller" for "liar", but still...I loved living in my own little world and began writing stories and poetry at a very young age. I was especially fond of the typewriter my grandfather had. Every time we'd visit my grandparents, I'd shut myself up in his study and go nuts on that thing. The stories were terrible, most likely, but you have to start somewhere, right? An instance in 4th grade sticks out to me too: my teacher distributed pictures to everyone in the class and we had to write a story based on the picture. My picture was called "Mr. Linden's Library" and my story was about a bookstore filled with books that devoured children based on the type of book it was. A book about vines obviously pulled the poor reader in and one about the sea washed a child away with a tidal wave. I still have that story on my bookshelf.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JM: When I was younger, I used to say "I can't write short stories. I'm a novel girl", and this was before I ever wrote a novel, so I don't really know what I based that assertion on. I think I was just too timid to try writing short stories; I couldn't fathom how I was going to fit everything I wanted to say into a few pages. Then came the job that really started my writing career: an 11 hour a day job sitting in a perfume kiosk in our local mall. It was an awful job with no benefits and low pay, but it did afford me a lot of time to read. After an entire week of burying myself in HP Lovecraft anthologies, I started writing my own short horror stories. Were they derivative? Absolutely. But they were just the beginning. As I wrote more and more, I started veering away from Lovecraft and toward McHugh, and before I knew it, I had stacks of notebooks filled with short stories. I wouldn't say that if you can write a short story, you can write anything because everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and it really depends on the story. I have some that I think are really great and some that...well...let's just say that they need work.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JM: I'd say "Only super rad people read my books. You want to be super rad, don't you?" Okay, I probably wouldn', but I'd think it.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JM: For my forthcoming release, "Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things", in 20 words or less, I'd say its "The Wizard of Oz meets A Nightmare Before Christmas."

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JM: My Roald Dahl collection is vast. Each and every one of his books will be on my shelf for the rest of my life. As for someone whose books I must read right away, I'd say Bret Easton Ellis. To say that Mr. Ellis has made an impact upon me as a writer would be a vast understatement.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JM: It really depends on the book and how much of the story I thought up initially. My suspense novel "Rabbits in the Garden" came almost completely from a dream. I'd say 75% of that story was written the moment I woke up. Sometimes, I sit back and the book just happens, and sometimes I have to write an extensive outline. It really depends on the ease of the story and what else I'm currently working on; I often work on several different books at once. I don't usually know how the story is going to end or how my characters personalities are going to develop, but that's something I enjoy about writing. If I can surprise myself, I can surprise the reader.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JM: Beer, wine, and champagne: the holy trinity. ;) Truthfully, writing is relaxing for me most of the time. I like to hang out in my Writing Hut with a beer, put some LOST on in the background, and let the day slip away. I used to read all the time, but I was on a hiatus for a while because I was writing so much. I'm getting back into it now though. I recently finished The Time Traveler's Wife and I'm currently reading World War Z and....ahem...Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It's good stuff.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JM: I bet most of my friends wished I kept more of that stuff to myself, but I don't. I'm quite talkative and often spill all of my secrets. However, my biggest guilty pleasure is writing during marathons of America's Next Top Model. Because I've seen them all so many times, it's more like white noise in the background and I don't have to look up at the TV at all.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JM: This is the first time someone has asked me this question, and it's actually extremely pertinent. My cat Tyler is about 7 of my stories. I believe he's actually going to be on the cover of the second book in my "Tales of Dominhydor" series as there is a race of creatures in Dominhydor called...wait for it...Tylira. In the first and second books, he is the best friend to the female lead and the relationship absolutely mirrors the dynamic we had going on for so long. My husband and I actually just got a new kitten as well, and I felt it was only fitting to put her into the series too, so she shows up in the third book.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JM: My latest release was "The Sky: The World" from Reliquary Press, and I have to admit: I loved writing every character in that book. Writing Jack Racine, an opium-addicted cad, was as much fun as writing the mysterious Doctor Azaz, founder of the new science called picoepistemology. I got to play so many different roles in that book, and I don't think I could choose one that I liked the most.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JM: I think each of my protagonists have tiny elements of me, but so do the antagonists. However, I don't think I'm really similar to any of them. What would be the fun in writing about someone who's anything like me? If people wanted to read that, I could just publish my middle school diaries and I really don't think they'd sell very well.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JM: A new hobby of mine is participating in these word challenges on Facebook called "In a Sentence" and "Wordstew". They're really fun and allows me to read some really talented writers as far as gain exposure for my own work. I highly recommend those sites to anyone who enjoys writing challenges.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JM: I ask myself questions. My books are the answers.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JM: Rarely, but yes I do. In that situation, I either work on extensions and revisions on the book I'm having trouble with or switch to one of my other story projects for a bit. That usually breaks the block pretty quickly.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JM: Does that mean writing in the bathroom? Because I totally do that. I write anywhere at any time. If I ever have to wait for something, out comes the pen and paper. And if I don't have a pen and paper, I'm not above using eyeliner and my leg to get work done.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JM: I do prefer writing with the television on in the background, but I find that I get more writing done without it or with music playing. One of my favorite rituals lately is listening to my friend Colin's radio show with a glass of wine and my notebook. He plays a lot of Regina Spektor and Bob Dylan and really chill music that gets my pen moving.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JM: I've been writing seriously since about 2001, but I never tried to get published until my now-husband encouraged me in 2008. I had tons of stories, but I had no faith in myself, so I did have any preconceptions about publishing. I didn't think I would get published, and now I've had 6 books published by a variety of companies in less than three years.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JM: For me, it's food, period. I can't live without it and even though it may not be the best thing for me sometimes, I love to gorge myself.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JM: "PINS" is my next novel. I started writing it late last year, but I had to stop to work on my Dominhydor books. I'm really looking forward to returning to it though. Eva “Birdie” Finch is tired of telemarketing and serving jobs, but pickings are slim in Cumberland. The only even slightly appealing option is PINS: a strip club/bowling alley just over the state line. But learning how to confidently dance nude for strangers isn’t Birdie’s only obstacle, especially when fellow dancers start turning up dead. I like to call it blood-spattered T&A.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JM: Facebook, Geekologie, IWatchStuff,, and....probably Facebook again.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JM: Only in high school. I've been wanting to take classes, but I'm so protective of my writing time, I just haven't gotten around to it. Creative Writing was one of my favorite classes in school though. I still have the notebook full of writing prompts from that class.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JM: I don't think you can ever get past it. You just have to accept it. It always hurts though. It's never fun to hear that someone doesn't like your work or even when you get a rejection letter that makes it pretty clear that the publisher didn't even bother to read your work.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JM: I'll let you know as soon as I quit my full-time job and start writing for a living. From the outside, it seems like it would be a dream come true.

For more information and to keep up to date with Jessica please visit her website.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing and good luck on your journey!!!!