I’m thrilled to welcome Jessica Armstrong to BookEnds! I fell in love with her women’s fiction novel, its dual time periods, and the setting of New Orleans which came alive for me as if it was a character itself. I can’t wait for you to read her story, but in the meantime you can get to know her a little better below. ~Rachel
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I try to write every day when I can. After the kids are in bed, I turn on some music, get a drink and sit down with my writing. When I’m in a drafting mode I aim for 500 words a night, but I also try not to beat myself up if I don’t get there. Because there are always days I don’t get there! But any day I put words on paper is a good writing day in my book.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
Really the genre chose me. I didn’t set out to write women’s fiction, I came up with a story idea and it all evolved from there. The stories I find myself wanting to tell are the stories of women living their lives, their pasts and futures blending together, with a little something extra thrown in.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
The Outlander series. Not only is it such a great story, but then I’d also know how it ends!
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
If I’m not reading or writing, you’ll catch me baking probably. I started watching Great British Bake Off a couple years ago and it turned me from someone who once made a loaf of bread that was more of the consistency of a bowling ball, to someone who makes a pretty fine yeast king cake. Otherwise I’m chasing my kids or binge watching a period drama.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
I’m on Twitter as @iry_cat
What’s the last book you read?
Oh gosh, I’m binge reading regency romances right now so this is a constantly moving target. But the last novel I read was actually A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole. It was such a fun read. I’m also reading a lot of World War I memoirs while I’m working on my next projects, but they are decidedly less swoony reading material.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Just write it down. It doesn’t matter what order. It doesn’t matter if you finish the thought, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t start somewhere.
Once I took that advice, I quit talking about the book I wanted to write and worrying that I wasn’t doing it right, and I actually managed to finish it. Because I realized there is no one way to write. It liberated me to finish projects, rip them apart, rewrite and edit. It’s a pretty freeing bit of advice.
Plotter or pantster?
Can I call myself a plantser? A little of both. I start out with a general plot line but then my characters take over from there and the project takes on a life of its own.
Synopses, love them or hate ‘em?
Hate them. They’re necessary but I cannot, for the life of me, condense my story to a nice tidy synopsis without a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Many, many tears.
Do you have a writing playlist or a vision board? If so, what’s on them?
Oh yes. Every project has a playlist. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Jason Isbell mixed with Louis Prima and some trad jazz thrown in. Hozier also makes an appearance, as does Sam Smith. So I suppose you could say it’s a relatively eclectic playlist.
Drink of choice when writing? When not writing?
If I have to get up in the morning, Irish Breakfast tea. If not, coffee.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
Don’t give up. I almost shelved the manuscript that ended up getting me my agent because of self doubt. The key is getting your project into the hands of someone who understands your project and loves it as much as you do. It’s one of those pieces of advice that sound cliche but it’s really very true.
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you want to meet and why?
Diana Gabaldon. I’m such a fan girl. I suppose there’s still hope I might meet her someday! But she’s such an inspiration to me. One day I was reading something she wrote and realized that she was in her thirties with kids when the first book came out. And then it hit me that there’s no one path to writing. So yeah, I think if I could meet anyone it would be her and I’d give her a big thank you for jump starting me back into writing (even though all she did was exist).