Today on my interview, I have someone I've only met online, but have gotten to know quite a bit through chats on Facebook over the last year. We're both with Mantle Rock Publishing and have worked together on a couple different things over the last few months. Jessica White has a new book coming out this month, and I know you're going to love getting to know her.
Jessica, your third book is about to release. Is this story totally different from what you've done before? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes. My Healing Seasons Series is historical, set in 1920s’ rural America. It centers on heiress Abigail Morgan and her struggle to honor her parents’ legacy to “do what’s right no matter the cost” despite the injustices she experiences and witnesses. The ripple effects of her decisions bring her and her brother into the care of a Montana doctor who is grieving the loss of his wife and failing at raising their son on his own. God brings these characters together to heal them and the communities they serve over the four book series.
One drawback of my historical series is the need to read them in order. When I was encouraged to try writing a contemporary romance, I knew I wanted to write stand-alones and decided to base them on characters from Greek mythology.
Song in the Dark is a Hades and Persephone inspired romantic suspense. This book explores what it means to overcome our darkest struggles.
For harpist Jenna Fields (Persephone), it delves into growing up with a narcissistic parent whose love is conditional on her performance and how she makes her mother look. We discover the self-destructive coping mechanisms Jenna has relied on to take back control and her struggle with her predatory ex who sees someone he can manipulate.
It also tells the story of homicide detective Dean Blackburn (Hades) who feels tainted by death. He doesn’t see himself as a rescuer but as the one who seeks justice for the dead. He struggles to accept there is a place for light and hope in his life.
When he sees that Jenna’s goodness isn’t because she’s never faced the world’s ugliness, but despite it, he determines to help her break free of her mother’s gilded cage.
Those all sound great.
What first inspired you to write stories? And what gave you the idea to retell a Greek myth in a contemporary way?
I’ve always loved to read, and I am a non-fiction nerd who started at the beginning of the Dewey Decimal system. Greek mythology falls in the 200’s and 300’s so I delved deep into mythology when I was in high school. I was drawn to the universality of world myths—how almost every culture has a creation story, a flood story, a resurrection story, etc. I was also fascinated by how the gods and goddesses (even our own) had human qualities or were at least described with human attributes.
I’d just started reading the Percy Jackson series to my kids when my critique group leader challenged me to write a contemporary romance for a novella collection. Taking the Greek gods, stripping them of their deity and powers, and exploring their flaws and personalities, I created my own pantheon of characters who felt like people you could meet on the street.
Was it hard to take a story based on Greek gods and give it a Christian spin?
Definitely. First there was the obvious issue of who was Zeus without his thunderbolt and Hades without an Underworld to rule? But really the hardest issue was the incest, rape, and violence inherent in Greek mythology. Stripping of their deity and divorcing the Olympians of their familial ties, I laid them before the Lord in prayer and asked Him how He’d work in their lives? Could He really love them? Were they really redeemable? And as always He answered “yes, even them.” So I started writing.
Wow. That's a great way to look at it.
You mention that stories are like labyrinths. Can you elaborate on that a bit and give us a hint about how your newest story works in a labyrinthine way? It's such a neat concept.
I’m so glad you asked this question. So labyrinths in Christianity are paths that have no dead ends and no ways to get lost. They meander in a circuitous path to a center point. For me, timeless stories are the same. Once the reader has committed to opening the first page, they should feel the journey twist and turn. They can’t turn around and go back, but must follow it through to the end. They should feel at times like they can see the end and then be pulled away to travel into the depths of the point-of-view character’s problems, flaws, wounds, and lies. And as they explore the depths of the character, they also explore their own depths and reach some central truth. When they arrive at the end, it feels like the only place you could have ended up and yet you walk out a different person than when you opened the book.
You also run a group that helps writers write ten minutes every day of the year. For me, only having ten minutes to write is practically pointless, but I know a lot of people benefit from your group. How does it work? Do you find you accomplish much in such a short amount of time?
It’s not just 10 minutes a day, but to work in 10-minute increments. For those who work outside the home, stay-at-home parents, retirees who have a life full of volunteer work, sometimes the dream of being a writer doesn’t seem practical. 10 Minute Novelists makes it practical and achievable.
I personally have more time than that to work, but I’ve learned that too much time is just as crippling to productivity as feeling I have none. Studies show, whatever time you give yourself, your project will fill. So this blog post for example, I gave myself 20 minutes to write. I’m currently at 15:43. If I’d given myself 30, I probably would have spent more time thinking about my answers, worrying about grammar, but might not have written anything of higher quality.
The founder, Katharine Grubb, wrote her first book (and all the ones since) in between raising and homeschooling five kids and running the group. With a few teens off at college, now she’s expanding 10 Minute Novelists into a business to provide writers the support and tools to reach their dream in practical small increments of time, whether that’s writing, editing, querying, building platform, or self-publishing. All of it can be achieved if you take advantage of those wasted time spots in your day.
One more question, which I ask all my authors. Can you tell us one interesting thing about yourself that very few people know?
I’m a pretty open book, even with strangers—especially strangers. And maybe that’s something most folks don’t know about me. Despite being an introvert and needing lots of recharging time, I am fascinated by people and their stories and seek them out. I love groups like Humans of New York that give us glimpses into real stories.
I see Jesus in every person I encounter, whether or not their heart knows Him. They are His beloved, and thus my brother and sisters in Christ. And I have watched Him chase them into dark places without fail over and over again, just like sometimes He comes after me when my “I can do this” gets me trapped up on some mountainous ledge realizing “I can’t do this.”
I bring my own experiences to the table when meeting someone new and focus on finding common ground or being able to honestly say, “I can’t begin to understand how that feels because I haven’t had to face that, but I’m willing to sit here and listen and help if there is something I can do.” Because that’s what Jesus did every day of His life. He listened. He empathized. He offered help where He could when it would be received.
Thanks for joining us today, Jessica. I'm glad you gave us that twenty minutes of time. :-)
If you'd like to know more about Jessica or her latest book, keep reading.
Song in the Dark
After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life.
Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him.
When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims.
When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother's gilded cage is already in her hands.
Jessica is a prayer warrior who loves to encourage and create safe spaces for the hurting and lost. She’s committed to living out God’s love and standing for equality, diversity, and justice in her community and publishing.
She has a B.A. in Educational Studies and published her first book, Surviving the Stillness, in 2014. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She also is a founding member of 10 Minute Novelists LLC, an international group of time-crunched writers.
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This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)