Behind the Books – Interview With Author Jessica Park

by Maryse on August 25, 2011 · 1 comment

in Behind The Books

Flat-Out Love, rocked my world. While not one of my “usual” reads (there were no rock stars or bite-y hunks), it has been another one that I’ve been trying to “match” in my book obsession. I LOVED this book!

Author Jessica Park

The story had everything. Fun dialogue, laugh-out-loud moments, an intriguing story, a secret to uncover, unexpected friendships, and best of all, love. Sweet, heartwarming love. Oh! And a gasp-worthy moment that will make your jaw drop!

The perfect book. So, how lucky am I to have access to the perfect book writer?

Thank you SO much Jessica for joining us today, to answer some questions :)

Maryse: I’m dying to know. Will there be a sequel to the Flat-Out Love story?

Jessica: Hm…. I don’t know. Possibly. As much as I’m dying to do a follow-up, it would be impossible to bring the same sort of unknowns into a second book. I think that I could write a great story, but I’m not sure that it would be exactly what readers would want. The secrets, novelties, quirks that make FOL fun and meaningful are already out there. So, I don’t know! I really want to do some supplement chapters if I can find the time, and that may be as far as I can go. But I honestly miss the characters… It’s hard when you spend so much intense time “with” them and then finish the book. It’s a loss. A revisit of some kind. may be in order.

Maryse: I gasped at the surprise twist in the story! It took me awhile, but I love how the realization “came” to me, as a random thought (before the truth was revealed). Okay, I’m being a little smug ;) Do you get any feedback from people who figured it out early on? How about from those who didn’t see it coming?

Jessica: LOL, this is a funny issue. The truth is that I really had NO agenda for when people got that twist. Some readers understand the book in one way in early chapters, some gradually pick up on it, and others are conked over the head with it in the end. I have read plenty of reviews where the reader says something along the lines of, “I think I figured out the secret much earlier than the author intended, but it didn’t really matter because I still liked the book.” Honestly, my intention (and hope) was that the book would read well no matter what. If the point of the story was the “secret” or the “twist” then it wouldn’t work. It’s about watching the characters’ progress and their willingness to grow, to see, and to accept. (Particularly Julie, since the story is told from her perspective.)

Maryse: That’s true. The gasp-worthy moment was the icing on the cake. But I was wrapped up in their whole lives. Everything was important. The story progression, the friendships forged, and the beautiful moments (like the Christmas tree) felt so true to life. Were there any scenes in the book that came from personal experience?

Jessica: Truthfully, not much. Obviously some bits of reality surely crept in, but the story really belongs to the characters (as disgustingly corny as that sounds). A lot of scenes, especially the more emotional or poignant ones, sort of crept up on me as I wrote. The connections and relationships became more layered and meaningful during the writing process, and after a certain point in writing the manuscript, the characters really directed the story.

Maryse: They came to life, so to speak? They certainly felt real. I laughed so hard when Julie drunk-dialed Matt. She acted exactly as “drunk-Julie” would have, in real life. Perfection. I loved the silly flirtatious banter between the two characters, and Matt, as a romantic potential, truly came to life here. Can you tell me what it was like to write this scene?

Jessica: First, I drank a bunch of champagne and slammed back a few tequila shots. Second, I got distracted and watched YouTube videos of really bad early-90s dance music (think Ace of Bass) and then passed out.

OK, that’s not true. But I may or may not have some drunk dialing experience…

This really was one of my favorite scenes to write because Julie, who is normally pretty communicative and honest anyway, is even more so, and her drunken silly talk kind of gets Matt to loosen up a bit. She’s got no filter and it’s a bit disarming (and endearing) for him to have her speaking even more point blank than usual. But behind her overt drunkenness is some unhappiness that Matt picks up on a bit; I think he’s touched that she reached out to him. With no filter to stop her, she leans on him in a way that no one else has in years, if ever.

Maryse: Will we be getting any “short stories” or novellas from Matt’s POV? You know which one I want ;) *hint hint* LOL!

Jessica: Ha ha! See the first question. OK, OK, I really do need to make this happen. So, I’m open to more requests. (Maryse, I believe you want Matt’s POV from his date with Dana? I’m on it!)

Maryse: Yes!! Tee hee!! I’m dying to know about that date. I loved the little tidbit Dana revealed later.

Let’s talk about Matt’s little sister. I adored Celeste. While she unnerved me a little (I was always afraid of a complete meltdown), I found her charming, witty and highly intelligent. Tell me what you envision for Celeste’s future. Considering “normal” social pressures, her struggles as a young teen will certainly leave a mark. Will she always be eccentric and will she always have *slight* social issues?

Jessica: Lord, do I love that nutty Celeste. Yes, she will always be quirky and a bit off. I think that she’ll create a pretty controlled world for herself where she’ll let in select people who accept her. The downside of her skilled intellect is that she has a profound understanding of her social inadequacies, and I suspect she’ll hold on to that sense of her awkwardness and shame for a long time. Her affected style of speech will linger on, although it may soften a bit, but it could serve her well in highly-academic environments. (I could see her doing well on the debate team in high school!) As she gets older, I suspect that she’ll be able to turn her intelligence onto her emotional and social self and start to build a better understanding of who she is…  and maybe make some more changes. But even that understanding will not alter the core that makes up this amazing girl.

And someday, Celeste will meet a really, really great guy. An equally interesting, unique, magnificently weird guy that gets her and loves her for exactly who she is.

Which is sort of what we all hope for, yes?

Maryse: Absolutely!

Here’s a question from my friend Jackie, who also enjoyed your story. What inspired you to write this story – its quite a tragic storyline that covers a large number of ‘coping’ methods when dealing with life issues.

Jessica: This is rather embarrassing, and I feel like I should be sharing some deep story from my life, but the truth is that I saw a freaky blog some guy had written that included a video of himself and his wife carting around a cardboard cutout of Rick Springfield. The video had shots of Flat Rick mowing the lawn, going out to Starbucks, etc. It was weird. And sooooo awesome. I got sort of obsessed with the idea of a Flat Somebody… and started wondering what I could do with that in a story. Why would anyone have a Flat Somebody? How would people react? The writer in me went crazy. I started envisioning scenes and built a story around what initially seems like a silly behavior, but is in fact much darker. (Tip: It’s actually a great way to write. Pick one really bang-up concept or scene that you’re aching to write, and then build a story around that.)

I do have a background in psychology and social work, and that certainly plays into Flat-Out Love. The reason that I loved college literature classes so much was because I always brought a psychological interpretation to the way I understood the characters and plot, and I try to do that with my writing, whether overtly or more subtly.

Maryse: When inspiration hits, go with it! Even if it is a quirky blog that inspires you ;) LOL! So, what are you currently working on?

Jessica: After months of fooling around with an idea, I finally started writing a new book. Really, I am the slowest plotter and outliner in the world. It’s inexcusable. But I’m working on an older YA romance novel centered around two seniors in college. Both have tough family histories and, although they are very connected, they understandably have trouble making a relationship work. The timing is off. There is a strong element of fate and destiny–an undeniable crossing of paths–that plays throughout the book, too, which is going to be really fun to play with. It’s an intense story, for sure, but there will definitely be moments of levity and fun. It’s a step older than Flat-Out Love and will have some stronger language and sexual content (nothing outrageously graphic, but scenes that are important to the story), and hopefully readers will stick with me. I guess I’ll find out! But writing is about taking risks, and the glory of self-pubbing is that I can do what I want.

Again, I’m choosing an atypical age group to write about, but it seems to me that there is a huge gap in the market for books about college kids. I don’t understand why publishers have not embraced this pivotal age. So I’m going to.

Maryse: Great idea, I loved my college days, and I’m sure I will relate. I can’t wait to read it! Can you tell me what prompted you to become a writer, and how your experience has been? Anything that surprised you in regards to your writing process?

Jessica: I really fell into writing. I’m not someone who has spent my entire life writing fiction, but my mother has been a published author for years, and she sucked me in to coauthor the Gourmet Girl mysteries with her. I really had zero understanding of the publishing world when I started, and it’s been a long, hard road to learn how to navigate this world. Writing the mysteries was a totally different experience from what I’m writing now because there is a bit more of a formula to those… and you’re at the mercy of a publisher who has certain expectations of the genre.

What I really adore about self-publishing, and found very surprising, is that it’s made me a better writer. I do better when I don’t listen to anyone, when I ignore the “rules,” and simply write what I want, the way I want it. That freedom is incredibly inspiring. There is no pressure to alter plots or characters or styles because I’m worried about a publisher rejecting it based on choices that I’ve made. Flat-Out Love is really the first book I’ve written that feels entirely me. I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from other authors who signed deals with publishing houses and then were forced to alter their books in a way that yielded a final product that barely resembled what they had initially written. How terrible to have a book out there with your name on it and not feel that it represents you as an author?

Self-publishing gives that true, The world is my oyster! feel. I can make anything and everything happen. I just have to choose.

Maryse: *nodding* Yes!!  These “indie” stories, that I can’t stop raving about, are so well rounded. They feel complete. The detail in each scene, in each personal moment… the emotion feels real. I think this is because the author’s vision, and personal experience as they bring the characters to life, remains intact. Because of the slow and steady progression, I can *connect* with these characters, and become a part of their lives.

Many self-published authors appear to be experiencing great success and recognition. Kind of like “indie music”. In fact, I see that “Flat-Out Love” has reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle Top Rated in Romance. Congratulations!!! I knew it was a 5-star book, and I’m thrilled to have found it.

As an “indie” writer yourself, can you describe your experience in releasing your books this way? Your fears and expectations? Any obstacles you’ve had to overcome? Any achievements that you did not expect?

Jessica: Aw, thank you, Maryse! I am honestly stunned at how well the book is doing. It’s a tremendous feeling to be getting such great reviews and to see sales taking off. After slaving over Flat-Out Love for months, and then editing and reediting, and tweaking, and totally pouring my heart out, the success is so deeply appreciated.

I am a huge advocate for self-publishing these days, although it’s been a lot of work to get to a place where I really know what to do and how to do it. Although I may technically write the book alone, I have pretty much built up a team of people who help me get the final product out there. I have a great group of test readers, two fabulous copy editors, a cover artist, a font nerd (my friend who formats the book for paperback and does the cover lettering), and tons of author pals who help me with a myriad of issues.

I really didn’t know what was going to happen with this book when I released it, and was frankly terrified that it would go nowhere. Would a non-paranormal YA-ish book sell? I had tried to sell it to a publisher but was consistently told that no one would read it; 18 was supposedly categorically too old for YA, and “realistic fiction had taken a dive in the market.” I prayed that publishing houses were wrong. And it turns out they were.

Seeing my little book hit the Top Rated charts on Amazon is stupefying. I really can’t believe it. I was thrilled to pieces when my sales ranking dropped to below 10,000. And then it just kept dropping. I thought for sure it’d stop at 4,000, but as of this writing the book is hovering around 400, which I find staggering. Maybe no one but authors pay attention to these numbers, but it’s pretty exciting for me.

Maryse: Wow! That’s terrific!! For those who want to get started on your series, where can your books be found, and where can they find more information about you?

Jessica: The Gourmet Girl mysteries (Steamed (A Gourmet Girl Mystery book#1) are all available at online bookstores, and you may be able to find a paperback here and there in an actual brick and mortar store. My first YA book, Relatively Famous, and the newer Flat-Out Love are in print online and available as an ebook in almost every format.

I do short, mostly silly, blogs fairly often on my Flat-Out Love site, and I’m an unabashed Facebook addict, so come visit!

Facebook: jumby24

Twitter: JessicaPark24

Maryse: Thank you so much, Jessica! This was fun, and I’m thrilled that I found you on Amazon. I can’t wait to read more!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ruby February 24, 2013 at 4:14 AM

We will indeed get a story from Matt POV ! It will be called FLat Out Matt … That’s what JEssica said on her FB page !

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