Wow, am I excited today! I've got one of my favorite authors (and fellow Girlfriends Book Club blogger), Jess Riley, here to chat. She's funny and an amazing writer, and a total sweetheart to boot.
It's extra special, too, because today her third novel comes out! I'm not going to tell you what MANDATORY RELEASE is about-- I'll leave her to do that, but I will tell you how much I LURVED her first two novels, DRIVING SIDEWAYS and ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE. Ditto for her short story, CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Okay, I'll give you some time to go over and order those books. Done yet? Great, let's get back to the interview, then!
Tell us about your latest novel in 25 words or less.
Lad lit meets chick lit in this dark comedy about broken people who work in a dangerous place, finding hope where they least expect it.
What was the inspiration for this novel?
I worked in a medium-security men’s prison for a few years to help put myself through college; this seems strange enough for any young woman, but at the time, I was so shy I could barely make a phone call without a script. But I needed the money, and more than that, the writer in me couldn’t pass on the opportunity. For nine months, I served as sidekick to a phenomenal special education teacher, and when that ended, I took another short-term gig as a clerk for the department tasked with deciding which inmates to ship from our overcrowded prison to private contract facilities out of state.
My experiences were a material gold mine, but they alone didn’t inspire this story. Some of the credit is also due my parents, who fell in love at the same prison twenty years earlier (Dad was a unit sergeant, Mom a secretary).
I’ve been working on this sucker for 14 years. It’s starting to feel like an adult child living in my basement again. Time to push it from the nest and hope that instead of plummeting to its death, it soars, baby.
How is the indie publishing process different from the traditional publishing process?
Indie publishing does have its drawbacks, but I love the flexibility, independence, and control it gives me. I can release a book on my own schedule, and much more quickly than via traditional publishing (a few months vs. a few years). If I want to fix a typo or add an excerpt from my latest novel, I can do so immediately; I can also change the cover whenever I want. The accounting is incredibly transparent and timely.
What are the drawbacks, you ask? Well, no advance—so you cover the upfront costs related to editing, formatting, cover art, etc. There are so many indie books being released every month that it’s also difficult to be noticed. But I believe that a good story will find an audience. In the indie model, readers are the gatekeepers, and word of mouth still prevails. It’s the ultimate in democratic capitalism. J
Your third novel. Wow! How has the writing process changed for you over the course of your writing career? Has it changed at all?
I outline everything now, and drink more. Just kidding about the drinking. Mostly. But really, the process is the same: lots of butt-in-chair, word-by-word slogging it out. Copious 24/7 note-taking and brainstorming. Now with the additional challenge of tuning out the “past book “ noise (e.g., people who tell you they liked your first book better, people who liked your second book better, people who think you are writing about them.)
In the (inevitable) movie adaptation of your book, who would play all of the main characters?
Well, the only ones we’re really here to see are Joe and Graham, am I right, ladies? Joe would be the hottest “bad boy” type under 30 working in Hollywood today, which we could pour some wine and debate all night. Alex Pettyfer? Tyler Hoechlin? Max Thierot? I love Tom Hiddleston for Graham (although he’s pretty British), or maybe James McAvoy. Okay, this is turning into my list of guys with clipped accents who are devastatingly handsome.
[Ed note: Jess, we are totally okay with that.]
If you weren't a writer, what would you be?
Crazy. Or maybe a dentist.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading a book I was asked to blurb: Grant Jarrett’s Ways of Leaving. It’s pretty hilarious.