I simply love the title (and the cover) to this book. Please help me welcome Jessica Topper to Author Interview Friday. Jessica, When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
Jessica: I wrote stories all through junior high and high school on an old clunky Underwood typewriter. They were mainly adventures starring my friends, with an evil teacher or a celebrity thrown in for good measure. Some kids excel in sports; other kids are the class clowns. I was the scribe. I entertained my friends with my tales and would custom-fit the stories to their wishes. And I enjoyed doing it in the process!
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Jessica: I went on to earn my B.A. in English, but I focused on the classics and shied away from most of the creative writing courses. I didn’t think I knew enough at the time to write a book people would take seriously. For graduate school, I surrounded myself with books once again, earning a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I still dreamed of writing a book (or ten) of my very own, and working in libraries was a great motivator.
Joanne: How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
Jessica: It took me about five years to write Louder Than Love, my first full-length novel. I wrote it in fits and starts, and I vow never to take that long on a book again! Ironically, the publication process was rather speedy compared to the writing. I landed my agent the same month I finished the novel, it sold to Penguin within a year of completion and released digitally nine months after that.
Joanne: Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?
Jessica: The book sold as Women’s Fiction, but it is very romantic in nature. Still, I think it would land on the regular Fiction shelves. Many readers commented that they were drawn to the cover and assumed it might be New Adult, but I assure you, it’s not!
Joanne: Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
Jessica: I’ve been experimenting lately. Louder Than Love was completely first person POV, one character. I’m not as comfortable in deep third person, but I think it’s a good exercise. Currently I am playing around with two alternating first person narrative in a story. It’s a comedy of errors tale so it’s been fun to take those liberties.
Joanne: Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
Jessica: I think author Chuck Wendig said it best: “You will never find your voice. It isn’t a car and you aren’t a dog chasing it. It’s not a pearl in an oyster or an elk in the forest. Your voice is who you are. The way you think. The way you speak when you’re not thinking about how you speak. You are your voice. If anything it’s like a lost key. It’ll turn up just when you stop hunting for it.”
I love the way words sound and I love manipulating them. Music and reading have always been important in my life so marrying both loves to create lyrical fiction speaks to me. It speaks for me. I adore alliteration. The classics I studied were all about imagery. I love stringing readers along a path of pretty words and then dumping them into the brambles with harsher truths. That’s the “me” that has always been there.
Joanne: It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
Jessica: I have no idea if it is directly increasing sales, but I have worked hard at creating an online author presence that is genuine and engaging. I’d much rather chat about music, for example, than share my daily word count. I’ve been posting bonus deleted scenes from Louder Than Love on my web site as well, which has been fun. It provides a bit of a cure for readers who were crying “book hangover” while at the same time, might pique the interest of someone who hadn’t yet heard of the book.
Joanne: I love the idea of the deleted scenes. I think all writers have a lot of them on our cutting room floors. What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Jessica: Write for an audience of one: yourself. Keep reading: for joy, for fun, for inspiration. Trust your process. What works for you may not work for others, and vice versa.
Joanne: What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Jessica: Louder Than Love is a love/loss/love again story set in Manhattan and the quirky comfort of a fictional suburb called Lauder Lake. It stars a young, widowed librarian, a charming, recluse rock star and a comically lovable 5-year old girl with a full-blown addiction to PBS. It’s about second chances and opening your heart to the possibility that there are all different kinds of love.
Joanne: Please share with us where readers can get your book.
Links to buy: website: http://www.jessicatopper.com
Joanne: Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?
Jessica: Sure! I think this one echoes what I shared in the premise.
My life had followed the grid of good grades, decent colleges, and impressive résumés, which landed me professional nine-to-five employment with solid benefits. I had lined up and shelved those accomplishments as deftly as books on a library shelf and stood back with the calm and cool satisfaction of a job well done. Next came Pete and love . . . then Abbey. I watched her streak past after the balloon, shrieking with uncontrolled delight. And then nature’s cruel curveball: the un-navigated fork stabbed in the middle of the road. The sun kink. Whatever you wanted to call it.
Despite all my organizing and arranging, I had never noticed the logical order to it all. The Dewey Decimal System placed Marriage and Family at 306.8. And Death and Dying at 306.9. How very tidy. Grief and love, hand in hand. Yet beside me sat Adrian, and what I felt for him defied classification.
“You look troubled, luv.” Adrian’s brow wrinkled in sympathy.
“I’m trying to figure out where you fit into the order.” Was there a place for reclusive rock stars? For a heavy metal hero with a heart of gold? “You,” I kissed each temple, then nose tip and chin. “You are glorious chaos.”