September 7th, 2018
I asked Jessica where she would like have our interview:
A bell chimes overhead as the heavy glass door to the café eases open. Crisp air carrying the faint smell of damp leaves fills the room, mixing with the pleasant aroma of coffee and buttery pastries. I pull the sleeves of my sweater down over my hands and take a sip of my cinnamon latté, letting the soothing heat work its way down my throat to pool in my stomach, warming me from the inside out.
The corners of my lips tip up into a smile as I relax into the plush armchair situated near the large bay windows overlooking the tree lined lakefront. Peering out the window, leaves painted with red and gold are a stark contrast to the murky water of the lake as it laps at the shore. Branches sway in the brisk October wind, losing several more leaves which dance on the breeze before settling down on the hard-packed soil.
Taking a small bite of my pumpkin scone, my eyes slip shut and a small moan of pleasure escapes my lips. A slight flush dusting my cheeks, I peek an eye open, hoping no one caught the soft sound. Thankfully, the other patrons seem to be too engrossed in their own goodies and conversations to pay me any mind.
Golden yellow light fills the modest shop from antique looking light fixtures adorning the smooth taupe walls. Small dark wood tables of varying sizes dot the room, surrounded by mismatched chairs of every style. It was a cozy little place. The atmosphere wrapped around you like a hug. I was thankful for my personal ritual to always show up early for meetings. It gives me a chance to settle in and order my thoughts—and maybe a little while to people watch. It shouldn’t be too much longer until Laura arrives, and a swirl of giddy anticipation swoops through my stomach.
Laura Mae: Hello Jessica, how are you doing today?
Jessica Shaut: Hi Laura! I’m doing pretty well today. A bit of a nervous, excited mess about Pitch Wars though. How are you?
L: I’m great, thank you! I saw something about that. What is that, exactly?
J: It’s a writing event that takes place on Twitter. You submit your WIP to a selection of mentors–most of which are published authors themselves. If they pick you, they’ll work with you on your novel before the actual Pitch Wars event where you get a chance to Tweet a pitch of your novel to agents. It’s a really exciting event!
L: Oh wow! That’s actually really cool! I would be a mess too! So, can you tell us a little bit about your writing in progress?
J: The piece I’m currently working on–Awakening of Light–is book one in my series The Rising Dark. It’s a YA Contemporary Fantasy about a girl who’s nightmares have started to transcend dreams to reality. It centers around her struggle to find out what’s happening to her and how it’s connected to a family secret that lands her smack dab in the middle of a centuries old war against an ancient darkness. Plus, you know, romance and high-school drama…
L: Very intriguing! How did you come up with that idea? It sounds interesting!
J: It’s actually a funny story, if not a bit cliché. About ten years ago, when I first had the idea for the series, I had a really awful nightmare one night that centered around the creatures that would eventually become the main antagonist in the story. So, at least something good came out of such an awful night’s sleep.
L: Oh sweet! And it’s not cliche at all! I wrote my first from a dream too! So I love how close yours is related to mine!
J: That’s so awesome! I really do think that dreams can be such great inspiration. Well, the dreams you remember anyway.
L: Absolutely! Very helpful stuff. 🙂
L: Oh goodness! That’s crazy! Haha!
J: Yeah, my main character tries to put on a brave face, but she’s definitely falling apart on the inside.
L: Aw yeah I know how that is… So with your current novel, I’m sure you have had some road blocks. How do you personally overcome writers block?
J: Ah, writers block…my old foe. Haha. When I hit a bad patch of writers block, there’s a few things I usually try that help. I re-read one of my favorite books to find inspiration and motivation. I talk about my WIP with someone, because I’ve found that talking it out with someone helps me to find that spark of excitement again. And I will also listen to my WIP playlist and browse aesthetics on Pinterest.
L: Very creative! I never thought of doing those! I agree with talking to people (especially other writers) can help a ton.
J: Talking with other writers can be such a valuable source of inspiration! There’s so much talent out there!
L: There really is! What is your favorite thing to write about? Like characters or description; that sort of thing.
J: Characters! Hands down. Personally, I just feel like the best stories are character driven. If I don’t relate to or care about the characters in a story, I’m not going to care much about where they are or what they’re doing. When it comes to writing, getting to know my characters is such a fun experience, and they almost always surprise me. Getting to learn about their individual quirks, their motivations and backstories…I just feel like, to me, the characters are the most tangible part of a story.
L: Great answer! That’s my favorite too, for pretty much all the same reasons! Haha!
J: That’s awesome!!
L: So what does your typical day of writing look like? Anything you absolutely need before the ideas flow?
J: In an ideal world, all I need is my computer, a hot beverage, and a snack. In reality, my writing day has a lot more to do with whether or not my toddler feels like cooperating. He’ll ignore me all day, but if I sit down to write, suddenly he wants all my attention…and all the snacks. Thankfully, my husband is amazing and will usually take over when he gets home from work so that I can get some writing done.
L: Aw that’s nice of him! That sounds hectic but so impressive you’re still getting writing done even with a toddler!
J: Haha, it’s definitely challenging some days. He’s a handful for sure! But, he keeps things interesting. Doesn’t hurt that he’s stinking adorable too!
L: No it doesn’t! Haha! So you said you read books to help you out of a slump? A favorite book perhaps? What book would that be?
J: Whenever I’m stuck in my own writing, I ALWAYS read something by Jennifer Armentrout. Usually either her Lux series or the Dark Elements series. Her work is fresh and witty with kick ass heroines and swoon-worthy romance!
L: Nice! A great combination!
J: Girl, you have NO idea! Haha!
L: Haha!! Would you say you have a favorite literary character?
J: Oh man, onto the tough questions, huh?
J: It’s so hard to pick! I have a lot of favorites. I feel for every character that I can find a real connection with, I carry a small piece of them with me. It’s impossible to pick just one. A couple of my favorites though would have to be Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and Katy Swartz from Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series.
L: I feel you. Luna huh?! Interesting! I love her!
J: She’s so fantastic! Absolutely brilliant with such a unique outlook on life. And she never lets the bullies get her down!
L: Exactly! I wish JK introduced her earlier in the series. Haha! Besides writing and reading, what else do you enjoy doing?
J: I always freeze for a minute when people ask me this. Like my brain short circuits or something haha. Writing and reading make up a huge part of my life! I do love binge watching shows and movies with my husband though! I also enjoy baking and coloring. And, of course, playing with my son. He loves to build block towers!
L: Creative person all around!
J: Between writing, reading, and movies/television, I just enjoy spending time in a lot of different worlds with a lot of different amazing people. It’s such a wonderful way to be something more than yourself for a while.
L: Excellent! I totally agree. 🙂 Can you tell me what is the thing most people say that you really hate? Like a word or a phrase?
J: I absolutely, 1000% CANNOT stand the word ‘moist’. A fact which my husband and sister find hilarious. No idea why, but it gives me the heebie jeebies.
L: Girl, I could not agree more with that. Haha! It just sounds… dirty!
L: Speaking of things we hate, what is the thing you hate most about writing?
J: Haha, the thing I HATE most, huh? Probably when you have an idea for a story, or are reading back through a partial manuscript, and you get SO excited and want to read it immediately…then you realize you haven’t written it yet. Either that or when you’re struggling with a sentence, unable to figure out what word your thinking of even though it’s right there on the tip of your tongue. It’s so frustrating!
L: Preach! And as always, last question: What is your best advice to aspiring writers out there?
J: My best advice would be to write the story you want to read. You’re never going to please everyone, and it’s easy to burn out doing this, but if you truly LOVE what you’re writing, then it will always be worth it.
L: Awesome! I agree! Well thank you so much for talking with me, Jessica!
J: Thank you so much for asking! This has been so much fun!
Jessica Shaut is a YA Fantasy author currently hard at work on her first series, The Rising Dark. Born and raised in Webster, NY, she fell in love with and married a soldier, subsequently finding herself displaced to Tennessee where she lives with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog.
Growing up addicted to reading—constantly in trouble for reading by flashlight at all hours of the night—she’s dreamed of being a writer herself since she was very young. When not writing, Jessica can be found with her nose buried a book, binge watching Netflix, and consuming far too much caffeine. She has a love for all things paranormal and magical and is an avid fan of everything from Supernatural and Harry Potter to Doctor Who. And with all this fangirling, she has far too many ships to count.