Today I have author Jessie Andersen stopping by! Jessies’ book At What Cost came out yesterday!
I pray. A lot. J Seriously. I’m not joking. I finish one book and say, “Okay, God. If you want me to write anything else, you need to give me a new book.” And so far, he has. J
Do you ever experience writer’s block? Do you work with an outline, or just write?
A little, mostly when I’ve taken a few days off from writing. It’s hard to get back in to the habit.
I use a flexible outline. I draw up those good old triangular plot diagrams that your English teachers used to torture you with. You know the rising action, climax, falling action, resolution ones. I try to plot out my story that way, but in the end I always end up with more than what’s on my outline.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
HA! How much time do you have? First, I wrote about three chapters and got stuck. (Those chapters have since been chopped, along with seven others.) So, I wrote another book—entirely unrelated. (It will never be seen or published.) Then I finished At What Cost and started sending it to agents. I had some favorable inquiries, but nothing materialized. After over a year of that, I was told by one agent to rework it a bit. So, I did the ‘ol, chop chop, cutting ten chapters and reworking the rest of the book. Then I sent it out again, another year later, I finally landed my agent. I went through a LOT of queries and a TON of rejection. Someday I’ll reveal how many agents I queried, but let’s just say for now it’s an embarrassing amount. Then, of course there are the rejections from publishing houses. It’s a good thing I have thick skin.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Most of the experiences of Maggie are someone’s personal experiences. I did several interviews to prepare for this story. I’ll be honest, I’m unqualified to write a story like this. I’ve never had an abortion. But the story was so heavy on my heart that I had to write it. In order to make it real, I had to interview women who had been there. I spoke with several post abortive women, both women who had regrets and those who didn’t. I’ve had a few people tell me that Maggie’s phone conversation with the receptionist seems unrealistic, but that was drawn directly from one of my interviews. So Maggie’s story is the story of several women put together.
How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t. I’m great with chapter titles, but I couldn’t think of a title to save my life. It had a bunch of different names, none of which worked until one of my former students, Rachael, gave me “At What Cost.” The funny thing is, she doesn’t remember this. J
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’m working on the second book in The Unviables series. It has yet to be named. It’s a dystopian and it’s been SOOOOO much fun to write. The first book in the series is currently with my agent, so hopefully, I’ll have good news soon.
Why did you feel you had to tell this story?
-HA! This makes me laugh because I feel totally unqualified to tell this story. Here’s the shortened version of my journey: I was teaching middle school and reading what the kids were reading. It was during that time I felt that I could write a story like the ones I was reading, but I didn’t have a topic. I started praying about it and told God to give me a topic. He said abortion. I said, “Um, no.” He said, “Um, yes.” Well, long story, short, I learned not to argue with God. So, here I am. When I started this story, I didn’t even know anyone who had had an abortion. (Well, I thought I didn’t.) But as soon as I started telling people about it, I had many women come up to me and say, “Can I tell you my story?” Bits and pieces of all those stories made it in to At What Cost.
I find it interesting to know what environment people write in. Do they use a pen and paper, laptop? Quiet room, music or what? Dog at their feet? Cat on the desk? Just whatever makes it comfortable to be productive.
For me, my environment changes. For the most part, I have a huge desk in my kitchen, on which sits a fish tank. When I get stuck, I lean back and watch the fish. Sometimes my baby sits on the desk in her little Bumbo. (It’s a huge desk, remember.) But that doesn’t work very well because she likes to try to grab the mouse and drool all over it.
I love writing at Starbucks. Before I had my baby, I’d go there and sit all morning and write. Yes, I’m the yuppy who walks in and is greeted by name there. Hey, what can I say, I love their coffee.
Most of the time I write on the computer, but I do find that if I’m stuck or if I can’t bring my laptop where I’m going, a notebook and pen work just as well. I plan out all of my novels using a large paper and a rising/falling action triangular diagram. (You know, the kind your middle school English teachers used to torture you with.—Remember, I was a middle school English teacher.) I don’t always stick to the outline exactly, but at least I know where my major plot points are.
What sort of coffee would your characters order?
Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare? Venti, nonfat, cinnamon dolce latte, with whip. Or Venti, nonfat, pumpkin spice latte with whip in the fall and Venti, nonfat, gingerbread latte in the winter… Oh, wait, that’s my order. Hmm, Okay, well, Ray, Maggie’s dad is a regular joe kind of guy. Probably Pikes Peak. Maggie, she’s totally a Mocha, possibly raspberry mocha latte girl. Natasha, Maggie’s mom would order a grande, decaf, nonfat, soy double pump vanilla latte, hold the whip. And Rachel would take a grande double shot cappuccino and a piece of lemon bread. —Can you tell I go to Starbucks often?
When you rip out a page from a spiral notebook, do you leave the strip with the tabby pieces in? Or do you have to remove them?
–Remove, remove, remove. These things drive me nuts. Ask my former students. They’d be chastised for leaving the “fuzzies” on.
Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
You’re supposed to make your bed? I knew there was a reason my mother always nagged me about that, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is. (I do make it when my mother comes to visit. J)
Do you get road rage? What pisses you off the most about other drivers?
Nope, but slow drivers annoy me. My grandfather was one of the original NASCAR drivers in the late 40s and early 50s, so speed is in the blood. J
About the Author
Jessie Andersen lives in a small town in Western New York with her husband and three kids. When she says small, she means REALLY small. A former English teacher, she now spends her time writing while the kids are at school and the baby is sleeping. When she’s not writing, she volunteers at the local library, sings in the church band and takes her kids to their various activities. It’s a busy life.