Writer Wednesday – Jessica Bell

Sorry I’ve been a little lame here and haven’t posted much but it’s all for a good reason – Devotion! I’m trying to get it all wrapped up nice and pretty for you for the beginning of February. In other words, it’s sucking up all of my creativity, focus and time like a literary vampire. I’ll bless haunt you with my presence more often soon enough and I’ll even be able to bring back Teaser Tuesdays with some clips from Devotion. In the meantime…

Today we have a special guest post from the fabulously talented Jessica Bell, whose debut String Bridge just released last month. Jessica has been a great online writer friend who has helped me with some sticky spots during Genesis and Devotion. I’m so excited for her new release and can’t wait until I have some downtime to read it.

About Jessica:
Jessica Bell is a literary women’s fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist. Her debut novel, String Bridge, is slated for publication by Lucky Press, LLC, November, 2011.

She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the ’80s and early ’90s. She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for Hellenic American Union, Cengage Learning, Pearson Education, Education First and Signature Manuscripts. Jessica Bell’s poetry and short stories have been published in various anthologies and Literary Magazines. A full list can be found on her website. Additionally, she has written various English textbook materials and is also a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Ms. Bell’s experience as an Australian living in Greece has greatly influenced her writing.

Jessica Bell has a Bachelor of Arts from Latrobe University, where she studied subjects such as modern English literature, fiction writing, nonfiction writing, screenplay writing, editing and publishing children’s literature, myth and ideology, and 18th-century romanticism. 

About String Bridge:
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a ‘proper’ career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage–and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits.

Jessica’s guest post:

One thing I’ve noticed since my debut, String Bridge, was released (and is certainly hard to ignore) is the fact that readers often assume the book is about me (or, in a few instances, accuseme of it being autobiographical). And you know what my reaction is on the outside? “Of course it’s not.” And I politely explain why. But my reaction on the inside is, “F%#@! This is ridiculous!”
So, in response to this epic “accusation,” and the frustration I’m feeling, I’m going to set a few things straight. Let’s start with this:
String Bridge is not about me.
So where do I start? Do I start explaining why there are so many circumstantial similarities between me and Melody, my main character? Yes, I will start with that. The truth of the matter is, it was my first novel and I was lazy. I wanted to avoid the mist of research; to write my first novel with the knowledge I already possessed. The answer, really, is simple …
  • I gave Melody my job … because I know my job inside out and have 7 years experience of it.
  • I gave Melody the aspiration to be a musician … because I’m a musician also, and can thoroughly describe how music makes one feel.
  • I gave Melody my location, Athens, Greece … because I know it like the back of my own hand. (Not to mention that it’s a really interesting city to set a story in!)
  • I gave Melody’s parents a home on a Greek island … because mine live on a Greek island and I also know that like the back of my own hand.
  • I gave Melody’s husband the same job as my partner … because I know what that kind of work entails from an outsider’s perspective.
Okay … what do you notice about these similarities? They have nothing to do with the story. They are just surface elements of character and setting.
Isn’t it interesting that readers think that because of these aspects, the novel is autobiographical? Because I can’t imagine the same reaction if I were living in New York, USA, and the book was set in New York, USA. It becomes pretty far-fetched when you think about it like that, doesn’t it?
Having said that, I think every writer puts themselves into every character, but the similarities come through in waves which depend on various factors, such as mood, while writing. For example, I’m as emotional and passionate as Melody is. I’m as cheeky as Tessa is. Depending on the circumstances, I can get as cold and aggressive as Betty and Alex, and as passive and timid and obedient as James. I can sometimes be as boisterous as Heather and as caring and generous as Serena. I can even be quite selfish at times, which I think each and every character in String Bridgeis as some point or another, and so is each and every person on this planet at some point in their lives. There is alwaysgoing to be a piece of the author in every single book they write. But this is a good thing. If it didn’t happen like that, then the books we read wouldn’t sound very realistic, would they?
What do you think? Do you think it’s reasonable to assume someone’s debut novel is autobiographical? Why/Why not? Have there ever been any books that made you wonder if they were about the authors themselves? How would you feel if someone thought this about your work?

To read more about String Bridge and its accompanying all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author, please visit: http://www.stringbridge.com/ 

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18 Responses to Writer Wednesday – Jessica Bell

  1. Of course that first novel is autobiographical! I’m part of the Cassan fleet – didn’t you know that?
    We take the elements of what we know and put together a story. It’s that simple.
    I know you are not Melody!

  2. Slamdunk says:

    Thanks Kristie and Jessica–fun stuff.

    Having parents on a Greek Island I bet offers many advantages.

  3. First of all, congrats on the debut! Secondly, I know what you mean. It can be frustrating when others read the surface elements when you know there are much deeper elements in a book, whether it is your own work or not.

    Also, what can you do if your basics are already bookworth? 🙂

    Good to read you again!

    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

  4. Personally, as a writer, I think that every novel is a little bit autobiographical, but, that being said, I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to being accused of this book being literally autobiographical.

    Good stuff, thanks Kristie and Jess. I’m following now.

  5. Dawn Ius says:

    I think many many writers include elements from their own life to create characters and setting – but you’re right, that isn’t the STORY. I can also imagine how it must be frustrating 🙁

  6. Kristie Cook says:

    Yes, Alex, and I shoot lightning out of my hand and will never be sick again or age another day (don’t I wish!). Thanks for stopping by!

    Slamdunk, maybe we should visit Jessica’s parents? We can tell them how grateful we are for Jessica and then just, you know, make ourselves at home.

    Michele & Matthew, I can’t remember which famous author said it (one of the classics), but every book SHOULD have a piece of ourselves in it. That’s how we make it real, make it relatable and make it personal. Adding a bit of ourselves makes it OURS.

  7. Kristie Cook says:

    The next best thing is family/friends seeing other people from your real life in your characters. “Oh, I know this person is based on your sister (or uncle or first boyfriend, etc).” Um, no. Maybe a quirk or a physical trait, but that doesn’t mean that’s how I see the whole person. Even if I borrow a name and a characteristic, it stops there. Don’t go reading any more into it. LOL

  8. Jessica Bell says:

    Exactly, Kristie! Thank you! lolol Thanks all for reading!!! :o)

  9. Scarlett says:

    This is why I hesitate, each and every time, those who don’t write ask me, “So, what’s your book about?” There seems to be very little understanding of how the bits and pieces of a character are formed, and understanding the distinction between Me and My Imagination.

    “The writer breathes Life into a story and its characters, through thoughts and feelings and experiences of their own,” I respond.

    It feels personal, because it is, I guess.

  10. Green Monkey says:

    my writing is alllllll about me. I don’t know how to write anything else. maybe some day but I doubt it 🙂

  11. Em-Musing says:

    Well, that’s my fear. My “Em” series does sound a lot like me…and much is, like yours,close to home, but I’ve exaggerated a lot. It’ll be embarrassing if people think I’ve done all “that.”

  12. KarenG says:

    If I lived in Greece and had a cool job, I would most certainly use these elements! I hope you write more novels set in Greece, with the music industry as a backdrop. I promise not to think they’re autobiographical.

  13. Jen Chandler says:

    Thanks for hosting this interview, Kristie!

    Jessica, great post! I don’t believe putting your personality or yourself (in any way) makes a book autobiographical. We write what we know at it’s most base level. If we didn’t understand where our characters were, where they came from, how could we write their stories?

    Oh, and good job in avoiding insecurity this month! Keep holding that head high!!

    Cheers,
    Jen

  14. Um, so is the book autobiographical? 😉

    I sure hope no one thinks I base my books on myself. I write crazy mystery novels where I kill people. For the record, I have NEVER killed a person. In fact, I don’t even like killing spiders… or cockroaches.

    Loved your book, Jessica!

  15. A writer is always accused of being his MC, so of course I am really the last fae and female! LOL. You’re right – each of our characters is a tiny facet of who we are. It is the “truth” of our writing that makes people think we write autobiography. A great interview, Roland

  16. Arlee Bird says:

    Maybe alternate realities or role playing? If a writer writes what they know it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve written about themselves. A writer has to live inside the skin of their characters to some extent.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

  17. Heather says:

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book all over the net! That’s a good sign. 🙂 Congratulations to Jessica. I wish her the very best of luck with it!

  18. Trisha says:

    I think it’s something that people are always going to wonder about…it’s a given. But assume? No, I would never assume. 😉

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.