I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Author Jessaca Willis.
Me: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Jessaca: There were a few different moments. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was seven. My class had something called Writer’s Workshop, and it was my favorite time of day. My best friend and I were writing partner series’ about magical worlds of cake and ice cream, and I was just in love with creating these cool places! But I don’t think I really knew-knew I wanted to be a writer until I was in grad school. I don’t really know “the moment” it hit me, but one day I just opened up my laptop and started creating different characters. Next thing I knew, I was plotting out my first novel, Blood Awakens.
Me: How long does it take you to write a book?
Jessaca: For me, the writing itself only takes about a month. The editing, however, that’s where I get tied up. It took me three and a half years to edit my first book. So far, it’s only taken me about a year and a half to edit my second, and it’s looking like I might have my third edited in less than three months! Woohoo!
Me: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Jessaca: I typically try to dedicate at least an hour a day to writing. Some days I’m able to do more, but usually on those days I’m dedicating time to advertisements, updating my website, updating book blurbs, and other author maintenance stuff.
Me: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Jessaca: Hmm, that’s a tough one… and the only answer I can think of is kind of embarrassing, but sometimes when I’m editing, I read my book out loud with a British accent. I think I do this because a lot of the book I listen to on audio are in British accents, and so it’s like I’m listening to it from someone else’s voice and it allows me to find errors that I might not have found otherwise!
Me: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Jessaca: There doesn’t really seem to be just one way I get my ideas anymore. For a long time, I said I got my ideas from dreams. Which was true. I got like three or four ideas for series from my dreams (that’s where I got the idea for my short story The Demon in the Mirror). But my first book was pulled from thin air. Like I said earlier, I just sat down and started creating characters, as I created them, the story came to life. And lately I’ve been getting a lot of ideas from seeing premade book covers from cover designers. I used to worry, “What if when I’m done with this series, I never have another idea for a book again?” but I’m learning that, at least for me, inspiration comes from everywhere.
Me: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Jessaca: I’ve had several botched attempts at writing novels while I was in high school, but the first full-length novel that I actually, wrote, edited, and published was Blood Awakens, and like I said, I was in grad school when I started it, so I was twenty-three. I started working on it in January of 2014 and I finished it just last June 2019!
Me: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Jessaca: Mostly, I just “mom,” and yes I’m using that as a verb. I used to do a lot of really cool things like aerial silks and trapeze, cosplay, and traveling abroad, but now I just really love getting to hang out with my kiddos! They’re only six and one-and-a-half right now, so there’s so much development that is happening every day that I don’t want to miss it!
Me: What does your family think of your writing?
Jessaca: Well, our six-year-old thinks I wrote every book in the house, so, I guess she thinks I’m Superwoman. No but really, my family has been very supportive. My mom and brother help me with brainstorming all the time, my partner helps provide me time to edit by entertaining the kids on the weekends, and the kids—well, at least the one old enough to know that I’m writing—is always interested in what I’m doing on my laptop and whether or not I’m writing a new book. I’m fortunate in that way, because I know a lot of writers don’t have a supportive family when it comes to writing, but there are some ways in which even my family falls short, and that’s why I also think it’s important to have some other writer friends!
Me: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Jessaca: Oh, wow. The “most” surprising? I think on most days I’m just still shocked by how long the editing process takes. I know there have to be quicker ways to do it, but at least thus far, my editing process is sooo long. I just really want to give my readers the best experience that I can give them, and oftentimes that takes 5-8 different drafts. The other thing I’ve found surprising is just how many other independently published authors there are out there! It’s so inspiring to connect with them and to learn from each other. It’s like this entirely different world exists and I never even knew it!
Me: How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Jessaca: Let’s see… *counts on fingers* So far I’ve written three short stories (two of which are published) and three full novels (one is published, one is releasing in December, and one is being edited as we speak). It seems unfair to pick a favorite, since every time I’m working on one, it becomes my current favorite! So right now, I’d have to say that Soul of the Crow is my favorite. I think that’s because it is more in alignment with the genre I see myself writing in (Dark Fantasy/YA Dark Fantasy), so it’s felt more natural. Plus, I just really think readers are going to love it.
Me: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Jessaca: There are two pieces of wisdom that other writers shared with me early in my career that I always share with other writers. The first is: write daily, or at least do something related to your books daily. And I know this is a hard one for some people because our lives already feel so full and chaotic, but what happens is, when you take multiple days off from your WIP (Work in Progress—whether that be a novel, a short story, a poem, etc.), you lose momentum, and then it takes you that much longer getting back into it the next time you revisit it. Starting a daily writing practice has made my writing come so much easier. And some days I don’t write/edit. Some days I just work on a book blurb, or I create a fun graphic, or I share an excerpt—but I do something that keeps me connected to the story. The second thing I encourage every writer to do is to find their Writing Community. This can be an actual writing group that meets weekly at a local coffee shop, or it can be something virtual like the Writing Community on Twitter, a writing group on Facebook, etc. Something! Anything! I just think it’s really important to stay connected with other writers. You learn from each other, which is invaluable, but also on those really hard days, you keep each other motivated.
Me: What do you think makes a good story?
Jessaca: The things I look for in a story and the things I try to include are: realistic characters with complex backgrounds, and exciting narratives with engaging prose. I do think there is an art to storytelling that goes beyond simple relaying what happens next. For me, a good story has rhythm, it has symbolism, it has deep meaning. When I’m writing fantasy, I don’t want it to just be about something so removed from the reader that they’re simply watching the story playout like a bystander, I want the reader to be able to feel what’s happening. I want them to get so swept up in the way the story is told, or to be able to relate so much to a character, that they start to believe they’re really there, immersed in the story.
Me: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Jessaca: My mom likes to tell everyone how, when I was younger, I wanted to be three or four different things. I wanted to be a veterinarian-writer-basketball player-pop star. In many ways, my aspirations have not become any more realistic. I still set my bar really high and aim for the impossible.
For more information about the author and to view her work, please visit these sites: