Friday, November 22, 2013

Interview with Jessica Bell


What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
The beauty of self-publishing is the very thing that critics say is its downfall: there is room for everyone. Have a unique voice that doesn’t fit the mass market? Want to write another angel book, even though publishing experts say angel books are “dead”? Self-publishing allows the readers who love exactly the kind of books you write to find you, even if that number is too small to interest a mainstream press. And if you have written a book that has mainstream appeal? There are even more readers who will scoop up your value-priced indie book.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Don’t doubt your decision. Self-publishing allows all writers of all stripes access to the world’s readers. The industry has changed, forced into embracing the digital revolution, just like the music industry. Independent artists are everywhere now. Authors don’t self-publish because they’re too lazy to go through the slog of submitting queries to agents, or editing their manuscripts properly, or simply out of impatience to see their work in print, just like independent musicians aren’t too lazy to find a record deal. They simply have a different sound. Or they don’t want to be told by the record label what they should and shouldn’t record. In a saturated market, where publishers/music producers have millions and millions of queries and proposals, independent artists are driven by self-belief and a passion that their work deserves a place. So believe in yourself. You word does deserve a place.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
The fact that, despite the full-time job, I can still find time to write books. So many people get stuck in a rut, thinking they can't manage it, that there's no time. But it's not true. If you really want something, you find the time.

What are your goals as a writer?
To have my books linger in the minds of readers long after they've turned the last page. With regards to my non-fiction, to help aspiring writers realize that writing doesn't have to be as overwhelming as it seems. Learn the craft in bite-sized pieces, and eventually everything will come together.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
I’m also a singer/songwriter/guitarist. And you can access my albums here.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing poetry first. I must have been about eleven, sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place in Greece called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. Not long after, I started writing songs. My mother had decided to sell her twelve-string acoustic guitar to get a bit of extra cash. I saw it sitting by the front door. I think someone was coming over to take a look at it. I remember opening the case and thinking that it just looked so beautiful, and why would Mum want to get rid of it? I think she was in the music room at the time and I interrupted one of her recording sessions to ask about the guitar. When she told me she was selling it, I asked her whether I could have it. She said that I could if I learnt to play. From that day I had that guitar in my hands every single day until I moved to Greece in 2002. I taught myself how to play. The first song I ever wrote was played on one string and sung in a very high-pitched awful voice. I hope that cassette never gets dug up!

How does Greece affect and influence your work?
There is a lot about Greece in my debut novel, String Bridge, but I have to say that Greece had already started to influence me when I was a kid. I must have been about eleven. I remember sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. This is when I started writing poetry. In the end (well, beginning), Greece is what sparked my passion for words.

Also, I would never have got my first job as an editor if I hadn’t moved here. As I said above, I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials. There is no need for this sort of thing in an English speaking country. So I guess, I have Greece to thank for giving me the opportunity to pursue this career path. If I had have remained in Australia, I probably would have focused more on my music.

You’re also a poet. Do you consider yourself above all a singer/songwriter or a writer/poet?
A writer for sure. I was born into music, so it came naturally, but writing is something I learned I truly wanted for myself and had a stronger passion to pursue.

How are you able to be so productive as a writer, a musician, editor, and conference organizer, as well as having a good social media platform, while working full-time?
I'm not usually a person who utilizes lists and schedules. But I certainly have been forced to create them due to all of the projects I juggle. It's difficult. There's no denying that fact. But it's also fun! I enjoy every minute of it.

Basically I do everything in scheduled, short bursts. I get up early to make sure I have one hour to write and one hour to do something else from my list (such as Vine Leaves or retreat organization). I pick and choose depending on priority. During my lunch break, I blog, and spend about half an hour to an hour (depends on how long I can take from work) on social media. After work, I walk the dog, make dinner, maybe go to yoga (I do neglect my laundry, though. Too often). Once that's done, I'll spend another hour or so doing something else from my list (if I'm up-to-date on all my tasks, I'll try and do something creative like writing, or music again). Then I'll relax in front of the TV, or do something else away from the computer before I go to bed. Then in bed, I'll read a chapter or two of whatever book I'm reading. Sometimes that may even include critiquing a friend's manuscript. Reading to me is relaxing and not a chore, so I really don't feel like that is tackling any sort of task.

The most important thing? Recognizing when I'm too tired and need to take a few days off. If I don't give myself decent breaks where I don't do anything, then I very quickly burn out and fall behind.

What’s next for you?
Right now I'm working on my 4th novel, White Lady. Here’s the current blurb:

Mia used to be a skinny bitch. Now she’s an overweight outcast. Mia used to idolize her mother, until she eloped to LA to marry a cosmetic surgeon. Mia used to enjoy drinking beer, pigging out on burgers, and watching the AFL with her dad, Nash, until he started dating her Maths teacher.

Mia’s fix?
Take drugs. Bathe in self-pity.
Lip sync, strung out, to Courtney Love in the mirror mirror on the wall.

Yep. That should turn her ‘fat cow’ status on its head. At least until it leads to inadvertently infiltrating Melbourne’s prime criminal network ... and falling for the drug lord’s son.

This will end in bloodshed.
But maybe—just maybe—she’ll feel beautiful again.


Author Bio:
Jessica Bell is an Australian contemporary fiction author, poet, singer/songwriter who lives in Athens, Greece. She may not write fairy tales, but she can certainly exorcise the beauty within a beast. Bell also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to Jessica’s newsletter. Every subscriber will receive The Hum of Sin Against Skin for free, and be the first to know about new releases and special subscriber giveaways.

Connect with Jessica online:
website | retreat & workshop | blog | Vine Leaves Journal | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway:
Grand prize giveaway
Prize (open internationally): 
--The winner has a choice of 3 prizes:

Choice 1: Paperback copies of my novels: String Bridge (+ MP3 downloads of original soundtrack), The Book, and Bitter Like Orange Peel
Choice 2: Paperback copies of my Writing in a Nutshell Series (three pocket-sized writing craft books)
Choice 3: Paperback copies of my poetry books: Muted, Fabric and Twisted Velvet Chains.


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