Hey everyone, I’m feeling very lucky today as I get to ask one of my favourite breakout authors of 2013 a few questions! Jessica Hawkins is with me to talk about her new book Come Alive, which is Book #2 in the Cityscape Series.
Onni: Jessica welcome!
JHawk: Thanks for having me.
Onni: So I’m just going to jump right in – I read your bio at the end of Come Undone, and you’ve pretty much given up your day job to work on writing full-time. What pushed you to do this? Weren’t you scared?
JHawk: Well, I have this ’30 under 30′ list that I started in college, but it only has two things on it: write a book and swim with sharks. After school, I moved to Costa Rica for almost two years, where I picked up surfing. Well – picked up isn’t right – more like fought and flailed and struggled until I finally got the hang of it. When it was time for me to move from the white-water to the line-up, I was scared out of mind. And that was why I knew I had to do it.
Onni: And writing a book?
JHawk: This was sort of the same thing. Quitting my job was, and still is, scary. Writing this book was scary. Putting it out into the world… well, it was worse than making the leap to the line-up. But every time I hopped on my board and rode a wave, it was worth every minute. And if there are people who connect with my story, who really get it, then it’s worth it too. I have one year left to swim with sharks. (I sincerely hope I never unknowingly surfed with sharks!)
Onni: I re-read Come Undone to refresh my memory for this interview and I didn’t think it would be possible to like it more, but I did! Olivia is a complex character, but a sympathetic one. Can you give any insights into the journey she’ll face in the next book(s)?
JHawk: Thank you, what a compliment! Olivia is definitely complex, and she becomes even more so as the story continues. Her journey won’t be easy… trust me, I wanted to baby her, but I couldn’t. Come Alive is dark and emotional. Olivia’s already come undone, but before she can come out the other side, she has to come apart – and some difficult questions will be raised.
Onni: Olivia has a ‘difficult’ (to put it mildly) relationship with her mother that was touched on in Come Undone – will we meet her in the Come Alive?
JHawk: Yes and no. Neither of her parents actually appears in the second book, but the reader will learn more about Olivia’s relationship with her mom and where she comes from. But as we know, Olivia isn’t one to give it up easily – so their issues will be covered further in the third book.
Onni: What prompted you to write a story about deception, passion and love? Adultery is a topic that authors these days generally steer clear of, yet some of the best love stories (e.g. The English Patient and the End of the Affair) have included forbidden, star-crossed lovers. How did you go about making them sympathetic and not simply the ‘bad guys’ doing bad things?
JHawk: That’s a great question. I’ve done research and I know adultery is a tough topic. I think it scares people, so I find it utterly fascinating. Cheating is one of the worst crimes a person can commit, so I had to know – why do it? What’s the rationale? In love, nothing is black and white. Adulterers are branded with a scarlet “A”, but things aren’t always what they seem. I wanted to show another side to it. I wanted to tell a real story, not something with sugar on top.
Which leads me to the next part of your question – it was very tempting to make things easier on myself by having Bill & Olivia be engaged or dating rather than married, or by turning Bill into an unsympathetic jerk. That would’ve been the easy way out, though. I continually refer back to a Tolstoy quote that goes something like, “The best stories don’t come from ‘good vs. bad,’ but from ‘good vs. good.’”
Onni: So what does romance mean to you?
JHawk: I’ve always thought one of the most romantic things is knowing that out of everyone, somebody chose you. To them, you’re not just anyone. The first scene of the book, Olivia and David have this moment where, in a crowded room, they are inexplicably drawn to each other. But Olivia is jarred back to reality by her husband. So what happens when there’s someone else in the picture? That’s where things get complicated. Do you honor this commitment no matter what? And if not, how can you know if what you feel is only passion or something more? This concept will take a front seat in Come Alive. I hope readers will ask themselves what they’d do in Olivia’s position. There are no right or wrong answers, but I hope it gets people thinking.
Onni: How are you hoping to develop both Olivia and David’s characters in the coming books?
JHawk: I want to put Olivia through the ringer. Then I want the reader to transform with her. It’s important to me that every character develops naturally and realistically. Each will be faced with hardship, and so we’ll get to see their true selves emerge in the process. They’ll break rules, do immoral things. Does that make them bad people?
Bill (Olivia’s husband) becomes more of a person in the second book. He has to, in order for the reader to understand what’s happening in Olivia’s mind. And David has his own past to face. He can’t get away so easily with the reputation he has. What does he actually want from Olivia? He’s got to go through the ringer a bit too.
Onni: Moving on to you now – who are your favourite authors and why?
JHawk: I like authors that aren’t afraid to push boundaries, to “go there.” I tend to jump around, so I don’t necessarily have favorites, but I do have favorite books. Gone with the Wind: I didn’t know the story and hadn’t seen the movie when I read it a couple years ago, so I was going crazy up until the last sentence. I consumed that book. I also love Anna Karenina. It wasn’t necessarily my inspiration for this story, but I really connected with that book and so there are some similar themes between them.
Onni: And lastly: any plans beyond the Cityscape Series you’d like to share?
JHawk: I have been so totally immersed in Cityscape that no, not really. I do keep a file of ideas when they come up, so I definitely have some thoughts, but nothing concrete. One book I have in my mind would more likely veer toward contemporary fiction, rather than romance and even more likely, it would deal with a very controversial topic – even more so than adultery.
Onni: Well, I can’t wait for Come Alive and anything else you turn your hand to. Thank you so much for chatting to me today – it’s been great!
Come Alive will release on May 30th, but you can win a copy of Come Undone here.