Author Interview: Jackie Lea Sommers
Today I have the very special privilege of sharing my interview with the one and only Jackie Lea Sommers. Jackie is the author of Truest, which is a fantastic young adult, contemporary novel set for release in September 2015.
Truest is an outstanding debut, charming, funny and unbelievable moving and a deep sort of soul searching. I absolutely loved it.
Silas Hart has seriously shaken up Westlin Beck’s small-town life. Brand new to town, Silas is different than the guys in Green Lake. He’s curious, poetic, philosophical, maddening– and really, really cute. But Silas has a sister– and she has a secret. And West has a boyfriend. And life in Green Lake is about to change forever.
You can find my full review of Truest here.
Hi Jackie. Welcome to my Library. Thanks so much for being willing to answer my questions.
Firstly, I love how you have described your main characters. Silas: Brilliant, strange, gorgeous, infuriating. So, what four adjectives best describe you?
Hmm…. I’d say rescued, creative, curious, compelled.
How long did it take you to write Truest?
I spent six months on the first draft and then put in about two years’ worth of revisions (one year before my book deal and one after!).
How did you find the process from first draft to publication? What was your greatest challenge? What was your greatest success?
The entire process has been terrifying, and rewarding. When I finished my first draft of Truest, I had a feeling that this was going to be my debut novel. I had spent the four years prior writing a different story, but there was something very different about Truest.
To be honest, my greatest challenge of the process was combating self-doubt, which often resulted in anxiety and even outright panic. I had to learn to trust my editor, to realize that we were a team, as we worked through revisions. It’s one thing to write for fun and a very different thing when suddenly you’re being paid for it. I had to really battle through 2014. But I came out of it with a polished manuscript, a beautiful partnership with my editor, and a prescription for Ativan!
The greatest success—one of my favorite days of my entire life—was when I received a very special email from my editor saying that she thought Truest was going to change people. I have her words as my laptop background.
I couldn’t agree more! Truest certainly changed me. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
You’re so sweet. Thank you.
I love to spend time with friends and their kids (I’m an honorary auntie for a few families, and it brings me so much joy). I love to read. I love to learn. My family is hilarious and keeps me laughing. I’m a blogger (I know that’s writing, but it’s totally different from novel-writing!). I also work in advocacy for OCD awareness, as well as other brain disorders. I work full-time as a recruiter for a small university in Minnesota. Life is busy, full, and sweet.
Looking at your blog and website, OCD is something you’re obviously passionate about discussing. Could you tell us a little about why this is such an important topic for you?
I’ve lived with obsessive-compulsive disorder for 26 years and only found appropriate treatment in 2008. Living in slavery to a debilitating anxiety disorder—and then finding freedom from it after twenty years of anguish—has shaped my life tremendously. I’m very passionate about helping other OCD sufferers find the right treatment (exposure and response prevention therapy). I will be writing about OCD in my next novel. It’s exciting and overwhelming because it’s a topic so close to my heart.
Who is your ultimate book boyfriend?
Soooo hard to choose just one! My favorites are Augustus Waters, Jonah Griggs, Sean Kendrick—and, of course, Silas Hart!
Awww, I’m so glad you love him too! Silas is entirely of my own creation. My thought was to create my dream boy, were I still seventeen. I knew he would have to be funny and smart with a goofy, boyish heart. (On a side note, if anyone knows of a mid-30’s version of Silas, send him my way!)
Laurel, Silas’s twin sister, battles a unique mental disorder in the novel—and that is based on my own personal experience.
Is there anywhere readers can get more of Silas Hart? (Please?)
Yes! There are two scenes from Truest re-written from Silas’s point of view at www.truestnovel.tumblr.com. The password is the last word of Truest.
What have you recently read that you’ve loved?
So far, my favorite book of 2015 is The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh!
Oh, that one is on my to-read list. Might have to get to it!! Do you have a favourite passage in Truest?
I love your beautiful Australian “favourite”! (Here in the States, we drop that u.) My favourite passage in Truest is maybe a scene where West and Silas pretend to plan to run away together; they both know they are only joking around, that they’d never actually do it. It’s a very sweet, tender scene, and it very nearly wasn’t included in the novel! I wrote it for fun based on a song I was listening to at the time but never found a place for it in the novel until later, when my editor asked for “one more scene where everyone is happy before it all falls apart.” I told her I could do that, pulled my little “running-away-together” scene out of obscurity, and plugged it into the story. I’m so happy it’s there.
Ha! Yes. I guess you just can’t take the Aussie out of the girl. Poetry plays an important role in Truest. So, do you have a favorite poet or poem?
Just like Silas, my favorite poet is Billy Collins! “Questions about Angels,” the first poem of Collins’ that West reads in the book, is one of my favorites. There is an E.E. Cummings poem that Silas says made him want to write, and that’s another favorite. I definitely stole all my personal preferences and gave them to my characters!
Do you have another writing project in the works? Any tantalising hints you can give us?
I do! My next novel will be published in 2017; it’s tentatively titled Mill City Heroes. It’s a story about Asa, a math prodigy, and his best friend Rowen, an artistic young woman; he’s in love with her and she’s in love with someone anonymous, and it’s all a giant mess. It takes place in Minneapolis, the city I’ve called home for about seven years now, and the story reminds me that there is magic in comfort and familiarity. While Silas Hart would be my dream boy were I a seventeen-year-old extrovert, Asa Bertrand would be my dream boy were I a seventeen-year-old introvert.
What is planned as part of Truest’s release? Are there any special ways you intend to celebrate?
I’ll be doing a ten-week countdown on my blog (which starts June 23rd!). I’m really excited for it—it’s going to include original doodles from Truest’s cover designer, an “intercepted” text conversation between Silas and West, and lots of other fun stuff! Then, on the publication day, I’m having a launch party at Addendum Bookstore in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m so excited to celebrate with my friends and family and readers.
Thanks Jackie. It was awesome getting to know you a little better. If those of you reading this want to ask Jackie some more questions you can add to her question page here.