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Focus on The Author: Joshilyn Jackson 2.0

Focus on The Author: Joshilyn Jackson

[updated re-post from April 2008]

First of all, I have to say, in five years of stalking the woman -- professionally, of course -- and reviewing her four (4) fabulous novels, I've had some Love Her/Hate Her contradictions regarding Joshilyn Jackson.

I overwhelmingly Love Her and I think she is a supremely talented and truly original author. After meeting her in person several times, drinking with her and having dinner with her, I think she is fabulous: funny, animated, engaging and a really, really nice person. We have a lot in common, despite the fact she was born and raised in the South, and I wasn't: She just turned 42 in April; she has two kids and now four published books. I turn 43 in October; I have three kids and one published book (but I have a Special Needs dog, does that count?) So she's younger and she is a best-selling author, still Love Her.

The one, teeny-tiny, little, very brief Hate Her moment came early in March [2008], before the book launch event for THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, when I opened the Sunday Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) to not one, not two, but THREE separate articles about her, WITH pictures, on one day:
Sunday, March 2, 2008 - AJC/Arts & Books
K1 - Her 'small' books grip in a big way
K4 - Southern novelist's latest story turns on sisters' relationship
K7 - Mix of realism, fantastic keeps 'Swimming' afloat (Book Review)

Can I just say one little 'damn'?!

The three articles were all glowing with effusive praise for her and all three of her novels, of course. Actually, that's not an "of course," because the AJC can be fairly brutal in reviews, so it is, admittedly, well-deserved praise.

There are a few things I wanted to share with you, from my obsessive research and interaction with the author:

She claims to be a "plot girl" -- she likes stuff to happen.
From the AJC: "I tell myself stories or I make up people in my head, and after a long time, some of them will become internally loud...Then, usually, some triggering event will occur to me: What is going to blow them out of their comfort zone and make them change and make things happen? Then I do that thing. [She calls this process setting a character on fire in her book discussions.] And then I wait and see what happens."

In person, when I met her at a book group appearance in September 2007 (not my own -- I crashed just to see her) and at the Swimming launch in March, I found her down-to-earth, sparkly, entertaining, engaging and funny. She is, as they say here in the South, a hoot and fun to listen to, fun to be around.

She is candid, upbeat. Her first two novels did not get published. She quit for a while. She was lured back by her agent while she was working on Gods in Alabama, finished only after taking time off to have her daughter, who is now five years old.

From the AJC:
"The whole thing with the first two books not selling, it's the best thing that ever happened to me, because I wouldn't have my daughter. I think I could've been published earlier, but I wouldn't have the career I have now. This is better. I like having readers. I like making a living. I like that I get to tour. This is better."

Another reason to Love Her was her answer to a question from an audience member at MMH about her writing practice or rituals: "I have children. I write when I can."

She elaborated: "I HATE writing, but I love to revise."
For a busy mom/writer, that is very helpful, and hopeful, too. I keep thinking about her explanation, how for her writing is like digging clay; it's hard and it's messy and so, so ugly, but then you have something to work with, to sculpt and shape and make something beautiful -- and that is the fun part.

Joshilyn Jackson Trivia:
1) How many books did Joshilyn Jackson write before she was published? TWO
2) What was the title of her unpublished novel #2? "Forty Dead Horses"
3) What was the original title of Gods in Alabama?
"Gone to Bones" -- the idea of kudzu, with secrets being revealed by the passage of time. The title was ultimately changed to Gods in Alabama just prior to publication when Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones hit the best-seller's lists and it was too close for distinction.

Rebel Reviews Summary:
2005 - I liked GODS IN ALABAMA -- a lot.
2006 - I love, Love, LOVED (still my favorite) BETWEEN, GEORGIA.
2008 - Liked THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING -- the author-crush began.
2010 - Buckle in for a wild ride with the spectacular BACKSEAT SAINTS!

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