Continuing our conversations with the writers who took the top three slots in the recent Risen Books contest, today we’ll talk with Jessica LeSaicherre. She took second place with her Young Adult story, Flight.
Is the story you entered in the Risen Books contest your first novel, or have you been at this writing thing a while?
This was my first to be completed. When I was in college I always would tell my then-boyfriend (now husband) about the stories I wanted to write. For my birthday he got me a portable voice recorder I could keep in my purse, and while I was walking to class I would record the stories. I was so busy with work and school, I wanted to make sure I would keep my ideas flowing. I eventually got married, got a job and then my first daughter was born. Writing was not on my priority list, but I was always thinking of my characters. When my daughter was two I started the research for my first novel. I outlined and mapped out my characters; I got a couple chapters in when the story for FLIGHT came to me. It consumed me until I couldn’t deny it and I had to shelve my first book to focus on FLIGHT.
How long did it take you to write this story?
Between work and my family I had very little time to write. It wasn’t until my daughter went to school that I started researching. I did research on Irish and Celtic history and mythology, and also on my subject matter: faeries. I then did research on the town where my characters live. I mapped out the history of the faeries, the family and then the story. The hardest part was choosing what to put in this book, because my story goes on for years. I outlined the first book while I was pregnant with my second daughter. After she was born I put writing on hold until she was almost one. Then I couldn’t wait anymore. I told my husband I needed to look at writing like a job, because I wanted this book to get completed. And with the help of my family, I started going to the library and coffee shops weekly and wrote the entire first book in four months. However, I was nowhere near done. I had my friend Emily of Acadiana Consulting beta read, and with her and my sister’s notes I revised and revised and revised. I actually revised again after my husband and I visited the beautiful town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, where my characters live. Well, I guess to answer the question: It took me four months to write, a year to revise, and I am sure I could keep adding and subtracting forever.
How did you arrive at this particular story idea, or what was your inspiration for it?
My sister and I are very close now, but when we were younger I had very little to do with her because she is eight years younger than I am. So I created two sisters with a tight bond–something I have now with mine but wish I had then. The inspiration for faeries came from playing with my daughter. I got wrapped up in the joy and happiness of us being faeries; which then gave me the thought: what if this wasn’t pretend? What if we were faeries, or our neighbors–faeries living as humans? I took both stories and intertwined them and now they are a part of me. I love them and their story.
How would you define “Christian fiction?” What’s your response when you hear someone say its general quality is inferior to that of secular fiction?
I have no definition for Christian fiction. As for being inferior to that of secular fiction, absolutely not. Who is anyone to say any genre or theme is inferior to another? I feel like it is a reader’s prerogative to choose to read what they enjoy; faeries, vampires, witches, religion, politics–I am for reading no matter the subject matter. To each their own.
My book is a young adult fantasy and has no direct connection with Christian fiction. It does, though, have a family that has its own problems and secrets that they must overcome, and they can only accomplish this by staying united. This is why I entered a contest with a Christian publishing house; other than the faerie and leprechaun aspect, it is a story about a family dealing with secrets, lies and betrayals and how they can overcome them. It appeals to many different audiences.
I remember an old Star Trek episode – and I’m talking about the original series, in its first run (yes, I’m old enough to have seen it when it was new) – in which a character was reading an old print book and someone remarked upon how rare it was to have real books instead of reading them on a screen. Do you see e-books, which obviously are no longer science fiction, as a threat to traditional publication, a marvelous opportunity for writers and readers alike, or a fact of life that we’re going to have to deal with?
I bet anyone who watched that episode laughed at the thought of reading on a screen. But the future is now and people are reading from a screen. I personally will never stop buying books; to me they are trophies that I display on my bookshelf. I read a lot and adore all my trophies. What I love about e-books, though, is that it allows access to books I might not have ever purchased. I love the feeling of the paper and the smell of the books, but I will read on my Kindle the books I maybe would have wanted to buy but felt I had to pass on due to lack of space on my bookshelf. With an e-reader, I don’t have to pass. Plus, I will always support writers, and some only publish e-books. I feel I must have an e-reader for those books. And I was lucky enough to have won one with this contest. I believe readers are loyal, and we are going to read no matter what. As long as the publishing industry continue to thinks of the readers, it will be fine.
If someone asked you if it’s worthwhile to enter writing contests, what would be your answer?
Of course; any way to get feedback on your writing is worth it. You are not going to get your book published with it just sitting on your hard drive.
What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?
Liz is my protagonist, and at 13 she deals with normal adolescent worries: popularity, friends, school, boys, etc. Liz likes order, stability, and control. She is a pleaser, but when she learns her family secret she fears it all. Her stability is gone and she wants to rebel–but like I said, she is a pleaser, and so she struggles to find balance. Liz and her little sister Anne are both made up of my sister and me; we both share many qualities that the girls have, and their fears are our fears.
What’s one question you hope I won’t ask?
Hmmmmm, probably something dealing with publishing, like “What is your biggest fear about publishing?” My answer is that my books never find a home. But I also know that this will not last forever, because I have faith not only my book and my talent but in my God. I will never give up on this dream; I continue to write and will always.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your thoughts. It sounds to me like you’ll succeed.