Author Interview with Jessaca Willis

Jessaca, the author of The Awakened Quartet, studied social work for both her undergrad and graduate degrees and incorporates themes from her education (i.e. systems of oppression, family dynamics, mental health) into her writing. She is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves cosplay, video games, and comics. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner and their human- and fur-babies. She is an amateur trapeze artist (though currently, she’s on hiatus after having a baby).

I’m so glad to be able to share an interview with Jessaca with you all as I’m still on a massive high after reading her new series The Awakened Quartet! You can read my review of The Awakening (prequel) here and my review of Blood Awakens (Book 1) here.

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I’m so grateful to be given the chance to interview you for my blog, should we start with a brief introduction about yourself? Sure thing! My name is Jessaca—with an “a” not an “i”—and I write different subgenres of fantasy, mostly with darker and horror elements.

When you aren’t writing, what other hobbies do you like to do? Before I had a baby last October, I had tons of hobbies. I practised trapeze and aerial silks for seven years, I travelled all over the world, I went camping every summer, cosplayed at conventions, and played a lot of board games and video games. Now though, I am just really enjoying getting to know the person my kid is growing it.

When did you start writing? When did you realise you wanted to become an author? These two questions are different for me. I have always known I wanted to be an author, like ever since I was six or seven. I tell this story a lot, so I won’t go into the details here, but my first-grade class had a “writer’s workshop” and I think it was in that class that I learned to love storytelling and writing. But I didn’t “start” writing until much later. At least, not what I count as my “start.” I started writing my first book when I was twenty-one, during my last year of graduate school. At the time, I think I just needed something fun in my life to outweigh the endless hours of studying that were killing my soul. But the second I started, I felt different. It was like an awakening happened inside me or something like I remembered that that’s what I had wanted to do all of these years.

Sorry to go all into that! I might’ve been reliving the moment a little.

Where did the inspiration for the Awakened Quartet come from? It was definitely a random thing. I had just finished watching HBO’s True Blood series and starting wondering why every show and book and movie these days was about vampires. I was sure that there were a million other inventive “creatures” that could be the stars of these stories. So I started writing a list of different powers and abilities—realizing a few minutes in that I wasn’t coming up with much of anything that was new but rather tweaking some of the classics. Three hours later, I had a list of 30+ abilities, and a few characters to go with them. I don’t know what possessed me to take it that next step and to start thinking about these characters and what their goals were. I think it just sort of happened from there.

Out of all of your characters, Graciela is my favourite. Who is your favourite? Do you feel as though you relate to your characters? Aww, that’s so great to hear! I love Graciela. She’s someone I relate to a lot because she is a big sister and is always looking out for her brother, but also because she is just at the beginning of her personal journey. I feel like Graciela doesn’t yet quite know who she is, and now that she’s out in the big world, she’s about to find out.

How did you work through the process of naming your characters? Where to begin? Each character has had a different process, it seems like. For Graciela and Santiago, I did a lot of research on common Guatemalan names. I didn’t want to use the first names that popped up in searches, but I also wanted to make sure that they were names that Guatemalan families would use. Something else I wanted to do with this book was making sure that the characters had relatable names. Although The Awakened Quartet is set in the future, I didn’t want to give people outlandish futuristic nicknames like names with apostrophes and stuff. That didn’t feel right for this book. With almost every character though, they began this story with an entirely different name than the wound up with. I like to try names out, so I’ll write a little bit using, say, the name Isaiah instead of Sean, but if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, I change it.

Have your life experiences influenced your writing in any way?

Yes. Oh definitely yes. Especially with this series. Just before writing Blood Awakens, I had returned from a month-long trip to Guatemala where I lived with a family in a rural town. I was missing them a lot when I started writing this series and tried to channel some of the sibling and familial love into the characters of Santiago and Graciela. I was also wrapping up the last year of my graduate degree studying social work. I was in a class that was talking about the lack of people of colour in mainstream television/movies/books/etc. Around that same time, I read a quote by another author, and although I can’t remember their exact words anymore, the heart of their message was this: writers are supposed to tell the stories of people, not just of people like them, but of all people. That resonated a lot with me because I want all people from all walks of life to be able to see themselves in my books. Granted, at the time I started writing Blood Awakens, I was really focused on racial and cultural backgrounds, but I intend on making sure all of my books represent a broad array of people, and to do so respectfully.

Wow, but you asked about my life experiences and how that’s impacted my writing! I think I write a lot about siblings because I cherish my relationship with my brother so much. I also write a little darker because of my own personal obstacles with depression and other things, and I use writing as a way to a.) have an outlet for those things, and b.) hopefully give others an outlet too.

If you were to be awakened, what awakened ability would you like? This question is almost unfair for me to answer because there are so many abilities, a few of which weren’t even mentioned in the first book! I would really want to be eidetic.  An Eidetic is a person who can basically learn anything they want to because they are able to use a much larger percentage of their brains. I would use my power to become at least tri-lingual because the language has long been something I’ve tried learning but I can never quite get past a beginner level of communication.

How many abilities are there in total? 34

Blood Awakens is written in 3rd person but The Awakening prequel is written in first. What tense should be expected for Puppet’s Dream? Yes, I recognize that was a little confusing for people. The books in the main series are all written in 3rd person. The Awakening was only written in 1st person because it originally started as writing practice for me, to get deeper into Mara’s head. At some point during the revision stage, I realized I didn’t know enough about her, so I started wondering what her story was like and how she’d wound up at Hope. So I wrote a short story that was originally intended just for me, but then I kept receiving feedback from beta readers that they wanted to see more of the action at the start of the Awakening—the moment in time when society was discovering the abilities but not knowing how to respond. Because the main series was never meant to be about that time, I decided to publish The Awakening as a prequel/teaser.

I wrote in my review of Blood Awakens that I would love to see more of Mara and more of Sean in Puppet’s Dream. What can we expect from the next novel in this series? Without giving too much away, you will definitely get to see more of Mara in Puppets Dream. In addition, Santiago winds up taking a larger role in the second book, so hopefully, readers will get to see more of his growth as a person.

What are you working on now? I have seen the new cover for the book ‘The Demon in The Mirror’. Could you tell us more about that? I am mostly editing Puppets Dream, but I do get antsy while I’m editing, so I will occasionally work on a short story to break up some of my time. The Demon In The Mirror is a YA paranormal thriller about a demon student named Euri who gets caught up in some murders around her school. I really enjoyed the world-building aspects of this one and am honestly kind of sad it’s only a short story. If readers wound up liking it enough, I would probably write a series based on it—so let me know, folks!

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors? My number one advice to people who tell me they’re thinking about becoming authors is to join writing/author groups. For me, this meant joining a local MeetUp group, but it could also mean joining a Facebook/Twitter group, following some blogs about writing and being active in the posts, etc. I just think that writers benefit when they are around “their people” and that we can learn so much from one another.

Do you have any publishing advice? Hmm… This is a tough one. I wound up self-publishing Blood Awakens because I realized it’s not the “hot” genre right now and I didn’t want to spend months or years searching for an agent. So I joined a bunch of indie authors groups, eavesdropped on tons of conversations, read a bunch of books and articles, and self-published. So I guess my advice on publishing would be to research your options and then do what feels comfortable to you.

What is your all-time favourite book and why? A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas because Rhysand is the dreamiest character ever, and I just LOVE his character development and backstory!!!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you? I might be too practical for this question because my first thought was an unlimited supply of food! Okay, for real though, assuming people don’t count as things (because I would hands down bring my family), I would bring an aerials silks rigging so I could swing in the trees, thousands of Magic cards so I could still play some type of board/card game, and a solar-charging laptop that would only be used for writing more books.

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Thank you so much Jessaca for sharing your wonderful answers with us. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you and I can’t wait to read more of your work. You can check out the links below to purchase your copies or read my reviews.

Purchase your copy of Blood Awakens here. (Affiliate Link)

You can read my Review of Blood Awakens here.

Purchase your copy of The Awakening here. (Affiliate Link)

You can read my review of The Awakening here.

If you are an author wanting a review for your book or to take part in an author interview email me at whatsinmywonderland@gmail.com and we can work something out. 

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Hello, I'm a young passionate writer and professional photographer from the North West of England. I am new to Wordpress this is my first ever blog. I look forward to speaking and making friends with like minded people.

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