Name Jessica Damien
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I served in the USAF for four years as a Morse Code Systems Operator; returned to Toledo to finish my degree in Chemistry; worked as a freelance and contract editor since 2005; wrote a series of short stories and a few novels; judged writers’ contests; work as an admin at a fanfic site. I have two sons. The elder is likely a future screenwriter, and the younger hasn’t decided yet. He’d always been more of a writer than a reader, but he’s becoming more of both lately.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Still wrestling with a few ideas for book 2 of “Heaven Sent”. I’m putting another novel “Shades of Grey” through its final proofreading so I can submit it to Tirgearr.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was reading a romance novel, and getting fed up with the wimpy heroine, who was so misunderstood, so tragic, so pathetic, and so hated by everyone until the last two pages, where all misunderstandings were suddenly cleared up and she forgave everyone for their earlier poisonous backstabbing. I just threw the book out the window, figuring I could do better in my sleep. I thought I’d better put my money where my mouth is and tried writing a romance. It was published, and a sequel written, but I had to admit, it wasn’t very good. Romances aren’t my forte, but writing about everyday people who face unusual situations was much more interesting, so that’s what I found myself writing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I belong to a group of aspiring writers, and we sometimes put our muses together to write a round robin story. It was during those times when I realized this was something I could do, something I enjoyed doing. When I received enough feedback from those who read my stores to get a clear picture of how I was doing, I began to feel like a real writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a need to prove I wasn’t just griping about the poor quality of some of the books I was reading at the time. I never did prove to myself I could write a better romance, but it got me started as a writer.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think so. Once the characters come to life, they seem to write themselves, so each character deals with things in his own way, and the style fits them, not so much the other way around.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Somewhere in the middle of the story, it seemed to suggest itself. It’s the way I began to think about the book, and unless a better title occurs to me before I submit a manuscript, it usually stays.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In “Heaven Sent”, the message is just that some things we’ve always been taught, and had always unthinkingly believed, may not be just that way. Things might be entirely different, and once you realize that, so many possibilities open up.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I try to stick to reality in all situations, but “Heaven Sent” is fantasy. The characters are realistic because I’m writing about people, based on what I’ve observed people to do. The way they react to their circumstances is, I hope, as realistic as any ghost or angel could be expected to react.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of the characteristics of the characters are those I’ve seen in friends or family throughout my life, all mixed in with the overall personality of that character, but all in all, the characters and plot itself has nothing to do with my life or of anyone’s I know. It’s pure fantasy.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
O Henry’s work had a big impact on me. I love a surprise ending, and sometimes I can find a way to do that in some of my work. Any of Stephen King’s books impresses me, mostly for the way he can write your very thoughts without losing anything in the translation. It’s a skill I envy, and helps me to focus better, keep my writing grounded. The series about Matthew Hope from Ed McBain and about Frank Hastings in Collin Wilcox’s work were a good example to follow in letting your characters become those whom people want to know better. Both Ed McBain and Collin Wilcox proved you could write series of books about the same characters without being redundant.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Stephen King. It’s his skills that make writing look so easy, but they can never be copied. Those who have read his Richard Bachman stories know you just can’t disguise that writing style. I’d bet most of us knew Bachman and Stephen King were the same person before he admitted it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
For the 100th time, I’m re-reading “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. I never get tired of that one.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I had the chance to read Tim Martin’s books before they were published, since I worked with him on the edits at Whispers Publishing, back in the day. When Whispers closed down, I really hoped he would find a new publisher immediately, because those books were the funniest I’ve ever read. It’s not often I laugh out loud while reading a book, and this one had me crying with laughter. It was titled “Third Rate Romance” and its sequel is “Culvert at Little Bitch Creek”. If you can find them, I highly recommend them. Tim’s a comic genius.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m judging a writers’ contest at present. I have my final proofreading to do for a new submission to Tirgearr. I’m still working as an admin at Sycophant Hex (a mostly Harry Potter fanfic archive). I’m a contract editor for Vinspire Publishing. And, when I have moments of silence and tranquility (not often), I’m kicking around ideas to follow up two of my books with the second in their respective series.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The writers’ group I belong to has been nothing but supportive. It’s a combination fan group and writers’ group: AlanRickmanWorldofWritersandMore at Yahoo groups.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Never seriously. It’s more of a pipedream. I do better with editing than with writing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nothing. I have images of the characters rising up in revolt if I dared.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Probably back in the sixth grade, when an English assignment was to write a short story that could be entered in some scholastic writing contest. It amazed me that I was one of three in my class chosen to enter. It was likely the first time anyone ever gave me such a pat on the back for anything I hadn’t tortured myself over first.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The submission I’m trying to polish up right now is called “Shades of Grey”. It’s a working title, though it had been previously published under that title. It’s about four friends, essentially. The main plot involves one of the four who comes out of a coma to psychic visions of a little girl in trouble. His awakening to his ability pretty much sets the groundwork for all the stories I hope to follow with.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The one and only real challenge is finding something to write about. I do great with other people’s ideas, but really have to struggle to get ideas on my own.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s hard to pick a single favorite, because my mood of the moment decides what I’ll grab to read. My all-time favorite would probably be Stephen King, because no matter what my mood, and how often I’ve read any of his books, I know all my chores, editing, writing, and errands have to be done before I pick it up. Most publishers will tell you that you have to grab the reader by the end of the first page, or they won’t turn that page. Stephen King grabs the reader with the first sentence, and there’s no putting the book down until you finish. I’d love to be able to write like that.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I haven’t had to travel at all for my books, but I use earlier travels in my life to build on when necessary. The same goes for quirks and other interesting things in personalities of the people I’ve met, and the strangeness about situations I’ve witnessed.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The covers are designed by the cover artists working with the publishers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Coming up with the idea of the story, the crux of what I’d write.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
With all my writing, I learned what you can get away with in your characters, what’s believable, and what you have to cross out. That can be painful, but if you can do what needs to be done with the story, it heals quickly.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t be afraid to let others see it, get their opinions. There comes a time when a writer is too close to his own work to be objective.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please, read my books. Fall in love with the characters. Let them take you to their worlds.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a very big deal. I was so proud I learned to read well enough to finally tackle a whole book on my own. It was Dr. Seuss’ “And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, and it hit home because there was a Mulberry Street near my neighborhood. I had the idea the book was all about that street.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I appreciate wry humor the best, although I’ve been heard to laugh out loud at episodes of “Family Guy” and various YouTube videos. Almost anything can make me cry these days; I must be getting old. The national anthem, a little kid being overrun by playful puppies, a story about a toddler saving his family from a house fire. The list is endless.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would like to meet and why?
I would have loved to have met Harpo Marx and just have been a part of the world he knew. Finding laughter everywhere, surrounded by friends you admired and respected, and having such a close family relationship with family.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Tough question. For some reason, it immediately brought to mind the way A.A. Milne wrote in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way, merely hinting at a joke, like when Pooh uses a balloon to go after honey, and when the balloon gets punctured and loses all its air, he says in a very matter-of-fact voice, “I think I shall come down now.” That’s how I’d like my headstone to be, maybe saying, “I think I’ll just lie here for a while.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Not lately; there isn’t time. It used to be photography, but that’s time consuming and I no longer have a darkroom. Some claim my editing is a hobby, but it’s more like breathing. I can’t not edit.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My favorite TV show is “As Time Goes By”. With films, I stick to the classics and rarely see the new ones until they’re a few years old. I tend to follow films whose actors I admire. I like the Marx Brothers films, and To Kill a Mockingbird, but like books, my choices are eclectic and vary with my mood.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
My favorite food is a good charbroiled steak, with big old steak fries. I can’t indulge in that often, but food isn’t as interesting to me as it once was anyway. My favorite color is green, but I can’t wear any shade of it. It pulls color from my face and people keep asking me if I’m feeling all right. My favorite music is classical, mostly Beethoven, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky. Then it’s classic rock such as Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Beatles, Janis Joplin, Journey, and most things before the mid-eighties. After 1985, I’m clueless about what’s happening in the world of music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would like to have taught English, but for a young age. Catch them before they learn a total disregard for the language, and watch those students who come alive when they find an author they love to read.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
A short bio about my work, some excerpts from my novels, and a list of recommended reading. There’s also a contact form, and I will endeavor to answer every contact.