Monday, March 28, 2016

Guest Post: Author Jacqueline West on Hearing Voices: Moving from THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE to DREAMERS OFTEN LIE

If you've been following my blog for awhile, it should be no surprise how much I love Jacqueline West's writing style and her Books of Elsewhere series.  Jacqueline is one of the first authors that I connected with via her blog, she's always been so friendly and approachable.   When I heard she was moving from middle grade to writing YA,  I  asked if she would be willing to talk about what the transition has been like for her, and happily she agreed.    My review of Dreamers Often Lie will be up a little bit later today!


Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher: Dial Books
Number of Pages: 304
Published:  April 5th 2016

Source:  Purchased and ARC from author in exchange for an honest review
Genre:   YA Contemporary 
Who can you trust when you can't trust yourself?
"Black Swan meets Romeo and Juliet in this slippery, romantic YA by New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline West - for fans of Holly Black's White Cat, Justine Larbalestier's Liar, and Francesca Zappia's Made You Up.
Jaye wakes up from a skiing accident with a fractured skull, a blinding headache, and her grip on reality sliding into delusion. Determined to get back to her starring role in the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Jaye lies to her sister, her mom, her doctors. She's fine, she says. She's fine. If anyone knew the truth - that hallucinations of Shakespeare and his characters have followed her from her hospital bed to the high school halls - it would all be over. She’s almost managing to pull off the act when Romeo shows up in her anatomy class. And it turns out that he's 100% real. Suddenly Jaye has to choose between lying to everyone else and lying to herself.
Troubled by the magnetic new kid, a long-lost friend turned recent love interest, and the darkest parts of her family's past, Jaye’s life tangles with Shakespeare's most famous plays until she can't tell where truth ends and pretending begins. Soon, secret meetings and dizzying first kisses give way to more dangerous things. How much is real, how much is in Jaye's head, and how much does it matter as she flies toward a fate over which she seems to have no control?"     Goodreads / Amazon B&N / Indiebound/

Hearing Voices: Moving from THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE to DREAMERS OFTEN LIE by Jacqueline West

     When I was 21, I started writing a weird little story. I’d written plenty of other weird little stories, but this one kept on growing, collecting memories and daydreams and twists and turns, swelling across page after page like an inky amoeba. It had mathematicians and living paintings and a creepy old house and three unusual cats, and I wondered where it would lead me. I worked on it between college classes, on bus rides, during coffee breaks at minimum wage jobs. Sometimes I abandoned it completely, but it always seemed to pull me back. It was the first thing I’d ever written that felt truly right. I don’t mean that it felt easy (NOPE), but each time I picked up the story, I sensed that key-meets-lock click. I guess I’d found my voice.  Two years later, I’d also found an agent and a publisher. In 2010, The Shadows, the first volume of my middle grade fantasy series The Books of Elsewhere, made its way out into the world. Four more books followed, and I finally wrapped up the series, and thirteen years of work, with Volume Five: Still Life, in 2014.

     Now my first YA novel, Dreamers Often Lie, is on the cusp of publication. It’s completely different from The Books of Elsewhere—in style, in tone, in content, and in the way it was written. With Dreamers, it wasn’t until I was on draft seven or eight (or maybe it was draft ten or twelve) that I finally had another glimmer of that key-meets-lock feeling. And this time, it didn’t feel like I’d found my voice. It felt like I’d found someone else’s.

     Years and years ago, I had a mental flash of a teenage girl waking up in a hospital bed to discover Shakespeare sitting across the room, looking back at her. I didn’t know who the girl was, or how she’d ended up in that hospital bed, or why Shakespeare was there, but that image just wouldn’t leave me alone. And whenever I get an idea that just won’t leave me alone, I know that I’m meant to write it down.  So I did. And then I waited.    A few years later, I was working as a high school English teacher and drama coach, and sending out query letters for The Shadows in my bits of spare time. I would come home every evening with a brain stuffed with Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet and play rehearsals and my students’ lives and hurts and hopes, and these things combined with the image of the girl and Shakespeare in the hospital room and started to braid themselves into a story. Over the next eight years, that story went through a slew of drafts: plotlines came and went, POV went from first-person to third-person and back again, new scenes cropped up and took over everything around them. And with each draft, I was getting to know the girl in the hospital bed.

     It took a long time. The girl in the bed had a lot of secrets—secrets involving her father, her dreams, her former best friend. She’d also just sustained a serious head injury, and the concussion tinted her memories and skewed her perceptions. Sometimes she saw things that couldn’t really be there, and she had to keep this a secret too. Her mind was a shifting, cluttered, complicated place. For the first several drafts, I didn’t even know her real name.  But somewhere around draft seven or eight (or ten or twelve), things began to change. I stopped trying to fit the girl into the story I’d envisioned. I stopped calling her by the wrong name. I stopped trying to write exactly the way I’d written before, with my own psyche calling the shots. I took a step back, hacked out a bunch of things that weren’t working, and started listening to what the girl in the hospital bed actually had to say.

     I learned that her name was Jaye Stuart. That she was a high school junior with a devotion to theater, a dark, self-deprecating sense of humor, and a tendency to make things more dramatic than they really are. That she had a past full of injuries that hadn’t healed. That she was usually her own worst enemy. That she let emotions rule her actions, for both good and ill. The better I knew her, the more I was able to get myself out of the way and let her speak. After all those drafts and all that time, it was Jaye’s voice that I’d found.  Now Jaye and her story are about to venture out into the world. Other people will get to know her, to uncover her secrets, to see what it’s like inside her head. That’s always been one of my favorite things as a reader: getting to take on the identity of the characters, to walk around in their lives for a while. It’s what Jaye loves about acting. And Dreamers Often Lie reminded me that it’s one of the things I love most about writing too.

Praise for Dreamers Often Lie:

"If you liked the trippy hallucinations of Black Swan, you'll be mesmerized by Jacqueline West's eerie new YA romance..." 
                                                                                   -Entertainment Weekly

"Utterly beguiling...Jaye is a fiercely headstrong force and West's writing is lyrical, lilting, spectral, and opulent."                                

"Jaye's personal drama sets an engrossing stage...A dizzying new twist on one of the Bard's most famous plays."                           

About the Author:

Jacqueline West is the author of the award winning series The Books of Elsewhere.  The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows (2010) garnered starred reviews, several state award nominations, and a spot on The New York Times Bestsellers List.  The series is published by Dial Books for Young Readers (A division of Penguin Random House) in the USA.  Jacqueline's short fiction for adults and children has appeared in a variety of publications, and her poetry has received many honors, including two Pushcart nominations, a Rhysling Award nomination, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize.  Cherma, her series of poems about Wisconsin's Bohemian immigrants, was published in March 2010 by the University of Wisconsin's Parallel Press chapbook series.  

Jacqueline loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, and is sadly allergic to cats (though she manages to write about them without developing a rash), and is at least a little bit afraid of all fish larger than a hot dog bun.  If you are sharing pizza, she will ask for the crust pieces.  Don't get her talking about Kurt Vonnegut, Tori Amos, Northern Exposure, or Sylvia Plath, or you'll be sorry.  Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, with her husband, son, and her dog, a Springer Spaniel mix named Brom Bones. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like such an interesting book and I loved hearing from Jacqueline. It was great to learn about where the Books of Elsewhere started and what a different process it was for Dreamers Often Lie. Thanks so much for sharing. :)