"Make it Your Own" : An Interview with Jessica Scurlock.
Today's interview is with Jessica Scurlock, an author whose novel Pretty Lies releases in July. I had the honor of getting to ask her about inspiration, imposter syndrome, and the way that stories can be so helpful for you and your readers. Continue on to discover your new favorite dystopian author!
L: Please, introduce yourself!
J: Hi! My name is Jessica (or Jess). I'm 22 years old and a NorCal native currently living in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband and two toddlers. Outside of reading and writing, I sing, dabble in the flow arts (hula hooping and contact staff), bake, and enjoy covering songs in ASL (American Sign Language). I also beta read and critique finished or unfinished manuscripts, free of charge.
L: A true renaissance woman! What led you to start writing?
J: I always loved creating dumb little stories as a kid, but my passion really struck me when I was about 12 years old and in the seventh grade. I had two amazing teachers who were very supportive of me and encouraged me to write and even read my entire first (atrocious) book series. While it could have hardly been considered decent looking back, they offered their feedback and critiques and encouraged me to keep going, get better, and follow my dreams one day.
L: What are three books that influenced you?
J: There are so many. I'd have to say my top three are Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.
L: If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? What would you ask them?
J: If I could meet one author, it would probably be Neal Shusterman. I'm a huge fan of his books, specifically the Unwind Dystology. I'd ask him how he's able to create such an intricate and dark world in his works that's both entertaining and thought provoking.
L: Could you pitch us your novel, Pretty Lies?
J: The Northern Unity has always been safe. When The Enlightened Society took over what was known as the United States of America, they made the well-being of the people their top priority. Safety and knowledge are the powers that hold the country together-- a contrast from the ways of the Old World. But what happens when that safety is an illusion and the knowledge is fabricated?
When nineteen-year-old Ivy (Olivia) Clearson wonders the streets one night after curfew, she becomes a witness to a horrendous crime. She knows she has to report it, but in doing so, she risks re-education for her own violation of the law. Slowly, her eyes are pried open to the sinister roots of the Society.
Accompanied by someone she's been forced to believe is a terrorist and ripped away from everything she's ever known, Ivy is on the run, desperate to escape her grim fate while uncovering the deepest secrets of this near-perfect world.
L: What is the inspiration behind this book?
J: So there are a couple things that inspired Pretty Lies. When I was 15, I had a dream about a super vague dystopian world that followed a girl named Ivy-- this was after my class read The Giver by Lois Lowry. I thought I'd try my hand at dystopians (I normally wrote thrillers and supernatural fiction prior) and kept Ivy as the name of my MC. I got, like, four chapters into the draft and quit. Imposter Syndrome hit me hard and I had a lot of personal stuff going on.
Then in September of 2018, I heard the song "Pretty Lies" by this New Zealand band called Written By Wolves. I had heard their music and this song specifically before, but that was the first time I actually dissected the lyrics and interpreted them in my own way. At 21 years old, 6 years after totally dropping that dystopian story I started, the lyrics reminded me of it. I knew I still had my handwritten draft tucked away in a binder and thought of getting back into writing. That same day, an ad popped up on my Facebook for this vanity publishing company. I wasn't going to use them, of course, but I took it as a sign from the universe to write again.
That night, I told my husband what I wanted to do and he surprised me the next afternoon with my own laptop and pushed me to follow my dream. And thus, Pretty Lies was born! Without hearing that song, I don't think I would've ever picked up this manuscript again.
L: What do you find intriguing about writing dystopia?
J: I love politics, specifically dealing with the United States. I love how I get to experiment with something that already exists by taking one (or multiple) tiny detail and exploring all of the worst-case scenarios that could come from it. I also love how dystopians by any author, ultimately encourage us to stay aware and question everything.
L: How did you go about developing the world of your book?
J: The world of Pretty Lies is very similar to our own on the surface-- normal businesses, normal mundane activities, normal relationships. It's only the layers underneath that are dark and different. The twisted bits of this world are inspired by multiple conspiracy theories that are alluded to throughout the book-- think secret societies and inside jobs.
L: What were some challenges that came with writing Pretty Lies? How did you overcome them?
J: There were so many times I was ready to give up. I didn't think I was good enough, my style wasn't the same as other writers', etc. Had it not been for the overwhelming support of my husband, my critique partner, and the writing community on Instagram, I would've let my self-doubt drag me down.
L: Who would this book appeal to?
J: This book is categorized as New Adult, meaning it's mainly targeted toward college-age people, but this is a great read for young adults, older adults, and anyone who loves dystopian worlds!
L: When and where will it be available?
J: Pretty Lies will be available July 14, 2020 in hardback, paperback, and ebook! You'll be able to find it on Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, and (hopefully) Barnes & Noble!
L: What has your journey to publication been like?
J: Overwhelming but exhilarating to say the least! After months of research and speaking with writers of all different types, I decided the self-publishing route via IngramSpark is best for me!
L: What else are you working on?
J: I have started on the first draft of the sequel titled, Counter Ops, as well as Pretty Lies' companion novel, title pending.
L: Any tips for aspiring authors, especially those interested in dystopia?
J: Do not give up, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and do not let that inevitable self doubt swallow you and your brilliant mind! There will always be people who doubt you and who dislike your work, but I guarantee there are just as many, if not more, who are dying to read what you've created.
The dystopian genre specifically gets a lot of crap because of all the trend chasers following The Hunger Games, but the key is to make it your own. Everything has been done before, regardless of genre, but that doesn't mean you can't create a fresh, intriguing world for others to explore.
L: Thank you so much, Jessica! Congratulations on your success and I wish you the absolute best in your writing journey!
Jessica's Social Media
Facebook: : Jessica Anne Scurlock