An Interview with Jessica L Degarmo

Today I have something a bit different for the Grumpy Commuter site. I intend to get a bit more of a booky feel to this site, however the grumpiness remains. Today I will be interviewing Jessica L Degarmo, a writer who has had numerous books published. She is currently with Taylor Street Books and her most recent book is Historically Yours, a romance. However, she writes more than just romance as shown with Six Weeks.
(GF)Welcome to the Grumpy Commuter’s abode Jess. Before you tell me
about your most recent book, I’d like to ask you why it is that you
write? What first drove you to pick up a pen (or keyboard) and begin a story?

(JLD)Hi George,
Thank you for having me on your blog! I started writing back in
January of 2010 as an attempt to get some extra money for my family when my
husband suffered a long-term layoff. We tried multiple things to get some
extra money in the house, and since I’d had this idea kicking around in my
head and it felt like something I could actually turn into a book, I
started to write. By April 2010 I had a first draft, and by November 2010, my
first book, How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket, was published by Taylor
Street Publishing, formerly Night Publishing. Since that book was released,
my husband returned to work and I’ve written five other novels. I
continue to write because I love it. While I was writing my first book, I
discovered a real love for writing and creating stories for people to enjoy

(GF) You have already written and published a few books, most being
in the romance genre. Was there a reason that you chose this particular
style?

(JLD) Honestly, no. It just sort of happened. I like to read romance,
and I like stories to be more than just fluff. My first book is
admittedly a very light piece of humor that’s meant to entertain more than
anything else, but for the rest of my books, I try to go below the surface of
things and really delve into the minds of my characters. I love
romances where there’s more than just shallow heroines and sex. I guess I
write what I like to read.

(GF) I think most of us probably do, Jessica. We can’t avoid it! But
I note that you’re bucking the trend with your most recent book, Six
Weeks, which takes a dive into the murky and emotive waters of teenage
pregnancy. This is quite a change of direction, was there a reason for this?

(JLD)Well, sometimes a story has to be told. I was having a
conversation with a co-worker about the subject of teenage pregnancy, and suddenly,
I could see the beginning and the end of the book in my head. I grabbed
a notepad and jotted down the first chapter, went home that night, and
wrote. I did 32,000 words in four days. The story was coming out
almost faster than I could put it down, and I honestly felt haunted by the
characters when I wasn’t writing. It was a very intense few days. And
I think this is the book I’m most proud of, because it’s not pretty.
It’s not one of those light, feel-good books. One of my readers said he
felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach after he finished reading it.
To me, invoking that intense emotion, even in the form of very negative
reviews, means I’ve accomplished my goal, which was to make people
think and give them a safe way of questioning their own beliefs.

(GF) It’s always a nice feeling when a story just flows. But tell me,
how difficult was it to settle on your character’s personality? Did it
evolve as the story progressed, or did you have a good idea when you started?
And what about her relationship with her mother – was that a challenge to
try and avoid stereotypes?

(JLD) I don’t think it was really that difficult. I’ve been her age,
and I’ve seen people go through similar trials. And I think there’s
something inside every woman that wonders about what they might do if they were
caught in that scenario. As far as the story progressing, it honestly
just happened. I had a good idea of how it would begin and how it would end.
And I knew I wanted Immy to explore all three options, so the only real
question was how to make her do so. I actually think it was easier to narrow the focus into six weeks. It made the gravity of the situation even more clear. And as far as Immy’s mom,
I don’t know if I avoided a stereotype or not. It was important to me for
Immy to have nearly no one to lean on, and in order to end the book the
way I did, she had to behave in a certain way. I think she certainly
served a purpose. She showed Immy how not to be, and made Immy’s
decisions twice as hard as they had to be. She was nearly as large a crisis as
Immy’s pregnancy was.

(GF) You handled the father’s role really well – did you feel the same
heartache for him as you did for Imogene? And also, as the story is
unresolved (at least in terms of her decision), do you intend writing a
sequel in the future?

(JLD) Thank you. I felt bad for Matthias, certainly. Actually, now that
you’ve mentioned it, my heart does ache for him. He’s in the same
situation as Immy, trying to buffer the younger siblings,being the
subject of abuse at the hands of his family, trying to better himself and get on
with his life. I just don’t think he was moving at the same pace as Immy
was. He was content to go back to the same situation, even after a
brutal beating from his father. Immy, on the other hand, knew that she had to
get not only herself out of the situation, but her sister as well. She seems
to have matured quicker than he did. And even though he offered to do
the noble thing, I’m not sure how it would have worked if Immy had accepted
his offer. I don’t think at that point he was really equipped to deal
with life.

As far as a sequel goes, no, there won’t be one. I know a lot of people
have asked for one, and I’ve received a lot of feedback about the ending
of the book. Some people absolutely hated the ending while others
understood where I was going with it and appreciated the fact that it
was unresolved. There were a few reasons for the ending, the first of which
was that I didn’t want to make that decision for Imogene. Her situation
is so tough that I didn’t feel able to tell her what she should do. Second,
I wanted to allow the readers to think about her situation and ask
themselves what they would do in her shoes. Six Weeks was written to
make people think, to question their own beliefs. Abortion is an issue rife
with conflict. And how people feel about is a deeply personal thing. My
main hope is that those with a strong opinion either way will concede
that the issue isn’t black and white, and that not every problem will have or
should have the same solution.

(GF) Are you working on another book? And will you move back o romance
(we all like a bit of that!) or have you some other avenues you want to
explore?

(JLD) Actually, I’m working on several books, and just recently released
the second in my Johns Creek Second Chances series. It’s a romance
entitled Historically Yours about a lovely divorcee who inherits a piece
of property, and a cranky next-door neighbor! I’m also working on a sequel
to Hooking Up as well as a book in an entirely new genre. I like to
challenge myself, I guess.

(GF) Before we finish, have you any words of advice for aspiring authors
who are unsure how to get going and write a story?> >

(JLD) The best advice I can give an aspiring author is never to give up. I
struggled with putting pen on paper for years before I got an idea I
thought I could finish. I can’t tell you how many partial manuscripts I
have laying around. When the right book idea pops into your head, get it
down and run with it! Don’t let self-doubt or fear hold you back. Write
with passion and write from deep within. And don’t give up. It’s not easy,
and after all, if it was, everyone would be doing it, but it’s so
worthwhile. Just don’t give up. Join an online writing community and
network. Writers are incredibly supportive of each other, having been
there themselves. And don’t give up! Yeah, I already said it, but it bears
repeating.

Anyway, thank you so much for having me on your blog today. I had a lot of
fun!

My pleasure Jess. I wish you well in your future writing endeavours.

For all those interested in getting copies of Jessica’s books, you can go to her website http://www.jessicadegarmo.com/ or Taylor Street Books http://www.taylorstreetbooks.com/

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

One Response to An Interview with Jessica L Degarmo

  1. Mike Church says:

    Jess is so prolific! She never ceases to amaze me. Loved the advice at the end to aspiring writers.

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