Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH THE TALENTED JESSICA BELL




Not every woman in this world lives without regret, knows exactly what they want, and has the courage to put every essence of their being into achieving their dreams...Does that mean a less strong-minded woman doesn't have an interesting story to tell? Jessica Bell


Tell me a bit about youyou have a furry baby don't you? Are you single or have a significant other?

Yes, I have a four-year-old Dalmatian named Holly (Holly Bolly Wallywood, yep, that’s her full name!). I really don’t know what I’d do without her. And, yes, I do have a significant other, but he doesn't want to be exposed! J Almost seven years, now, we've been together.


You're the daughter of two rock musicians. That had to be an interesting childhood. Give me a great memory of that time.

Well, the upside of having musicians as parents is that I was encouraged to write songs at a very young age—when I was about eleven or twelve.

The greatest memory of that time is the day my mother decided to sell her twelve-string acoustic guitar to get a bit of extra cash. I saw it sitting by the front door. I think someone was coming over to take a look at it. I remember opening the case and thinking that it just looked so beautiful, magical and special, and I remember wondering why in the world Mum would want to get rid of it? I think she was in the music room at the time and I interrupted one of her recording sessions to ask about the guitar. When she told me she was selling it, I asked her whether I could have it instead. She said that I could if I learned to play. From that moment I had that guitar in my hands every single day until I moved to Greece in 2002. I taught myself how to play. The first song I ever wrote was played on one string and sung in a very awful high-pitched voice. I hope that cassette never gets dug up!

[laughing] I bet not! I've a few things I've created I feel the same about.

Did you get to accompany your parents on their tours? What would be a down side?

Downside? Well, there weren’t really that many. My parents were very good at spending quality time with me. The worst thing was being dragged along to rehearsals late into the night and falling asleep on stinky carpet that smelled of old melted gaffer tape and amplifier wheel grease. I never went with them on tours. I usually stayed at a babysitter’s. That was another downside. I hated sleeping in weird beds.

Home base was Australia. How did you end up in Greece? 

My stepfather is Greek so I spent a lot of my childhood here. It became my second home. I couldn’t live without one or the other. Thank goodness for planes!

You speak Greek. How hard was it to learn? (Speaking would be one thing, but writing quite another. Or did you learn as a child?

I learned bits and pieces as a child, but mainly picked it up naturally by living here, so I never ‘struggled’ as it had pretty much become a familiar sound to me over the years. I can’t write or read it very well though. Takes me about half an hour to read through one page, and it would probably take me two hours to write one page.

You work as a freelance writer and editor. You're a very creative personpoetry, songwriter/musician, and you have a beautiful voice. Sounds like a very full life. What made you decide to write women's fiction?

I don’t think I ever ‘chose’ to write women’s fiction, it’s just what came naturally. In fact, I didn’t decide what genre it was until I started seeking agents and publishers. If I could class my writing non-traditionally, I’d probably call it ‘Real Fiction.’ Oxymoron, you say? Definitely not. You’ll just have to read my book to find out why! Ha!

Which has the biggest pull in your life, music or writing?

Music doesn't define me as much as writing does, but it’s still a big part of my life.

What’s the hardest thing you've had to face as a writer? How did you overcome it?

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, and still face, is the self-doubt. I don’t think I’m ever going to overcome this. Sometimes it isn’t as strong, but it’s always haunting me. Some days I’m confident enough to tell it to shove off, other days, it sends me into an emotional downward spiral. I think this is just a given for us creative types. 

Perhaps because creative types are striving the perfect note, word, or image. We hear it perfectly in our minds. Get frustrated when we can't translate that perfection to the printed page or whatever medium we're using. I also think creative types are harder on themselves than any critic could be. 


So, tell me about Melody Hill. What do you like about her? What is it about her that readers can relate to even not being in music?

Melody is a very strong-minded woman, but also significantly vulnerable—she can sometimes be an over-emotional doormat. But what I love about her is that she recognizes her flaws and really tries to rectify them.

The inspiration for Melody came from thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. Even though my priorities had changed then, I still wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is so passionate about it that it consumes their every day. But I think music could be replaced by any sort of passion in String Bridge, because basically the story is about needing something more than you need yourself.

You took an unusual approach to writing Melody Hill’s story. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a book with a ‘soundtrack.’ This might be a case of what came first, the chicken or the egg, but how was this story born? Did it start with the music? Or the story?

The process was pretty circular. The thing with this book is that I never really ‘focused’ on plot. It was more about the characters and their emotions and their interactions with each other. Music evokes this sort of deeper feeling, too, I think.

The inspiration for the book came about when I was thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. I wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is passionate about it.

And the music?

The songs that appear in the book started off as poems. Then it occurred to me that I could create and produce an album for Melody. That’s when the idea for my book trailer came about after listening to a few of my mother’s songs on YouTube. The poems then turned into lyrics. When I finished the final revisions I sat down and wrote music to the four songs that appear in the book. Once those were done, I wrote six more songs to create Melody’s album.


As you know, I absolutely love the book trailer music. Aside from it truly showcasing the story, it is a beautiful piece of work, both vocally and the lyrics.
Where can you buy the CD? And is there a way to get a sampling of the rest of the album?

If you go to www.stringbridge.com, you’ll find all the information you need for that. It will link you to iTunes, where you can sample 45 seconds of each song.

I’m curious, I know you’re promoting your work, but will you be also promoting your music? If so, how?

Actually, I have already been promoting my music. In fact, during my blog tour for String Bridge, I gave away many copies of the album to purchasers of the book on a specific day. It was a great incentive to buy and worked out really well, pushing String Bridge into the bestseller charts on both Amazon US and Amazon UK.

I’ve also done a live radio interview, here in Greece, and featured on Australian radio as well. I’ll continue to do all I can possibly do for both the book and the music.

What’s next for Jessica Bell? Are you working on a new story? Would you tell us a bit about it and when it will be released?

My next novel is called, Bitter Like Orange Peel. It’s complete and being considered by an Australian publisher, as I want to get more recognition in my home country.

It’s about a twenty-five year old Australian archaeology undergraduate named Kit, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. She feels misplaced and comes to the conclusion that meeting her father, Roger, will make some sense of her life, despite him being worth the rotting orange rind in her backyard. Well, at least that’s what she’s been conditioned to think of him by the three women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clich├ęs, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed professional archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania, who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and who named her daughter after intravenous. Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger, but in doing so, discovers he is not the only rotten fruit.

For my third, Muted, I’ve applied for a writing fellowship in order to fund all the research I want to do for it. So fingers crossed for that!

Muted is set in Arles, France, in a totalitarian society where it is illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it's also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta, a famous Italian a cappella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope with living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories from her hometown, Milan. But Concetta's suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface. Is it the busking harpist, who encouraged her to feel music through vibration, acting as saviour? Or a street warden on the prowl for another offender to detain? From this moment, the reader will discover how Concetta came to be in this position, and what will happen to her after the suicide attempt.

Muted will explore a variety of themes such as overcoming loss, coping with mental illness and disability, dealing with discrimination, loss of freedom, inhibited self-expression, motivation to succeed, escaping oppression, expression through art and music, self-sacrifice, channelling the thoughts of the deceased, and challenging moral views and values.

Whew! There is quite a bit to be looking for from you. Muted has a very interesting premise. A bit sci-fi/fantasy in tone. I'll be watching for that.

Jessica, I wish you much success with all this and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to chat with me.

Thank you for having me!





Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece.
Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a ‘proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be.
However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits ....EXCERPT 

BOOK TRAILER (very well done and Jessica is singing FAMOUS on the soundtrack) If you want to hear three of her songs in entirety visit Jessica's Facebook music page.

You can also find Jessica on her blog: The Alliterative Allomorph, Official String Bridge Website (Lyrics, music and the book), Twitter, Goodreads, and Website.



18 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Thank you so much for having me, Sia! It was a really pleasure :o)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jessica, it's my pleasure, I assure you. I spent several hours exploring your music, websites,and reading the excerpt.

Pull up a chair and enjoy your visit with us.

I was wondering, you mentioned your mom's music and her song on youtube. I couldn't find it, darn it. Want to share it? Your call. :-)

Jessica Bell said...

Absolutely! Here's the link to the original :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOUWTRv2ZsI

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful interview made excellent reading.

Yvonne.

Sarah said...

This is an incredible interview! Jessica, you're right--that picture of Holly and your guitar was worth the visit, but I'm glad I did. In particular--MUTED sounds utterly fascinating!! Thanks, Sia!

Jessica Bell said...

Thanks so much Yvonne, and Sarah! :) I knew the photo would please. lol. And thanks for your kind words re, MUTED, Sarah. I'm very excited about it!

Laura Marcella said...

Wonderful interview, Sia and Jessica! I'm looking forward to your next books, Jessica. Hope everything goes well with your publisher in Australia!

kathryn magendie said...

Love the memory of you and your mom's guitar - this is so lovely and poignant and wonderful.

Jessica - you know I loved your book and your music - I'm hoping for much success for you!

Jessica Bell said...

Thanks, Laura. It's not been accepted by an Aust publisher yet, so keep your fingers crossed for me! :)

Kathryn, thank you ... is it silly to say that I am too? lolol ;o)

VA said...

I love the concept of an original integrated soundtrack and story. Wonderful interview and the Muted sounds gut-wrenching.

Talli Roland said...

What a great interview, ladies! Always good to learn more about Jess.

Cathy Powell said...

My fingers are crossed Jessica. I hope the Australian publisher likes your book. The book blurb makes it sound good. I would definitely read it!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you didn't let your mother's guitar go! Hopefully you continue to do more music, Jessica, because your album is amazing.

lbdiamond said...

Great interview!!!!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, her music is amazing. I find myself humming and singing a few of the songs around the house. My husband heard one and said, that's beautiful, what is it?

I told him I didn't do justice to it and took him to Jessica's music page so he could hear it. He loved it.

I haven't had a chance to read String Bridge yet but I can already tell it's going to be good.

I'll let y'all know once I read it.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Talli and IB, it's easier to have a great interview when you have such a talented and interesting person like Jessica.

Thank you. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jessica, Thanks for the link for your mom's singing. I listened to several of hers. I like her sassiness. She made me grin several times with her phrasing and emphasis. I spent a bit of time listening and enjoying her music. :-)

While she did a marvelous job on Famous, I'll admit, I liked your version better. Granted, that was a demo but your voice and arrangement adds a richness to the song--and that's without the even seeing your trailer.

Just sayin'

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sarah, Thank you. I like doing interviews--Oh, not the generic sorts, but ones that showcase the artist. Jess was a wonderful subject.

Holly is a little doll, isn't she? That expression just melts me.