+ Novella covers from Melville House
I recently got an interview request from Mr. M, a year twelve Creative Arts student from Adelaide, South Australia.
The student was required to “seek information from a primary source to enhance [his] knowledge and understanding in the subject of novella story writing.”
So here’s the Q&A!
Q&A with Jess on Novella Writing
Mr. M: Where do you get your inspiration from to write?
Jess: Everywhere — I’m inspired by other books, music, film, art, Facebook status updates, things people say during conversations…
Mr. M: Do you have a specific genre with your stories?
Jess: I was writing in many different genres when I first start writing professionally. For example, my first short story anthology contained taboo themes, paranormal elements, as well as LGBT themes. I had a tendency to cross multiple genres within a single story too.
I eventually decided to narrow my scope into two main departments (erotic fiction, and psychological thrillers). I like exploring psychosexual themes, and working on stories that have a psychological dimension. The two genres I listed above are genres that allow me to explore a wide range of subject matter within some kind of structure, so that I don’t end up confusing myself and/or readers along the way…
Mr. M: Is there a particular process you go through when writing?
Jess: I might listen to some energetic music before I start writing. I like having some kind of outline to the story too — it keeps me focused and efficient.
Mr. M: How would you describe your genre?
Jess: I would describe my style of erotic fiction as being more focused on intimacy than explicitness.
I would describe psychological thrillers as a genre that explores the dark side of human nature.
Mr. M: Do you feel your work reaches out to others?
Jess: That’s something I do hope and aim for with each project. While I enjoy writing for personal reasons, I’m socially-minded too, and this aspect of me tends to be expressed through the stories I write.
Mr. M: Do you undergo any form of research before writing?
Jess: Yes, I’m always reading something (fiction as well as non-fiction), or watching crime drama or crime documentary sorts of TV shows. The research is kind of an ongoing thing, in order to be aware of and observant of the behaviour and actions of other human beings.
Mr. M: How did you officially get discovered as a novella writer?
Jess: I decided to self-publish some of my novellas (as well as novels) because my early work wasn’t exactly neatly commercially categorizable. I’ve been slowly building up a readership since mid-2009, and I’m currently working on gaining a wider readership via some series books (novel length).
Mr. M: Have you received many rejections in your career?
Jess: Oh yes, many. I’m very appreciative of 21st-century digital publishing, so I can still “make things happen” on my own if I have to!
Mr. M: Do you feel the novella writing industry is developing or dying?
Jess: I think it is not hugely favoured in the commercial publishing industry. Independent publishing is different, since a person has more artistic and personal freedom to create stories of different lengths in terms of word count.
Mr. M: How competitive was it for you to get your first story published?
Jess: My first story was published by the literary journal, Word Riot. I had a small stash of short stories by then, so I submitted whatever I had to magazines and journals that were actively submitting submissions.
Publishing has and will always be a competitive industry because of the amount of material out there. In today’s world, it’s imperative for a writer to be able to identify as well as reach their target audience if they want to be successful with their publishing endeavours.
Mr. M: Would you recommend anyone else in the industry I could ask these questions to?
Jess: You might want to try Joe Fassler — in 2012, he wrote an article in The Atlantic on Melville House’s “art of the novella” department.
These links have more info:
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Jess C Scott / jessINK