It's wonderful to have Jessica Brody here to talk about her debut novel THE FIDELITY FILES (St. Martin's Press). I was lucky enough to meet Jessica and get a copy of this book at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco this summer. What a fascinating story! Rather than trying to explain the premise myself, I'll let Jessica tell us about it in her own words.
**Welcome, Jessica! Can you tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it? THE FIDELITY FILES is the story of a beautiful, L.A. woman who works as an undercover “fidelity inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.
Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”
Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”
So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.
**Do you put your friends in your books? Names, incidents, characteristics? Have any of them recognized themselves in a not-so-good way? My friends are definitely in my books. There’s one in particular that stands out. One of Jen’s friends, Zoë, has a bad case of road rage. And she tends to talk on the phone while she drives, so Jen often finds herself on the phone with Zoë while she’s cursing out another driver. I have a friend who does that and that’s where I got the idea. This friend has read the book but I’m not sure how she feels about the similarities. She acts like she’s fine with it, but I guess you never know. She could secretly be totally offended.
**Which 'craft' book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career? I can’t sing enough praise for SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. It has “saved” so many manuscripts of mine. It’s meant for screenwriters but it works flawlessly for novels as well. It’s just a very intuitive way to write stories and make sure the audience isn’t bored to tears because nothing is happening for fifty pages. Now, I consult the book before I even start writing and I use his “beat sheet” to help me outline the major story points. It saves me so much time later on! (Oooh, LOVE Blake Snyder! I agree he's amazing!!)
**What's your Writer Fantasy? Of course I have all the regular fantasies like Oprah, Movie deal with an opening the size of Twilight, NYT Bestseller list, etc. But honestly, the one fantasy that I would really like to see fulfilled is just seeing someone reading my book in a public place. Like on an airplane or in the gym. I think that would be such an amazing feeling. Now, I just have to decide whether or not I would approach them and tell them I wrote it. Or better yet, ask them what they think without telling them who I am. I might not want to hear the answer to that though!
**What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline? Oh, gosh, I have so many things going on right now, it’s hard to keep track! Although, this question may help me get my head around everything. I just finished the first draft of the sequel to The Fidelity Files which St. Martin’s is publishing in Fall of 2009 and is yet untitled. That’ll also be out in the UK around the same time. I’m waiting to get my revision notes back on that so I can go for round two. Also, I just finished revising the manuscript for my new young adult book, THE KARMA CLUB, which FSG is publishing in spring of 2010. And I recently started a new YA series that I’m super excited about and will hopefully try to sell early next year. AND…one of the screenplays I co-wrote just got financed for a feature film so we hope to start shooting that in April. Yes, I know, I’m a masochist. What can I say, idleness is my only enemy. (Congratulations on all of this, though. It sounds so exciting!)
**What advice would you give to other writers trying to get published? Take criticism. Believe in your work and stand behind it, but don’t be afraid to make changes. Try to be as objective as possible when it comes to your writing (I know how impossible that sounds) but it will only help you in the long run. Use rejections to evolve yourself as a writer, not just to line your waste basket. When someone rejects your work and offers a reason, don’t just blow it off and claim that they “didn’t get it” or that they clearly didn’t read it closely enough, dissect it and try to figure out if what they’re saying makes sense and if it will inevitably help your work. There a lot of people in this industry—agents, editors, other writers, etc.—who know what they’re talking about and know what it takes to make a book work. After all, that’s what they get paid for! Listen to them with open ears and grateful hearts. There’s a fine balance between staying true to your art and being open for suggestions, try to stay somewhere in the middle. If they “didn’t get it,” chances are, readers won’t get it either. And you won’t be there to explain it to them in the middle of Barnes and Noble.
**What other art form inspires you as much as writing? Before I started writing full time, I actually dabbled a bit in songwriting. One of my songs even won a songwriting competition. But I soon realized that I could only write song lyrics after I’d had my heart totally stomped on and destroyed by some dumb, stupid boy. Apparently, that was the outlet for my pain. And so once I found myself in a good relationship, the song lyrics stopped coming. I have to say, though, I don’t really miss them!
Thanks for being here, Jessica, and to all of you reading this, may you each have a very Happy Thanksgiving!