Interview with Jessa Forest

Published 2020-12-04.
What are you working on now?
Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is out now!

That means I am STILL hard at work writing Book One of The Slaughter Chronicles. New goals: get the manuscript done and to the editor no later than January 22, 2021.

Tentative publication: Spring/Summer 2021

I'm switching up my writing process for this series. I'm usually a discovery writer. Meaning, I love opening up a blank page and writing down whatever pops into my head. I've discovered, to my disappointment, that this is no way to write The Slaughter Chronicles. I've done a lot of brainstorming/worldbuilding and I have a broad, sweeping series outline but I never thought to outline the individual books. I didn't think I needed to outline the books.

Well, the words aren't coming and the story has stalled. So I'm going to try outlining in an attempt to get it finished.

I'm nervous and worried I'm not up to the task of writing this series, which is so terribly important to me and so dear to my heart. But I am determined, and, more importantly, I am spiteful. And I will get another book out to you, dear reader, next year.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have many reasons.

1. I enjoy the traditional publishing route for short stories and individual poems. I love submitting my work to literary magazines and small presses.

2. I do not love querying agents, picking out excerpts, or writing book synopses hoping and agonizing over whether or not I included the right details that will convince someone else that my stories will make them money.

3. I want my stories to have entertainment value, not monetary value. I don’t want to be dismissed or promoted by a “big name” publisher just because someone in an office thinks I can make them money. While I’m getting worked up about why I dislike “the industry,” I want to say there are too many cases of publishers choosing for the public. The act of choosing represses valid voices and makes creativity elitest. Yes, we have to have content standards but that doesn’t mean we have to promote one trope over another or one type of story over another. Also, in the USA, the mainstream publishing world is very non-inclusive, I don’t want any part of that.

4. I love my editor. I found my editor by hapinstance through nanowrimo. I don’t want to work with a publisher who will assign an editor to me who I might not even like or get along with professionally. I have enough drama like that at my day job, I don’t need it in something I really love.

5. I’m not a control freak (not much anymore...maybe) but I do like making the decisions behind my book design, from interior formatting to the cover, I know exactly what’s going on. I love finding cover artists and graphic designers and managing the aesthetic of my content. I love managing my own website and social media (not that I’m on there that much...sorry guys). I’m not super keen on the business aspect of indie writing, I don’t like learning about marketing strategies but if those things are going to help get my book into your hands then I can deal with it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was a fan fiction.

When I was first learning to read, my mother bought me a copy of How Spider Saved Christmas by Robert Kraus. I glommed onto Spider like you wouldn't believe. I loved (and still love) Spider so much and I was so disappointed when I got to the end of the story. I wanted to know what happened next. I wanted more Spider.

I don't remember if it was my mother who told me to make up more of Spider's story or if I decided to do it on my own. Regardless, my mom made a little book out of orange construction paper. She even ran it through her sewing machine and gave it a threaded spine! The story I wrote was called "How Spider Saved Halloween" and it didn't have a plot that I can remember, I just drew lots of abstract portraits of Spider.

Later I discovered a whole series of Spider books (The Trouble With Spider, Spider Saves Valentines Day, Spider Saves the Baseball Game) so I didn't really need to write that Spider story but that desire to know more, to prolong the connection to a character inspired me to start making up stories.
How do you approach editing?
Editing needs to be professional. My books--every book--needs a professional editor.

I have an MFA in Creative Writing, I have Grammarly on my computer. I still hire an editor because I can't catch all the mistakes. No matter how good I think I am--no matter how good you think you are--you still need someone else to look at your manuscript before you publish it.

No one is perfect. No one has a flawless final draft.

Yes, editors are expensive but they seriously improve the quality of your books and are more than worth budgeting for.

I made the mistake of skimping on the editing process when I first started self-publishing back in 2018. My work suffered for it. And I suffered for it.

Not only did I produce a book full of errors, I stressed myself out trying to manage too many tasks on my own. Writing the book is hard enough without the pressure of making it grammatically neat and pristine on top of that.

When I finally made the decision to hire an editor, two things happened:

1) Half of my writing related stress dropped away. Because I knew I had a safety net beneath me, someone who would catch the mistakes I would ultimately miss.

2) My manuscript grew in ways I didn't expect. Seeing my editor's observations of my work, parts she thought were unclear, and little details that stuck out to her and made her think about the story, gave me ideas to add more layers to my manuscript.

There was nothing negative about the experience, my editor did not pick apart my story or make ridiculous demands. The editor's job is to help you produce a quality product, not tear you down or force you to change your vision.

I'll end with this final thought: as an indie author I have complete control over who edits my book. I looked long and hard before I reached out to my editor and luckily the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. But I've heard horror stories of writers and editors not getting along. So, do your research and choose wisely.
What do you read for pleasure?
Military Science Fiction. I'm a huge Warhammer 40k fan.

I also love poetry.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use my iPad and alternate between the Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBook apps. The Kindle is my favorite and the most user friendly (for me). The Kobo and iBooks apps are a little clunky and not as intuitive. The Nook app is okay, it's just kind of blah.
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