Interview with Jessica Gober

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have always loved writing. As I grew up, I just considered it a hobby, but after graduating from Washington State University, writing was the only career path I had any real desire to pursue. Several other options seemed intriguing, but writing was my passion and what I truly wanted to do. So I decided to publish The Rockford Life Trilogy, which I had already written. I had originally pursued the traditional publishing route in 2007 after finishing A New Place in Life without any luck. During my time at WSU, family and friends forwarded me information on self-publishing online, and after graduation, I began to look into that route. I liked the fact that I could maintain control over all aspects of publishing my works and the fact that as soon as I had my books ready, I could publish. So, I went for it. While I have gone back to school and am now pursuing a career, writing remains something I love, and I intend to continue writing and publishing my novels as an indie author.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is largely character driven. I come up with a historical setting and framework and sketch out my set of characters. I decide where they are at the beginning of the book, create a rough outline of events that will shape them over the course of the book, and decide on where they’ll likely end up. Then I start writing. As I write, the characters become more alive and fleshed out, often changing significantly my plan for them. This was especially true in the first book in The Rockford Life Trilogy. I wanted to write about two families on the Oregon Trail, and I made my family tree, decided who would die, who would marry whom, and started writing. I can still distinctly remember what scenes in the book I was working on when I decided to switch up a couple of the deaths and marriages because they better served who the characters had become. On the other hand, in the case of the latter two books in The Rockford Life Trilogy, I had a number of scenes, including many of the end scenes, basically formed in my head before I started writing, so there was less deviation along the way. This mostly had to do with the fact that the characters and their backstories were informed from the prior novel, so their journeys went more as I anticipated. Of course, my current novel involves a new set of characters and thus experienced several changes in direction as the characters came to life.

I write chronologically, but oftentimes when I'm not able to sit down and write, I'm brainstorming. My brainstorming usually involves the characters at points further down the road. Much of this brainstorming generates new scene ideas, although some of it involves events that occur prior to the beginning of the book or after the book will have ended. This latter brainstorming often give me ideas for back story or events to come in the novel, informing character development. I will typically jot down scene ideas and some dialogue in short hand to remind me, but I don't write the scene until I come to that point in the book as other ideas and events may alter my vision of the scene along the way. Also, I like to write chronologically in order to allow for character growth; by moving chronologically, I have a firm grasp of who the character is at that point of time, how they will behave in the current situation, what effect it will have on them moving forward.

Finally, I write my novels by hand. I know it's old school, but the creative juices flow much better with paper and pen than staring at a screen. Plus, I can cart my much lighter notebook around anywhere without worry about battery life/power and can work outside in the summer without glare. Then when I'm finished, I spend a couple weeks typing up the whole book, which is where I do a significant portion of my revision, ironing out the irrelevant points raised by an altered character trajectory. Then comes the rounds of editing and proofing, aided by family and friends willing to check for typos as well as continuity, character, and other story problems.
How do you approach cover design?
I have never been a fan of illustrations of characters on covers. Too many times, I have read a book where the person on the front does not match the description of the character in the book. That just seems sloppy. Even when the image and descriptions align, I prefer to have the freedom to picture the character as I choose without any preconceived notions. Thus, rather than depicting people, I like the idea of a collage of images that help set the historical scene. However, when I decided to publish ebooks, a collection of images does not hold up well on thumbnail covers, so I chose an element or two from the list to focus on. I also hired a cover designer, as I am not the least bit knowledgeable with graphic design, and she deserves the credit for capturing my vision in the wonderful covers I have.
What are you working on next?
Currently, I am working on revising my latest novel, tentatively titled Stanton Creek. The novel is set in Texas following Texas’ fight for independence and runs through the Mexican-American war. Writing this novel has been an interesting experience. Leaving behind the Rockfords, I had a whole new set of characters and experienced more plot tweaks as those characters evolved, reminiscent more of A New Place in Life than Life Amidst Ruin or There Is Life After Death. After some stops and starts – fueled in part by my heavy college course load that kept it sitting for a semester at a time – I finally got the characters and story ironed out following publication of The Rockford Life Trilogy. Further, I stepped outside of my comfort zone a bit, focusing on a time period and location that I’m not as familiar with as the Oregon Trail and Civil War. Thus, this project has involved more researching and reading than my previous works.

I had written roughly a quarter of the novel before I set it aside to focus on editing and publishing The Rockford Life Trilogy. Following publication of those novels, I devoted my attention to writing Stanton Creek, which continued to grow as I worked on it. I completed writing the first draft in just under two years – and this novel is more than twice as long as my previous novels. I’m currently working on revision to clean up some of the early characterization problems arising from the stops and starts in writing the first quarter of the novel. I’m hoping to finish the revision work and do the necessary editing and formatting for publication sometime this year. Originally, envisioned as a standalone novel, I now have ideas for a possible sequel, and I am excited to finish up Stanton Creek and get back to writing new material.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love to write. Trying to pinpoint the greatest joy for me is difficult, but I would probably say the outlet. My mind is constantly churning with stories - either of my own unique creation or the continuation of a movie or book I have recently finished. So for me, I just love getting it down on paper and seeing how it all plays out because sometimes I surprise even myself with the turns the story or a scene will take as it just flows.
What do you read for pleasure?
Honestly, of late, I have not done as much reading as I used to because I would rather spend my free hours writing. However, I love to read historical fiction. I spent most of my childhood engrossed in it, which is probably why I write it now. In high school, I began to move away from historical fiction to CIA/FBI thriller works - and I will pick up one of those for light reading now, but I polish a novel off in a day or two usually. I also got interested in classics during high school, working my way through a sampling of authors. And in college, I got into reading Russian literature, but my want-to-read list still outweighs my list of read works (though I did finally polish off War and Peace).
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I recently graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree, so I had been spending a lot of time studying. I’m happy to be done with school again and am currently looking for a job in editing and/or technical writing. When I’m not working on my job search or writing, I read or watch TV. I like to follow character development and writing choices in other works, and both activities give me a mental break from my own character and plot development. Beyond that, I spend time with family and friends.
Published 2017-01-19.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

There Is Life After Death
Series: The Rockford Life Trilogy, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,980. Language: English. Published: August 8, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier
The war is finally over. The Rockford family is ready to move on and enjoy their newfound happiness, but several of the young men struggle to adjust to their new lives. And despite the relief brought by war’s end, a series of tragedies strike Dan Rockford’s family, claiming a life in the process.
Life Amidst Ruin
Series: The Rockford Life Trilogy, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 108,690. Language: English. Published: August 8, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
Jake Rockford returns to Virginia so his children can meet their mother’s family only to be greeted by the War Between the States. The war will touch the lives of everyone he cares about, even his brother’s family back in Oregon.
A New Place in Life
Series: The Rockford Life Trilogy, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 80,950. Language: English. Published: August 7, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier
After spending seven years in the West, not much intimidates Dan Rockford. But guiding a wagon party full of woefully unprepared families on the Oregon Trail proves no easy task. The young guide clashes with the wealthy Southern gentlemen organizing the trip while looking out for his brother’s family and contending with his feelings for his boss’ daughter.