Welcome to my Parlor: Jessa Callaver
Hi peeps! Hope your New Year's celebrations were a blast! I'm still a little tipsy from the wine, but it's time to get this gravy train a movin'! Let's kick off the New Year with a new author! *insert auditorium screaming*
The first installment of the 2012 Welcome to My Parlor series features an author who, if you haven't heard of her, you need to. Allow me to introduce you to the super talented, super sweet Jessa Callaver!! Jessa's all set to Drip her INK so let's get this party started, K?
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Sable: Hi Jessa! Thanks for swinging by the Parlor today. Can you tell the people a bit about yourself?
Jessa: I honestly don’t know what to say about myself. I’m Jessa Callaver, ‘of age,’ and have been penning short story fiction for about 9 months now - published my first story in April 2011. Entirely self-trained, for better or worse lol.
Sable: "Of age". *giggles* For those paying attention, that's shorthand for "Never ask a woman her age". I've used it a time or two. Ha! Let us in on the piece you've brought, Jessa. What was the inspiration?
The Very Thought of Him
Jessa: Well, my latest short story is entitled The Very Thought of Him. It’s my third self-published work. Dara, the main character, is an intelligent, head-strong, single ‘modern woman.’ She has a career, friends, and a stable day-to-day life that just seems to be missing something. And, like so many single women, she chooses to go online seeking what she‘s missing…seeking something more, something different than what she‘s used to. Companionship, a connection, adventure…she doesn’t really know. While cruising an online tryst site, she stumbles across the profile of a guy named Kelly (I know, odd name choice), and begins to fantasize about him, but is unsure whether to pursue it. He’s younger, he’s a virtual stranger, and it is, of course, the Internet. The short story gives the reader a window into Dara’s ‘what if’ scenario.
At times, I have no idea where the inspiration for a certain storyline comes from. I do draw things from my own long list of ‘what if’ fantasies - and being the in-her-head, incurably shy dater that I am, the list is ample. But there are definite overlaps, I’m now seeing, between the protagonists in my stories. To begin, they’re all female - not by accident - and that they’re all on the cusp of a new experience about which they’re curious yet unsure. It’s that curiosity that inspires me, and I usually build my story around it. Around the curious yet optimistically adventurous and unsure female, and what, based on my own curiosities, I’d like to see them explore or delve into in their lives. Dara was no different.
I’d wanted to write a story about virtual reality sexuality for a while. I know even citing the paradox of our being a society so connected yet simultaneously disconnected is a bit cliché but…in my opinion, true all the same. And, more than just being people seeking a cheap thrill or tawdry hookup, though that’s there as well, I think people are desperate for that connection - however they can get it. Online dating and hook-up sites are pervasive, and there are of course your more ‘sanctioned’ sites and then those that lie on the cusp, if not tread in the trenches, of ‘impropriety.’ In certain pockets of America e-dating is viewed as something for desperate or God forbid ‘unattractive’ women and men to find companionship or relationships. And so with all that floating around in my mind, I was inspired to create Dara - to explore the depths of this 21st century existential terrain. From the get go, I couldn’t see someone as skeptical as her at a dating site. They didn’t have the requisite adventure and excitement for her. So, I decided to put her somewhere a bit out of her element. Somewhere she could be comfortably uncomfortable, apprehensive yet restless and inquiring enough to do it anyway. I honestly can’t say for certain whether she goes through with it or not. Might sound odd, being the author of this creation lol…but it’s true.
Sable: Story of my life. I know I did it, just not sure how it ended. LOL! So what got you started as a writer?
Jessa: I started penning fiction while I was dating this guy (he shall go deservedly nameless lol). It was a long distance thing and I’d, while messaging him one night, brought up the idea of us sending each other mini-stories - smut tales I think we called them - whenever the inspiration hit. After a while, I was the one doing most of the writing I realized, and was moreover liking the freedom I felt in it. It was during this time that the idea for Family Care just came to me, and I began taking notes and developing the story - what lonely nights will produce. I finished it while he and I were still together, yet, as it would turn out, that piece was probably the most valuable thing that came out of that relationship lol For the mere fact that I’d finally fleshed out a story that I liked, from start to finish, I was elated, and somewhat impetuously felt the need to share with the class. I’d had several false starts in the past on non-fictional projects that which, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t ‘guide’ towards maturation. The desire was there, but the inspiration would wane as I’d struggle with what to do with the idea - what my approach should be, where to go with it, how to write it, what to focus on, what I wanted to say in writing it. Fantasy fiction surprisingly cleared out all of those question marks and just allowed to me write what flowed…and boy did it lol.
Sable: One of the things I find hardest in this writing business is knowing when the story ends. How do you know when you’re done and the story on the page is the one you want released?
Jessa: That’s a tough question. The way I write varies depending on the story. I often write in a sort of linear stream of consciousness when first starting the project. But, after I’ve come back to it a couple of times, I find that I’ll want to see a certain event unfold a certain way in the story or an idea for how to fill in a scene or chapter will emerge, and I’ll just work on massaging it into the story. Sometimes it will just be a passage, a sentence or a word that I feel would fit into the story and I plop it in there and write around it. It’s the same with my endings; they emerge pretty organically. I can’t say there’s one way that I know a story I’ve written is done, but often enough it’s simply when I can look at what there and know that I just can’t do anymore.
With the most recent published story, The Very Thought of Him, I have to say that it was feedback from other writers that helped in my editing process, and inspired me to end the story as I did. Initially, I didn’t get very good input and really didn’t know how to improve on the story without sucking the essence from it. Seeing it through others’ eyes really opened me up, and from there I was able to reshape my story into something better.
Sable: The benefits of having beta readers and crit groups, for all the newbies tuning in. Jessa, do you write in other genres? Which is your favorite?
Jessa: At present fiction is my primary focus, but I do write in other genres. I’m working on a memoir and a contemporary romance book at the moment. My writing was in essence developed by way of academia - years and years of writing essays, term papers and theses - yet always had this somewhat anachronistic bent towards prose. (I remember submitting a formal proposal for a research project on HIV and AIDS, and having one of my advisors tell me that it was a workable proposal, and quite ‘literary’ to boot. And, on an unrelated note, I reconnected with a childhood friend several years back and when we finally met up, she alluded to finding my e-mails ‘poetic.’) So, my non-fiction writing I think is more keyed into that familiar style, and also led me to fiction writing; while actually writing fiction, I find, keeps me loose and helps me mold a story. And both help me develop my writing, so, while one writes in a style to which I’m more accustomed, there really is no favorite. Writing romance feels very much like a natural evolution from what I’ve been writing. Now I can keep those long passages and sentences that I’d normally delete in a short story lol
Sable: Being an author is a lot like being a juggler. We've always got more than one thing we're INKing at any given time. What are some of the projects you have up in the air?
Jessa: I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment. One is a romance novel - my first e-novel tentatively titled Maid to Service- that I’ve been writing for some time; the other is a short story, Working it Out (again, the working title), that I hope to have released by early next year.
I’m extremely excited about the novel. I foresee it being a bit over 300 pages as things now stand, perhaps longer. Kind of scary lol I honestly don’t know how I was able to arrive at the 168 pages of it that I have right now. The short story is one I was working in tandem with The Very Thought of Him, and am still reworking. The main character is someone who, even in her rough portrayal in the draft that I have now, has deeply resonated with a lot of the female beta readers who have been kind enough to help crit my work; something completelyunexpected and not at all what I’d intended when I began writing the story. Initially, this was again, just an idea that I wanted to see on paper, and was curious as to where it might go. It was the unexpectedly strong emotional responses to the female protagonist and her predicament that inspired me to take a step back, and not just view this story as I would my others - to view it as more than just as personal creative exposition.
Sable: Let's talk sex. LOL! Sex scenes, to be more specific. Do they come easy for you?
Jessa: No way lol It’s as intricate as writing out a fight scene or a tense conversation between a handful of characters. Sex has to flow and have pace, has to feel real (not just for the author who has the privilege of knowing what they want to see/create while the reader does not) and original, and has to progress without the author forgetting whose hand is on whose bum or whose sitting, leaning, humping where lol. Aside from imagination, the context and the characters guide my sex scenes. I have to admit that I do enter a story with a scene or two already floating around in my head, but as the pieces collide, they usually change; mold with what the story becomes as I write.
Sable: Very true. Nothing worse than when you've got one hand too many on the wrong backside. That can really balls up a story :) And with readers being so keen on particulars such as that, are you very in depth with the research you do for your stories?
Jessa: It depends on the book (texture, length etc). But I always find myself researching some facet or element of the story, some detail. With the romance novel I’m working on, the research has been non-stop - everything from flora and fauna common to the location of the story to geographical layouts of certain states to modes of transportation to entertainment, the list goes on and on. And this is perhaps another thing that people, both readers and non-readers of erotica and romance books alike tend to prejudge or overlook. They often assume that the work involved in penning a novel, novella or short story of this genre isn’t as varied, as intensive, as time-consuming, as profound or comprehensive as that required of written work of other genres. Could not be more wrong - and I have the log in hours and eyestrain to prove it.
Sable: Again, truer words... Double time on the eyestrain! So now I get to play evil Sable (well, eviler Sable). It takes thousands of words to get your point across, but now can you sum up your book in one sentence? *insert maniacal*
Jessa: In one sentence. Umm…maybe: small town girl seeks online tryst.
Sable: I know, that was evil. But you passed with flying colors! Being a fresh new voice on the literary scene, any advice for newbies?
Jessa: Definitely find beta readers and writing circles of fellow writers to look over your work before you publish, but don’t wait until your ‘perfect work’ to publish. Sometimes you can’t see or sense what is missing from your work the way others can. And though too many chefs can spoil the soup, be open to others’ impressions of your writing, other writers, avid readers and authors in particular.
Know that, as a writer you’re going to continue to grow and develop (if that is your goal) and that which you view as your pinnacle at one stage, you may end up looking back on with contempt. As your writing acumen improves you’ll be able to create things you were before unable to, or never even thought of adding to your pieces. To those looking to go the indie self-publishing route, self-publishing and self-promotion themselves are skills to be acquired.
Sable: Couldn't have said it better myself. Speaking of which, what is your strength and weakness as a writer and how do you hope to improve?
Jessa: I think, from what I’ve been told anyway, my strengths lie in dialogue (making it sound or flow naturally) and in internal monologue (in describing a character’s motivations for doing something). Or in what I call yapping and mental yapping, lol. I often find myself hacking away at pages of internal monologue and description that delves into the characters’ minds, and have to force myself to get back to telling the actual story. I suppose this stems from own desire to understand and explore why people do what they do, which is great for aspiring psychologists, a little stymieing for aspiring authors lol.
I try and read everything I can; to keep abreast of what’s out there, and because I’ve become a fan of so many writers, new and established, as I’ve delved deeper into my own writing. There’s always room for improvement as I see it. Though, I’d love to write as seamlessly as other authors I’ve read; to have so many layers to a story yet, still have it flow and draw in the reader as effortlessly as good books do. At base, I want to grow as a ‘weaver of tales,’ however corny that sounds. To be able to integrate the touch, taste, sound, sight, smell elements into a story and just make it vividly come alive as the books I’ve read do. That’s all. lol!
Sable: Well, Jessa, I think you're well on your way to doing just that! Thanks so much for taking the time to hang out with us in the Parlor. Readers, please leave any questions or comments for Jessa below. Or you can contact her directly at:
jessa_callaver (at) AOL dot com <<<--- You know how spammers are.