Earlier this year, I called Jackson a girl on fire. Since we last spoke, her light has only gotten brighter. A movie deal, another book sold, and tons of hype have definitely fanned the flame.
Only 24 years old, this girl is not wasting any time. Her first novel, As You Wish (about a girl who falls in love with a genie) is in the final stages of production and is getting ready for a 2009 release, while her second, Sisters Red (a clever twist on Red Riding Hood) was bought, auctioned, and is now being shopped around town to all the big movie studios. As if that weren’t enough, she divides her time writing and editing three other stories: Unwritten, Purity, and The Goddess Project. Information on these stories can be found at her website, Jacksonpearce.com.
But reading about her stories is only half the fun that can be found at her website. Dynamic, colorful, and full of surprises – much like Jackson herself – her site is plenty interactive. From watching videos to reading about Jackson’s latest exploits, it’s not uncommon to see 50, 80, 100, and even more comments on a particular post.
Writing about genies, werewolves, goddesses and mortals, Jackson is steadily gaining a fanbase that most published authors would kill for. Sure, she’s not a bestseller – yet – but her name is a familiar one in quite a few households already.
Her career is definitely enough, for any author, to wish for.
This is what she had to say about writing, genies, and wishes, when I spoke with her last.
Alright, Jackson, let’s be silly for a minute: when you see a yellow light, do you speed up or slow down? Do you prefer hamburgers or hotdogs? Do you like cats or dogs?
-I speed up. No, wait—I floor it. Which probably explains the traffic-camera ticket that was delivered to me yesterday.
-I prefer hotdogs, but I always insist on cutting the ends off of them. I’m not sure why, but something about those bunchy little ends just grosses me out.
-I like cats and dogs, but I have a cat named Alcott who is constantly showered in treats and collars.
An author obviously has to have a pretty good sense of humor to survive the publishing world. On your great website, jacksonpearce.com, you seem to have a pretty good appreciation for the funny things in life. As a debut author, what has been a particularly funny or lovely or touching moment for you so far?
-A funny/lovely/touching moment…I think that my favorite moment, actually, was telling my grandfather that my book sold. I called him and recorded to conversation for my blog; lovely/touching because he’s a very sick man, and funny because he was totally confused and didn’t understand what I was saying at first. We sorted the finer points out though, and I’m forever grateful that I was able to record the moment.
Let’s talk about your novel, As You Wish. Can you tell us about that tale? How did it go from a thought in your head to words on a page?
-I got the idea for AS YOU WISH while driving to work, and it was all I thought about for the rest of week. I’m an outliner, so I wrote a giant outline and then pounded the story out over the course of the following month. I was still in college at the time, and had just finished a Shakespeare course, so quite a bit of Shakespeare symbolism snuck into the manuscript and really helped shape it. The only thing weirder than realizing writers really do use symbolism was using it myself, let me tell you.
It’s a tale about a girl and a genie. Why did you choose to write about that particular mythical creature?
-I have to be entirely honest and give you an unromantic answer: I was frustrated at the sheer volume of vampire stories, and started wondering which creatures hadn’t had a shot at the YA market yet. I realized no one had done a book about jinn—and the story sprang to life from there.
What kind of research did you do?
-I did a lot of research on jinn lore…and then threw most of it out the window. I already had this image of Jinn in my head and couldn’t force him into some of the mythological molds. I did involve some of the lore, but a lot of it was simply the character telling me who he was instead creating him via the myth. I used what I could, but I let Jinn become his own person, which is, in a way, what the novel is about.
The writing process is obviously very different from the publishing one. Tell me about the journey your story took when you first began querying to now.
-I think I would rather learn brain surgery than try to break into the writing industry again. It’s the most confusing, impossible industry in the world. I’d send AS YOU WISH to one agent. He’d want me to make it more chick lit. I’d hear from another who wanted me to make it darker. A third would give me some cryptic answer about style that I’d spend all day obsessing over before deciding I had no idea what she was talking about. I ended up totally changing AS YOU WISH’s point-of-view twice, and did some massive, story-shredding revisions. It was all worth it in the end, of course, but it was a rough process, as it is for almost all first-time authors. This isn’t the industry to be in if you like warm and fuzzy feelings.
As You Wish wasn’t your first story. Can you tell me about your writing journey thus far? A lot of manuscripts under the bed??
-I’m lucky in that I really only have one manuscript under the bed, a high fantasy called KEYBEARER. It isn’t very good, but that’s not really the point: It was the manuscript that taught me how to write. If I hadn’t written that one pretty terrible book, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid those mistakes when writing AS YOU WISH. And I still love KEYBEARER anyhow—it’s a guilty pleasure, in a way. I occasionally pull it back out and read my favorite parts, but only when I can be certain no one is looking. J
What is your typical writing day like?
-I have two other jobs: I test software and I coach a high school colorguard/winterguard. So my typical writing day is hectic. Usually, I come home from one or both of the other jobs, and then write as much as possible for several hours. If I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I dedicate my entire weekend to writing it, much to the despair of my family, boyfriend, and the guy who refills my drink 708 times at Borders.
Who’s influenced you most in your writing life?
-This is a very difficult question for me, because I don’t know that any ONE person had an amazingly huge influence; rather, the influence is shared by a large handful of people. Several professors, my family, and my students—I don’t think my students realize that they’re really teaching me every day. I don’t want to call my time with the “research” per se, but rather a “reality check” of sorts. Whenever I start to lose touch with my teenage-self, they really knock me back into place and therefore have an insurmountable impact on my writing YA.
The publishing world is much different now than it was 20 years ago. What kind of obstacles have you had to overcome that you feel are particularly prevalent to today’s book industry?
-I think that education and the computer age have created more talented writers than we had twenty years ago, which has therefore made getting published much harder. I suppose it’s a good thing, that the world has so many talented writers, but it really makes the whole process very sink-or-swim.
With so much technology at our disposal right now – internet, tv, movies, wi-fi etc – it seems people are reading less and less, especially young people. So my first question: how do you feel as a young author going into this current climate? Are you worried at all?
-To be entirely honest, I disagree—I think that people are reading more and more. I don’t exactly have numbers to back that up, but I see more books that appeal to a greater variety of people than ever before. I think this is especially true of young adult lit—teen portions of the bookstore used to be shoved into a corner with the children’s books, but now it’s a full-fledged section that rivals any other genre. One small step toward YA authors taking over the world, I tell you.
And second, what do you plan to do to help get your book out to readers?
Blogging is a huge part of my attempt to find and connect with readers and other people in the writing industry. I try to update my blog regularly, and have started doing video blogs as well. People really underestimate the power of blogging; at least two editors emailed my agent as a result of my blog, including the editor I ended up signing with. I’ve had agents drop by, other authors, and of course, readers…all in all, blogging is an excellent tool to get in touch with industry people AND readers, so I imagine it will be a cornerstone of my plans to connect with readers. Plus…it’s just really fun!
Finally Jackson, you are 24, you have your first novel coming out in 09. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you want your career to go?
I would love to have a few more books under my belt in five years; as far as my career, I hope that I can grow as a writer as it progresses, and that my books earn long-term places on bookstore shelves. Honestly though, I just want to write, so as long as I can do that…I’ll be pretty happy.