Jessica Brody (link contains audio) is a writer and film producer developing a novel series that’s earning worldwide attention – THE FIDELITY FILES and its upcoming sequel, LOVE UNDERCOVER. She also happens to be a very nice person and a good interviewee.
We’d like to thank her for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.
AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?
Jessica: Hmmm, let’s see. Official or unofficial? Because if it’s unofficial, then it would have to be the second grade. My teacher let us all “publish” our own books. We made the binding out of cardboard, rubber cement, wall paper samples and black electrical tape. It was probably the most memorable day of my life. I remember sifting through the book of wall paper samples, totally stressing out because I HAD to pick the perfect one. Anything less than that simply wouldn’t do for my masterpiece, which was creatively titled, “The Kitty and the Puppy.” When I go back and read it now, I realize not only did it lack an inspired title, but also most of a plot. Although there were some good twists and turns throughout. Ones I’m sure the reader didn’t see coming!
Officially though, my first publication credit would have to have been in 12th grade when I won my high school’s short story competition and it was published in our literary magazine. That was pretty amazing. I was still in my existential phase then. Trying to emulate the masters. I’m still not sure what my story was supposed to mean. And neither did anyone else. I think that’s why it won.
AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.
Jessica: My latest release is also my first release! It’s called THE FIDELITY FILES and it came out in June of 2008. It’s a rather scandalous subject matter: infidelity. And the main character is kind of like a private investigator. Women will hire her to test whether or not their husbands and boyfriends will cheat on them. She calls herself a “fidelity inspector.” But while she’s out there exposing cheaters and changing relationships for the better, her own love life is a mess. Or more accurately, non-existent. She hasn’t had a date in two
years, something she says is due to the high demands of her “investment banking career”—a cover she uses to keep her friends and family in the dark about what she really does. Because honestly, can someone who sees nothing but failed marriages, ever really find love for herself? The sequel is called LOVE UNDER COVER and it comes out in the Fall of this year.
AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who else do you feel has contributed to your success?
Jessica: Oh, gosh. So many people! I could just copy and paste my book’s acknowledgement section here but it was four pages and I won’t put you through that! I believe that everyone you meet in life ultimately leads you to where you are today so I don’t think I would be here without any of them. But I strongly believe that a huge contributor to my success was poverty. It’s not a person, but sometimes it feels like one, doesn’t it? I had been writing at nights for three years while I still had my other corporate job. I was making plenty of money in that job. I was comfortable, had a nice apartment, nice clothes, mani/pedis once a week, etc. And yet, I didn’t sell my novel until I had been “self-employed” for a good year and a half after that, surviving on peanut butter and jelly in a downgraded apartment, dressed in tee-shirts, sweat pants and chipped nails. Because with plenty of money comes the inherent lack of “need.” The lack of “I have to sell this book or I will starve.” And for me, that was a HUGE motivator. Sometimes you have to stare failure right in the face, see it right in front you before enough incentive kicks in. Because when you don’t absolutely, positively HAVE to do something, you’ll have a very hard time doing it. Or as the Zen saying goes, “Jump first and the net will appear.” But I think I would amend that and say, “Jump first and the net will appear…but always
when you’re two inches from smashing head first into the ground.”
AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?
Jessica: I don’t really have a specific time of day that I write best. I do my best writing the moment I shut off my e-mail. It’s the hardest thing in the world to do. As a writer, I’m very driven by “news”. Good news, bad news, whatever, just tell me something. Writing is a lonely business and any contact with the outside world, especially pertaining to your books, is like a life line when you’re floating in an empty sea. And so I manage to do a lot of procrastinating while I wait around for the news (all in the name of research of course!) But the moment I shut off my e-mail program and force myself to just write, that’s when it happens. And then if I’m lucky, four hours will pass in a flash and I’ll hear myself saying, “Oh, that’s right. I have an e-mail address.”
AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?
Jessica: Yes, I have one big one. 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. I re-wrote The Fidelity Files about five times before I even got an agent. All because of criticism I received. And in the end, I finally landed my agent because I offered to rewrite it once more based on some feedback that she gave me in my rejection letter. And she signed me 100 pages into the rewrite. 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.