Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Author Interview: Jackie Morse Kessler

Jackie Morse Kessler grew up in Brooklyn, NY, with a cranky cat and overflowing shelves filled with dolls and books. Now she’s in Upstate NY with another cranky cat, a loving husband, two sons, and overflowing shelves filled with dragons and books (except when her sons steal her dragons). She has a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature, and yet she’s never read any Jane Austen (with or without zombies). She also has a master’s degree in media ecology. (The living study of technology and culture. Which is cool, but she still can’t figure out how to use Tweetdeck.)

Jackie spends a lot of time writing, reading, and getting distracted by bright and shiny new ideas. (She just came up with a new idea right now.) She has a weakness for chocolate and a tendency to let her cat take over her office chair.

I am so very excited that Jackie was able to stop by and chat with us about her upcoming book, HUNGER (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, #1) and I can't wait to see what you guys think....

Katelyn: Can you tell us a little bit about HUNGER and the writing process you went through. It is such an emotional and powerful book, how did you handle writing a book with such important and sensitive issues like eating disorders?

JMK:  HUNGER is about an anorexic teenage girl who becomes the new avatar of Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I’d wanted to write this book for years, but I kept putting it off because I was writing other books and stories, and because I was afraid that no one would want to read such a book. It wasn’t until I had lunch with my agent back in October 2008 and told her the idea that I thought I should write the book. Actually, that’s all because of my agent. She said to me, “And why haven’t you written this book yet???” I said, “Because no one wants to read a book about eating disorders,” and she replied, “Are you crazy???” **grins** She was extremely encouraging, so I took a break from writing a contracted book that was due in February and started thinking about HUNGER. Four weeks later, I had the draft done.

Yeah, it was a fast draft. But then, it’s a very short book — and it had been brewing for about ten years. Once I figured out who the main character was, and what the purpose of the Horsemen were, everything just came pouring out. It was extremely cathartic. I didn’t plot it; I wrote this one completely by the seat of my pants. But then, like I said, I’d had ten years to figure out the story!

Katelyn:  Balance is such a large theme in HUNGER, how did you manage to convey the idea of balance in everyone's lives without it seeming like you were standing on a soap box. Where did the inspiration come from for Lisa's symbol as Famine to be the scales?

JMK:  The scales is straight from the Book of Revelations: “And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.” [Revelations 6:5] A pair of balances is a set of scales. I call it a balance, as well as the Scales, in the book. And of course, scales are extremely important if you’re anorexic. Everything about the situation really called for balance to be necessary — starting with “balance” being another name for “scales.”

As for conveying the idea of balance...well, Death is very inspirational, isn’t he? **smiles** I’m glad the notion came through without it feeling like I was standing on a soapbox.

Katelyn:  This book had no sugar coating and you didn't gloss anything over. I know I had difficulty with certain scenes in this book but at the same time I can't imagine the book without them. Why did you decide to write this story in such a graphic manner?

JMK:  One of the things that upsets me greatly is how eating disorders are glamorized in the media, especially in magazines. I can’t tell you how many times I’d see a magazine that would scream on the cover, [CELEBRITY NAME] IS ANOREXIC!!! And then in the actual article, it would tell you how the celebrity goes about her day, what she eats, how much she exercises, how little she weighs, and how successful she is despite the anorexia. Ugh. That’s not focusing on how devastating eating disorders are. So it was very important to me to strip away any glamour when Lisa and Tammy are in the throes of their disorders.

**stands on soapbox** Eating disorders suck!!! **steps off of soapbox**

Katelyn:  I recently learned there will be three more books in this series, is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit about them? Will they connect with the others or are they stand alones?

JMK:  Yes! **throws confetti** Each book is meant to stand alone, but if you read all of the books, you’ll see some hints of what is to come. For example, some information in HUNGER foreshadows something that will happen in RAGE, which will be coming out in spring 2011. That second book is about a teen girl who self-injures, who becomes the new avatar of War. The third and fourth books will focus on Pestilence and Death, respectively. I’m currently working on the third book, LOSS, right now.

Katelyn:  I must say that Death was one of my favorite characters (and I never thought I would say that), but how did you decide to give him Kurt Cobain like characteristics?

JMK:  **laughs** You know, I wish I knew! I wasn’t even into Nirvana when I started writing HUNGER. But Death simply had to look exactly like Kurt Cobain. It was just one of those Athena moments, when the character springs fully formed out of the author’s head. Maybe I was influenced somehow, somewhere, but darned if I know how or where. But now, whenever I hear Nirvana, I feel like my Muse is speaking to me. 

This is cool: My crit partner, Heather Brewer, got to read HUNGER very early, so she knew what Death looks like. Last year, she gave me a present at Dragon*Con: a small paperweight statue of Kurt Cobain, shoulders-up, with a skull for a face. It was PERFECT. **grins**

And you know...Death is one of my favorite characters too. We get to see more of him in RAGE.

Katelyn:  Some of the proceeds from Hunger sales will be going to the National Eating Disorders Association, can you tell us a little about that?

JMK:  Because this is such a personal issue for me, I wanted to do something to help others who are trying to educate people about what eating disorders are, and what they’re not. NEDA is a terrific organization, and I’m happy to donate a portion of proceeds to it.

I just want to say thank again Jackie for stopping by, I really enjoyed HUNGER and can't wait for the next books in the series to come out!  If you guys haven't had the chance to read my review of HUNGER, you can check it out here, mark you calendars and make sure you check it out when it hits the shelves in October!


  1. What a unique-sounding book! And great interview, too. I love how Jackie is donating some of the profits to that organization - that's so generous!

  2. Great interview! I'm really looking forward to the fourth book already, since Death is my favorite of the horsemen.

    I love that she's donating some of her sales!



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