Hello, dear readers! Today, we are sitting on the lovely lakeshore. The sun is shining brightly and the waves are lapping at our toes. Pull up an Adirondack chair and have a seat. Would you like something to drink? We are going to have a fun chat today. Liz DeJesus is here to tell us about herself and her new book, The Jackets. Put your feet up and let’s have some fun in the sunshine.
Welcome, Liz! It’s so wonderful to have you here for a visit.
Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here. :)
We are so happy you are able to visit with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Puerto Rico, I currently live in Delaware with my husband, my 2 year old son and we are currently expecting another addition to our family in September. I have been writing basically my whole life, but I didn’t really take it seriously until I was seventeen. Lots of hits and misses later I eventually published a novel titled Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, August 2007) and my most recent book is titled The Jackets (Arte Público Press, March 2011).
Puerto Rico to Delaware? What a dramatic change! It sounds like you have a pretty busy life. The two year old would keep a body on the go.
I have just had the opportunity to read and review The Jackets. Every story tickles the senses. For our readers who haven’t had the chance to read it yet, can you tell them a little bit about The Jackets?
Like most of the things that I write, I set out to write a short story which incidentally is the very first one in the book, Red, and things sort of took off from there. I started coming up with other ideas for short stories and somehow have them all linked to one another. Another short story that I wrote was that was supposed to stand alone was originally titled Nature Boy (it was partially inspired by the song by Nat King Cole) but I decided to throw it in with the book and changed the title to Brown. The book has some stories that are straight fiction and stories that have some fantasy and/or magical realism. There is a lot of Greek Myth mixed into this little book. I decided that I wanted to write a book that was a fun read and just a way to escape life for a little while. I hope I accomplished that.
To explain things a little better here’s the official blurb:
The Jackets is a collection of short stories in which Liz DeJesus explores the connection between colors and emotions.
Love unrequited, love fulfilled, and unrelenting reality crushing hopes and dreams are some of the experiences symbolized in the jacket colors that structure the rhapsodic explorations of the stages of love as experienced by young women.
Red is the color of love at first sight for Laura. Orange are the flames of passion for Mia. For Penelope, brown is the color of nature—of the ancient gods and their unfettered love-making. Each chapter explores a unique perspective: a writer trying to find her muse; a young woman trying to flee an abusive relationship; a cashier getting lost in the woods and finding more than she had ever bargained for.
In this intriguing blend of fiction and fantasy, the women in these stories hope for relationships, break out of them or find themselves involved with mythical gods and creatures. These fantastical pieces make for entertaining reading and give insight into young women’s eternal search for romance.
I loved the mythical aspect of the stories. I also really enjoyed the fact that as a reader I was introduced to a minor character in one story, but that same character would re-appear with their own story later on in the book. I’m curious, what gave you the idea for this book?
For the longest time I didn’t drive (guess it didn’t help that I didn’t have a driver’s license. LOL) so I had to walk and take the bus in order to get to work. While I was walking to the bus stop I started wondering ‘What if someone was watching me from their window right now?’. Then I started picturing who this person was, what he looked like, what he might be thinking as he watched me walking past his house. Like most writers, I just start asking myself a series of ‘What if?’ questions. And that’s how I came up with the first story of the book, Red.
It’s amazing how a writer’s mind works, isn’t it? I particularly liked the way colors play such an important role in the characters’ lives. Do you use color to express your mood when you dress for the day?
Absolutely. One of my favorite colors is purple and on days I wear that color I’m just happier, nicer, and generally in a much better mood. Days I wear darker colors, like black or grey, everything that comes out of my mouth is a smart-ass comment… well…let’s just say I’m much more sarcastic and snarky than usual.
There are days when I believe snarky and sarcastic are a woman’s prerogative. I think Brown was my favorite story in this book because of the natural elements and mythology. Is there a particular story that you can relate to better than the others?
It’s probably a tie between Red and Brown. Both those characters have a lot of my personality traits.
I know most writers tend to draw on life experiences when they write. They include people who they notice on the street or are a big part of their lives in their stories. Do you include people from your life in your stories? What about some similar traits or events?
I try not to, but sometimes I can’t help but use the people I know and sort of sprinkle bits and pieces of them in my stories. For example, in the story Indigo, the character Susie was inspired by my best friend. The house in the story Brown is inspired by the house I used to live in with my parents and the park is within walking distance, so it was nice that I was able to use that in the story. But yeah, I try not to take people and simply write them into my stories because that’s just not fun for me. I do take some of the conversations and incorporate them into my stories because, truth be told, my friends are hilarious. But again, I don’t do it too often.
Funny friends always keep life from getting boring. There were a few things I took away when I turned the final page of The Jackets. What is it you hope a reader takes away with them when they finish The Jackets?
That you can find love in the most unexpected places. Open your heart and believe that incredible things can and do happen. Sounds cheesy but I truly believe that anything is possible.
That was what I took away from the book. Love is one of those mysterious things that can be waiting just around the corner if only you’re open to it. We have lots of people who visit with us daily and there are some who have the dream of being an author one day. Do you have any advice you’d like to give to some of the unpublished writers who may be reading this? Words of encouragement, maybe?
Keep writing. Let other people read your work and learn to accept constructive criticism. Be sure to read and follow the publisher’s and agent’s submissions guidelines, they are there for a reason. Learn how to write proper query letters and a synopsis, because these are important during the submission process. Just don’t give up.
What wonderful advice! I dread to think of how many wonderful stories are going unwritten because a person just gives up. Authors can be a very quirky bunch. I know there are some who have to have crystals in a particular spot when they write. Some have to have absolute silence. Others perform a ritual before attempting to write. Do you have a writing ritual? Lighting candles? Certain music? If yes, what do you listen to? Is there a particular scent of candle or oil you use?
Well, since I have a 2 year old running around the house at this moment all of my writing gets done while he’s taking a nap. And if he’s playing quietly in the living room I write on my notebook (the old fashioned way, with pen and paper). It takes longer because I then have to transfer my notes onto my laptop but at least I get some kind of writing done. I also try to write in the weekends when my husband is home and we’re not busy. I’m really lucky he’s a good boy; otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.
And when I do get some time to sit and write, I do listen to music. Sometimes I listen to Imogen Heap, Katy Perry, some classical music like Mozart and Vanessa Mae. But most of the time I try to keep the music down if my son is napping.
I’m not sure how you get any writing done, to be honest! I only have canine kids and life with them makes it impossible to get anything done. Now for a little bit of fun…I often like to include a silly question in the interviews I do. Here’s one for you: If you were a flavor of coffee/tea, what flavor would you be?
Hmmm, it probably a tie between hot chocolate and a caramel mocha. Those are two of my favorite hot drinks.
Oh, yummy! So something sweet and chocolatey. Well, the sun is going down over the water so it looks like Mother Nature wants us to wrap this up. I want to take the chance to thank Liz DeJesus for stopping by for a chat with us today. You have been an absolute joy!
Thank you so much for having me, this was fun!
I’m glad you have enjoyed yourself, Liz. I want to wish you every success on your writing career and good luck with your pregnancy. A new addition to your family will certainly keep you blessed. Okay, readers, be sure to check out Liz’s blog and her books. She is a very talented author and, as you can see from today, a genuinely lovely person.