For today’s Debut Author’s Bash post, please enjoy this interview with debut author Jackie Lea Sommers! Her novel, Truest, came out in September and is truly lovely. It’s a great book to settle in with for a chilly weekend!
Make sure you read all the way to the end for a chance to win a prize from Jackie!
1. For those who haven’t read Truest yet, can you give a brief synopsis?
Absolutely! Truest tells the story of three teens: Westlin Beck, the pastor’s daughter who is having a frustrating and lonely summer; Silas Hart, the beautiful, fun, maddening boy who steps in to change that; and Laurel, his mysterious twin sister, who suffers from a rare disorder that makes her question the nature of reality.
2. Please share one quote from the book that would give potential readers a good feel for it:
Instead of just one, here are three that show why Silas Hart is so swoonworthy:
“He wasn’t loud, drew no attention to himself, but I heard every note as if he were singing into my ear. His voice was a paradox—at once, angry and brave, sorrowing and confident—and yet, the song spread over him like a blanket and rushed forth like an anthem.”
“He pulled his hood off now and treated me to that grin of his—the one that made me want to take flight, the one that felt like a storm cell was raging in my chest, thunder and lightning and hurricane-strength winds and all.”
“And then he kissed me—soft, sweet, seeking—and there was only room in my thoughts for one boy, this boy: Silas Hart, whose kiss was exploding my heart from a bud into a blossom with such alacrity that I marveled I could be so full without bursting.”
3. What’s your favorite thing about your debut? Why? If could be a part of the book, or a part of the publishing process, or anything.
My favorite thing is watching my characters become real for other people. I love having readers talk to me like Silas and West and the rest of the Green Lake gang are truly their new friends. I’ve spent so many years with them; I’ve been delighted to introduce them to the rest of the world and find that people enjoy them just as much as I do. I love hearing from readers. It makes the whole emotional rollercoaster of writing and publishing worth it!
4. What I love most about Truest is your characters. They break down stereotypes, they’re flawed like the rest of us, and they jump off the page with their authenticity. Can you give us some insight into your character building process? How did West, Silas, Elliot, and Laurel end up feeling so real?
Thank you so much! Everything started with Silas. He’s part Augustus Waters, part a boy I once loved, and entirely my favorite character in Truest. While it’s true that I created him, there are some parts to him that he seemed to bring to the table himself, especially his flaws. You know, there was a little part of me that wanted him to be perfect, but he continually reminded me he was not. For Laurel, I drew on my own experiences with mental illness. In many ways, Laurel is me, untreated. So I didn’t have to look far to craft her, but that’s scary in itself! West was the biggest mystery to me– but being that she is the narrator of the story, and that she is unsure of herself, writing the book was a journey of discover for me and her both. As West discovers herself in the pages of the novel, I was learning right along with her. As far as my character-building process, it involves asking a lot of personal questions of my characters and learning more about their motivations and their histories than actually lands on the page. I found that I had to write a miniature “History of Green Lake” before I could move forward with some of the other characters’ storylines (like Elliot and Whit). Knowing plenty about them made them feel more full and robust to me, and I think– hope!– that translated onto the page!
5. Now, let’s get specific about West and her interactions with Silas. They were electric. I’ve already asked you to share more about Silas and the inspiration for him (check back on December 13th for this post with fun extras about Silas!), but can you go into this relationship a little more deeply without giving TOO much away?
Electric. I love that you used that word for them. Thank you. I love their dynamic too. They’re both pretty headstrong, but there was always this spark of intrigue and desire between the two of them, so when they finally fell in love, their love with headstrong too. I like that it takes them a while to figure things out. I like that they argue, even after they fall for each other. I like that they have a fun, playful relationship where they can do the most ridiculous, goofy things and feel completely comfortable with each other as they do them. When two people in love can play, that’s my favorite.
6. Finally, how does it feel to be a published author, and what has surprised you most since Truest’s publication?
I barely know where to start answering this question. I have felt every single emotion in this journey: from absolute elation to devastating loneliness to the crush of feeling like a fraud to the drive to put my head down and write book #2. I have always felt everything too deeply, which is good and hard and ultimately probably fuel for my writing life. And here’s where I get really real: I’ve been most surprised by the self-doubt. I guess once upon a time I had dreamed that being a published author would make me feel as if I’d arrived. A giant stamp of approval. But instead, in a lot of ways, I’m still self-doubting Jackie, wondering if anyone will like my art. Don’t get me wrong though: I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.