Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Takeover & Giveaway: Interview with Jessa Russo, Author of Divide

Have I told you guys how much I love Jessa Russo? I probably have, but let me clarify just in case you missed it: I love Jessa Russo. I was over-the-moon impressed with Ever when I first read it not long after its release (so impressed that I am rereading it now before reading the sequel Evade), and my mind was absolutely blow by Divide. I jumped at the chance to be on her Street Team and was thrilled to see her book come through Bewitching Book Tours. So you can imagine how excited this fangirl was to get the chance to interview Jessa herself! Jessa is one of the single most open and honest authors I have ever had the fortune to interview, and I can't wait to share her answers with you. Before we get to the interview and I start flailing, let me remind you of how awesome Divide is and why you should go buy it now:

Jessa Russo
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, fairytale redux
Date of Publication: 4/17/14

ISBN: 149540899X
ASIN: 978-1495408991
Number of pages: 340
Word Count: 80K

Book Description:

From senior class president to dejected social outcast, with just the flick of a match.

After accusations of torching her ex-boyfriend’s home are followed by the mysterious poisoning of her ex-best friend, seventeen-year-old Holland Briggs assumes her life is over. And it is. But not in the way she thinks.

As Holland learns the truth about her cursed fate—that she is descended from the Beast most have only ever heard of in fairytales—she unites with an unlikely ally, good-looking newcomer Mick Stevenson.

Mick knows more about Holland’s twisted history than she does, and enlightening as it is to learn about, his suggestion for a cure is unsettling at best. Holland must fall in love with Mick in order to break the spell, and save their future generations from repeating her cursed fate. Having sworn off love after the betrayals of her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, this may be difficult to accomplish.

Complicating things further for Holland and Mick, time runs out, and Holland’s change begins way before schedule. With Holland quickly morphing into a dangerous mythical creature, Mick struggles to save her.

Should they fail, Holland will be lost to the beast inside her forever.

Amazon   BN  Kobo 

About the Author:

Jessa Russo believes in fairytales, ghosts, and Jake Ryan. She insists mimosas were created for Sundays, and that’s not up for discussion.  She’s obsessed with the great city of New Orleans—where she’s collected too many beads to count, eventually married her sweetheart, and visited graveyards they don’t include on maps.

She’s loud, painfully honest, and passionate about living life to the fullest, because she’s seen how abruptly it can be taken away.

What began as a desire for reading and writing young adult paranormal has bled into stories of all kinds. From fantasy to pre-dystopian to erotic contemporary, Jessa’s stories always include romance, though she’s given up on pigeonholing her work into a category or genre box.

Jessa was born and raised in Southern California, and remains there to this day with her husband (a classic car fanatic), their daughter (a Tim Burton superfan), and a Great Dane who thinks he’s the same size as his Chihuahua sister.
ENTWINED, the final installment of Russo’s Ever Trilogy, will be released later this year, as well as an erotic romance written under the pseudonym Parker Jameson, so please stay tuned!

If you'd like to connect with Jessa online, please visit the following pages:

Mara: Jessa! *tackle hugs* I’m really excited to get the chance to interview you! 
Jessa: *blushes* Mara! It’s still so weird to me that people want to know about me and my books! But I love you, and I’m so glad you asked me over to your blog! *tackle hugs you back* 

Mara: First of all, let me say once again that I loved Divide. It’s a brilliant reimagining of Beauty and the Beast with a really nice Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde twist. Where did you get your inspiration for Divide?
Jessa: Brilliant?! Aw, you flatter me!
But, um . . . I have NO idea. Lame, huh? I was driving. Idea hit me. Light bulb moment. Boom. Honestly, I was thinking about writing something different, then my brain wandered to cool covers I’d seen recently, which led to fairytale retellings that I wanted to read (CINDER comes to mind), and from there I pondered how I could make my fairytale redux different. And my brain said: What if your Beauty is also the Beast?
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tie-in came later . . . I hadn’t even realized I’d meshed the two story concepts together until my critique partner pointed it out! So I ran with it. 

Mara: How do you relate to your main characters in Divide? Do you find that you have more in common with Holland or Mick, or is it an even balance with both?
Jessa: I definitely have more in common with Holland. I was fairly popular and pretty growing up, walking on cloud nine for a long time, then brought down a few pegs by some girls in high school, so Holland’s fall from grace is a bit familiar for me. I can also relate to the massive betrayal Holland had to go through, as I’ve been betrayed by boyfriends and ‘friends”. But I’m also the damsel in distress, like Holland, and the girl who loves and trusts too easily.
With Mick, I’d say I relate most to his “love conquers all” outlook on life. Love is what drives him. Like me! *cheesy grin*

Mara: Divide is your third published book, released after the first two books in the EVER trilogy. How did the process of writing Divide differ from writing Ever?
Jessa: For one thing, it was so much easier to write DIVIDE! I think this is partly due to the fact that I’d grown in my craft, but also in part because DIVIDE was a standalone, so I didn’t have to worry about setting things up to be discovered in future books. Stuff like that. Also, for whatever reason, DIVIDE just flowed from me. I needed to tell that story at that moment, you know? 

Mara: As a member of your Street Team, I know how involved you are directly with fans. What is that experience like for you, connecting directly with your readers?
Jessa: I love it! I’m an extremely insecure writer—hell, I’m insecure in real life, which is odd coming from someone so vain (though I’ve begun to realize the two are very much one in the same)—so connecting with fans and friends who love my stories is a constant boost. And one I desperately need. The praise is something I’ll never get used to, but I sure do love it. 

Mara: Social media is a really big tool for authors now. What is your favorite form? (Twitter, Tumblr, blog, etc) Why?
Jessa: Uh, I’d say Twitter, though I’ve really fallen off the face of the *online* planet these last few months. I’m quite busy with editing for Curiosity Quills, and fell a bit (read: a lot) behind, so my online interaction has suffered tremendously. Though I hope that won’t last forever—I adore my friends and fans, and the writing/reading community as a whole. We’re surrounded by some pretty amazing people! 

Mara: You are moving towards the goal of writing it all now that you have your adult projects with the pen name Parker Jameson. How do you balance it all, and do you find characters from other projects trying to sneak into new ones?
Jessa: Yay for the pen name plug! Thank you! <3 I’m not sure I balance it all very well, to be honest, seeing as how I’m constantly behind in one thing or another (or all things), but I do so enjoy writing all kinds of genres. I love the aspect of first loves and first heartbreak that comes with YA stories, but the freedom in adult writing is so . . . freeing. lol! There’s just some amazing stuff out there, and I want to write about all of it, so I’m just going to continue writing whatever story strikes me at that moment. It will likely have romance, and almost always break some rules. 

Mara: Your bio is very open and honest about your past and the hardships you’ve endured, particularly losing your father at a young age. How does your life experience impact your writing and your characters? Do you give a piece of yourself to your characters, or are they completely separate from you and your experiences?
Jessa: I want to be very real with my readers. I am who I am in real life, so I want to be that way online as well. I’m loud. I’m opinionated. I’m passionate. I’m honest to a fault, and I often say things I regret later. I make mistake after mistake after mistake. But I wake up every day with the goal of being just a bit better than yesterday. And you’ll never wonder who I am or question my motives. I’m right here, exposed for all to see. That definitely transfers into my characters . . . Ever especially. She was such a huge part of me. Her dad’s death and her behavior thereafter, especially, came under fire in quite a few reviews. People questioned why I even added the death of her father. It didn’t propel the story along. It wasn’t necessary. Um, forgive me for saying so, but, NO SHIT. Neither was it necessary when I lost my father—unexpectedly, and while he wasn’t even in the same state—at the young age of sixteen. And my behavior afterwards? Um, far from “appropriate”. FAR. But it’s who I was and how I handled things. It absolutely does not have to make sense to you, you know? That came across in my writing, in my character.
I think that everything about me will seep into my writing at one point or another, though not everything about my characters will be who I am. Does that make sense? For instance . . . Sage, from CHLORINE&CHAOS, is a cutter. I never did that, never even considered it. But I know all about self-abuse and self-medicating, so . . . it’s there, just not exactly. Maybe reading between the lines is how you can get to know your authors. Or maybe just this one. 

Mara: What was the last amazing book you read?
Jessa: All books are amazing in their own right. (Vague response is vague.) Honestly, the last book I couldn’t get enough of was one of the titles I edited for Curiosity Quills. It’s called TREASURE, DARKLY by Jordan Meirek and it is AMAZING. It’s a YA steampunk western with paranormal elements and I was captivated! Please watch for it!

Mara: Now that the last book in the EVER trilogy is set to be released (*happy flail* Can’t wait!) later this year, what is ahead for you as a writer? Do you have another series you are looking forward to?
Jessa: I’m really excited about CHLORINE&CHAOS (Parker Jameson), and after that, I have two YA books I’m working on, both very close to my heart, and both of them major pieces of me. The first, MEAN GIRL REDEEMED, is about a mean girl, obviously, but what I wanted to show you was the confusion, the motives, the fear. Many mean girls are mean only as a way to protect themselves from their mean girl friends. I wanted to tell the story of the mean girl, told by the mean girl. Written by a former mean girl.
The other YA project, MY ROMEO IS BLEEDING (Book One of The Defining Desi Series), is the hardest story for me to tell, thus far. It is based on the psychological and physical abuse I endured during my first major relationship, by a beautiful and tortured man, and includes my original poetry from that time. I wanted to show the side of abuse that no one really talks about . . . how it often creeps up on you. How it’s happening to teens. How it changes a vibrant girl into an empty husk. I was sixteen when I met him, and it wasn’t long after that that the mental mind-f*ckery began . . . and I still struggle with his abusive voice in my head. Telling this story exposes me. A lot. But I want to be honest, transparent. I want to honor that sixteen-year-old me. So it’s going to take a long time to complete it.
Damn. I’m really an open book today, aren’t I? *hides*

Mara: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer, and what would you pass along to those aspiring to be published writers?

Jessa: Write what you love. People think this is so simple, but I’ve recently found more and more that you really need to stick with your soul on this one. I write what I love. I break rules. I bend genres. But this is me. This is my career. My husband once posed the question: “Do you want to write what you love, or do you want to write what sells?” I didn’t even have to think on it. Love wins EVERY time.

Thank you so much to Jessa for such a beautiful interview! It's always a pleasure chatting with her, and this has been no different. Want to read between the lines of Jessa's books and get to know her a bit better? Enter to win your copies below!
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