~ JESSICA PARK ~
Who is Jessica Park? Tell us five interesting things about yourself that readers wouldn’t know about you.
1. I don’t write at a desk. Ever. I’ll edit at my desk or kitchen island, but all new material is written while I’m sitting in bed with my laptop.
2. I wear socks way too much. I don’t care if it’s a million degrees out. I’ll wear ‘em when I cross the street to check our mailbox.
3. The only interest I have in beets is in the context of Schrute Beet Farm.
4. As much as I love coffee, I want nothing to do with flavored beans. Keep your hazelnut and your vanilla coffees. Flavor additions should be added AFTER the coffee is brewed, and then I’m all over a salted caramel latte.
5. I don’t much like The Beatles. There. I said it. I mean, there are a few songs I like, but overall, they severely grate on me, much the way classical music does.
6. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Wonder Woman, and I like to think that obsession made me the woman I am today. You know, but without the fabulous outfit.
Where did you get the inspiration for Left Drowning?
I wanted to do a sort of epic love story, and one that covered more than just the romance between two characters; pulling together a myriad of themes and tying together story threads was a puzzle that I was driven to solve. I’m very moved to write about pain and trauma, and even more so, to write about survival. Coping strategies and healing fascinate me, and I wanted to put together a cast who all had different strategies for dealing with complicated and damaging pasts.
Left Drowning was originally a paranormal outline that I just couldn’t pull together. I shook it out and it became the book that it is, and you may be able to see traces of the original in the ideas of fate and destiny that run through the story.
How would you describe Blythe McGuire?
Blythe is incredibly strong, but when Left Drowning opens, she is hopeless and defeated, and she’s succumbed to depression and bitterness that have left her only moderately functional. Underneath that is a will to survive and to thrive that has been dormant behind grief and guilt. Left Drowning follows her as she makes remarkable changes in her own life and as she learns to let people in who teach her to heal herself. Her empowerment then leaves her strong enough for her to care for and protect others.
Blythe is giving, loving, sarcastic, funny, and both logical and emotional.
What is your single most favorite thing about Chris Shepherd?
Oh, god, single thing? I’ll go with his ability to be unbreakable in order to protect and love others.
What is the last book that made you cry?
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Darkness and Shadows by my friend Andrew Kaufman (out October 22), and I got pretty emotional during a few scenes. The book is technically a thriller, but one of the things that Andrew does so well is to blur lines between genres so that in the middle of this wonderful and mysterious thriller are scenes that delve deeply and beautifully into the main character’s psychological struggles and pain. Themes that readers love about romance books are often present in other genres, and Andrew proves that with the true heart that he puts into his writing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
It’s a mess. I spend months thinking about a plot before I ever write up an outline. It’s important to me to really have the feel of a story before I start planning, but it’s a massive time suck. When I plot, I often work backwards in the sense that I may envision scenes (or even just lines) that I’m dying to write, and then then I work around those to build a plot. The outline needs to be firmly in place for me before I actually start writing because knowing where a story will end up filters back to the beginning of the book and affects scenes and characters, and I like to know how what I’m writing in chapter one is affected by the final chapter. I’m a very slow writer in early chapters, but the last third of a book usually flies by.
If you weren’t a writer, what do you see yourself doing?
Ugh. Not a writer? It’s so strange that I cannot imagine doing anything else because I didn’t start writing until about ten years ago. This has not been my career for my entire adult life, and yet I cannot imagine another life.
I’ll go with complex coffee beverage creator.
What’s next for Jessica Park?
I’m mulling over a new book and hoping to start my outline next week. That’s all I can tell you. 😉
What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?
Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.
*This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.
Note: due to mature content recommended for Ages 17+
I sit and wiggle my butt into the sandy ground until I have carved out a comfortable sitting spot. The air is fresh and reviving. I can breathe. Why have I never come here before?
Well, I know why.
The love/hate relationship that I have with water. Well, mostly I love it. Yet it’s also a reminder of a past that I’m both clinging to and struggling to outrun. I may not have come to this shoreline yet in my years at Matthews; but I knew it was here, and that mattered. I wanted to be able to come here when I felt ready. Apparently I am ready today, because it feels glorious to be here. The light is extraordinary. Photographs and paintings invariably cheapen morning light, but the real-life version can be stupendous. Like it is right now.
Reality is not necessarily my friend—then again, neither are dreams—but this moment, this reality, is beautiful. I am alone without being lonely, for once, staring across the water and watching the sun begin its climb into the clear blue sky.
When I scan the shoreline, though, I see that I am not alone. There is one person.
He stands about twenty yards from me, just at the edge of the water, wearing only worn jeans and blue sneakers, no shirt. His profile is silhouetted against the growing light, and I watch him as he stares across the lake. His black hair falls nearly to his shoulders in soft waves. He has to be at least six feet tall, beautifully long and lean. He isn’t bulky like a weight lifter, but he looks incredibly strong.
I’m watching him so intensely that I realize I’m holding my breath. I force myself to inhale and exhale deeply.
Crystal clear thoughts hit me. He is confident, he is assured, and he is centered.
I can’t look away.
He looks down and kicks at the ground a few times before bending down and picking up something. Weirdly, I guess what he is going to do before he does it, and I catch myself smiling slightly as he reaches back his arm and skips a rock into the water. I try to count the skips. One, two, three, four, five…. It’s hard to see from where I am. He takes a few steps from where he is and then roots in the ground for more rocks. I watch as he skips another. Then another.
He moves smoothly, seamlessly. He’s done this before; I can tell by his clean, competent movements and rhythm. He strikes me as free, freer than I am or could be. Again, I catch myself holding my breath as I watch him. I have no idea why I feel so drawn to this stranger. But the feeling is undeniable.
The stone skipper searches the ground again and then reaches into the front pocket of his jeans before sending a stone bouncing across the water. Smart boy. He brought his own stash. I know the sort of perfect stone one needs to get the dance of rings to appear on the water’s surface. I searched for those same kinds of stones as a kid, although despite my repeated efforts to learn, I never got very good at skipping. This boy, on the other hand, is a master.
I inhale and exhale again, wondering why I feel overwhelmed just by watching him. A thought I don’t understand flashes into my consciousness. He is the past, and the present, and the future. I shake my head hard. What in the hell is wrong with me? Is this because I didn’t drink last night? Maybe I’m going into some kind of bizarre booze withdrawal. I should probably go back to the dorm and crawl into bed. But the lure of watching the stone skipper is too much, and I cannot get myself to leave. I stop fighting my impulse to run and lean back on my elbows for the show.
Twenty minutes later, and he is still at it. I like how he takes his time before throwing, the way he assesses the water and rubs each stone in his hand for a few minutes to feel its shape and the texture, weighing it in his palm. He pauses after each throw, letting the ripples from each stone fade, allowing the process to have its full beginning, middle, and end.
Without full awareness of what I’m doing, I stand up and walk toward him.
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About the Author
Jessica Park is the author of the young adult novels FLAT-OUT LOVE and RELATIVELY FAMOUS; five Gourmet Girl mysteries (written as Jessica Conant-Park with her mother, mystery author Susan Conant); and the e-shorts FACEBOOKING RICK SPRINGFIELD and WHAT THE KID SAYS (Parts 1 & 2).
Jessica grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in (relatively balmy) New Hampshire with her husband, son, bananas dog named Fritzy, and two selfish cats. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy addictions to Facebook, Rick Springfield, and super-sweet coffee beverages.
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