Evol is my latest novel. It’s the story of a woman (the heroine), Venna, who gets kidnapped by the villain, Merrick, who has been lusting after her for years. When Venna escapes Merrick’s clutches, she fears he will return for her, so she seeks refuge with her estranged half-brother, Dorian, and his roommate, Lane. It’s a pretty dark story that really toes the line when it comes to the gore and the hot-button topics. I was afraid if I went too far I’d lose readers so it took a lot of tweaking to get just the right amount of those elements in order to keep the story moving, but still have discretion. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, but I think it appeals to a few different audiences. It’s thrilling and a bit of a mystery, and of course there is that romantic undertone for young adults and an older audience. I usually say it’s not meant for anyone younger than 16 years old.
Right now I’m working on another thriller with a different approach. It’s not titled yet; I’m still playing around with a few options. I don’t want to give too much away because the story itself is sort of built around a secret that isn’t revealed until the end of the story. It’s about a young woman who falls in love with an older man. Now when I say older, I don’t mean Anna Nicole and Howard Marshall type stuff. Think a 20-something with a man in his late-30s. Not too far-fetched. Anywho, they fall in love, they get married, they make plans for the future, typical, right? It’s about this time that the woman finds out a terrible secret about her husband that she gets caught in the middle of and has to find a way out. The man she thought she knew becomes someone different when his secret is exposed. I’m writing the story in a different format, I guess you could call it. I start off the story in 2006, when they meet, and in the next part, I bounce to 2013, then bounce back to 2006, then back to 2013. The idea is we see how their relationship grows while at the same time seeing how it unravels and getting tiny insights into what the secret may be.
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
There’s really no formula to it for me when it comes to the characters themselves. I find when I write certain situations, certain scenarios, I have to stop and ask myself, ‘would he really say that?’ ‘is this something she’d do?’ I worked with one of my college professors when Evol was in the developmental stage and he and I would often debate about the characters and their roles in the story. I’d write something he’d disagree with; something a character said or did. It kind of opens up the idea that characters aren’t just what I make them to be, they’re sort of, in a way, entities, whether I just made them up or not. They have an outline and can act out of character if I don’t pay attention. I’ve since been very aware of how my characters are portrayed and if I’m dishonoring them or not.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a vet as long as I could remember. My parents lined up a volunteer job for me at a local animal hospital. I sort of shadowed a vet for about three summers. It was basically a full time job, but I wasn’t getting paid. I got up every morning, worked about six hours a day and then got up and did it again the next day. I learned a lot about the profession and about myself. I’m a harder worker because of it. I saw a lot of interesting things. In the end, though, my affinity for animals and my lack of science-know how don’t mix. I’m not mathematically/scientifically minded. Plus, I’ve been witness to a number of euthanasias, one of the downfalls of the profession. I have a lot of entertainingly disgusting stories though…seen a lot of strange stuff in that line of work.
A few of my favorites are American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, The Following, True Blood, and my husband and I watch a lot of cooking shows and reality shows. Chopped, Iron Chef, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, The Voice. I also have a weak spot for Glee, New Girl, and Raising Hope.
What songs are most played on your iPod?
I’m a huge Sara Bareilles fan! I’ve got everything of hers, except for ‘Song for a Soldier’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’ which she has not released to iTunes…sneaky sneaky Sara. I also dig Ingrid Michaelson. I saw her in Des Moines last summer. My friend and I were really early and we were scoping out the amphitheater. I was bummed Ingrid wasn’t anywhere to be found so we went to leave and get some food before the show. We were walking towards the tour bus when *cue heavenly music* the door opened and Ingrid appeared! I walked right past her. She said, ‘Hey girls’ and all I could say was, ‘Hi’. Lame. I was afraid if I said anything else I’d vomit all over myself. I had a major geek-out moment and twitted that Ingrid and I brushed elbows. It was pretty awesome…and sad all at the same time. Let’s see, get back on track. I’ve got Adele and A Fine Frenzy, but mostly I’ve got a lot of oldies, thanks to my Dad: Jim Croce, Elton John, The Beatles, Bob Seger (one of my faves), Meatloaf, Queen, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, Paul Simon, Credence Clearwater. The list goes on.
What group did you hang out with in high school?
I’ve always been an introvert. My mom says I was the easiest daughter to raise (I’m the middle of two sisters). I stayed home more than I went out. I sort of jumped from group to group, depending on the season. I didn’t have any ‘best’ friends, as sad as that sounds, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I didn’t really have my own identity at that age. I sort of adapted to the people I was with, rather than finding a place for my personality to fit in. Now that I’m older and I’ve established myself, I have a number of great friends who are a big part of my life. I was pretty much invisible in high school and graduating in a class of 350+, it’s easy to get lost. I’m sure there are people I graduated with that don’t even know I existed and that’s not necessarily a bad thing ;)
Do you play any sports?
Ah, this is a laughable question. I do not have an athletic bone in my body. My husband is a huge jock. He played sports year round and now coaches high school boy’s basketball. The term ‘opposites attract’ hit the nail on the head when it comes to us. I used to joke if he and I went to the same high school, there would be no way he and I would have ever gotten together. I was the invisible nerd and he was the popular jock…in high school terms, those two ‘species’ don’t mix. I was in choir for six years (two in middle school and all through high school), two of those years I was in the school’s top choir. Let me explain. Freshman and sophomores all perform in the same choir, but at the end of the sophomore year, you have to audition to either be in concert choir or Chorale, the top choir. I made Chorale both years, probably my biggest high school achievement (lame). My senior year we were chosen to perform at the National Choir Directors Association Conference in Los Angeles. It was kind of a big deal. And I also performed in show choir. Aside from that, I was a wrestling manager for six years (again, two in middle school and all through high school). That would be the extent of my athletic career, or lack thereof, however you choose to look at it.
What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?
To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it my freshman year in English for the first time and I’ve probably read it a dozen times since then. I can’t tell you what it is about it, but it keeps bringing me back. It makes me long to’ve lived in that time period. Atticus Finch is such an admirable character and someone you wish you had in your life; the kind of person you could sit on a porch with and listen to stories for hours. I feel like he’d have a lot of wisdom to lend and I wish there were more within the pages, since I’ve learned pretty much all I can from him already.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?
Character names are important to me, but not necessarily to the story itself. For the main characters, I like to use unique names that you don’t hear very often or may not have ever heard. It usually takes a while for me to name my characters and I may change them throughout the writing process. Names are most important to me when it comes to titles. I put a lot more thought into the names of the stories or the ‘chapters’ in the stories than I do on the character names. I may change the title of the book a number of times before I commit to anything. I make lists of title ideas, cancel out options, fight with myself, and sometimes, I don’t have the decision made until writing is over. I get inspiration from songs, articles I’ve read, poems, and sometimes conversations I have or over hear. I wrote a post about names (‘What’s in a Name’) on my blog that explains the meaning behind all of the titles for the parts in Evol.
Who should play you in a film of your life?
I don’t know how to answer this question without sounding conceited, but I’d love to be played by Emma Stone. She’s amazing and hilarious. We’re close to the same age and I’m so goofy that she could pull it off. I’m the kind of person who talks to herself, laughs at her own jokes, and laughs so hard when telling a funny story that I can’t even finish telling it. I think she’d be spot on, especially after her role in Easy A. She’d have to be a brunette though.
Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?
This is a tossup for me. I am a morning person. I’m easy to get up and get going in the morning. I’m usually the one who gets up with my 3 year old on the weekends, but then require a mid-day nap for good measure. Who doesn’t love a good nap? I’m also a night person. I like to sit up in a quiet still house, when both my boys are asleep and my dog slumbers nearby (my dog is the biggest momma’s boy and is usually right next to me), and I’ll either write (when my laptop isn’t on the fritz) or watch movies. I’m a huge movie buff, unlike my husband, so when he’s asleep, that’s usually the only time I can watch the kind of movies I like. I take advantage of the night time for that reason.
Tell us about your favorite restaurant.
I used to work at a local Italian restaurant called Zio Johno’s. My mouth is watering right now thinking about it. They have the best garlic bread and the best meatballs. I am a carbaholic to begin with. Surround me with pasta and bread, I’m in heaven. One of the cooks used to make me a personal calzone and he’d paint the garlic butter on the top of it before stuffing it in the oven. Oh, the butter would melt and cook into the dough. It was delectable! I’m suddenly very hungry.
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
I’d have to plot a storyline set in Paris then, just so I could make that my destination. I will see Paris before I die, that’s a fact. I spent five years in French (one year in middle school and all through high school) for the sole purpose of visiting the city of love. I’d have to spend at least a month there because there is so much I want to see and I’d have to reconnect myself with the language.
Entice us, what future projects are you considering?
I’ve been thinking about doing a post-apocalyptic piece, but I’d have to be careful because that’s a pretty hot topic right now so I’d have to come up with something as original as possible, in an effort not to sound redundant, or worse, look like a thief. I’d also like to do a story with supernatural characters. I wrote a short for a contest on BookRix that had a supernatural being in it that I could just build off of but I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.
You just won a huge lottery what is the first thing you'll buy?
First, I’d wipe away all debt. Check that off the list right away. Then I’d sell my house and build a new one. I’d put enough away to pay for my son’s college. Then I’d take my son on vacation to Orlando to see Universal Studios, Disneyworld, and SeaWorld. My husband and I would go on a honeymoon, since we’ve never done that, maybe to Paris, maybe we’d rent our own private tropical island for a couple of weeks and soak it up. I’d love to do a lot of traveling. England, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Australia, Brazil would all be at the top of my list, after France, of course. I can only imagine the things I’d learn from that kind of vacation.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
It’s definitely when I get praise from my friends and family. I always question my writing; wonder if it’s as good as I think it is. I doubt myself and get nervous about sharing my work, which I think has happened to any type of artist at one point or another (because writing is an art). Then I hear from my friends and family on how much they enjoyed my story, how excited they are for more, and the people they’ve recommended my work to. It’s intoxicating and I get a little drunk off of it. It’s inspiring too; makes me want to impress them further and write more. My professor, the one who helped me with Evol, he used to get so excited when he’d read a new part of the story. His enthusiasm pushed me to finish and to push myself further. I’m a sucker for it. I gravitate towards positivity like a horse to water.
Jess Wygle is a short story author and novelist. Her titles include Keep it Safe, Evol, Not Alone, Long Awaited, and Where’s My Accident. Primarily writing thrillers, she has included non-fiction and romance in her repertoire.
Jess is married to her husband, AJ and has a young son named Landon. She’s also mother to a one-year-old red fox lab. This self-proclaimed movie buff has a knack for photography. She’s currently enrolled at a local college studying education and has plans to teach English at the high school level as she works her way up the bestseller list.
You can visit her blog at jesswygle.blogspot.com.
Facebook: Jess Wygle
BookRix.com username: jesswygle
“I will do whatever it takes to keep us together. Nothing can keep us apart. You’re mine now.” She’d love him just as he loved her. She had to. She didn’t have a choice.
In love and happily living the life she always dreamed of, Venna Caldwell doesn’t know she is the object of a secret obsession. Until one night when she’s home alone and her stalker finally acts on his fantasies, dragging her into a sadistic nightmare that she barely escapes. Running for her life, from a man who will never stop hunting her, Venna reaches out to her estranged half-brother, grasping desperately at what little hope she has left. How far will she go to keep out of the clutches of the unrelenting monster that's hungry for her?
With her ability to grab the reader by the shirt collar, Jess Wygle delivers a fast-paced and intensely psychological thriller that will make you think twice about the people around you .
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