Friday, December 6, 2013

Bitter Like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell: Interview


 






Bitter Like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell
Publication date: November 1st 2013
Genres: Adult, Contemporary

 

Synopsis:

Six women. One man. Seven secrets. One could ruin them all.

Kit is a twenty-five-year-old archaeology undergrad, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. Life seems purposeless. But if she could track down her father, Roger, maybe her perspective would change.

The only problem—Roger is as rotten as the decomposing oranges in her back yard according to the women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clichés, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and named her daughter after “Intravenous.”

Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger.
Enter a sister Kit never knew about.
But everyone else did.

 


 

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Do you consider yourself above all a singer/songwriter or a writer/poet?

A writer for sure. I was born into music, so it came naturally, but writing is something I gradually learned I wanted for myself and had a strong passion to pursue.
 

What gives you the hardest time? Lyrics for a song or a poem?

Neither. I love to write both, and when I love something, the word “hard” does not have a place in my vocabulary.
 

You are gaining more readership and recognition with your poetry and fiction. Has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities? 

I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world. 

The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off. 

How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, almost four years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s say it with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight.
 

You founded and are co-editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. What inspired you to create this new journal? What types of literature do you publish and how do people submit to you? 

In late 2011, Dawn Ius and I founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves. The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal. 

 

You organized a big writing conference in Greece last summer where Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest was the instructor. What made you decide to organize this event? 

I have long dreamed of running a writer's retreat on Ithaca. I've spent a lot of time on this little Greek island since the age of two, because my step father and his family are from there (my parents also live there now). With the risk of sounding clichéd, (ha!) this place really is a little piece of heaven. It remains unspoiled by the modern world. Even in the height of summer you can find a secluded beach or a rustic corner to contemplate your thoughts. On Ithaca you'll discover the island’s rich culture and the reason why it holds such a special place in the hearts of those who have visited its shores.

The Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop invites participants to their very own private odyssey on the island of Ithaca—a retreat about riveting one's writing through an immersive and intimate Homeric journey. Our instructor in 2014 is, Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.
 

To explore more of Ithaca online, please visit: www.ithacagreece.com.

To learn more about the writing retreat, please visit: www.hwrw.blogspot.com.

 

How are you able to be so productive as a writer, a musician, editor, and conference organizer, as well as having a good social media platform, while working full-time? 

I'm not usually a person who utilizes lists and schedules. But I certainly have been forced to create them due to all of the projects I juggle. It's difficult. There's no denying that fact. But it's also fun! I enjoy every minute of it. 

Basically I do everything in scheduled, short bursts. I get up early to make sure I have one hour to write and one hour to do something else from my list (such as Vine Leaves or retreat organization). I pick and choose depending on priority. During my lunch break, I blog, and spend about half an hour to an hour (depends on how long I can take from work) on social media. After work, I walk the dog, make dinner, maybe go to yoga (I do neglect my laundry, though. Too often). Once that's done, I'll spend another hour or so doing something else from my list (if I'm up-to-date on all my tasks, I'll try and do something creative like writing, or music again). Then I'll relax in front of the TV, or do something else away from the computer before I go to bed. Then in bed, I'll read a chapter or two of whatever book I'm reading. Sometimes that may even include critiquing a friend's manuscript. Reading to me is relaxing and not a chore, so I really don't feel like that is tackling any sort of task. 

The most important thing? Recognizing when I'm too tired and need to take a few days off. If I don't give myself decent breaks where I don't do anything, then I very quickly burn out and fall behind.
 

When and why did you begin writing? 

I started writing poetry first. I must have been about eleven, sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place in Greece called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. Not long after, I started writing songs. My mother had decided to sell her twelve-string acoustic guitar to get a bit of extra cash. I saw it sitting by the front door. I think someone was coming over to take a look at it. I remember opening the case and thinking that it just looked so beautiful, and why would Mum want to get rid of it? I think she was in the music room at the time and I interrupted one of her recording sessions to ask about the guitar. When she told me she was selling it, I asked her whether I could have it. She said that I could if I learnt to play. From that day I had that guitar in my hands every single day until I moved to Greece in 2002. I taught myself how to play. The first song I ever wrote was played on one string and sung in a very high-pitched awful voice. I hope that cassette never gets dug up!
 

How does Greece affect and influence your work? 

There is a lot about Greece in my debut novel, String Bridge, but I have to say that Greece had already started to influence me when I was a kid. I must have been about eleven. I remember sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. This is when I started writing poetry. In the end (well, beginning), Greece is what sparked my passion for words. 

Also, I would never have got my first job as an editor if I hadn’t moved here. As I said above, I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials. There is no need for this sort of thing in an English speaking country. So I guess, I have Greece to thank for giving me the opportunity to pursue this career path. If I had have remained in Australia, I probably would have focused more on my music.

 

 

 

If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written. Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. For more information, please visit her website: www.jessicabellauthor.com

 

Links:





 



Grand prize giveaway

Prize (open internationally): 

--The winner has a choice of 3 prizes:
 

Choice 1: Paperback copies of my novels: String Bridge (+ MP3 downloads of original soundtrack), The Book, and Bitter Like Orange Peel
Choice 2: Paperback copies of my Writing in a Nutshell Series (three pocket-sized writing craft books)
Choice 3: Paperback copies of my poetry books: Muted, Fabric and Twisted Velvet Chains.
 


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