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What does Joshilyn Jackson and Wisconsin have in common? Come & find out!

June 21, 2010
Ok, so that might have been a trick question... BUT when you're an author, and there's a location involved, then the obvious connection would be a visit, wouldn't it?

joshilyn jacksonAbout the author:
New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, and way too many feckless animals. Her debut, gods in Alabama, won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. Jackson won Georgia Author of the Year for her second novel, Between, Georgia, which also a #1 BookSense pick, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to receive #1 status in back to back years. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was a Break Out book at Target and has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction. All three books were chosen for the Books-A-Million Book Club.

Find Joshilyn online at her website,

Joshilyn answers some questions...
drey: When did you know you wanted to be an author? What were you doing? Was it a gradual realization, or a "big bang" event?

Joshilyn: I don't remember not wanting to be a writer. I don't remember not writing. I won the Cordova Park Elementary School Creative Writing Contest in third grade for a poem about my cat. I wrote and illustrated picture books and published them myself using the Crayola/Stapler method, then graduated to filling up reams of blank books and journals with perfectly dreadful horror novels.

I had other loves. Sometimes I wanted to be a writer and a marine biologist, a writer and an actor, a writer and a vet...but the writing was a constant.

drey: Can you share your first sale experience with us?

Joshilyn: Sure. People say it's about networking and who you know, but I do not believe that. I live in quasi-rural Georgia, and I knew no one and nothing. I bought Writer's Market books and read them, and  then I started querying agents just as they told me to, sending writing samples and letters to over 160 agents before Jacques de Spoelberch picked me up. He shopped a series of children's books, two nonfiction  proposals, and two complete novels for me before I wrote Gods in Alabama. He stuck with me, Jacques, and acted as an editor, a mentor, and a cheerleader by turns.

So Gods was my third novel and the fifth book project I had shopped. I had a lot of hope for it, because I felt it was the best thing I had written so far, but I knew by then firsthand how fickle the industry was and how tough the market was, so after I sent it to Jaques, I did what I always do: I put my heart in the next book. I started writing Between, Georgia.

DIGRESSION: I know some people think of their books as their kids, but I think that's insane. After all, you do not SELL your children. I think of my books as boyfriends, and I love the one I am with, the one I am
writing. The others are like my exes, and I will always care deeply for them and I sincerely wish them well and want them to go on and have glorious other love affairs with readers and The New York Times bestseller
list. But I keep my heart in the work in progress, and that makes me write the best book I can, every time. That policy has kept me writing books I am proud of and as a bonus has kept me from getting irretrievably

Anyway, Gods went to auction. Jacques sent it out to eight of the biggest publishing houses in NYC, and within days we had a pre-empt offer. We turned it down (which KILLED ME, but Jacques said I had to trust him, and after all the years he had worked with me, I did.) On auction deadline day, four houses showed up to bid. That was a good day.

That's why I don't think it's about who you know. It's about:
1) Taking the time to read up and learn the industry, so you approach agents and editors like a professional.
2) Being able to hear the word “no” and respond by writing a better book and trying again.
3) Read everything you can get your hands on, good books, bad books, books in your genre and near your genre and outside your genre.
4) Write the best book you can, and don't worry about trends or the market---write the book only you can write, and write it well. Write the living hell out of it. This is the most important one.

drey: Where did you get the idea for Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints? I am almost in awe of Arlene's character. She is so messed up, and yet I can't help but root for her...

Joshilyn: Saints came from Gods, and Gods came from a short story called “Little Dead Uglies.” It's up on my website. Arlene is a minor character who stuck with me from that story and demanded her own book. In the same way, Rose Mae sort of burst out of Gods. She stayed with me long after Gods was published---I never stopped thinking about her and building her history in my head. I think she is my favorite character I have ever written about, although yes, like Arlene, she is pretty broken.

The story and the two books aren't sequential. You can read them in any order...but they are certainly thematically linked. I am interested, always, in redemption and the consequences of our choices---how choices shape the identity our genes and our histories have dealt us.

drey: What do you indulge in when not writing?

Joshilyn: My secret vice is World of Warcraft. My husband and I both play and now my son is starting to play with us. I have an internal twelve-year-old boy, and he is a level 80 undead holy/disc priest. Apparently. Go, Horde.

drey: What is your favorite Southern dish?

Joshilyn: Shrimp and grits.

drey: What are you looking forward to next?

Joshilyn: After The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and Backseat Saints--both pretty dark books--I wanted to write a comedy. Right now I am calling it In Season and I am about two-thirds of the way through. Of course, it is MY kind of comedy, which means it starts when the Slocumb family goes to put in a pool and unearths a human skeleton...

And, the Proust-lite:
  1. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
    Me, Scott, the kids, the cats, and the dog all in a pile watching bad 50's
    Sci-fi movies.
  2. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  3. Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in fiction?
    People who are broken but hopeful. Haven Kimmel characters. Frank Turner Hollon characters.
  4. Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in real life?
    People who try to be kind and responsible--people who own up to their mistakes, no excuses, and try to fix their messes. I'm trying to become like them before I die.
  5. What sound do you love?
  6. What sound do you hate?
    High pitched rhythmic electronic beepy noises.
  7. The quality you admire most in a man?
  8. The quality you admire most in a woman?
  9. If not a writer, you would be a ...
    Useless object. I have no other skills.
  10. What is your favorite swear word?
    Just basic old regular “shit.” But I have an eight-year-old. So I say, "Shhhhh---ugar" a lot.

Joshilyn's WI visit:
7:00 pm on Thursday, June 24
Mequon, WI – Next Chapter Bookshop

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, I have TWO sets of Joshilyn's Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints for you!

Gods in AlabamaWhen Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, never fornicate outside of marriage, and never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found. Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old schoolmate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene’s African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he’s gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption--and love.Backseat SaintsRose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.  

This one's open to US and Canada residents only (no PO Boxes, please!). To enter, comment and tell me if you're a Southern girl, and why. My friend Ronnie swears I eat like a Southern girl--fried chicken, okra, cornbread... But (alas?), I was born & bred halfway 'round the world. *grin* Do it before 6:00pm CST July 5th!


Mary (Bookfan) said...

I hope to see her Thursday in Mequon!! Fun post, Drey.

Bethany C. said...

I was born in Knoxville, TN, but only lived there for 3 years before moving to the DC area. For some reason, whenever I'm pissed off or really tired (okay, or drunk) a high pitched Southern accent breaks out.

Unknown said...

I moved to Florida when I was 12 and lived there for 10 years, but I don't think I'm a southern girl.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

traveler said...

I am not from the south but love their warmth and hospitality. This book strikes a chord within me. Thanks for this giveaway. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

Jo-Jo said...

I've lived in Wisconsin my whole life so I don't think I qualify as a southern girl in any way whatsoever. Oh, how I love the southern novels though! Please enter me!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

I'm not southern, maybe because I live in WI, and I'm not a fan of the typical fried southern foods, although I do like southern guys LOL. I'm so mad that I'm busy on the 24th, I would of loved to go since its rare that good authors come around WI :)


Anonymous said...

I am definitely a Southern girl (or woman, who's a girl anymore??). Born and bred in Texas (which is the South in case you wondered or it could Southwest depending on what you are talking about). Southern women don't sweat. We don't even perspire. We glow. There you have it. And I'm definitley "glowing" from the yoga class I just went to. Throw my name in the hat please.


Carol M said...

I'm not a Southern girl but I am the daughter of a man born in Mississippi. I was born and have always lived in PA.
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Benita said...

I'm a New Yorker, but chock full of Southern Hospitality.


Sarah E said...

I'm from California and in no way define myself as a southern girl. However, I love reading southern novels.

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

bermudaonion said...

Fantastic interview! I love that she considers her books as boyfriends and have to admit that I'm surprised she plays WoW. No need to enter me in the great giveaway.

Colleen Turner said...

Oh my gosh I would love to win this one! Yes, I am a Southern girl, born and bred in Tallahassee, FL! I, like many of my southern sisters, can come off as kind of sappy and sugar sweet to people who aren't used to someone talking to a stranger and inviting them to chat and have some tea, but alas that is me! I wouldn't want it any other way!
Thanks for the awesome giveaway,

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

LOVE the interview! No need to enter me, though (grr!). Which means I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Margie said...

Thanks for this giveaway. I have always lived in the Midwest, so I'm not a Southern girl. However, our daughter works in SC and every once in a while a southern accent breaks out (or a "y'all"!)
mtakala1 AT yahoo dOT com

Jessica said...

I live in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is right down in the lowcountry. I do eat a lot of fried chicken, boiled peanuts, okra and grits. Not much of a southern accent (I lived in Maine until I was 9) but I do say y'all quite a bit. I'd love a copy of one of your books : )

Arch said...

Drey, I totally agree with you - even though I was born and brought up in India,I currently live in Georgia and I loooove fried chicken, corn bread, boiled peanuts and ofcourse the southern hospitality... :)

I would love to read these two books...Have heard some great reviews about both these books..



Tina said...

I'm the grand-daughter of a true southern lady from Virginia, so I think my roots are Southern, even tho I live in Maine (I don't do heat very well, so maybe I'm not Southern.LOL).
I've read "Gods" from the library but would love to read the other and to own both. Please enter me.


Marilu said...

Both of these books are on my "to read" list. I have heard they are both great reads! I am looking forward to reading them. I would love to win a copy of them. Please enter me.

I am definitely not a southern girl. I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario! dad was born and raised in southern Italy....does that count??lol
Thanks for the entry!
lovemykidsandbooks AT gmail DOT com

Sandee61 said...

I was born in Ohio, but have some Mississippi blood running through my veins, thanks to my Mother. She married a damn Yankee, my Dad.
I was raised on fried okra, grits, cornbread and Lemon Icebox Pie ( if you never had it, you don't know what your missing!) so please enter me in your giveaway, Thank you!



ossmcalc said...

I am definitely a Southern Girl as I am Sooner Born and Sooner Bred, and when I die, I will be Sooner Dead. When I start getting tired, the more I have that southern drawl according to my students.

I would love to read these two books and hope to win one of the two sets.

Thank you,


M. said...

erm...I think I should probably call myself a northern girl, living in Canada as I do, but I live relatively south in Canada - does that count? *g*

intrigued by 'Gods in Alababa', a little worried about 'Backseat Saints' but I love the cover and I'll trust your judgement on the worthwhileness (is that a word?) of the writing

mayamissani AT yahoo DOT ca

rubynreba said...

I was born and raised in the Midwest and still live there! I do love to read about the South though!

Anita Yancey said...

I am a Southern girl. I live in Georgia, and I love everything about it. The weather is great, and so is the food. Please enter me. Thanks!


Icedream said...

I'm definately a southern girl, living in WV,which is still a very southern state. I say so because I say "Ya'll" "Over yonder" and eat cornbread made in an iron skillet.

Love Joshilyn Jackson books and would love to be entered.

waitmantwillie at hotmail dot com

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