Lisa: We’re so pleased to welcome author Jessie Pinkham to TNA today to chat about her new novel, Pursuing Happiness.
Jessie, let’s kick things off with a question about the book: what’s your favorite scene, and what makes it a fave?
Jessie: It’s a favorite scene, because picking only one is too hard. 😉 I’m particularly happy with parts of the book discussing specific impacts of Matt’s ultra-religious upbringing. That kind of childhood leaves a lot of issues (speaking from some personal experience here, if not as reactionary an environment as Matt came from), and I think it’s important not to gloss over these difficulties. We can leave a bad situation, but its effects tend to linger, and the right guy (or gal) isn’t going to be a magic cure.
In this scene, Matt and Collin are discussing sex and their fantasies, and Collin doesn’t get why it’s so hard for Matt to say what interests him.
Finally, Matt relaxed. “I’m hoping that talking about sex gets easier with practice.”
So was Collin, and not for entirely unselfish reasons. “Any time you feel like practicing, my door is open. Well, not open so the neighbors can hear, but you know what I mean.”
“I was raised to consider it dangerous, all this sex business. Things that might sound fun could be a trap from Satan, trying to get us to focus on sin to the exclusion of all else.”
“You know, for people who aren’t fans of sex, your parents sure did spend a lot of time obsessing about it.”
“Probably,” agreed Matt. “But my point here is that I spent a lot of time thinking I was some kind of degenerate. That makes telling anyone what I’d like, in terms of sex, something of a risk.”
Lisa: If you could spend some real-life time with one of the characters in the book, who would you choose and why?
Jessie: I think Sarah, Matt’s best friend, would be a lot of fun to hang out with because she’s honest, caring, and outgoing. She’s the kind of person I could go shopping with, and she loves cats, which is a real plus. (I can’t have one due to Mr. P’s allergies, so I must make do with visiting other people’s cats.)
Lisa: On the flipside, which character would you probably least get along with? Why?
Jessie: Oddly enough, Matt. He is such a personal character, drawn in large part from my own experiences, so if he was real, we would encourage the worst traits in each other, such as falling back into making decisions based on fear.
Lisa: What are your least and most favorite things about being an author?
Jessie: I adore bringing worlds and characters to life and sharing them with other people. It’s an amazing feeling to look at my book and think that I’ve added something to the world’s library, and I get to entertain and move people.
The hardest part of being an author is the inherent risk in putting little pieces of my soul out there. Others may not appreciate my book, might misunderstand or downright hate it. Pursuing Happiness is highly personal for me, so I am a bit more nervous than usual about sending it out into the world for others to see.
Lisa: Have you ever written a line, paragraph, or passage, and thought, “Darn, that’s pretty amazing, even if I do say so myself”? What was it?
Jessie: Oh, all the time. The bigger question is, do I still feel as clever about the passage in question the next day?
In Pursuing Happiness, I really liked some of Collin’s smartass comments. For example, “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”
Lisa: When you sit down to start a new book, how do you decide whether it will best be told in the first or the third person?
Jessie: I write in 3rd person past tense more often, but use 1st person present tense on occasion when I think the story is best served by a sense of immediacy. Some stories just want to be told in a certain manner, and I find it best not to argue.
Lisa: Describe your ideal fantasy writing environment—the beach in Monaco, a sidewalk café in Paris, a thatched cottage in the English countryside—wherever you can dream of.
Jessie: This is going to sound very dull, but I like to write at home. I could say a beachfront cabin in Hawaii, but in all honesty, I’d be off indulging in my hobby of recreational photography. Would I love to be in the Australian bush surrounded by koalas? Absolutely, but I’d be watching the koalas and not writing. In terms of getting words on the page, I’m best served at home where it’s all familiar and I have less distractions.
Lisa: If you could choose one of your books to be adapted for the silver screen, which would you choose? Why do you think it would translate well to film?
Jessie: I have to say Survivors, my post-apocalyptic romance. Besides relationship development, the characters are also busy staying alive after a worldwide plague, so I think it would translate best into a visual medium. Pursuing Happiness relies so much on what’s going on in Matt’s head, and thus I don’t think it would play out on screen anywhere near as effectively. But Survivors even has a climactic battle for the neighborhood, so I think it could work. The sex scenes are too explicit for Hollywood, though.
Lisa: What’s the best piece of writing/author advice you’ve received that you’d pass on to someone else just getting started in the business?
Jessie: Your first book is a learning process. Really, it’s all an ongoing learning process, but this is thrice as true for your very first book. You will make mistakes, whether in the writing or the publicity or, more likely, both. That’s okay! Learn from them and keep going.
Lisa: If you won the lottery, what’s the first completely self-indulgent thing you’d do?
Jessie: Take a vacation with Mr. Pinkham. I love to travel and have a long list of places I want to visit, but if the lottery was big enough, I wouldn’t have to choose. We’d go everywhere… well, everywhere with indoor plumbing, anyway.
Lisa: If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three things you’d absolutely have to have?
Jessie: A large supply of sunscreen, first of all, because I am the type who doesn’t tan. My skin skips straight to the lobster impression stage. After that – and presuming we’re not getting into survival gear like food – I’d say a solar-powered laptop so I could still write, since I’d have plenty of time on my hands, and a good pair of sunglasses.
Lisa: If you were to sit down and write your autobiography today, what would the title be?
Jessie: Truth at Any Cost. That’s my motto in life. I have reached a point where I am not willing to compromise on truth to make anyone else happy, and I’ll accept whatever consequences arise from this stance, because the truth is worth it.
Lisa: Star Trek, Star Wars, both or neither? Explain.
Jessie: I was really into Star Trek in the late 90s/early 00s, and it will always have a special place in my heart. At its best, Trek uses other worlds and technologies to explore what it means to be human, which is more satisfying to me than the space opera of Star Wars.
Lisa: It’s the zombie apocalypse. It’s up to you and 5 other uninfected humans to save what’s left of humanity. Which fictional characters would you want on your team, and why?
Jessie: I’ve seen the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, so I figure as long as I had Superman on my team, we’d be good. He could just turn back time and stop the zombie apocalypse from happening in the first place. Crisis averted!
Lisa: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Jessie, it’s been a pleasure!
About the Book
Title: Pursuing Happiness
Author: Jessie Pinkham
Publisher: Jessie Pinkham
Cover Artist: Katia V. Michelet
Release Date: July 12, 2018
Genre/s: romance, contemporary, gay
Length: 53k words
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Blurb: A repressive childhood casts long shadows.
Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.
When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.
About the Author
Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivorsand the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.
She’s usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.
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