Monday, September 13, 2010

Joshilyn Jackson: Girls Gone Good(ish)

So our new, fearless, and extremely well-coifed leader has asked us to re-introducing ourselves since she swooped in and saved the blog (YAY KATHY, YOU SEXY BEAST!) Since I am, like my beloved PCH a good girl----or No. Probably not.

I am more like a failed and former Good Girl. A hoping-to-become-regoodified-in-the-near-future girl. A fell-off-the-Good-wagon-and-am-now-hitchhiking-hoping-the-BusForAspiringGoodButSomewhatTarnishedLadies will pause for me. AT ANY RATE, like PCH, I’m doing what I was asked to do instead of blathering about Lord Knows What (probably something unseemly...) and perhaps this moves me a step toward Good Girlhood, here defined by me as “the day I complete a novel that doesn’t make me want to DIE when I think of my mother reading Certain Scenes.”

So. Hi. I’m Joshilyn. I’m a novelist and a mom to two kids I constantly adore but occasionally want to sell to Gypsies, A TERRIBLE wife to the most excellent and delicious Scott (really, just an AWFUL wife, but a good girlfriend, and he seems to like me anyway) and a lover of one-eyed, recalcitrant pirate-cats and incredibly dim-witted but good hearted hound dogs named after carbohydrates. Also, sadly, a devoted lover of carbohydrates...

I write books that---see, here is where I get stuck. I write books that...WHAT? I have been having this problem for about, oh, the last seven years. You would think that four novels into this career I would have come up with a description, but, Alas. I have not.

When I meet new people and tell them I am a novelist, it is very natural for them to ask, “What kind of books do you write?” Sometimes I just smile and say “Dirty ones...” but most strangers take it literally, based somewhat on location. Which is weird, but true. People in a library, for example, tend to assume I mean erotic vampire stuffs. Folks tend to think bodice rippers if I am answering the question at a church and porn if I use that answer in a bar.

I sometimes say “Mainstream Fiction” but that’s like if you ask a chef, “Oh, what do you cook?” only to have him say, “Food.” It is way too general. No one ever says to the chef, “Food you say? Food is my FAVORITE!” Mainstream Fiction could be anything untruthful, really. Southern Fiction is more specific, but it’s still too broad spectrum to be helpful...

I DO have a good 30 second elevator speech for each specific novel...if you ask me what Backseat Saints is about, for example, I can say, “It’s about a woman named Rose Mae Lolley who loves trouble, and trouble is in love with her right back. She has her tarot cards read at the airport, and the gypsy tells her that her beautiful, abusive husband is absolutely going to put her in the ground...unless she puts him in the ground first. So she takes her Pawpy’s old .45 and lays for him in the woods near this running trail he likes. Of course things don’t go as planned or that would be a really short book! It’s really a road story----Rose and her righteous dog go on the run cross country, a journey that takes them back through Rose’s past in the hopes that they can escape their fate and find a future.”

Or for gods in Alabama, I might say, “It’s the story of a young woman who makes a deal with God when she leaves her tiny hometown to go to school in Chicago. She tells Him she’ll never tell another lie, she’ll stop sleeping with every boy she meets, and she will never set foot back in Alabama; all God has to do is keep the body of the man she killed hidden. The novel begins ten years later, when God breaks the deal...”

I could do this for any book of mine, even the new one, and it isn’t even FINISHED yet. If you have a specific elevator speech, people can decide if it may be the kind of book they like to read, or not. But to describe the kind of books I write as a whole? As a genre or in a general way? I am not sure how. I have gone different routes in the past. I’ve tried to explain the common themes that seem to crop up---redemption, identity, how we define motherhood, the imperfect human modeling of unconditional love. I can say I love plot but I am primarily character driven. That my books are darkly funny, often violent, but written with a truly hopeful heart that believes Love wins...ugh.

That’s mostly all true, but when I try to say that in an elevator it all comes out sounding pretentious or too personal/confessional or just plain dopey.

I should ask everyone here how THEY describe their own books as a whole. And I should ask you...If you have read my novels, do you have any idea how I should answer the impossible question---So, what kind of books do you write?---in thirty seconds or less. I am SO open to suggestions. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read my novels, then I hope you will try one, and also, Hi, I’m Joshilyn---Joss to my friends----and I’m pleased to meet you, charmed to be here, and thrilled this blog is going to continue.

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels---gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and Backseat Saints. She lives in quasi-rural Georgia with her family and way too many feckless animals. She’s addicted to Facebook, where she has a lot more friends than she has fans) You can visit her on the web at her own site or her blog, Faster Than Kudzu. She is currently at work on her next novel.


River Jordan said...

I think you should tell people you write stories that set the world on fire. Then smile.


Peggy Webb said...

OMG, River gave you the perfect description of your novels...all of which I love to the point of waxing sappy and smitten and totally ridiculous!

Anna Michaels said...

LOVE River's description of your novels. Or you could say, "I write stories that stay on your heart forever," and that would be true, too.

Heidiopia said...

Knew I loved gods in Alabama for a reason! I was in mourning when it ended. Nice to meet you!

Susan Cushman said...

I tell people that your books are beautifully messy--spiritual, dark, colorful, alive. A Southern Haven Kimmel with lots of lurking, mystical stuff woven throughout. Good stuff. Always look forward to the next one.

Meg Moseley said...

I'd say your books are earthy but with a whiff of heaven.

aimee said...

I really love River's description.

You could say, "I write books about being human" because I think that's really true, and it's surprising how many books AREN'T about that, and I'm not just talking about demon romance novels, either. What I love about your books is that they entertain me AND help me understand things about myself and being human. I always feel that I come away richer than I was when I started, and what more can you really ask?

I realize that most (or maybe all) of that might sound not right coming in response to that question, so maybe just go with River's.

Roxanne said...

I would say that you right books that make you think about them long after you've put them down. . .and make you wonder how you'd react in the same situation. You write about real people with real flaws and real family and friends who love them in spite of it all.