“So much Talent can kill you.” So begins the blurb for Jessica Knauss’ new paranormal novel, Awash in Talent. A writer with a diverse publishing history, Knauss shared some of her insights with me.
I was looking at your Amazon author page and I see you have several books out already in various genres. Do you consider genre before you start writing or does it emerge during the process?
I only consider genre after I’ve told the story I want to tell. With my historical fiction, it’s easy to assign categories. With my fiction set in the present day, it’s always a little harder. I really found my contemporary voice when I started reading the magical realists, but that’s not a genre that necessarily attracts a lot of readers. For Awash in Talent, I went with contemporary (to distinguish it from my medieval fiction) paranormal (because some characters have supernatural powers). I’m also happy placing it in women’s fiction because of the sharp focus on female characters’ experience of this slightly strange world, and parts of it qualify as YA or New Adult because of the characters’ ages. I think I wrote about teenagers because their struggles are universal.
Do you plot it all out on note cards or does the ending come as a surprise to you, too?
To call them note cards would be an exaggeration. When I’m writing something that stays as close to the original inspiration as Awash in Talent does, I scribble scenes and character development dilemmas on whatever paper is at hand. It’s a raging mess by the time I get to the end, which, now that you mention it, is normally a mystery to me until I’m right up on it.
Often, in order to properly end a novel, I have to pause in the writing and review the entire story to consider what would be the best earned emotional experience for the reader. I ended Awash in Talent with a summary sentence that I thought might be cheating a little, but no one’s complained about it so far.
Can you talk a bit about your experiences with publishing and what got you to try Kindle Scout?
While I was shopping around my first novel, I considered submitting it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, but in the end, it wasn’t the right novel for that process. After an arduous journey through agent rejections and rewrites, I placed that novel with a small press. What a relief! By that time, I was ready to shop Awash in Talent, but the first novel had exhausted me. I thought Awash was the right kind of novel for the ABNA, only to find that program had been discontinued. Instead, I stumbled across Kindle Scout, which has many of the advantages of traditional publishing with a modern, almost crowdsourcing approach to the slush pile. I only had to receive two rejections of Awash in Talent to convince me that Kindle Scout was the way to go. I knew somehow that it would be able to attract the audience it couldn’t at a small press.
It was a dream come true to have Awash in Talent accepted. Perhaps the best thing about Kindle Scout is that the published books are called winners!
What are the challenges faced by your main characters in Awash in Talent?
Three novellas make up the novel Awash in Talent, each one narrated by a different young woman who is challenged by the role of the rare Talented people in a mostly un-Talented world. This includes the firestarters and psychics being more or less reviled, and all three types being under constant surveillance.
In the first novella, Emily faces smaller challenges in her fraught dealings with her family and her pursuit of a man who doesn’t return her affection. In the second, Kelly has to make a go of a school for firestarters that is more like a lockdown facility and deal with the ups and downs of friendship and love, all while figuring out a way escape the school to save her mother’s life. In the final novella, Patricia is a psychic in hiding. She must avoid revealing her Talent and remedy her failing marriage. On top of it all, she finds her most difficult psychological therapy client ever in Emily, who told us the story from her perspective in the first novella. While focusing on young women, Awash in Talent brings up a variety of social issues I hope will resonate with readers.
What inspires you to write? If you ever get stuck, what helps you get unstuck?
I love that juicy feeling called inspiration. It can come from just about anywhere, but Awash in Talent is based on a dream. I’ve written a lot of stories based on dreams, but I never thought a single dream could carry an entire novel. And indeed it doesn’t. During the writing process, new inspirations cropped up to keep the story afloat. Many of them came from my love of Providence, Rhode Island. Imagining the characters in that unique city, it sometimes felt like the story wrote itself.
I can’t afford to get stuck with writing often because I have so little time to do it. But if I’m really having trouble with a scene, I imagine the characters fully in the setting, as if it were a movie. Positioning yourself as a spectator to the story takes away some of the pressure and helps the action to be character-motivated. Watching in this manner, it’s easy to spot if a character does something unlikely.
The release day for Awash in Talent is June 7th. How do you plan to celebrate?
I’m planning a book launch party. I’m not sure it will be on June 7. If it isn’t, I’ll be sure to commemorate the day in some small way. My first book launch is certainly not like any other day!
If you’d like more information about Jessica Knauss, check out her website!
Thank you, Jessica, for the time you took to participate in this interview with Katie. I always find it insightful and interesting to see how other authors have navigated the publication and writing processes.
I hope your book launch went well on the 7th!