Jessica Bell – interview for ‘String Bridge” by J.R.McRae
1. Your music is an important part of your life and the musicality of words is very evident in your writing. How much inspiration do you draw from music in your writing? What part did music play in inspiring and in shaping “String Bridge”?
Even though music doesn’t define me as much as writing does, yes, it is still a big part of my life. The idea for the book came about when I was thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. Even though my priorities had changed, I still wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is so passionate about it. But I think music could be replaced by any sort of passion in String Bridge, because basically the story is about needing something more than you need yourself.
2. “String” speaks to me of an unraveling—he deconstruction of a cat’s cradle /string bridge and, of course, of guitar strings. Was this deliberate?
Absolutely. I wanted the title to symbolize three things:
· Guitar strings, obviously, as this is the instrument Melody plays.
· The bridge of the guitar which keeps the guitar in tune. This also symbolizes how well Melody stays mentally in tune throughout the story.
· The symbolic bridge Melody has to cross to get where she wants to be is made of string, meaning it’s not very secure.
3. I’ve come to know you through your poetry, which has an edgy rawness but also a lyricism. How important is your poet’s skill to your author role?
Very important. I don’t think I’d write the way I do if I didn’t write poetry. I really enjoy embellishing my prose with the perfect sounding word or phrase. It’s like a game to me sometimes. I have spent hours on one sentence before. I know that is sort of going too far, but I can’t help it. If it’s not right, it not right!
4. Have you ever found yourself writing a passage and realizing this is also going to result in a poem? Can you share some examples?
Well, yes. One example is the preface to my novel. I never ‘used’ it as a poem, but it’s definitely very poetic. You can read that here.
5. Have any of your existing poems inspired passages or even chapters? Can you give examples?
Yes. The following poem ended up being morphed into prose in String Bridge:
in the middle
of a field
for the end
where the stars
join to it — pins
to a tent in soil
to a cluster
of approving eyes
of your hand
to his cheek
you are the Earth
and he is the Sun
silence is tangible
and the stars are the souls
of your previous lives
is the place you’ll find death
where red dirt is your skin
and the field your bones
is the desert
6. All authors bring who they are to their work. How much of who you are informs your work, your characters?
I really don’t think I can give an accurate answer to that question. Sometimes I feel like I’m putting my whole self into my characters until they end up doing something completely out of my character. I guess I come and go I waves. There are moments that reflect me completely and there are others that are nothing like me.
7. Do you find you emotionally invest in your characters? Have you created a character and later felt, oh no, they would not do that, think that, say that and gone back and reshaped the character accordingly?
Yes. My characters changed in every single draft I wrote.
8. What initially inspired you to write “String Bridge’? Or was it a series of inspirations that came together?
Definitely a series. It all began with an idea that I wanted to write a book that was realistic rather than glamorous. There is actually nothing left in the novel now that was in the first draft. It’s come a very long way and floated down many different paths during the last five years.
9. I’m interested in the interplay of the skills you have, you are very multi-skilled! You have written and performed your own soundtrack to “String Bridge” which will be released at the same time as the book. How do you juggle the demands of all your creative outlets—music, poetry, performance, writing? Do you have any tips or tricks you would like to share with readers?
Oh my gosh. I FAIL at juggling. Believe me, I’m always falling over my balls and then realize that they belong to someone else. I go through phases and never focus on more than one thing at one time. It just doesn’t work. And I think it doesn’t work because I must use different parts of my brain for each. Maybe each skill does strengthen the other, but it will only intrude if attempted in the same ‘time period’. So, sorry to disappoint, but I’m afraid I don’t have any tips. I just ‘do’ and then see what happens. And then fix if need be.