We’re getting into the dog days of summer here in these parts, but for my guest, the energetic and bubbly Jessica Kate, it’s the dead of winter. She’s another of the contingent of delightful Aussie authors I had the privilege of meeting at ACFW last year, and her debut novel, Love and Other Mistakes, releases on July 30! Here’s the blurb:
Natalie Groves once had big dreams. But soon after her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, inexplicably broke off their engagement and left town, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Now tasked with keeping her family afloat, Natalie’s grand plans have evaporated . . . and God feels very far away.
Fast-forward seven years, and Jeremy is back in Charlottesville with an infant son and years of regrets. When his niece, Lili, lands on his doorstep in need of a place to stay, Jeremy needs help—and fast.
An internship opening finally presents Natalie a chance at her dream job, but she needs a second income to work around it—and the only offer available is Jeremy’s. They could be the solutions to one another’s problems, provided they don’t kill each other in the process. When they join forces, sparks fly. But they both know there’s a thin line between love and hate . . . and that love will turn out to be the best decision—or the biggest mistake—of all.
Doesn’t that sound like a fun read? Well, one of you fantastic blog readers will win a paperback copy of Love and Other Mistakes! Details, as always, at the end of the post!
Welcome to the blog, Jessica!
Thank you! It’s wonderful to be here!
What was your inspiration for Love and Other Mistakes? What do you hope readers take away from it?
I have a weird answer for this!
For Natalie and Jem’s romance, my inspiration was entirely fiction: Sweet Home Alabama, The Proposal, all those great love/hate rom coms were a big part of that.
BUT if we’re talking subplots…that’s where the real world comes in. I think it’s because I like to put the ‘comedy’ more into the romantic storyline and then I throw my more raw emotions into the subplots, where I can go deep in short bursts and then go back to the fun stuff.
SO, there’s a few fun ones to dig into.
For Natalie on a personal level, she’s feels like she’s missing out on her purpose in life and doesn’t know how to fix it. Been there, done that. A few years ago I wrote a blog post called ‘No Career, No Man, No Plan’, as I grappled with a feeling that I was failing in so many areas, including my job, my love life, and my spiritual life.
It sounds ridiculous, but I felt like God had a purpose for everybody else but had decided to sit me on a shelf and leave me there, and no matter what I did I couldn’t get off the shelf. It’s been one of the major lies in my life I’ve had to deal with, but thankfully God has been shining his truth onto that area and helping me deal with it. It was great to get to take Natalie’s character through that same experience.
The other major real-life inspiration was in the story around Lili, Jem’s 16 year-old niece who lives with him for much of the book. Without giving too much away, she’s dealing with a major betrayal, and it’s a situation that involves several…well, most, of the important adults in her life. She has to grapple with her faith as she watches the people who taught her that faith completely fail.
That came from a real place for me. The situation is totally fictional, but that feeling isn’t. That feeling of watching multiple people who were your examples suddenly do things that completely contradicted what they said they believed. I’ve been there. It really makes you question everything they taught you.
It was cathartic to let Lili verbalize (and occasionally vandalize) emotions that I experienced but didn’t say aloud.
And there were fun little inspirations along the way! There’s a funny little line that’s a twist on an Everybody Loves Raymond joke about The Great Microwave Wars of 1993, Natalie’s Australian parents obviously come from the fact I’m Australian, their peaches and ice cream dessert is something my grandmother does, my knowledge of babies for Olly’s character comes from having my baby sister born when I was 16 and getting to spend a lot of time with her.
Whew! That was a long answer!
So what do I hope readers take away? Hope. I tend to inflict A LOT of tough situations on my characters, especially in their family relationships. But at the end of the day, no matter how messed up we are, God’s hope is bigger.
How has God changed you during your writing journey?
I worked on Love and Other Mistakes from the ages of 22-27, and maybe this is true for every age, but I feel like that’s been an age where I’ve learned a lot!
To be honest, I feel like I mirrored both Natalie and Lili. I started the journey hurt and angry at the actions of some members of the church community (Lili) and not knowing how to deal with it. Plus, I was bewildered at the direction my life seemed to be heading (Natalie).
As the book publishes this month, I can really honestly say that God has healed most if not all of those two areas.
God has taught me that His hope is bigger than the mistakes of His followers, and just because it seems like ‘everybody’ is failing…there’s also a lot of really great faithful leaders out there too. Also, He taught me to forgive and to accept that leaders will make mistakes.
God has also taught me how to recognize and counteract lies (like ‘everyone has a purpose except you’) and to shine His truth on them instead. I really have to meditate on those truths, pray about them, ask for them, write them down and read them to myself, but it works. The truth is, He does have a purpose for me. Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve found out more about where my gifts lie and where I can use them.
A leaders once said to me, “I feel like you’re a puzzle piece we’ve been trying to jam into the wrong spot, but it doesn’t fit and that’s hurt you. But we’re going to stop doing that and we’re going to find the right spot.” And it’s true. We’ve worked out a much better spot. 😊
As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What is one piece of advice you might give to your younger Writer Self?
God has definitely opened doors through advice from others, competition finals, opportunities and relationships at conferences, meeting people interested in my writing voice, etc.
A piece of advice for my writing self…that’s a tricky one. Stress has always been my biggest challenge—and there is no fast-and-easy answer for that. If there was, stress wouldn’t be the massive issue it is for most people.
But here’s a collection of strategies that, used together, help me deal with it:
- Write down key truths about God and read them every morning. (A key one for me has been John 15 – God is my vine and I’m His branch. It reminds me I’m not doing this alone.)
- There’s a ‘marketing prayer’ which includes Prov 3:5-6 saved in my phone that I read and it gives me peace before I look at any social media.
- I know that if I’m stressing I need to go for a powerwalk and listen to some praise music. Exercising (enough to sweat) burns off stress chemicals.
- If a particular thing is bothering me, I write it down and pray about it, and it looks less scary.
- I have breathing exercises.
- I consciously put effort into getting out there and doing things other than writing.
You are one of a very spirited and delightful contingent of Aussie authors in ACFW. What, if any, challenges does having your agent, publisher, etc. based in the US present to you as an author?
The upside is that everyone loves my accent. As an extrovert who loves to talk, it’s fantastic when people say “Just keep talking forever”. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!
But – that’s also the downside: we’re mostly limited to email. I’m an extrovert, folks, I crave conversation. Skype is useful, but when you’re dealing with a 16 hour time difference, we generally have to book meetings several days in advance, and you have to deal with finicky internet connections. You can’t just pick up the phone and ask a quick question.
One day, I hope we get to the stage where we can have more of those quick-and-easy chats!
What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?
I write from 6am-7am before work – that’s my best writing time. I’m a morning person. I also write after work, but I try to get all major decisions/planning done in the morning. And I work probably 2 out of 3 Saturdays, too.
I’m single and child-free, and I still feel like I don’t have enough hours! But that’s when I just have to learn to prioritize.
If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?
I would eat pasta and garlic bread with Jenny B Jones. Her books are so my jam. Funny, sassy, love/hate, and she’s even branched off into funny romantic cozy mysteries, which I love! Plus now they’re making her book into a movie, and I wanna ask her all about that!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I go to boxing training! Love it! I don’t fight, but the training is fun.
I’m huge on family time, love friends, love going to the movies with friends, love watching movies or TV at home with housemates, love talking about movies, books and TV on my podcast, love listening to podcasts about movies and TV and of course love reading.
I am also more passionate than most people about garlic bread.
I realise this answer makes it sound like I never go outside, but thankfully I have friends and family more outdoorsy than me who ensure I get my vitamin D. 😊
How can we pray for you?
Pray for encouragement! Every writer craves encouragement and stores every scrap of it in their cheeks like a chipmunk. (Or a squirrel? Which one eats nuts?! I’m Australian, and we don’t have either of these animals!)
It’s a chipmunk, and no worries! You have a ton of amazing animals we don’t have here, either!
One randomly selected US winner will receive a paperback copy of Jessica’s debut, Love and Other Mistakes! To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. We’ll select and notify the winner one week from today!
Australian author Jessica Kate is obsessed with sassy romances.
She packs her novels with love, hate, and everything in between—and then nerds out over her favorite books, movies and TV in the StoryNerds podcast.. When she’s not writing or discussing fiction, she’s hunting the world for the greatest pasta in existence.
Her debut novel Love and Other Mistakes releases July 2019, while A Girl’s Guide to the Outback hits shelves in January 2020.
Receive her sassy short The Kiss Dare FREE when you sign up for her newsletter at her website. Check out her StoryNerds podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.