I’m delighted to welcome Jessikah Hope Stenson, author of Trace This Scar, to Linda’s Book Bag today. Trace This Scar was published by Excalibur on the 24th November 2016 and is available for purchase here.
Trace This Scar
A lie. A betrayal. A Murder.
Daphne has everything she’s been dreaming of since the day her parents died when she was a teenager. A husband, a home and a job. The only problem is her beloved Rich’s ex girlfriend Gina who won’t leave then alone. Filled with jealousy, Gina’s interference soon escalates into harassment.
But one day Gina disappears. When Rich is sentenced to sixteen years in prison for murdering Gina, Daphne refuses to believe he is guilty.
But what else could explain his mysterious disappearances?
And if he didn’t kill Gina…
…then who did?
An Interview with Jessikah Hope Stenson
Hi Jessikah. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Trace This Scar in particular.
Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I absolutely love reading (of course) and I run a book blog called Read By Jess. Second to that is my love of music – I love listening to it, going to gigs, interviewing bands, the whole scene. I’m basically just one of those people who prefers the books and music to watching TV.
You seem completely immersed in the world of writing. When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When I was in Year 9 our homework task for English was to write a prologue for a story. I wrote about someone looking out of their bedroom window at night to see another person looking up at them – a person who went on to stalk them, although the protagonist didn’t know why. I read it out to my mum to check it over and she asked me what was going to happen next? How did the mystery unravel? So instead of telling her, I wrote it. I’ve never stopped writing since.
You’re a very young author. What do you say to those who feel authors need experience in life to write well?
There’s a brilliant quote from American short story writer Eudora Welty. She says: “I am a writer from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.” While I agree experience definitely helps, I find my best writing comes completely from my imagination and sometimes if you are writing from experience you can get too fixated on how you personally felt about something, rather than how your character would feel.
You blog and are studying at university, as well as writing fiction. How difficult is it to balance all the elements in your life?
I’m also the Editor-In-Chief of the university’s music magazine and work as a freelance journalist so it’s pretty difficult to keep everything in balance. I think the most important thing is to keep on top of everything. I set myself goals every day and make sure I get everything done. Good planning and a diary is essential!
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your writing is realistic?
This is my weakness. With Trace This Scar there are scenes involving prisons and courtrooms which were a real challenge. I did very little research and made loads of errors to begin with, I just sort of felt my way around each chapter, hoping for the best. I sent each chapter to my boyfriend as I wrote it – he studies criminology so he managed to help me a bit. Then my mum and I spent hours on the phone, each of us on Google, trying to figure it all out. After that, my editor Jane ironed out any inaccuracies – she’s just great at that.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I think the easiest thing is starting a novel. Coming up with a first line or paragraph can be really fun. Sticking with it right to the end is the challenging bit, as well as editing your own work.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
With Trace This Scar I used to get up every morning and write 1,000 words first thing as that’s usually when I am most inspired. I dedicated every Wednesday afternoon to sitting in a local coffee shop and writing a bit more. Now, I’m back to writing short stories for a while and I usually dedicate Mondays and Tuesdays to just gazing out my bedroom window and writing at my own pace.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I love thrillers and YA. They tend to be quite different as YA is often issue-focussed whereas thrillers have the creepy, action factor. YA can have a sense of thrill too and that combination is great.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
As a journalist I hear people’s stories all the time and I’ve come across some really interesting life stories which could manifest so well into characters. Of course, all of my characters come from my own imagination, but I feel like taking time out to interview people helps you understand what makes a person an individual and that can give you a great sense of character.
Both Trace This Scar and your first book of short stories A Single Drop of Perfect contain plots built around truth and lies. Why do you choose to explore this theme in your writing?
I hadn’t even noticed that! I guess we subconsciously write about what plays on our minds. I’ve been through some really nasty betrayals in the last couple of years and I suppose I’ve just been channelling them into my writing as a way of processing it.
Trace This Scar has quite a bleak cover that matches the blurb for the book so well. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I did a lot of research into the book covers of psychological thrillers then I saw the eye and just loved it, it demands attention. The fabulous Ollie Cave designed the dust-jacket and found the images of the prison and barbed-wire to complete it. The idea was to convey a sense of the looming threat of the criminal justice system and to imply that perhaps there’ll be a crime aspect to the novel.
If you could choose to be a character from Trace This Scar, who would you be and why?
If I could say none of them – I would! But if I have to pick, I’d be Jamie’s mum. She’s hilarious!
If Trace This Scar became a film, who would you like to play Daphne and Rich?
That is so difficult! Perhaps Emily Blunt for Daphne because she is so good in Girl On The Train. Leonardo Dicaprio for Rich – that could be quite conflicting for viewers. We have to include Jamie in this and I’d get Paul Wesley or Sam Heughan to play him – Sam’s already had practice of playing another Jamie in Outlander.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Trace This Scar should be their next read, what would you say?
One woman’s dead. One man’s in prison. Perhaps both are innocent.
Thank you so much, Jessikah, for your time in answering my questions.
About Jessikah Hope Stenson
Jessikah Hope Stenson is an author, book blogger and journalist. She currently studies English at the University of Exeter where she is also the Editor-In-Chief of PearShaped Music Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys slam poetry, listening to Paramore and curling up with a good book.
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