Jessica, thank you so much for coming to my blog to tell us a little about yourself.
When and why did you first begin writing?
I really can’t say that writing was ever something I just up and started one day. When I was little, before I could write, I would sit with my Grandma and make up stories. After I was old enough to write, there was no stopping me. I would write all sorts of things, short stories, poetry, fairytales, and my Grandma was the only person I’d show them to. She would “edit” them, giving me her opinion. I think for most authors writing is something we do because otherwise our thoughts would make our heads explode! I know that for me I am a hostage of my constantly churning brain.
If you could have one writing mentor, who would it be and why?
Oscar Wilde. Yes, he’s dead, but if I could choose anyone it would be him. I love everything he has ever written. He was bold and snarky during a time when to be bold and snarky came with harsh penalties. His wit is unparalleled, as are his original stories. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my top five favorite books of all time.
You have just convinced me to read the Picture of Dorian Gray! I just downloaded it! I have never read Oscar Wilde. What makes this one a top favorite book for you?
As I said, the wit and dialogue are above all the best part, but the two main characters are incredibly dynamic. The story is the quintessential tale of growing up. It begins with Dorian returning to London to settle his Grandfather’s estate. He has only just come of age and is very young and naïve. He doesn’t know what to value as far as morality, ethics, boundaries, even his own soul. He is taken under the wing of Henry Wotton, a man far older than Dorian and wracked with bitter ideals from a life and youth he feels he squandered. In Dorian, Henry sees a chance to somehow right his mistakes and live with abandon. He uses his cunning and charm to manipulate Dorian into the man he has always wanted to be but never dared. The book, at least in my opinion, shows both characters journeys, and how life and experience really can change you on the inside. Sometimes for the better but often for the worse. There is also the horror element as well. Dorian has nailed his soul to the devil’s altar. He doesn’t age, but his painting shows all the wear of every wrong choice, every failing. Imagine having a picture that quite clearly illustrates everything you’ve done wrong, it would be the ultimate curse.
Besides writing, what are your greatest passions and why?
My family is one of my passions, which may sound strange, but they are. I love them to death, and would do anything for them. In addition, my Dad nearly died of Pancreatic Cancer this past year, I have been involved in the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Network. They raise money for research while spreading the very grim statistics of the disease. Sadly, the problem is that so many people pass from the disease so quickly that it’s just not getting funding, which is ridiculous. It took my Grandma from me a month after her diagnosis and nearly my father so I take it very seriously.
That doesn’t sound strange at all and I’m truly glad to hear that you’re Dad did not die. What is the most important lesson you learned about family during this time and did your passion for family come into “The Sin Collector?”
Thank You. I really learned what it meant to be a family, and to trust other people. I think even when people come out of the blue to help, there is still a part of myself that becomes suspicious. It’s a personality flaw I work on constantly.
Family is a major theme in The Sin Collector and even more so in the books that will follow. Liliana has spent 100 years alone, and she has the issue I mentioned above. Her solitude has become her most trusted friend and solitude cannot let you down. Suddenly she is with people who understand where she comes from, know the burdens she carries, and she wants to trust them because she falls in love with many of the Characters in different ways. The Sin Collector is Liliana’s journey into finding where she belongs, and creating a family out of the people you would die for.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading. I always have a book on me. It’s an ongoing joke if someone moves my purse and feels how heavy it is, to guess what book is inside. As far as other hobbies, I like to be creative and make a lot of my own jewelry. I bake and cook constantly. It’s the only ability I have in which I am 100% confident.
I’m exactly like that! I carry my Nook or a book with me wherever I go. What do you most like to read?
I used to predominantly read Non-Fiction with few exceptions. I love reading about Theology and ancient lands. Alice Hoffman is my favorite Fiction author currently. Since I received my Kindle as a Christmas present though, I have been reading much more fiction. There are so many great writers out there and now they are only a click away!
Tell my readers a little about “The Sin Collector”
"TheSin Collector" follows the life of Liliana, a born Sin Collector also known as a Sin-Eater. She has spent over 100 years absorbing people's sins so they may rest in peace come death. However when she meets another Collector, one who insists everything she has been taught is a lie, Liliana must make her way from Sunny L.A. all the way to the streets of Madrid. Searching for answers to a question we all share. Why are we here? The friends and enemies she makes along the way only seem to blur the line between right and wrong. Can Liliana fight the Castus, an organization bent on killing off every Sin-Eater? Should she trust her head or her heart when the two most important men in her life are fighting alongside her?
Then there is the worst question of all, will those she loves still be standing when the dust settles?
Then there is the worst question of all, will those she loves still be standing when the dust settles?
What was the hardest part about writing your current book?
The book I’m currently writing will be the second in The Sin Collector series. The most difficult part is trying to make it jive with the first book as much as possible. I want my characters to grow, but never turn into completely different people. The story gets much more intense in the second book, and sometimes I write a scene, then go back, and change it because I felt like that is not something the character would do. It’s hard enough as a person to keep track of my own moral compass, now I’m trying to do it for a dozen other “people.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned when you had finished “The Sin Collector”
That I had the ability to do it, and that people actually seem to enjoy it. It’s like my baby so of course I think it’s awesome, but to hear from readers that they “got” the characters in a way that is exactly how I imagined them is amazing.
“The Sin Collector” was amazing! Was it hard for you to let it go out into the world, knowing everyone might not have the same feeling about it?
I’ve been lucky that no one (so far anyway) has totally trashed it. Of course, it’s terrifying to think that I spent years working on something that could be a tedious and awful read for someone. (I feel like I’ve let them down) The first somewhat negative review I received early on was a bit soul-crushing and I was sullen for a day or two. I’ve gotten much better though and no longer does the thought of a review make me wince. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and to be honest some of the criticism I received has helped me to change some things in the second book all for the better. At the end of the day everyone is different, what might engage someone might turn off another. The trick is not to take the blow directly to your heart.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters. Plain and simple. You can have the most intriguing story in the world, and if your characters are flat and I don’t care about them, then the book loses all meaning for me.
When I finish a book, I know it was wonderful because I want to yank a character from the pages and talk to them. I want to ask Dorian Gray what he thought of his soul after twenty years. I would sit and talk to The Little Prince for days on end without stopping. I wish I could go to Rosalie Cullen for advice and ask Hermoine Granger how she stays so strong. Characters show us sides of our humanity that we are scared of, or that we suppress, or hope to make stronger. They are, in my opinion, more important than the very story itself.
We have a lot in common, because I believe that characters are the reason why we read. Without them, what’s the point? Tell me about the best character you have ever read in fiction.
I had to give this one some thought. I would have to say The Little Prince from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novel of the same name.
For anyone who hasn’t read the story, many people don’t realize it’s a book for adults. The Little Prince, throughout the novel, shares his journey with the Narrator in colorful detail. He speaks of the “grown-ups” he has met along the way, and the things that seemed important to them. He is full of wisdom and being a child, he has an unbiased and pure outlook on the world. He makes many true and touching statements as he tells his tale. One of my favorite quotes from the prince is below:
“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
If you were to mentor somebody as a writer, what tip would you give them that you consider invaluable and why?
I would probably tell them to go find another mentor. J
Honestly though, I’ve said it before, my only advice is to write everything down. An idea, a sentence, a word that you liked, if something really sparks inside of you, don’t hope you’ll remember later. Even if it doesn’t fit into your story now, even if right now you’re not writing a story. Never take that spark for granted, it’s magic and will not come around again.
I would like to thank Jessica Fortunato for allowing my readers a look into her writing and personal life. Thank you so much Jessica. It has been a treat, for me personally, as well as to my readers. Folks, pick up Jessica's book, 'The Sin Collector." I was bowled over and I think you will be too!
Please, do yourself a favor...check out The Sin Collector: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sin-Collector-ebook/dp/B0076D11WK