Interview with Jessica Brody

I have another author interview for you all; the tremendously talented Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody

Picture of Author Jessica BrodyJessica Brody graduated from Smith College with degrees in economics and French. A full-time writer and producer, she lives in Los Angeles where she is currently working on her next novel.

About the Book and The Author

A gripping story of one woman’s quest to come to terms with her past, find her future, and-most of all-rediscover her faith in love, THE FIDELITY FILES was chosen as one of USA Today’s hottest summer reads and has recently been optioned for television. St. Martin’s Press and Random House UK have already purchased the sequel (yet untitled) to be published in the fall of 2009 and Jessica has recently sold two young adult novels to Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Praise for The Fidelity Files

"A smart, funny and sexy debut"
Cosmopolitan UK

"A sexy plot with a main character every woman would like to have on speed dial."
Rocky Mountain News

"You’ll be hooked!"
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Sisters unite! This is a total revenge fantasy for anyone really tired of men with overactive zippers."
USA Today

"Deliciously out there and impossible to put down."
5280 Magazine

Interview

Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.

The Fidelity Files is the story of a beautiful L.A. woman who works as an undercover "fidelity inspector," hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.


Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of "alcohol-related" events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as "appropriate."

Witnessing these "indiscretions" upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the "conveniently" absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these "obligatory" and supposedly "uneventful" work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to "the messenger."

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out… she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

Do you put your friends in your books? Names, incidents, characteristics? Have any of them recognized themselves in a not-so-good way?

My friends are definitely in my books. There’s one in particular that stands out. One of Jen’s friends, Zo, has a bad case of road rage. And she tends to talk on the phone while she drives, so Jen often finds herself on the phone with Zo while she’s cursing out another driver. I have a friend who does that and that’s where I got the idea. This friend has read the book but I’m not sure how she feels about the similarities. She acts like she’s fine with it, but I guess you never know. She could secretly be totally offended.

Which craft book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?

I can’t sing enough praise for Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It has "saved" so many manuscripts of mine. It’s meant for screenwriters but it works flawlessly for novels as well. It’s just a very intuitive way to write stories and make sure the audience isn’t bored to tears because nothing is happening for fifty pages. Now, I consult the book before I even start writing and I use his "beat sheet" to help me outline the major story points. It saves me so much time later on!

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?

I’ve always struggled with this question because I’ve never really had one person in mind for the role of Jennifer/Ashlyn. She would have to be beautiful and sexy so that the men in the movie would fall for her but she would also has to come off as sympathetic and a little vulnerable so that audience would relate to her. I would love to see Rachel McAdams in the role because I think she could pull it off. Also Natalie Portman, Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson or Keira Knightley would be great casts.

As for Jamie, the love interest, Patrick Dempsey is an obvious cast for me. I think he has that distinguished mature look that’s described in the book and he also comes off as very sweet and genuine. That’s the kind of guy Jamie is in my head.

Do you have a sample chapter posted?

Read an excerpt.

What’s been your biggest surprise about getting published?

How LONG it takes for a book to hit the shelves! Holy cow! I was a young woman when I sold that thing. I really wasn’t expecting it to take that long. I thought six months maybe, nine tops. But from the time I got the publishing deal to the time it was actually available in stores was 19 months! And I recently sold a YA novel to another publisher and that one is going to take 24 months to release. I’m still not entirely sure why it takes so long but that was definitely an unpleasant surprise. Especially for someone like me who get frustrated when it takes longer than ten seconds for music to download.

Do you write from a character or from a plot idea?

I’m definitely more driven by character. I like thinking up interesting characters with intriguing back stories and then forming a world around them. Like, "Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a story about a woman who tests men’s fidelity for a living?" Then I go forward from there. "What would her life be like?" And "What kind of interesting things would happen to someone like that?"

Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?

The writing process is very random for me. It all depends on the day. Because I tend to be equally right and left brained, sometimes I feel as though the writing process is just a constant struggle (or sometimes clash) between the two sides of my brain to come up with a consistent way to write a novel. I write outlines, because my analytical side tells me it’s the right thing to do, but then halfway through the story, I come to the conclusion that I only write outlines so that I’ll have something to deviate from. I create complicated spreadsheets (a nod back to my days as a strategic analyst) for my storylines and page counts and pacing only to abandon them halfway through. And yet, despite this seemingly random chaos, it all feels perfectly natural to me. As if it was designed specifically for a purpose. So I suppose, my lack of a defined process is a process in itself.

What’s your Writer Fantasy–i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.?

Of course I have all the regular fantasies like Oprah, Movie deal with an opening the size of Twilight, NYT Bestseller list, etc. But honestly, the one fantasy that I would really like to see fulfilled is just seeing someone reading my book in a public place. Like on an airplane or in the gym. I think that would be such an amazing feeling. Now, I just have to decide whether or not I would approach them and tell them I wrote it. Or better yet, ask them what they think without telling them who I am. I might not want to hear the answer to that though!

Do you have a favorite character in this book? If so, why?

My favorite character is definitely Jen’s gay friend, John. Every scene he’s in was always the most fun to write. And the easiest. He’s definitely the comic relief of the book. I don’t know where some of his lines come from. They just kind of emerge as if I’m channeling a flamboyant and sometimes annoying gay man from another dimension. I would be writing a scene with him and he’d respond with a line that was so him and I would just stare back at it on the page, laugh and say, "Where did that come from?" Needless to say, he was one of my favorite characters to return to in the sequel.

What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline?

Oh, gosh, I have so many things going on right now, it’s hard to keep track! Although, this question may help me get my head around everything. I just finished the first draft of the sequel to The Fidelity Files which St. Martin’s is publishing in Fall of 2009 and is yet untitled. That’ll also be out in the UK around the same time. I’m waiting to get my revision notes back on that so I can go for round two. Also, I just finished revising the manuscript for my new young adult book, THE KARMA CLUB, which FSG is publishing in spring of 2010. And I recently started a new YA series that I’m super excited about and will hopefully try to sell early next year. AND. . . one of the screenplays I co-wrote just got financed for a feature film so we hope to start shooting that in April. Yes, I know, I’m a masochist. What can I say, idleness is my only enemy.

What advice would you give to other writers trying to get published?

Take criticism. Believe in your work and stand behind it, but don’t be afraid to make changes. Try to be as objective as possible when it comes to your writing (I know how impossible that sounds) but it will only help you in the long run. Use rejections to evolve yourself as a writer, not just to line your waste basket. When someone rejects your work and offers a reason, don’t just blow it off and claim that they "didn’t get it" or that they clearly didn’t read it closely enough, dissect it and try to figure out if what they’re saying makes sense and if it will inevitably help your work. There a lot of people in this industryagents, editors, other writers, etc.who know what they’re talking about and know what it takes to make a book work. After all, that’s what they get paid for! Listen to them with open ears and grateful hearts. There’s a fine balance between staying true to your art and being open for suggestions, try to stay somewhere in the middle. If they "didn’t get it," chances are, readers won’t get it either. And you won’t be there to explain it to them in the middle of Barnes and Noble.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part of writing is definitely the beginning of the story. There’s nothing more exciting and inspiring than a fresh new idea and a blank piece of paper. The possibilities are endless, the promise is huge and the character is brand new. It’s like that first four-hour long conversation with a new guy. So much hope for where it could go!

What do you write on (type of computer, or notebook, etc.) and where do you write?

I am a PC girl through and through (an ongoing bloody battle I’ve been having with my "Mac" friends since the dawn of timeor the dawn of the computer age anyway). I’m actually kind of a techie dork. I LOVE gadgets and so I have a lot of them. Right now I have two computers. A desktop in my office and a laptop I use when I travel. I spend most of the time writing in my office. Although I’ve found that when my editors ask me to cut pages (it’s a request I get a lotapparently, I’m a overwriter), I prefer to do that in my living room, on my laptop. Don’t know why, just one of those quirky writer things, I guess.

Have you had a “rock star” moment regarding your writing career? If so, what was it?

Well, I have a rock star moment EVERY single time I pick up my plastic Guitar Hero guitar and start jamming on it. But that’s not what you meant, I know. But really, I feel like the whole published author thing has been so surreal from the moment my agent called and told me we had a deal. Like I’ve been living in a state of denial this entire time. I see my book in the store and I’m like, "I didn’t write that! Someone else named Jessica Brody wrote thatsomeone who looks disturbingly like me." Even if someone did come up to me and say, "You wrote that novel, The Fidelity Files, didn’t you?" I’d probably just convince myself that my boyfriend paid them to do it.

What other art form inspires you as much as writing?

Before I started writing full time, I actually dabbled a bit in songwriting. One of my songs even won a songwriting competition. But I soon realized that I could only write song lyrics after I’d had my heart totally stomped on and destroyed by some dumb, stupid boy. Apparently, that was the outlet for my pain. And so once I found myself in a good relationship, the song lyrics stopped coming. I have to say, though, I don’t really miss them!

Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?

I hate to say it, but I tend to procrastinate a lot more now than I ever did before I got published. I think there’s something about that desperation for a book deal that keeps you on track. Now, I just find so many other things to do. It’s really bad! In terms of actual writing, I think I’ve definitely grown as a writer since I got published and I’m learning to trust my instincts more when it comes to what is working and what isn’t. I used to fight that voice inside that says, "This scene really sucks," convinced that I wasn’t experienced to know what I was talking about. Now, when I hear that voice, I listen and start pounding on that delete key.

What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since becoming a published author?

Seeing your work translated into other languages is pretty bizarre. I saw a sneak peak at the German translation for my book and I was like, "Holy cow, I have no idea what I wrote!" That’s pretty surreal.

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2 Responses to “Interview with Jessica Brody”

  1. Bookish Reader says:

    What an interesting sounding book. I bet that this job actually exists in LA! I hope it doesn’t become a regular career for some women, lol.

  2. Jessica Brody says:

    Hi Bookish Reader,

    Yes, the job actually DOES exist in L.A. but more so in the UK, surprisingly enough. They’re called “Honey Traps” out there. 🙂