I first found writer and musician Jessica Bell because of her beautiful book trailer. I’m rarely impressed with book trailers but this one, in my humble opinion, was special. I’m so very happy to have Jessica on the blog. Her debut novel String Bridge was released November 1st.
First a little bit about String Bridge.
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a ‘proper’ career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits and she realizes she’s been seeking fulfilment in the wrong place.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writer’s journey? What is the first thing you remember writing?
Wow. Now I have to think … it was probably a poem I wrote when I was about 12, sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, on a huge rock with a castle on top called Monemvasia. I think I wrote something about the sea and sky being deep blue and the rocks being jagged like “you.” (who ever that was … I can’t believe I just conjured that memory!)
Like you, Melody, the main character in String Bridge, hails from Australia but lives in Greece. Can you describe how each place inspires your writing?
That’s actually a difficult question because I don’t feel like inspiration is different depending on where I am. Of course, there are environmental factors that come into play, such as weather, scenery, etc, but my inspiration stems from a “feeling” which I’m not sure I can describe very well. It’s a kind of happiness, but like a wave of thought, light-weightedness, a release from day-to-day responsibilities. And I get this feeling when my environment is relaxing. I don’t notice which country I’m in, I just notice that I have time and space to open my mind to what is going on around me.
In the book, Melody seems to think that she can not pursue her music dreams and be a good mother/wife, which is a theme I notice in a lot of women’s fiction; this idea that women have to make sacrifices for their family that men don’t. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it’s something that every woman struggles with regardless of how much gender equality has progressed in society. But it doesn’t have to do with women having to make sacrifices that men don’t. I honestly don’t believe that’s an issue nowadays. The thing is, women are always going to feel like this because we have an instinct to nurture. And when things begin to threaten our ability to do that, we feel guilty. It’s ingrained. Well, I believe it’s ingrained. I don’t have kids. But I still, with the freedom I have, feel guilty when I don’t have time to wash the dishes or make my partner some dinner. I want to look after him, to make him feel good, and I think that’s the mother in me spreading her wings I guess. It can’t be avoided. Unless we are somehow born with more testosterone in the future, I think this will always be a strong theme in women’s lives.
I’m fascinated by writers who are also songwriters. Can you share how your song writing influences the way you write novels?
I think sound is a very difficult thing to describe so it certainly helped me with that. I spent a long time trying to perfect those parts where music is illustrated. It was quite a challenge to be honest. But what helps, in general, is the fact that I thrive on making sentences with cadence. I love playing around with different words and sounds and seeing how differently they roll off my tongue. It’s just like singing without a melody. It’s writing to a tempo.
What are you working on now?
Muted is set in Arles, France, in a totalitarian society where it is illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it’s also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta, a famous Italian a cappella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope with living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories from her hometown, Milan. But Concetta’s suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface. Is it the busking harpist, who encouraged her to feel music through vibration, acting as saviour? Or a street warden on the prowl for another offender to detain? From this moment, the reader will discover how Concetta came to be in this position, and what will happen to her after the suicide attempt.
Muted will explore a variety of themes such as overcoming loss, coping with mental illness and disability, dealing with discrimination, loss of freedom, inhibited self-expression, motivation to succeed, escaping oppression, expression through art and music, self-sacrifice, channelling the thoughts of the deceased, and challenging moral views and values.
And some fun ‘Would You Rather’ questions based on String Bridge:
Would you rather:
See a live show? -OR- Perform live?
See a live show. Performing live freaks me out, but I think I’m going to have to find a way to overcome that.
Have a button pop off of your shirt during a presentation? -OR- Sit through an awkward conversation with an ex-boyfriend in a pub?
Ha! The latter …
Eat only Vegemite for a week straight? -OR- Eat only Feta cheese for a week straight? (With no risk of any and all digestive problems 😉
Feta cheese for sure. I love vegemite, but I don’t think I could handle it for a week!