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Q & A With Author Jessica Bayliss

Hi Jessica, thanks for joining me! Let's get started. What is your book NOT about?

My book is not about spooky happenings that turn out to be totally explainable by logical phenomena. It’s not about someone whose imagination ran away with them. 

So then what is your book about?

BROKEN CHORDS is about Lenora “Lenny” Ragno, a sixteen-year-old girl who is attending the Gypsy Cob music festival with her family. Lenny plays the fiddle—a special fiddle her dad carved for her with a spider insignia, which represents her family name. But, she hasn’t played it in public since last year at Gypsy Cob when she choked during the amateur contest in her duet with her long-time friend and crush, Jeb. Now, she’s totally freaked to play in public and to see Jeb. 

But, this book is a total horror story. There are creepy entities, including one that claims Lenny during her one and only foray into astral projection—at the request of one of her festival friends. She keeps getting sucked into this twisted between world where she has to figure out how and why the demon is fixated on her. 

So, this story is about her facing these fears—the mundane and the demonic—and learning to trust herself again and to trust Jeb.

Sounds fascinating! What is your favorite line from your book?

Here’s a little excerpt I love:

I breathed in time with my body. I wasn’t sure if I was really moving air around in my spectral form, but the reflex to carry out the action was strong, and it still felt soothing when I blew what might be nothing out of lungs that probably weren’t there anyway.

What celebrities would play your main characters if it were a movie?

I’d rather not say. I can see my characters in my head, but I want the readers to be able to envision them however they want.

That's a good point. Take me through a day in your life. 

I work full time with Veterans as a clinical psychologist. So, Tuesday through Saturday at noon, I’m at work. Sometimes I’m seeing patients or doing supervision for trainees or managing the administrative aspects of the clinics I run. Before work I try to get up one hour early so I can write. I don’t manage it every single day, but usually at least 3 days each week. And on the weekends and Mondays, if I’m not busy with friends or family, I’m writing. I also workout nearly every day, so I do that after work. By the time I’m done with that, it’s really hard for my brain to function, so I don’t do much creative work then. But, hey, I need reading time, right?

Show me a picture of your writing spot. 

I think dogs are an essential part of any writing space! If you could spend the day with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you do?

Oh, wow… Margaret Mahy. I just found out she passed away a few years ago. She wrote one of my favorite books of all time, THE CHANGEOVER. It’s a YA book, but I still read it every couple years. She also wrote THE TRICKSTERS, which I also read as a young adult, but I didn’t really understand it then. I’ve got a copy of that on my shelf too, and it’s been very interesting coming back to that one as I’ve gained more insight. The book is the same, but I’m not, so it’s like a totally new experience. I’d tell her how grateful I am that I found her books, because they’ve been a huge source of inspiration for me.

What is the weirdest thing you have had to research for writing purposes?

Oh, jeez! Let’s see: tree-climbing—like, legit formal tree-climbing techniques and equipment—opiate medications in the Victorian era, how fiddles are made (that one was for BROKEN CHORDS), hypnosis and the effects of sleep deprivation (those last two are for the book I’m writing now, a YA thriller), and how to build a watermelon cannon. Oh, and a local CT celebrity of old known as The Leatherman.

What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?

I always loved anything with ghosts, spirits, thrills, and danger. Even when I was still reading story books, the scary ones were my favorites. These days, in addition to THE CHANGEOVER, I’d have to say my favorite books are: IT by Stephen King, the BLOODSUCKING FIENDS trilogy by Christopher Moore (especially the audiobook versions because the narrator is BRILLIANT! She nails one of my favorite characters in fiction of all times, Abby Normal), and THE FAIRYLAND series by Catherynne M. Valente. I’m on the third one, THE GIRL WHO SOARED OVER FAIRYLAND AND CUT THE MOON IN TWO, right now, and I’m at that place where I’m slowing WAY down so it’s not over too soon. 

Christopher Moore is so hilarious! I am addicted to his books. What books are you currently reading? 

The book I just mentioned above. I am reading THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon, and THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker. I have WAY too many books on my TBR list.

I just finished The Sun is Also a Star not too long ago and wrote a review of it! What is the strangest fact about you? 

That’s a tough one. I’m a horror fan, but I won’t watch or read anything scary if my husband isn’t home. I’ll totally freak myself out and not sleep all night long. One night, after watching THE GRUDGE, even though he WAS home, I still got freaked out and was afraid to go to the bathroom. I went, though. It was fine. Thank goodness.

You are very brave! What writers inspire you?

Sigh. So many. So, so many. Every single one I read, actually. I learn something from every one, including all the ones I mentioned above. I also love Molly Harper and Holly Black. I love Tim Dorsey (The Serge Storms novels) because his brain goes in a million directions yet he still ties everything up perfectly—and hilariously—at the end of his books. Speaking of humor, David Wong. I basically like anyone who’s a little bit zany (hence Christopher Moore) or scary (hence Stephen King) or who can immerse me in a world I can almost touch (hence JK Rowling or Catherynne Valente).

Why do you write?

It’s literally my passion. I didn’t even know what that was before I discovered writing. I never imagined I’d be doing it now (it took ten years to complete my psychology training, so yeah, writing was not in the game plan), but I couldn’t possibly not write, and I’m so lucky to have discovered it. 

What are you working on right now?

I just finished a book I’m calling MENTAL BLOCK. It’s a contemporary thriller about what happens when a high school student conducts an experiment—on a few of her classmates, including her best friend and the guy she is in love with—where she combines sleep deprivation and hypnosis. Let’s just say, it gets scary.

Oh, I can't wait until it comes out! How can readers learn more about you and your work?

Thanks for joining me, Jessica, and best of luck with the release of Broken Chords!

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