Hello awesome readers I am so excited to share with you my interview with author, Ava Black. She recently released a psychological thriller called The Bug Jar, which you could currently win a signed copy of here, and an e-copy here.
O’s Interview With Ava Black
O: Hello Ava, thank you so much for joining me today. So, tell me what has been the hardest part of your publishing journey?
Ava: The hardest part of the publishing journey, for me, is rejection. The first few rejection letters were shocking because I couldn’t believe someone would reject something that I worked so hard on, but after taking feedback from agents and publishers who rejected it, then rewriting it, sending it to beta readers, critique partners, and a private editor, resubmitting it, and having it still be rejected, I was crushed. I think the worst rejection letter I read was the one I received on an Easter Sunday. I was hosting dinner with family, who drove in from out-of-town, and while clearing the dinner table’s dishes, I checked and noted a new email from an agent. I thought ‘Who sends a rejection letter on Easter Sunday? This HAS to be an offer!’ I opened it, right there, in front of everyone. I shouldn’t have. I read it to my family and instantly started to cry. Some of the other rejection letters I’ve received, which have been hard to take, noted how engaging and page-turning the novel was, but that it didn’t have mass-market appeal. Hearing that the writing is good, but not commercial, rendering it non-punishable, is a tough pill to swallow because as writers, all we want is to produce something that is good and to have it be heard.
O: What’s something you’ve learned that aspiring writers should know?
Ava: Writers should trust their story-telling instincts. Yes, take feedback, tweak the work, ask for help when you need it, but consider the source when making plot, voice, setting, or character adjustments. If a writer whose work you don’t admire gives feedback saying you should change this or that, but your gut tells you that’s a bad choice, ask for a second opinion. If the second opinion comes back the same as the first, consider tweaking it, but if the opinion is contrary, go with your gut. Also, join a writing organization! Your writing can’t improve if you don’t tell people you’re doing it! Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Horror Writers Association are great, reputable resources for newer writers which offer writing classes, seminars, and fantastic opportunities for you to connect with other writers who are in the same boat as you are. Don’t be afraid to join one of these organizations! They’re a superb place to meet beta readers and critique partners who can help you grow. Also, many organizations have on-line events, so if you live in an area far from the chapter meeting, you can always attend on-line. And please don’t ever think of yourself as an aspiring write. You write. You are a WRITER!
O: What are you currently working on?
Ava: Currently I’m sixty pages into the story of a small-town woman who is in the mid-stages of ALS and tries to blackmail her big-city cousin into killing her before the disease worsens. The big-city cousin doesn’t want to take her small-town cousin’s life, but must if the murder they committed is to stay hidden…
O: Ooh intriguing. I’ll look forward to that.
Tell us more about how you incorporated themes of mental illness into The Bug Jar?
Ava: When writing mental illness, its important to incorporate realistic aspects of specific disorders into the story. Adding scenes which include medications, psychiatrists, physical sensations, and thoughts/feelings related to that specific illness, help paint a vivid picture of what it is like to endure such horrific pain. Do research. Lots and lots of research. Interview people. Many are more willing to help than you realize.
O: From what I have read so far with the sample on Amazon, the characters and dialogue are very authentic, what’s your secret?
Ava: The voice of mental illness in this novel feels authentic because, for the most part, it is. My childhood friend suffers from what she believes to be bipolar disorder, but has multiple diagnoses by numerous psychiatrists who have prescribed a buffet of meds. Some of them have horribly affected her. Others were God-sends, for a while, then stopped working. Over the years, as I wrote various books, she told me about her struggles and shared very painful, raw, emotional pieces of her life. When I started my fourth novel, THE BUG JAR, she asked what my most recent one would be about. I told her a basic plot outline, then she asked why I didn’t make the heroine bipolar. We talked about it for a bit, then I went with it. She beta read and critiqued every piece of that novel, which is why the voice is so strong and the feel so authentic. Also, I interviewed psych nurses, a psychologist, multiple police officers, and numerous other professionals so I had a better grip on the subject.
O: I really related with the part (somewhere in the first few chapters) where she referenced getting the advice for depression of “fresh air and sunlight” and her response of f* that. It’s great you are able to give a voice to people with mental illness, and that your friend could be such a valuable resource.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
Ava: Hopefully, readers will more clearly comprehend how the damage which mental illness inflicts is compounded when society stigmatizes it. In many, many towns and cities, mental illness is a hush-hush subject that costs people their jobs, leaving them unable to pay their mortgage and their children without decent healthcare. The pain of hiding mental illness, if it’s the type of disorder which is able to be hidden, can be almost as damaging as the illness itself.
O: Too true. It’s great you are giving people with illnesses a voice.
When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?
Ava: When I’m not writing, I like to travel. I’ve been to a few foreign countries and like to take my kids on weekend trips to nearby cities to see museums and look at the different styles of architecture. AirBnB is my new best friend!
O: Ooh, I love traveling! I really marveled at the old architecture in England, we have nothing like it here in California.
What is an interesting little tid-bit you can share about your book that won’t spoil anything?
Ava: One interesting tidbit I can share about the book involves how I write the scene where the heroine breaks with reality. I wanted that scene to feel real, as it’s a turning point in the book, so, to write it, being the massive research-nerd that I am, I stayed up until two in the morning, in my dark, quiet, home in the middle of nowhere, drinking way too much Coca-Cola and Googling voice recordings of actors speaking schizophrenic dialog which ill patients heard in their heads. Listening to those voices, some male, some female, some with British accents, some with American, speak such horrible, powerful, damming commands into your ears, through earbuds, while being sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, and alone in the middle of the night….that made an impression. I tried to write that impression into the book. Recently, I told someone about this and they stated that what I’d done was method-writing, kind of like method-acting, and I suppose it is, but two years after writing that scene, I can still hear those voices…and they’re still chilling.
O: Wowza, talk about dedication.
Thank you so much for chatting with me. It has been such a pleasure and thanks again for providing your book for the giveaway!
Ava: It was so much fun being here at O.D.! I very much look forward to signing a copy of THE BUG JAR for the giveaway’s winner! Thank you for having me.
For make-up salesgirl Samantha Holland, life is a constant struggle to cling to reality. Her tenuous hold on sanity is exacerbated by a toxic affair with wealthy and powerful State Representative Richard Harrison, who gets sadistic pleasure toying with her already confused mind. But Sam comes closest to losing her grip when Harrison’s emotionally disturbed stepson is murdered—and the police suspect her. When Harrison tries to break off their relationship, Sam tries to save herself by piecing together patchy memories of what might be her own involvement in the killing. The truth she uncovers is more sinister than she could have imagined.