Friday, February 21, 2014

Feature Friday: Jessica Khoury

Jessica Khoury is of Syrian and Scottish descent and was born in Toccoa, Georgia. She wrote her first book at age 4, a fan fic sequel to Syd Hoff'sDanny and the Dinosaur, which she scribbled on notebook paper, stapled together, and placed on the bookshelf of her preschool classroom. Since that day, she's dreamed of being an author. Besides writing, Jess enjoys playing, coaching, and watching soccer and is an avid FC Barcelona fan. She also spends time directing theater for college and student groups and traveling the world in search of inspiration and stories. Jess currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, two terrible dogs, and an abundance of books, shoes, and sweet tea.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Jessica: 
One of the best things you can bring to your writing is your own life experience. Go to new places, meet new people, be intensely curious about everything you see and everyone you meet, and take risks. You must live big to write deep!

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Jessica: 
It's really impossible to pick just one favorite, but I'll say that a book which I really admire, and which inspired me greatly, was Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. It's a book for people who love books--can you ask for anything better than that?

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Vitro?

Jessica: 
The idea for Vitro began with a collection of fragmented ideas: an island in the Pacific, a pilot named Jim, a case of mistaken identity. I knew I wanted to write all of these things, so it was just a matter of finding the right way to fit them together. After writing Origin, I was very curious about the other Corpus projects that potentially existed, and wanted to explore more of that world.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Vitro?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Jessica: 
One of the hardest parts of writing Vitro was keeping all of the characters' locations and knowledge separated. There are three POVs in the book, and they are all in such close proximity to each other that I was constantly having to go back and figure out who was where and when and what they knew or didn't know. It got pretty confusing! I had to draw out a lot of complicated maps and charts to keep everyone straight.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Vitro is your favorite and why?

Jessica: 
Jim was the most fun to write, but I think my favorite is Nicholas. He was a surprising character for me--always popping up unexpectedly and making himself more important than I'd intended him to be. I ended up rewriting the entire book to give him a bigger role, because he simply insisted on it!

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Jessica: 
I am constantly enchanted by what I get to do every day--wake up, write stories, and connect with readers. It's a tremendous privilege and a dream come true, and I could never ask for anything more! It's something I never take for granted.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Jessica: 
Unfortunately, I can't tell you that quite yet! We are gearing up for a big announcement in early March--so follow me on Facebook or Twitter to be first to hear the news!

A.L.:
What's harder, directing a play or writing a book?  Would you say they draw from a similar creative well within you?

Jessica:
Both come from the same place, I'd say, though each has its specific challenges. Plays are highly collaborative and take a lot more energy, but they have the particular reward of camaraderie and you make great relationships in theater. I love that about directing. Writing is a good deal more solitary and cerebral. It's probably easier for me, because I'm working alone for much of the process and don't have to manage thirty other people's schedules.

A.L.:
So far you've written two novels, Origin and Vitro, which are edgy sci-fi novels for teens.  Do you want to write outside of that genre or do you like where you are?

Jessica: 
I am happy where I am, though down the road I'd love to show a different side to my writing. I'm a great fan of fantasy and have written a lot in that genre; perhaps one day I'll get to move in that direction.

A.L.:
Would you say that Pia or Sophie is more like you personally?  Why?

Jessica:
I can relate more to Sophie than Pia, because she's a lot more "normal," but both of them are a great deal more stubborn than I am. I admire stubbornness, I think it's a kind of strength, and I tend to write characters I admire more than ones I am like. Isn't that why we read--to become someone else? It's the same when you're writing.

The Giveaway:  
Jessica is giving away a signed copy of VITRO to one lucky winner (INT.).

Vitro:  On Skin Island, even the laws of creation can be broken.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives--and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus's dangerous research.

Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed. But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.


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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). INT.  I will contact the winner via email.

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