Chat With an Author

The HUNGER interview, part 1: A Chat between Jackie Morse Kessler and….DEATH

Today we have not one, but two very special guests.

One is author, Jackie Morse Kessler, whose book Hunger (reviewed today by Ana), about an anorexic girl about to become the new Famine of Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is released today.

The other needs NO introduction for he is DEATH itself, currently running his own talk-radio show, Post Morten and looking like this:

And we are proud to host this awesome chat between the two. Enjoy!

DEATH:
Hey there, living people. Welcome to Post Mortem, the fake online talk-radio show where fictional characters talk to me about their books, their Authors, and basically anything they want. I’m your host, Death.

We’re doing a very special two-part interview today. Actually, make that a Very Special two-part interview. (Nothing shouts “special” more than initial caps.) The first part is on The Book Smuggler’s website, which has me interviewing Jackie Morse Kessler, author of HUNGER. The second part is on Jackie’s website, where I interview Lisabeth Lewis, the protagonist of HUNGER.

Yeah, I get to interview both of them. [GRINS] Death knows no limits.

~

So this is a bit surreal, because my guest on Post Mortem is actually my Author. You know how you’ve always wanted to ask your Creator things like, “Why am I here?” and “What’s the meaning of life?” and “What are next week’s winning lottery numbers?” Well, here’s my chance.

Jackie Morse Kessler grew up in Brooklyn, NY, with a cranky cat and overflowing shelves filled with dolls and books. Now she’s in Upstate NY with another cranky cat, a loving husband, two sons, and overflowing shelves filled with dragons and books (except when her sons steal her dragons). She has a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature, and yet she’s never read any Jane Austen (with or without zombies). She also has a master’s degree in media ecology. (The living study of technology and culture. Which is cool, she says, but she still can’t figure out how to use Tweetdeck.) Jackie has a weakness for chocolate and a tendency to let her cat take over her office chair. HUNGER, the first book in The Riders’ Quartet, is her first book for teens.

Living people, give a warm welcome to the author of HUNGER…Jackie Morse Kessler!

[APPLAUSE]

Hey, Jackie!

JACKIE:
Hi! [PAUSES] You know, up close, it really is freaky how you look exactly like Kurt Cobain.

DEATH:
[SMILES] Yeah, I get that a lot.

JACKIE:
And what’s weird is I wasn’t even into Nirvana when I created you.

DEATH:
Someone’s got a God complex…

JACKIE:
What? I did create you. I’m allowed to say that.

DEATH:
My, my. Would a little humility kill you?

JACKIE:
[SMILES] This from Death?

DEATH:
Heh. All right, since you went there: Why do I look and sing exactly like Kurt Cobain?

JACKIE:
Well…it just happened. I mean, now I have a reason for it, and that will be clear in the fourth Horseman book, but when I was writing HUNGER…dude, it just happened. You pulled an Athena.

DEATH:
Sprang fully formed from your mind, eh?

JACKIE:
Exactly. Seriously, I barely knew any Nirvana songs. Now, though, Kurt is my muse. And I turn up the volume whenever I hear Nirvana on the radio.

DEATH:
From grunge to anorexia. What’s the deal with HUNGER? Explain in one sentence. Go!

JACKIE:
An anorexic teenage girl becomes the new Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

DEATH:
[NODS] Issue book, wrapped in supernatural trappings.

JACKIE:
Well, yeah. I could take the Horseman aspect away, and there would still be a story. A very different story, but still a story. If I took away the eating disorders, there would be no story at all.

DEATH:
So HUNGER is clearly an issue book. But is it also a fantasy novel?

JACKIE:
Far less so. More magical realism than fantasy. There’s a bit more of the fantasy aspect in the second book, RAGE. The third book in the Riders’ Quartet, LOSS, will have a strong fantasy element as well as a strong focus on two loosely related issues. And then there’s your book, BREATH. [GRINS]

DEATH:
Yes?

JACKIE:
That’s all I’m saying about it.

DEATH:
Heh. That’s because you have no idea what’s going to happen in my book.

JACKIE:
Oh, I have an idea.

DEATH:
Of course you do. So what would you say is the worst thing that happens in HUNGER?

JACKIE:
That’s tough. On one hand, Lisa, the protagonist, suffers from anorexia. And I do mean “suffers.” Mentally and emotionally, she’s constantly berated by the Thin voice, which tells her she’s fat and not good enough and other poisonous things, and she winds up pushing away those closest to her. Physically, she’s a wreck. What Lisa goes through is extremely difficult. On the other hand, she also sees how famine affects people. And that’s also brutal. So the anorexia and the famine would be the number one and two things.

DEATH:
Such lighthearted issues!

JACKIE:
Hey, there’s some lightheartedness in the story. [MOTIONS TO DEATH] As you know.

DEATH:
[CHUCKLES] We all have our roles to play.

JACKIE:
You were great. A philosophical Death, who plays a mean guitar.

DEATH:
Aw, thanks. But the other Horsemen call me the slacker of the group. Just, you know, not to my face.

JACKIE:
[LAUGHS] They’re not stupid.

DEATH:
Exactly. What would you say is the best thing about HUNGER?

JACKIE:
Lisa finds her balance. It’s not easy, and it’s not quick. But it happens.

DEATH:
Rock on.

JACKIE:
You know, it’s weird that you’re acting like you don’t know what happens in the book.

DEATH:
Shhh. So if you could be anyone, who would you be?

JACKIE:
[GRINS] Please, I’m fine playing God when I write books. No need for me to be anyone else.

DEATH:
Told you that you have a God complex. [WINKS] So what does a god like you wear?

JACKIE:
My favorite outfit is a flannel shirt over a t-shirt, jeans, and boots.

DEATH:
And lo, the grunger rock star thing suddenly makes sense! What wouldn’t you be caught dead in?

JACKIE:
I have no idea. It’s been forever since I’ve gone shopping.

DEATH:
What are you most afraid of? Other than the fashion police?

JACKIE:
Hah. That’s funny. You realize that I still have to write your story, don’t you?

DEATH:
You know, it was rumored that you had a sense of humor.

JACKIE:
I do have one. Somewhere. I think.

DEATH:
Come on. Tell the truth. What are you most afraid of?

JACKIE:
Losing my mind.

DEATH:
[SMILES] Nah, too easy. I won’t say it.

JACKIE:
No, really. Losing my mind. Alzheimer’s and dementia run on both sides of my family. I worry that there’s a big target on me. Maybe that’s why I write—this way, even if I start forgetting, the words a permanent.

DEATH:
Or maybe you write because you love writing.

JACKIE:
Well. Yeah. That too.

DEATH:
So how do you move past the fear of getting Alzheimer’s?

JACKIE:
I’ve been reading up on it, and while there’s no cure yet, there are some things that researchers have been finding that indicate what we eat and our exercise level may have an impact. So it’s just another reason to try to be healthy. I’ve started jogging, and I’ve been doing tae kwon do.

DEATH:
Cool. But I have it on good authority that you still eat too much chocolate.

JACKIE:
Dude. It’s like the perfect food.

DEATH:
I won’t argue that. For your adult books, you go by “Jackie Kessler,” but for HUNGER and the other books in The Riders’ Quartet, you’re going by “Jackie Morse Kessler.” Why the name change?

JACKIE:
I blame Judy Blume.

DEATH:
Do tell!

JACKIE:
Growing up, I read all of her children’s books. She and Beverly Cleary were my favorite authors. But when I was 12, I wound up reading Wifey, because Judy Blume wrote it. (So what that between the cover and the back-cover copy, this clearly wasn’t a book for kids? I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.) So I wanted to make sure there was some differentiation between my adult works and my YA books. If teens choose to read my adult urban fantasy/paranormal romances that are loaded with explicit sex scenes and uber profanity, that’s cool, because they’re going into it knowing they’re not the target audience and also knowing what to expect. But if, say, a 12 year old accidentally read Hell’s Belles because I’d also written HUNGER, I think I’d break out in hives.

DEATH:
You’re so protective. Are you going to let your kids read your adult books?

JACKIE:
Sure, right around the time I let them date, i.e., when they’re 30.

DEATH:
Yeah, that’ll go over well. What’s one thing about you that no one else knows?

JACKIE:
Um. I don’t know if no one else knows this, but I wish I could sing. My singing voice is horrible. People pay me not to sing. When I want to torture my children, I sing. I wish I could carry a tune.

DEATH:
I could give you lessons.

JACKIE:
That’s sweet. No thanks.

DEATH:
Really. I wouldn’t even charge.

JACKIE:
Um.

DEATH:
Could be good karma.

JACKIE:
This is because I still have to write your book for The Riders’ Quartet, isn’t it?

DEATH:
Mmmmmmaybe. If you could give people advice, what would it be?

JACKIE:
Okay, getting on my soapbox for this. Listen, we live in a world where supermodels get Photoshopped. That’s just messed up. There’s this notion of what’s beautiful, but it’s not realistic. None of us is perfect. If we stopped hating ourselves for what we’re not, and started accepting ourselves for who we are, we’d be so much happier. It’s not about being thin. It’s about being healthy.

DEATH:
Amen. You’re donating a portion of proceeds from HUNGER to the National Eating Disorders Association. Will you be making similar charitable donations for the other Horseman books?

JACKIE:
Yes. For RAGE, a portion of proceeds will go to the organization To Write Love On Her Arms. I’m pretty sure I know which organizations will be for LOSS and BREATH, but first I want to finish those books.

DEATH:
Gotcha. Last question. Who’s your favorite Horseman of the Apocalypse?

JACKIE:
You.

DEATH:
Aw. I sense flattery…

JACKIE:
Nah. You’re the most fun to write.

DEATH:
[GRINS] Glad to be of service.

Living people, give another round of applause for the author of HUNGER…Jackie Morse Kessler!

[APPLAUSE]

You can find Jackie online via her website, her blog , the Deadline Dames, and Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in to part one of this Very Special interview. For part two, please go to the Post Mortem section of Jackie Morse Kessler’s website.

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3 Comments

  • Michelle
    October 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Fantastic! What a great sense of humor. I’m so interested to see the last book to find out the Kurt Cobain tie in.

  • orannia
    October 20, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Jackie & Death – that was a fantastic interview! I’m ashamed to say that this is the first I’ve heard of your book, but it sounds…amazing. And my library obviously things so too 🙂

    All the best with the release!

  • woodbury commons new york
    February 3, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Hi there,

    Hey nice to read about the nook smugglers, a total new concept

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