Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Q&A with Joshilyn Jackson




Joshilyn Jackson is the author of the new novel With My Little Eye. Her other books include Mother May I. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.


Q: What inspired you to write With My Little Eye, and how did you create your character Meribel?


A: My freshman year of college I was a theatre major who planned to move to LA right after graduation and pursue a career in television. By the time I finished my long, failure-dotted, checkered path to my BA, my focus had shifted strongly toward writing, and I went to Chicago to get a master’s in literature and creative writing instead.


I think Meribel came out of that path not taken. Like all of my characters, she isn’t me, or even a version of me, but she is definitely mine.


Q: The writer Abbott Kahler said of the book, “Beneath this thrilling, breakneck story of an actress being pursued by a mysterious stalker...there’s smart, savage humor and incisive questions—about courage and fear, forgiveness and revenge, and the murky, complicated business of telling and keeping secrets.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love it, because it means Kahler got what I was setting out to do. As a novelist, I am always telling a story that feels urgent about people who grow to feel very real to me, people I really care about. I use these beloved characters and this plot to explore ideas and themes that feel personal and relevant.


To have a writer of Kahler’s caliber see what I set out to do --- it feels so validating. It’s an indication that book will resonate with readers, too, and that means the world to me.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Meribel and her daughter, Honor?


A: That relationship is the beating heart of the book. Meribel always wanted a big family, wanted to be a wife and mother, and when fate and biology decree this isn’t a thing she can have in the traditional ways, she and Honor create a loving, complicated, dedicated family together.


There is a little thread of romance in the book, because I like that, but I think the mother-daughter relationship that unfolds is the real love story here.


Honor is adopted and on the spectrum and one of my favorite characters I have ever written. The book is set in 2017, the month before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and #MeToo happened, with the entertainment industry as a backdrop, so Honor is now in college. I wonder if she might not get her own book in a few years...


Q: What do you think the novel says about fame?


A: Rather than making a point, I wanted to write a book that would open up conversations. I want to talk about the price of celebrity and our national obsession with it, the effect of social media on privacy and how this can gray the line between interest and obsession, the ever-growing pressure on women to live into insane beauty standards, as well as the challenges and joys of raising a great kid who has some exceptional gifts and also some serious challenges.  


With My Little Eye is a page-turner for sure, with a fun plot and characters you can root for, but these “conversation starters” make it a great pick for book clubs, too. I wrote it this way because this is the kind of book I like to read, to be honest. I want to be entertained, and then I want to hang with my friends and yammer about the story and the ideas.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Another thriller! I don’t have a title yet, but the characters are so alive and I am obsessed with it. It’s the story of a young woman who is trying to live the life her justice-and-fairness obsessed twin lost, so she breaks off her engagement, quits her career as an up-and-coming chef, and becomes a cop.


Penny is observant and smart, but it’s not a job that suits her temperament. She’s about to evacuate when she and her (extremely hot) partner Baerden are called to the scene of a violent murder, only to find the victim is one of the men she holds responsible for the death of her sister. She and her teenaged niece begin a deeply unofficial investigation that---if they can survive it—will uncover life-changing truths about their shared past and their family.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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