Today I want to welcome a special author guest! I’m pleased to have Jacqui Castle join us to share some words on what it’s like to segue from being a journalist to novelist.
Jacqui Castle is a professional freelance writer and journalist residing in the forested Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She regularly contributes to a local publication, Mountain Xpress, and has been published in numerous print and online publications, including WNC Woman and Asheville Grit. Castle specializes in food journalism, but sporadically branches out and dabbles in other topics, including health and wellness, parenting, book reviews, and political reporting. Her first foray into the world of fiction, The Walls are Closing In, is currently undergoing a funding campaign on reader-driven publisher Inkshares and is ‘closing in’ on guaranteed publication.
Q: When did you first begin writing?
I first dove into the writing world when I began working part-time at family-run business Quill & Brush. My family has always been overly saturated with book-lovers. Books lined the walls in my parent’s home. My grandparent’s home, where I spent a large portion of time during my childhood and adolescence, features a library for their in-home business collecting and selling rare and first-edition books. I began working as a part-time fact-checker on my grandfather’s book, Collected Books: The Guide to Identification and Values, to earn some extra money here and there. I soon realized that I enjoyed the work, and this led to trying my hand at online blogs, articles and other web content. This served as a flexible part-time job throughout college and after the birth of my son. Though I have had many jobs over the years, writing has always occurred alongside.
Q: Did you begin writing as a journalist first, or a novelist?
The novel thing is a fresh endeavor for me. I have been a freelance editor and writer for about ten years, and a journalist for the past five. Honestly, I never saw myself writing fiction. But, about a year ago, the idea for The Walls are Closing In came to me during the primary election campaign, I started it as a short story, and it snowballed from there. Now, I can definitively say that I envision myself writing fiction for a long time to come.
Q: How do you balance journalism and book-writing?
Fortunately, I am a part-time freelance journalist, and only find myself up against a handful of deadlines per month. I have a seven-year-old and a three-year-old, and due to the flexibility of my job, I am fortunate that I can spend a lot of time with them. My husband also works flexible hours, and we are adept schedule-jugglers. When the kids are home, one of us is with them. I genuinely can not tell you where I found the time to write The Walls are Closing In. I had a concept, I started writing, and four months later the first draft was complete. Looking back, I do not know how I found the time other than through the tested patience of my husband, and the overwhelming compulsion to write to get through 2016. I can tell you that once I started writing, it came out fast.
Q: What do you love about journalism? What about fantasy writing?
Regarding journalism, I adore telling the stories of others and providing a voice for businesses that are doing their part. I live in a town where real food is highly valued, great comfort is derived from cooking, eating, and sharing a quality meal, and the farm-to-table movement is spreading like wildfire. I feel honored to be the one to go behind the scenes and tell a story that may otherwise never be told. When I see a piece that I wrote framed in the hallway of a restaurant I covered years ago, it is an enormous honor.
Fantasy writing and fiction, in general, is another beast entirely. It is cathartic in a way that non-fiction is not. Being able to express your frustrations and desires through characters that you mold in any way that you choose is strangely liberating.
Q: What is your ideal writing space? If you prefer an office, describe how it is set up.
I spend more time than I care to admit in coffee shops and tea houses around Asheville. Because we live up a winding road in the mountains, it is a long trek home after dropping my children off at school, so I often find myself at a local tea house with my laptop, a manuscript printout and a pen, or a book that I am reviewing. If I have the luxury of being home for the day and the weather is fine, I have a sunroom where the breeze and the sound of the flowing stream filtering in make for a wonderful writing atmosphere. And, you know, sometimes I find myself reclining in bed with the computer on my lap. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
Q: Was it difficult to transition from journalism to novel writing? What was that process like?
It has been a transition, to say the least. Difficult is not exactly how I would describe it, though. I was staggered at how easily the words filled the page once I started writing fiction. I will be the first to admit this though, the initial draft of The Walls are Closing In was lacking in dialogue and read as a journalistic info dump. It took me awhile to transition to the “show don’t tell” mode of fiction writing, and now the manuscript reflects the story I was itching to tell from the moment I started it a little less than a year ago.
Q: After your debut novel, what are you planning on doing next?
The Walls are Closing In is set to be a stand-alone novel or the start of a series. I would like to see the story evolve through future works. The world that is created is poignant in our current times, and exploring the stories of others that are living in this rigid 2090 is tempting, especially as the news headlines continue to emerge here in 2017. I also have a few historical fiction ideas brewing.
Q: Tell us a bit about The Walls are Closing in:
The Walls are Closing In takes place in a post-border wall America in which mass surveillance, confinement to city centers, and addiction to mindless entertainment keeps everyone subdued and in line. Citizens are conditioned from a young age regarding acceptable conversation, history and world geography are classified, and a charge of ‘treason’ is slapped on just about everything outside of strict compliance. The protagonist, Patricia Evans, is a scientist who has the rare opportunity to work in some of the last remaining locations where one can have an unrestricted conversation— dilapidated national and state parks only protected because the uncontaminated soil contains final strains of the healthy bacteria needed for medicine and food production. While on a routine assignment, Patricia and her co-worker Rexx discover unedited banned books in a pre-wall van tucked out of view. This leads them on a destructive journey to dissect the truth about the time surrounding the erection of the border walls.
About Jacqui’s novel, The Walls are Closing In, a dark novel set in a chilling future:
Decades after The Seclusion, during which America constructed massive border walls and sealed itself off from the outside world, thirty-one-year-old Patricia Evans lives within the panoptic nightmare of a total surveillance state. A cautionary tale.
“In the beginning, in 2022 when it was first erected, they say the entirety of its length was rigorously patrolled for twenty-four hours a day. No more. Decades have passed, multiple generations have been born in its shadow, and it has become as natural a part of the landscape as the wildflowers that innocently climb its base.”
The Walls are Closing In is now available for pre-order at Inkshares! As many of you may recall, I spent a year on the Inkshares platform and from time to time certain books really catch my eye. Jacqui’s is one of them, and in fact I was so compelled by her trailer video (watch it!) and opening that I decided to reach out and get her to share here.
At the time of writing this, Jacqui only needs 15 more pre-orders to hit her pre-order goal. Order now if you want to help out!
Connect with Jacqui:
Fan email address: JacquiCastle@gmail.com