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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Interview with Author Jessica Topper

Meet Jessica Topper, author of Louder Than Love.

She can trace her love for the written word back to age three, when she memorized Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice in its entirety.After her daughter was born in 2001, Jessica left the Manhattan library world and began working for her husband’s music management company. He offered her a part-time bookkeeping job so she could “stay home for the baby’s first year” and pursue her dream of writing.The baby is now eleven years old, and Jessica has been working her “full-time, sold-her-soul-for-rock-n-roll job” as Office Manager for veteran jam band moe. in their Buffalo, NY headquarters. She may have traded in books for bookkeeping, but the printed word is never far from her mind, or her heart.LOUDER THAN LOVE, her debut women’s fiction effort, is set to release September 17, 2013 through Berkley/Intermix (Penguin.

Places to find Jessica:

First off, can you tell us a bit about you?
Short and sweet version: I’m short. I’m sweet! I studied English in college and received my Master’s in Library Science, so I’ve spent much of my life surrounded by books. Then I married into rock and roll and immersed myself into another type of books: bookkeeping for touring bands, so I could work from home and raise my daughter. I’m a recovering vegetarian, a concert junkie, I’ve never been stung by a bee and I have a mild case of Coulrophobia (fear of clowns.)

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, probably since I was old enough to hold a crayon! My brother and I used to create our own comic book stories as kids. I remember creating a superhero called Blanket Man. (Think Linus, only with super powers.) I spent hours in my bedroom as a teenager, cranking tunes and banging out stories on my parents’ old Underwood typewriter. My friends would peer over my shoulder and dictate who they wanted as their love interests, and what kind of designer jeans they should be wearing, and I would weave their desires into my stories. I went through a tortured poetry phase in college as well (doesn’t everyone?), but I’ve always been drawn to making fiction happen.

What kind of writer are you? Panster or Plotter?
I think I’m a weird hybrid of “unorganized plotter” or “OCD-pantser” – I ride the fence and haven’t set my feet firmly down in either camp. As a former librarian, I am a stickler for authenticity and research, and am deathly afraid of anachronisms. So I tend to focus on the minute details, even if the big picture is chaotic in my mind.

I basically wrote “Louder Than Love” in my head and told it to myself as a bed time story for months before deciding I’d better get the ideas down on paper before I forgot them. So I started a “notes” document where I stashed scene ideas, character names and backgrounds, snippets of dialogue, and a rough timeline. That’s what I usually do now for a story idea. It becomes a bottomless treasure chest that I can pull from, or add to. There are days when I’m writing like a fiend and don’t consult the notes, but it’s always good to know they are there. I went old-school and broke out the paper, pencil and tape to create not only a timeline for my characters’ lives (and even Adrian’s band) in “Louder Than Love,” but I even drew a map of how I imagined the fictional town of Lauder Lake would look!

Where do your ideas come from?
Boredom and thin air, ha ha! Although working for a touring band, it’s easy and fun to find inspiration for musician-based stories. I might be backstage where the drummer is complaining that there is salsa on the catering table but no chips to go with it, and my head starts spinning funny tales. I get to see a side of bands and the road that the fans rarely see, and I like sharing and twisting the little nuances to surprise readers.

A la Twitter style, can you describe your book (or series) in 140 characters or less.
Eeek, that’s hard! I’m the worst Tweeter ever. How about a haiku?
Tattooed rocker guy
Meets widowed librarian
Will they find true love?

What are some of your favorite kinds of stories to read?
I am a sucker for happily ever afters, no matter how off-beat or unconventional they are. I also love a good case of mistaken identity, and a sexy under-dog hero to root for. Stories that make me laugh, stories that make me think. Books whose worlds I can’t get off my mind for days after finishing.

Do you have a favorite book and if so what is it?
No, I honestly don’t. I have different favorites for different moods but not one single favorite. I would hate to have to ever choose!

What are the scenes that are the hardest for you to write?
I’d have to say the black moment scenes are what I struggle with the most, where everything has gone wrong and all is lost – I hate hurting my characters! I’m ever a romantic optimist, so it’s hard for me to make my characters suck at something, or suffer. I always want to throw a redeeming quality or a Deus ex Machina in there too early, and my critique partners yell at me, LOL. I’m getting better at it – more ruthless. ;)

If you could have dinner with any three authors, who would you choose and why?
Funny you should ask that: there’s a similar question in Louder Than Love during a game of Truth Or Dare! I’m not even going to ask “living or dead?” because dead authors would be zombies and that would creep me out and make me lose my appetite. I’d have to go with 1) Nick Hornby. I know I can’t talk sports with him, but I adore his books and I could hold my own on the topic of music. 2) J.K. Rowling, because I am fascinated with her imagination and I think it would be fun to talk to her about hypogriffs, or just gossip about the people at the next table. 3) Joyce Carol Oates. She’s so prolific, yet has never been pinned down in a genre or as a brand. Plus we grew up in the same ‘hood, although different generations. It’s said she trained herself by writing novel after novel in college, and she would throw them away when she was done. I would love to ask her what the stories were like that she threw away.

Last question, are you working on anything right now?
I am, as fellow Women’s Fiction author Laura Drake would say, “juggling chainsaws” at the moment: working on more than one book at a time. I recently followed two different plot bunnies that hopped past and I hope to finish both of them before the end of the year!

Put on your musical thinking caps: If you could take one song and claim it as the soundtrack of your life, what would it be?

In this powerful debut novel, a young librarian grieves the loss of her husband…and discovers a love that defies classification.

It’s been over three years since a train accident made a widow of Katrina Lewis, sending her and her young daughter Abbey back to the suburban town of her youth…the only place that still makes sense. Lauder Lake is the perfect place to hide and heal.

Recluse rocker Adrian “Digger” Graves survived the implosion of his music career, but his muse has long lain dormant. Until Kat hires him to play at her library—not on the basis of his hard rock credentials but rather, because of the obscure kids’ TV jingle he wrote years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, Adrian stumbles into the lives of Kat and her comically lovable daughter.

Using tattoos as a timeline, Adrian unfurls his life for Kat. But as the courtship intensifies, it’s unclear whose past looms larger: the widow’s or the rocker’s. Will their demons ever rest, or will they break these soul mates apart?

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes |


  1. My song: Left of Center by Suzanne Vega

  2. Love it, Janice - good choice! I'm thinking today mine would be "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang! But tomorrow I will be back to Elvis Costello "Everyday I Write the Book". :)

    Thanks for letting me ramble on the blog today, Ramblings from this Chick!

  3. This will sound corny, but it would be Always by Atlantic Starr. While my hubby and dated, back before the internet and cell phones and you used to write letters to each other while in college, we signed everything "Always". So when we got married he found this song as our wedding song. The words fit perfectly. We even have our wedding bands inscribed with the word Always. :)

  4. There are many songs that would be the soundtrack of my life ranging from Wham's Wake Me Up (Before you go go) to AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long. I am dating myself here, but I love the 80s!

    I love the interview and I LOVE the book! For all the readers out there who would love to read this book, I have a giveaway for two ebook copies of Louder Than Love. U.S. only giveaway.

    Please stop by and check it out!