I recently had the great pleasure to read Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge. And I happily gave it a well-deserved five out of five stars.
From the outside it would appear Melody Hill, the main character and narrator of Jessica Bell’s debut novel, String Bridge, has a perfect life. She lives in Athens with her charming Greek music promoter husband, she has an adorably precocious daughter, and she has a dream job as an editor for a publishing company with a promotion and raise in the offing.
But getting deeper into her story, the reader finds what’s hidden behind this façade and her wanting-to-please-everyone persona. She is frightened by her husband’s abusive yelling and mortified at finding out he has had an affair. She is suffering from the effects of her mother’s erratic bipolar behavior and worries that she is bipolar herself. She is constantly searching for help from her silent but loving father. And she regrets giving up her music career for a life that she can hardly bear anymore.
That author Bell is a poet is evident through her use of metaphors, rhyme, and repetition. As I said in my review of her book of poetry, Twisted Velvet Chain, Bell is “a genius at portraying the raw and the dark parts of life through her use of clipped lines, staccatos, onomatopoeia, and descriptions of icky body fluids.”
In String Bridge she describes a character sometimes so disheveled that she wears unmatched shoes to work, she doesn’t wash off yesterday’s smeared makeup or bother to separate whites from darks in the washing machine, and her buttons pop off her dress during a public speech. Melody always seems to be cleaning up jammy fingers or other messes. Bell excels in showing life’s little details.
This is a novel that has it all: regret, romance, sex, desire, guilt, an adorable child, a bumpy marriage, mental illness, a devastating tragedy, and the promise of a live-happily- ever-after-ending. But, that ending doesn’t negate the ever-increasing struggle to get there. String Bridge is a wonderful read, well worth going through the struggle to find out what happens to Melody Hill and her family in the end.
And I also had the opportunity to ask Jessica a few questions about her writing life.
1. Describe your writing work day.
To be honest, I don’t actually have one. You know that writing rule, that many an established writer preaches, “If you want to be a successful writer, you need to write every day”? I don’t live by it. I don’t even allocate specific hours. When I have time and feel inspired, I write. I think it’s perhaps because I write slowly and edit as I go. I can’t move on unless I’m satisfied with what I’ve written. It’s just my way. And it works for me. I’m now on to my third novel. Yes, it takes me about a year to finish that “first draft,” and then another year to revise, but my first drafts are more like the quality of a second draft when I’m finished with them. So I don’t mind being slow.
2. WOW, a third novel already. Do you also have a day job?
Yes. I’m a freelance English Language Teaching text book writer and editor. I’ve collaborated with Macmillan Education, Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, Hellenic American Union (HAU) and Education First. The latest book I’ve written is Build Up Your Writing Skills: for the ECCE, published by HAU.
3. Did you have other careers besides writing and playing music?
Well, actually, yes, and I still do it. Every now and again I do voiceovers for books, multimedia and toy companies.
4. You are so busy. Plus I am very impressed with all you accomplished with your blog tour. How did you arrange it?
Luckily I already had an established blog and have made so many wonderful friends through it. All I did was create an online form for people to sign up. In two weeks I had more than 90 blogs wanting to participate. Never underestimate the power of the social networking!
5. I'm definitely going to use your example in arranging my next tour. By the way, I love your book of poetry, Twisted Velvet Chain. Is String Bridge your first traditionally published work?
It’s my first published novel, yes. But I’ve had various poems and short stories published in anthologies and literary magazines.
6. How did you find your publisher? Lucky Press also published my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On and I couldn't be happier.
I actually found Lucky Press online when I was searching for a Small Press to submit to. I couldn’t believe it when I found their website. I just knew we would be a perfect fit. Looks like my instincts were right.
7. I felt the same way after I found Lucky Press. We're so lucky to have connected with it and each other. So, what other ways are you putting the Internet to work to promote your book?
Other than keeping my blog and website up-to-date, I’ve started a website dedicated to String Bridge. (www.stringbridge.com) Here readers will find book reviews, lyrics, and be able to listen to samples of the soundtrack and purchase it as well. I’ve also signed up with Bridge Social Media, a company dedicated to marketing authors and their work on all sorts of social media.
Thanks so much, Jessica. I'm indeed impressed. The only advice I have for you is: Keep Writing (which I already know you're doing).
If you are convinced from what you've read here to buy her book, here are some ways to do it and some ways to contact Jessica.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/
String Bridge (a novel): http://www.stringbridge.com/
String Bridge (a novel): http://www.stringbridge.com/
retreat & workshop site: http://hwrw.blogspot.com/blog: http://