Stella: Hi Jess, I am so very happy to welcome you to Ex Libris! You are a debut author and a career soldier. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your job in the Army?
Jess: Hi Stella,Thanks so much for inviting me to Ex Libris! Hmm, my life is chaos, honestly. I just left company command so I'm on a little bit of a break but a normal day starts at 530 in the morning on the way to physical training and usually ends somewhere around 1800 ish. Some night were a lot longer. But my writing day doesn't usually start until after 2000 after the kids go to bed when I finally get time to sit down and knock out a few paragraphs.
Stella: Your novel Because of You, the first in a contemporary romance series featuring military heroes was released on November 14, congratulations! Would you mind telling readers what they can expect of Because of You and the following novels?
Jess: I'm super proud of my books. When I first started trying to pitch my military romance series, I had a heck of a time because people heard military and immediately thought romantic suspense. They're not suspense in any shape, despite having military characters. My agent says they're love stories, involving people who happen to be in the military. They are much more contemporary stories of community and really about how life changes when you come home from war. No one comes home unchanged, I don't care who you are. The questions then are how you deal with them and those are the questions that I tackle in the Coming Home series.
Because of You is the first book and each book will build upon the previous book but my goal is to make sure each book can stand alone, too. Because of You deals with one soldiers journey of discovering who he is when he no longer wears the uniform. Pretty heavy on the angst but there are some lighter moments, too. The following novels deal with more issues on the home front. Back To You tells Trent & Laura's story and is about a man trying to win back his wife after he's been gone to war constantly, seeking atonement for his sins. Until There Was You is the story of a female soldiers journey to be the best she can be and the scars she tries to keep hidden.
Stella: You write about issues you have first hand knowledge of (deployment, tour in wartorn countries, camaraderie between soldiers, wounded/healing soldiers etc.), either because you have experienced them yourself or have witnessed them. Being this connected to these issues made your description and narration sound authentic and realistic. But what were the difficulties of writing about such delicate and close to home topics, were there any hardships?
Jess: The ideas for these books can really come from anywhere. The toughest thing is making sure that real life doesn't accidentally make its way into fiction in any way that would be either disloyal, disrespectful or a violation of trust. I don't always remember where I've read things or where I've heard things, so I have to be incredibly careful to make sure that I don't include real life, you know?
Stella: You are a young woman, wife, mother and a career soldier. Being a European civilian I am not familiar with army-life, I mostly know what I do from fiction novels, so would you mind please enlightening me as to an issue I have read about several times but am still a bit confused despite researching it? Namely the differnce between station and position of enlisted and officer soldiers. In novels, enlisted and officer soldiers not only can’t be in a relationship but usually even friendships are frowned upon. Is it the same in real life? And could you please tell me why that is? What is the main difference between them and why does the army keep up this differentiation even when someone has been in the army for some time?
Jess: The question is completely legitimate and yeah, I do understand why it's tough to wrap your brain around, not being familiar with the rank structure. The US military has basically two rank structures, officer and enlisted. Our legal responsibilities and expectations are different as are our requirements. So as an officer, a person has formal authority defined in law, whereas enlisted authority is based on executing the orders of the officer they work for.
One of the army regulations that determine policy clearly delineates between relationships, friendships or otherwise, between officers and enlisted and yet, when you have a relationship formed and tested in combat, those regulations sometimes become meaningless. So one of the things I tackles is the strength of relationships formed during wartime and the strain that not being in war places on them. Does that make sense?
Stella: Could you please briefly introduce to our readers the characters of Because of You?
Jen: I've known Shane through friends for a while but I never really talked with him. He's kind of intimidating, honestly. But we started talking one night before he deployed and it really struck me how deeply he cares about it the men he serves with. I never expected that I'd end up being the one who cared for him and let me tell you, he's not an easy patient. He hates asking for help and he's incredibly stubborn but I finally got him to take time for himself to heal.
Shane: I never really had time to notice anyone outside of work. I met Jen the night before I left on my third tour for Iraq. I don't know, I wasn't trying to meet anyone that night, I just wanted to keep my guys from going to jail. When I got blown up and sent home, she out up with a ton of my bullshit but never once did she let me feel sorry for myself. I had no idea she'd been sick but it only made me admire her more. She's the strongest person I know. And that's pretty damn sexy to me.
Stella: What was your favourite scene in Because of You? (either because the words just flew so easily or because even though you sweated blood and tears the end result was really worth it)?
Jess: There are only a few scenes in Because of You that survived the revisions process over the years. One of those is the scene where Jen finally shows her scars to Shane. So many women have issues getting naked with a guy when they're both aroused and here's this woman showing a man she isn't sleeping with her mastectomy scars just to point out that there is a life after major health problems. It took a lot for her to do that and the payoff, I hope, was worth it.
I've heard from breast cancer survivors who said they were so touched by the way Jens friends dealt with her. It was incredibly gratifying to have readers tell me they loved that Jen wasn't perfect and that she found a way to love again despite her scars.
Stella: Can you tell us what is next on your schedule, what can we expect from you?
Jess: Next up is Trent's story in Back to You followed by Claire's story in Until There was You. Both continue the theme of coming home from war and learning to live again in the world . After that, I'm working on three more stories in the coming home series and am cleaning up the proposal for them now.
Stella: In an old interview I have discovered on the web you say that there were several novels prior to Because of You: War's Darkest Fear, After the War and Angels Before Me. Would you like to say anything about these?
Jess: Some of those novels are actually earlier drafts the Coming Home series books. Angels Before Me is a draft of a Young Adult novel Jacob Descending which just finaled in the Writers Digest competition. Down the road, I'll probably revise that and see if it will sell but that's a longer term project.
Stella: Again in this interview I read that you wrote a paranormal romance. Is it available or does it still wait publication? What kind of supernatural species did it feature? And why did you chose them, what were their appeal?
Jess: While I was deployed, I started toying with the idea that there were really guardian angels walking among us. This was before fallen angels really glutted the marketplace. I'm always behind the trends, it seems. But my paranormal series was along the lines of what if the battle for the end times was actually happening and there were angels among us trying to stop it. I'll probably revisit that down the road, someday but right now, I'm focusing on the Coming Home series.
Stella: Did you ever consider writing a non-fiction book about your life and experience in the army or you prefer to use writing to escape reality and create gripping fictional stories instead?
Jess: I actually have a nonfiction project that deal with military mothers but had to shelve it due to some challenges with the text. I'd love to get that out there some time, but I'm not sure when it'll actually make the rounds to editors.
Stella: Is there a myth/misconception people have about the army, soldiers in general or about you when they hear you are a carrier soldier you’d like to clear?
Jess: I guess I'd hate to hear that people won't criticize the book because I'm a soldier. Look, I know everyone who has read it hasn't enjoyed it. It's impossible. But I hope that if people don't enjoy it, they don't feel muted because it's a soldier who wrote it. I also don't want people spending a lot of time trying to figure out if they're in the book. I work very hard to keep real people out of the book, you know?
Soldiers are just like you and me, we just wear a uniform and are truly part of something bigger. Not everyone can be a soldier, it's a privilege and an honor and one I take very seriously.
Find out more about Jess and her books at http://www.jessicascott.net/Welcome.html. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Random House has generously offered an ebook copy of Because of You to two lucky commenters!