Interview by Kai
I was instantly mesmerized by the alluring cover of Jessie Harrell‘s debut novel, “Destined.” That certainly invited me to read the author’s work and learn more about the woman behind it all. So, just who is Jessie Harrell? Well, she’s not among the authors writing novels about the usual vampires and werewolves. Harrell is a wife, mother, occasional traveler, and lover of ancient myths. I’m certain that the tagline “you cannot escape what is destined” not only applies to her first book but to the writer ‘Beneath the Surface‘ as well. And I suggest you jump on board, read her debut and get in the know because another masterpiece is set for release.
Check out our exclusive interview below to learn more:
EY: Thanks for doing this interview Jessie. Let’s start off by talking about your life growing up in Florida.
What’s not to love about Florida? I was born in Orlando, so I’ve been to Disney a time or two. J When I was in middle school, we moved to Stuart, which is on the east coast, just a little north of West Palm Beach. I grew up surrounded by water – rivers and oceans – and I’m not sure I could live somewhere that was landlocked. Even now in Jacksonville, my family enjoys regular trips to the beach.
EY: You majored in Classical Studies and even attended law school so what inspired you to become a writer, and why Greek mythology at that?
Well, for Classical Studies, I really focused on ancient Greek and Roman history and culture. I just couldn’t get enough of it, especially the mythology. So when I sat down and figured out that I wanted to write for teens, my love for mythology instantly resurfaced. And look – I’m finally getting to put my degree to good use!
EY: Who are some of the authors that influence you?
I think subconsciously, every author you read influences you somehow. You take away from each book something you liked or didn’t and learn how to improve your own craft. That being said, I stumbled onto Twilight a few months after I started writing, and Stephanie Meyer’s writing really influenced me. I know a lot of people didn’t care for her writing style, but the love story she told was so compelling, and I knew I wanted to be able to capture people’s attention like that.
EY: Tell us about your first novel “Destined” and your interpretation of the tagline “you cannot escape what is destined.”
Destined is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Eros & Psyche. First and foremost, it’s a love story. But it’s also a story about growth, frailty, overcoming obstacles and trying to control your fate. The tag line actually is an ancient Greek adage that I discovered while researching. As soon as I read it, I knew it was a perfect fit for the story and the official name for the novel was born.
EY: How long did it take to research the history and actually put the story together?
That’s hard to say, since I did a lot of research as I went along. I made sure I really had a firm grasp of the myth before I began, but there were a TON of little details that required research (I love the internet!) For example, I’ve seen several people gripe because Psyche eats cheesecake in the novel and they can’t believe there would’ve been cheesecake in ancient Greece. My answer to them is: go look it up! If I mention something in the novel (this includes everything from birds, to trees, to gem stones), it’s possible for it to have existed in that period.
EY: What I thought was really great is how the story takes place in ancient Greece but you gave it somewhat of a modern feel. Do you think that by doing so young adults these days can relate much more to the characters?
That’s my hope! I’m always floored when I hear people of any age say they think mythology is boring. I wanted to put mythology out there in a way that made it feel like it could be happening now, but was still firmly rooted in ancient times. My hope is that it makes the myths accessible for any age, but particularly young adults.
It’s very gratifying to know that people are reading and enjoying something that I worked so very hard on.
EY: Jessie, I have to admit that it was the cover of the book that grabbed my attention at first. Do you get a lot of comments like that regarding how stunning the cover is before people actually read it and gave you a strong feedback on the novel?
Yes. You are definitely not alone. (LOL!) And that’s actually something that I’m really proud of because my cover designer and I worked really hard to come up with a design that would capture attention AND the feel of the novel. I spent hours scouring photographs until I found Perri on deviantart.com. (It was hard picking a face that would represent the “most beautiful woman in the world.”) Perri’s from Norway and I e-mailed her and asked if I could buy rights to her self-portrait. She agreed and the rest is history. I couldn’t have been happier with the finished result.
EY: How do you feel about the positive reception you’ve gotten and still receive for “Destined?”
It’s very gratifying to know that people are reading and enjoying something that I worked so very hard on. I think all authors are nervous when they put their “baby” out into the world, but the positive feedback has put a lot of my nerves to rest. My favorite feedback is always hearing from teachers whose students have read and loved the story, that makes me know I’ve reached my intended audience and hopefully created (or further encouraged) a love of mythology.
EY: What some may not know is that you’re also a contributor to the In His Eyes Anthology, a collection of sixteen original short stories depicting the point of view of male characters. The name of yours is “Before,” featuring a younger Eros. What are you hoping to accomplish by letting us explore his character further and going back to a time where he hadn’t even met Psyche as yet?
Well, in Destined, you get to know Eros fairly well because of the dual point of view. One of the things he reveals to Psyche is the time a girl broke his heart into a million pieces, and really, the fall out of that failed relationship explains a lot of his actions. So when the Indelible decided we’d put together stories from the male point of view, I figured I’d go back and really delve into that heartbreak. After all, we don’t typically think of the gods as that vulnerable, and I wanted to give my readers more insight into Eros’s all-too-human emotions.
I feel like I’ve found my niche with mythology, whether it’s Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or any of the others I have yet to explore.
EY: And certainly you’re motivated to keep writing because you have another novel in the works. Can you share a little with us about “Beneath the Surface” without giving too much away?
BTS (as Nikki – she co-wrote it with me – and I call it for short) is such a fun novel. It’s a modern day twist on an obscure Greek myth, with elements of past lives and a strong paranormal feel. As I describe it on my website:
“A timeless love. An endless curse. Which one will survive the summer?”
EY: When can we expect this next release?
Hopefully soon. Nikki and I are giving it a fresh edit, but depending on how we decide to publish it, it may still be a little while. Traditional publishing moves at a snail’s pace, while we would have total freedom if we decide to Indie publish.
EY: A lot of novels these days are about vampires and werewolves because of that huge ‘saga.’ Do you have any interest in taking that writing direction in the future?
As much as I love reading about vampires (and yes, I’m Team Edward all the way), I don’t see myself really writing about them. I wrote a short vampire story once, but that will probably be the extent of it. I feel like I’ve found my niche with mythology, whether it’s Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or any of the others I have yet to explore.
I’d say to anyone interested in writing, that you can do it, but you have to commit to it.
EY: And there are a lot of good novels out lately. Are there any in particular that piqued your interest?
Of course, but it’s hard to know where to start! I loved Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller, Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series, and Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz.
Spellbound is one of my favs as well.
EY: So, what’s next for you?
I’ll be included in another anthology published by Month 9 Books this fall called Two and Twenty Dark Tales. It’s a collection of dark retellings of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. My assigned rhyme is “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” and there will be Egyptian mythology involved. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
EY: Thanks again for sharing a little time with us. Please leave a message for your readers and any tips for those interested in becoming authors as well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do such a thorough interview. I’d say to anyone interested in writing, that you can do it, but you have to commit to it. Spend time learning the craft, attending conferences, and reading other books. Get critique partners, beta readers and even consider hiring an editor. There are so many resources available on line, you just have to start looking, spend a little time on it daily, and make your writing dreams a reality.
- Purchase “Destined” online now at Amazon or from your nearest book store if you haven’t because it is truly unbelievably amazing.
Find more info. on Jessie Harrell and her books by visiting the following links: