Today we’re introducing Jessica Arnold, author of The Looking Glass (Month9Books, 2014). One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)

How I got published—it’s a puzzler for certain. At five I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be anything but a writer. Writing was BORING, as I would happily tell anyone who asked. (The real reason I hated it: I had terrible handwriting and my teacher would draw frowny faces next to my most illegible words. I therefore avoided writing as much as I could.)

But things really started to change in my freshman year of college. I was in a writing class with a professor who really boosted my confidence. A year later I completed my obligatory disaster of a first novel, which I quickly trashed (and try to speak of as little as possible). But, when the inspiration for The Looking Glass came a year after that, I was eager to give this book writing thing another shot.

The first iteration of The Looking Glass was pretty dreadful, and, because I was a little overeager to try querying, I made the mistake of sending the manuscript out too soon. But through some miracle, an assistant to one of the agents I queried really fell in love with the manuscript. As luck would have it, she soon became an agent herself and immediately contacted me to see if I still needed representation. (Incidentally, she offered on my birthday.) She and I worked for months to whip the manuscript into shape. A couple months into submitting, I was thrilled to get a two-book contract with Month9Books.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

I like to tell people that The Looking Glass is “The Yellow Wallpaper” meets Alice in Wonderland. It was in part inspired by the tragic death of my two friends’ niece, who drowned in a swimming pool and for a week was kept alive on life support. The main character, Alice, is on vacation when she hits her head on the bottom of the pool and falls into a coma. While her body is slowly dying in the hospital, Alice finds herself trapped in the hotel, entirely alone, only able to see the real-world hotel through the mirrors. She soon discovers the diary of a young actress who went insane in the attic a hundred years earlier and, before killing herself, cursed the hotel. With less than a week before her parents pull the plug on her life support, Alice has to figure out how to break the curse—all the while trying to stay sane herself.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

For a couple more months I’m still a graduate student (getting my masters in May). So for the moment most of my “free” time is spent doing homework. I also work for two small publishers and do a bit of freelance manuscript layout and design work, which keeps me busy. Then I get on Facebook and “like” my friends’ posts to make up for having no social life.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  •  I have a black belt in Taekwondo (but was frequently told off in class for not being scary enough)
  • For my language credit in college, I decided on a whim to take Modern Hebrew (apparently useful is not a quality I look for in a language). I haven’t gotten to use it since, so if you speak Hebrew and want to have a basic conversation with me, I will love you forever.
  • I make the occasional yarn cat (a vintage eighties pattern I discovered in my grandma’s garage). They are equal parts adorable and creepy and I have to give them away so they don’t keep me up at night. If you’re lucky, you might get one.
Jessica Arnold is currently a graduate student in publishing at Emerson College in Boston. She spends most of her time in class or work or slogging through the homework swamp, but if she has a spare moment, she’s always up for a round of Boggle. Her debut novel, THE LOOKING GLASS (Month9Books, January 2014), is a loose retelling of Alice in Wonderland.

5 thoughts on “Jessica Arnold: THE LOOKING GLASS

  1. Thanks, everyone! The Yellow Wallpaper’s one of my favorites too, Michelle—obviously ;). And I’ve decided that yarn cat creepiness is directly related to how many buttons I use for the eyes. It’s a mathematical truth.

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