Is your first name Jackie or Jackie Lea?
It’s just Jackie. My middle name is Lea (pronounced “Lee”). But my parents and friends have called me Jackie Lea my whole life, and sometime in high school I started using my middle name everywhere. Only then it was all in lowercase letters because I was desperately trying to channel e.e. cummings, whose poetry had sneak-attacked me in 11th grade.
When did you first start writing?
Before I even knew my letters, I was already a storyteller. Later, after the alphabet and I were on good terms, I started to put words to paper. My earliest dance with fiction was in the third grade, I believe: my friend and I created a family with eight kids in it and started to come up with stories about them. Junior high, more fiction. In high school and college, I focused on poetry. Later, after college graduation, I tried my hand at memoir, but (in a roundabout way) my obsessive-compulsive disorder felt “safer” with fiction, so I re-entered that beautiful and scary world.
How did you come up with the idea for Truest?
A couple things collided. I’d experienced Laurel’s condition myself (being vague here on purpose because of SPOILERS) and later, in a random Wikipedia search, learned there was a name for it. The idea to write a story about it stayed in my back pocket for a couple years until the time was ripe. The real cornerstone of Truest though is the character of Silas Hart. In January 2012, I just started creating a character I’d be happy to spend the next few years with, and Silas was so ready to be that person for me. Armed with the character of Silas and this tiny idea for his sister’s condition, I dove in headfirst.
I’m a young writer; what advice do you have for me?
Write! A lot. And read! Hands down, those are the very best things that you can do for yourself as a writer. I wrote a list of 16 things I wish I’d known as a beginner novelist, and that might be of interest to you as well. But the most important thing is that you write-write-write and that you read good, quality books.
What writers have influenced you?
C.S. Lewis takes the top spot. Even now, in my thirties, I read from The Chronicles of Narnia nearly every single day (they are my bedtime stories!). Narnia, along with his space trilogy and his non-fiction, have influenced me, my life and thoughts, and my writing. I’m also very inspired and influenced by YA novelists like Melina Marchetta, John Green, Jandy Nelson, and Markus Zusak.
Do you have OCD? Do I?
I do! It’s a horrible, tormenting, enslaving disorder until you learn to manage it. I spent 20 years in OCD hell before I underwent ERP therapy and broke those chains. Do you have OCD? Maybe. If you have intrusive, unwanted thoughts that create intense anxiety, and if you do something to alleviate that anxiety, then quite possibly. The first would be the obsessive part, the second the compulsive. See my posts about OCD here.
Are Minnesota winters really as bad as everyone says?
They are worse.