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Interview: Jackie Morse Kessler, Author of HUNGER


Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

The next book in the quartet, RAGE, comes out in April 2011.

1) Before HUNGER, you wrote adult fantasy/paranormal. Was the transition easy, or did it come with some challenges?

For HUNGER, switching from adult to YA was smooth--the story practically wrote itself. When I was writing RAGE, though, I kept an eye on the explicit scenes and on the profanity -- basically, I asked myself if any of it was gratuitous, or if it was essential to the story. I believe I kept everything that was essential. (I hope!)

2) What inspired you to write the Riders' Quartet?

I wanted to write HUNGER for a long time -- ten years! But I didn't think that anyone would be interested in a magical realism novel about an anorexic girl who becomes the new Famine. My agent convinced me otherwise, and happily, Harcourt bought the book. And then my agent asked me, "So which Horseman are you writing about next?" And that's when HUNGER became the first book in what I think of as The Riders' Quartet and what readers have been calling The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

3) While HUNGER has its lighter moments (like Death, who is hilarious!) it deals with the heavy issue of eating disorders. Were there any parts that were particularly difficult to write?

Hee, I'm so glad you like Death. :) The book overall was extremely cathartic for me, so while I hit a couple of bumps near the beginning for strictly craft reasons, I didn't have any true difficulty writing it. RAGE was far more difficult for me to do. And the third book, LOSS, is giving me hives. (Appropriate, I suppose, since it's Pestilence's book...)

4) What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

You can't fix what you don't write. Don't get hung up on making it perfect the first time out; get the story down. Then go back and make it better. :)

5) What was the best advice you, yourself, have received during your publishing career?

Joe Konrath told me years ago that if I wanted to make writing my business, I had to treat writing like a business. That was the first time I'd ever separated the craft of writing from the business of publishing. That was a huge wake-up call. Because of that, I started blogging and got a website, started having an online presence, got more active in online writing groups, and started looking at the market. None of that takes away the importance of **writing**, of course, but it does stress the fact that while writing is art, getting commercially published is business.

6) A portion of the proceeds from each sale of HUNGER is going to the National Eating Disorders Association, and from the next book, RAGE, to To Write Love On Her Arms, which I think is awesome. What made you decide to do this?

If there's a theme to the Horsemen books, it's how we choose to destroy ourselves, and how we can save ourselves as well. I knew from the beginning that if HUNGER sold, I'd donate a portion to NEDA. Once RAGE sold, I thought I should do the same for it, to TWLOHA, and for the other two Horseman books. I have charities in mind for them, but I'll decide for certain once I finish writing the books. :)

You can find Jackie Morse Kessler on twitter, her website, and her blog
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. I am adding this to my list! What a great story and fantastic interview.

  2. This sounds so different than anything else out there. I love the concept. Can't wait to read. Thanks for the great interview!

  3. thanks for the interview! great advice, and your books sound totally intriguing.

  4. This sounds amazing! It's going on my list right now!

  5. Love this concept- can't wait to read it. Thanks for the interview, Jackie and Kaits!

  6. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this, and found it to be a really terrific surprise. I haven't been heavily into this kind of urban fantasy since I was about 14, but it brought all those good feelings back. HUNGER totally reminds me of the best of LJ Smith. Really recommend it.

  7. I have to say, I was just browsing down my blogs list when I caught the first sentence of the pitch and had to know more. This book sounds terrific, and I can't wait to read it.

  8. Wow, how has this been off my radar? Thanks for posting, I'm totally interested :)

  9. Great interview! What an awesome-sounding series.


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Item Reviewed: Interview: Jackie Morse Kessler, Author of HUNGER Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward