Jessica Dotta has always been fascinated by the intricacies of society that existed in England from the Regency through the Edwardian era. She says she writes because story can fuel courage, help one stand strong, and spark the desire to act noble. And she writes in a manner that blends past and modern fiction techniques. Her first novel, Born of Persuasion, released earlier this month.
She and her daughter live in the Nashville area, where she works as a freelance media consultant and publicist.
Let’s talk about Born of Persuasion (Tyndale House, September 2013), your debut book and the first from your Price of Privilege Series. Please tell us about it.
The Price of Privilege trilogy is set in Victorian, England and is narrated by the protagonist, Julia Elliston, who after a lifetime of silence is finally setting the record straight about the scandal that shocked England during her teens.
It begins with Born of Persuasion when Julia is in her seventeenth year. She’s recently orphaned and living on the charity of an anonymous guardian who intends to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.
With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own.
How does your faith play into your writing?
It’s impossible to separate the personality of the writer from the writing. If our job as writers is to tell truth, to offer perspective, and to speak what everyone is thinking, but won’t say aloud, then writers need to be transparent.
Faith is an integral part of my life, and therefore necessary to my writing. My daily decisions are not based solely on how I feel about a situation, but on doctrine, too. I often wrestle with the reality of what being a Christ follower means, and this wrestling becomes transparent in my writing.
It’s a beautiful cover. How much input did you have?
Thank you! I, too am really pleased with the covers for the Price of Privilege trilogy! I was holding my breath up until the moment I finally saw them.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the head of the graphic design team at Tyndale, and was able to share my thoughts. For the most part, I spoke of the tone of the books, the mood, and what happens in each story. We also touched on what I dislike in book covers (such as seeing the full face.)
Tyndale also surveys their authors. When I saw the covers for the first time, I was stunned! I absolutely loved them. It was surreal seeing years of hard work instantly unveiled. When I went back and checked the survey, I could see Tyndale really took to heart my thoughts!
Detours in life can be frustrating—kind of like plot twists in the stories we write—but the outcome is often more intriguing than our original plan. Can you tell us about a recent “detour” in your life—or in one of your character’s lives—that taught you something?
Wow, that’s a loaded question! Prior to my publication, my entire world fell apart. My marriage crumbled and I had to start life anew without funds, a car, a job while living in a house that was in the process of foreclosure. Adding to the challenge, I knew the clock was ticking. I had a daughter to provide for. The stress combined with my grief was substantial.
I remember at one point, going out and raking the leaves in the front yard, because without a vehicle, I had nowhere to go, but I needed to do something. Anything. When I finished raking the leaves, I leant against one of the brick ledges that flanked my front steps, and wished I could fast-forward one year, where I’d be on the other side of this mess, having already made it through somehow.
It seems that I’m either fated for irony, or perhaps that I miss the obvious lesson, because exactly one year later, days after my divorce being finalized and having recently signed a one-year lease, in a new city—I lost my full-time job.
Once again, uncertainty surrounded me. I did recall my wish to be fast-forwarded with a certain humor.
I learnt that healing isn’t always tranquil and calm, but sometimes chaotic and beyond our ability. I learnt that God is faithful, and that His timing isn’t ours. When He says He is making a way in the wilderness, the paths probably won’t look like we expect them to.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
My friends and I have made a point to celebrate book accomplishments (such as signing a contract) with fried chicken. It’s a fun, rare treat. (Unless you’re a chicken.)
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
None at all, but I appreciate music and it is a major part of my life.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Something that would be sung in the Prayer Room.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I suppose I’d be the unassuming girl next door, who goes out and surprises her neighbors by accomplishing a quiet, yet persistent goal she’s been walking towards.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I have a dachshund named Ellie and a cat named Miss Marple. I had wanted a dachshund for years and years. Ellie entered my life about two months before my world fell apart. I am so glad I had a dachshund on hand during that season! They are the most persistent and stubborn dog breed I’ve encountered. Yet there were days, I needed that dachshund-stubbornness around to cheer me.
Miss Marple has a funny story, too! I had decided to get a cat, and for four days, I was unable to find one on Craigslist or at a shelter. Then, while I was out on errands, my landlady called me and said, “Oh, Jessica! I found a cat while I was out walking. You said you wanted one, so I put her in your apartment!”
Picturing a stray cat, yowling in my apartment and spraying my couches, I raced home ready to confront my landlady. I found a darling kitten.
Thanks, Jessica! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Jessica, visit her website.
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Kathy, THANK YOU so much for featuring me! You asked great questions!
Jessica, aware of what you’ve been through, I’m glad you didn’t surrender your dreams, nor faith. May you be blessed with many more novels and many fans.
What a lovely interview! Having known Jessica for many years, I am so happy and proud that she has finally fulfilled her dream to become an author! We joke about how, in the seventh grade, I knew that one day, she would become an accomplished writer. Jessica has always had a strong faith in God and I believe that it was He, who led her to her dreams being fulfilled!
Whoa, that sounds like a lot of chaos, Jessica! At a recent seminar, we learned healthy churches have a certain amount of chaos as they work with the Holy Spirit. His plans are not ours! Blessings on your journey!
Thank you so much, Cahty, Katie and Elaine!
Thanks to all for stopping by!
Jessica, it was great to have you as a guest and to talk about your debut. I wish you many writing blessings ahead.