I'd like to welcome Jesse Giles Christiansen to Cozy Up With Kathy today.
JGC: Great question! The dream that I had that originally inspired PELICAN BAY centered on the Atlantic Ocean. I live in Atlanta on a beginning author’s budget, so just drove to the east coast, starting around Savannah, for an economic research book trip. When I meandered north to South Carolina, I fell in love with the environment that you can only find in that area. The beautifully haunting chorus of oaks at bass, moss at tenor, dunes at alto, and wild grass at soprano, dove into my heart and has never left. Add in an audience of fetid marsh and sun-baked oysters and you have a writer’s banquet.
Kathy: Do you consider Pelican Bay a mystery at heart, or something else?
JGC: Certainly a mystery at its core, but it is so much more. The mystery is just a plot structure, a dinosaur’s bones. But as the reader clears away Carolina sand, their imaginations will fill in the muscle and sinew of a meaningful scary gorgeous beast roaming the countryside of human experience. Captain Shelby is the great grandfather not just of the sea, but of all the father figures that can come and go for us. And the love story between Ethan and Morgan stems from a semi-autobiographical suffering that transcends into a metaphor for how we all want what we can’t have. Finally, the mystery itself speaks to that big question all mystery lovers must ask themselves, eventually. Are some things better left alone?
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
JGC: I’ve always been fascinated by the big mysteries. Why are we here? What can human experience teach us? What answers does the sea still hold for us? And so I may be writing mysteries for a while, likely encapsulated by the ocean.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JGC: Genre is such a funny animal, like driving in Tennessee. One minute you’re in one genre, the next minute you’re in another. My novels encompass the genres of magical realism, literary fiction, and historical fiction, in addition to mystery suspense, the genre my publisher has given me. Perhaps genre is just the main face the novel puts on in the morning. I can see my novel’s main face very possibly changing in future novels.
Kathy: Tell us about your book.
JGC: PELICAN BAY is about a very old fisherman and the mysterious events that occur when a nosy, sea-battered beach town starts investigating him. The reader must answer the question, “are some things better left alone?”
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JGC: Captain Shelby, hands down. He is the biggest, most complicated, volatile, and fun character of my author career to date.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your book?
JGC: PELICAN BAY actually came from a strange dream where I was standing with an ex-girlfriend peering out to sea at dark rocks lurking beneath the surf. I awoke quite disturbed, and my fingers did the rest. Captain Shelby was birthed magically from the bare pages of the novel by the end of the first chapter.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JGC: This is an excellent question. For me it’s about finishing my life without regret. I hope this doesn’t come across as even remotely morose, but I’m very in touch with the reality that life can take one at any moment for any reason. I feel that I need to leave some kind of legacy behind. It’s a sort of fascinating relief I feel now that PELICAN BAY is with Imajin Books and has been a list bestseller for a month running now. I know without a doubt that Cheryl Kaye Tardif, owner and acquisitions editor, is passionate about the novel as well and would keep promoting it for some time to come. I’m actually a very positive person, but I live very much in the moment. Always been that way.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JGC: Tough one. Definitely Hemingway, whose haunting, athletic prose in OLD MAN AND THE SEA and his other novels certainly inspired PELICAN BAY. I’ve sat next to him a few times on Amazon, and it is a little eerie. Annie Proulx, beyond a doubt. When I read THE SHIPPING NEWS, I think that’s when I first really learned how much a simile can arrow a reader’s heart. Also, her literary work teaches author’s to break boundaries. Truman Capote for the way he stretches words like exotic, beautifully bold saltwater taffies. And finally, Jack London, who taught me about the rhythm and self-reflectiveness of good writing.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JGC: Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge and Song of the Sea God by Chris Hill. I always read at least one classic book and one contemporary book at the same time.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JGC: I’m also a singer/songwriter and one of my goals is to record and promote songs for each of my books. I’m a gigantic movie buff as well. I only own movies with spectacular scripts and premises, and gain many of my novel plot directions from my “mental movie idea library.”
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JGC: Peanut butter, Cheerios, apples, and southwest mustard. Delicious combo, eh?!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either related to Pelican Bay or not?
JGC: A prequel about the origins of Captain Shelby and the settlers of Pelican Bay is a very strong possibility. I also plan to write an historical fiction/mystery/suspense about a famous sunken ship. Geez, I’m really seeing a theme here. Perhaps it will be a while before I write the sea out of me.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JGC: Getting into that mysterious sweetly painful exhilarating creative space, especially those days when great words magically appear on the screen, lingering literary emotions spawn of nouns and adjectives and verbs. What a miracle. I’ve dedicated the remainder of my life to it.