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Meet the Author > Chatting with Jamie Fessenden

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message 1: by Dreamspinner (new)

Dreamspinner Press (dreamspinnerpress) | 2637 comments Mod
Jamie Fessenden will be joining us today from 1-6 EST to answer questions, share excerpts, and otherwise keep us entertained!


message 2: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Hi, everyone! My name is Jamie Fessenden and I'll be hosting this chat today. I'm a relatively new author with two novellas and one short story published at Dreamspinner Press, and one novella that will be published this summer. For those who don't know anything about me, here's my bio:

"Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in Junior High School. He published a couple short pieces in his High School's literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest. But it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. His latest completed work premiered at the Indie Fest 2009 in Los Angeles and also played at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival two weeks later.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, NH, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie currently works as Technical Support for a computer company in Portsmouth, NH, but fantasizes about someday quitting his day job to be a full-time writer."


message 3: by Cardeno (new)

Cardeno C. (cardenoc) Good morning, Jamie!


message 4: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Good morning! Thanks for stopping by!


message 5: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments So, ask me anything. The speed of light? 186,000 miles per second. The year the Norse first colonized Iceland? 870 A.D. You want to know the capital of Peru? Well, I don't actually know that. But anything else....


message 6: by Moria (new)

Moria Mccain | 19 comments Good morning, Jamie. I've been curious about something. What made you decide to go from writing screen plays to writing romances? Or was it something you had wanted to try from before?


message 7: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Well, the problem with screenplays is that nobody sees them, unless you have the time and resources to make them into a film. I did make some into films, but I ended up with a bunch kicking around that nobody was reading. So I started writing stories and novels. :-)


message 8: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments I actually have a short werewolf screenplay that I think I'll be adapting into a short story soon. It's been a couple years since I wrote it and finding locations for it and talking about special effects really just hasn't gone very far, so I think it's time to get the story out there for people to READ!


message 9: by Moria (new)

Moria Mccain | 19 comments Oooo, I do love werewolf stories so adapt away! Have you adapted other screen plays into stories and is that difficult?

Yes, full of questions today. Aren't you lucky that I decided to check my inbox first today and saw your post? hehe


message 10: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments I'm always lucky to have you stop by, Moria. :-)

I've tried to adapt my first film to a novel, but didn't have much luck. It's a challenge, going from something that's primarily just images and dialog to a novel/short story format. As I've seen with many professional adaptations, the result can be dull as hell. You really have to get inside the character's heads, in order to do it right. Hopefully, I'll be able to do that with the werewolf story.


message 11: by Moria (new)

Moria Mccain | 19 comments Awww, aren't you sweet. I hope you're able to do that with the werewolf one. I think you'll be able to do it. You have a knack for getting inside their heads and making us see and feel what they're going through.

Besides the werewolf story, what else so you have in the works?


message 12: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments I also have two short werewolf stories (about 6k words each) that I never published, with the same central character. I've strung those together and I'm planning on polishing them (they were written a decade ago) and adding a third part to make a three-part novella. Hopefully, DSP will be interested in that.


message 13: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Other WIPs are a novel about a murder that occurs in a commune of ceremonial magicians (sort of an occult mystery), a historical samurai tale and a sword and sorcery fantasy. The latter was originally intended to be a YA novel, but the characters are 17 and it wouldn't really change anything to make them 18, so I might do that, when it's finished.


message 14: by Moria (new)

Moria Mccain | 19 comments Well, you get my vote. I would buy them!

So you want some standard questions? Like how do you get your ideas? (btw-I always hope that someone tells me that they get their ideas by standing naked in the forest and whistling)(or something like that)


message 15: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments I get my ideas by standing naked in front of the forest and whistling.

Otherwise, I get them from all over the place. Sometimes I'll see a movie or read a book that doesn't work for me, but there will be one tiny thing in it that could have made a great story, so I'll start toying with it and see where that takes me. The idea behind "We're Both Straight, Right?" came from watching porn (yes, I watch porn) and seeing all of these videos of "straight, college boys" (and for that matter "girls gone wild") and wondering what it would be like to DO that. One of my (otherwise great) reviews said it was a totally unrealistic situation, but I don't think it is. Hell, I might have done it in college!


message 16: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments One thing that's really critical to me is, whatever idea I come up with for the PLOT, the key to making it an interesting story is to put myself in the characters skins and make sure they're behaving like real people. I struggle with ever story to make sure the characters behave in as realistic a fashion as I can manage. Because that's what makes it interesting to me.


message 17: by Moria (new)

Moria Mccain | 19 comments Ha! Thanks, Jamie...I knew I could count on you for that answer. :D Actually, however, it is interesting to me to see how other writers get their ideas. I find it can be the oddest thing that triggers something for me. And I agree with you about having your characters behave in a realistic way. To have nothing but perfection is boring. I like characters who have flaws and make you like them anyway. One thing that I love about your stories is that you have accomplished that with your characters.


message 18: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Thanks! My characters definitely have flaws, which is why Larry doesn't always resonate with people. My most successful film, to date, involved a love interest who, five years previous to the story (in High School), got drunk at a party and passed out on a bed beside the main character. The main character woke to discover that he was receiving a blow job from this character and struck him in anger. The film begins as they're meeting again for the first time. Some people couldn't handle the idea that the main character forgives his friend for what he did, and they actually become a couple at the end. They thought that was too lenient on the guy who, in essence, raped him. However, my stories are also often about redemption and forgiveness. I don't believe it condones bad behavior for others to forgive it.


message 19: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments Hey Jamie. Managed to wrestle with my characters for a while this morning so figured i'd take a break and come say howdy.


message 20: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Hey! Glad you had a moment to pop in! How's it going?


message 21: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments Not bad. it's 2:30 and i actually feel like i've had a work-out from writing for the last couple hours!


message 22: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd post an excerpt from my current WIP. Its working title is "Murderous Requiem," and it's about a guy translating a 15th-century magical manuscript that is purported to heal people through music. This scene is where my main character, Jeremy, is handing the solo part to a giften 18-year-old singer who has all kinds of abuse and drug issues. The love interest in the story is Bowyn.


message 23: by Lou (new)

Lou Sylvre | 360 comments Hi Jamie. Looks like the party here is well under way. I was scrolling through the previous posts and much enjoying the discussion. Referring back to your first post about the home you and your spouse have in New Hampshire, it sounds wonderful, but for some reason I can't explain the coyotes surprise me. That aside, I love your concept about the ceremonial magicians mystery. I have more to say, because I always do, but I'll pause for breath.


message 24: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Murderous Requiem (working title) EXCERPT:

"Will you go to the rehearsal, then?" I asked.

"I'd rather not." He saw me looking displeased at that and quickly said, "You can work with me out here, can't you? I don't mind being with you. I just don't want to deal with everyone else, right now."

He was manipulating me again, I felt sure -- implying a personal relationship between us that didn't really exist. But I'd brought along his sheet music and my laptop, which would allow me to play him the MIDI version of his part, so I just went along with it.

I handed the music to him. "Do you read music?"

"Not really," he replied, eyeing the sheets curiously. "Enough to follow along, once I know the part. What are these words?"

"I have no idea what the words are," I admitted. "They might just be phonetic syllables that Ficino felt resonated musically and magickally, in some way."

I sat down cross-legged on the grass, setting the laptop in front of me and flipping it open. While it booted up, I said, "I have a cheesy electronic version of your part on here. You can listen to it and see if you can learn it from that."

I was skeptical about this. The notes weren't really what I would consider to be a melody. In other words, without the rest of the choir to support them, they sounded somewhat atonal -- they jumped from note to note without any real connection. An untrained singer would generally have difficulty remembering where the next pitch was, without a coherent melody line to lead him through the piece.

But Christopher had almost no problems with the piece, at all. I was surprised, after playing the first few notes, that he was able to sing them back exactly as he'd heard them, despite a diminished fifth, followed by an augmented seventh.

"Excellent!" I said, but he just nodded briefly, as if uncomfortable with the praise, so I played him another segment.

Again, he sang it back perfectly. We went through several short passages like this, until Christopher said, "This is kind of boring. Can we just do the whole thing at once?"

"Um...If you like. It's pretty long."

"Just play it a few times and I'll see if I can remember it."

So I did. He listened intently, following along on his pages of music and sort of half-singing along under his breath. We did that four or five times, until Christopher said, "Okay, I want to try it without the computer now."

"Go for it."

He sang it with the phonetic syllables, and once again, I found myself enthralled, not only by the music, but also by the perfection of his voice. There was an indefinable purity and richness to the tone that musicians often call "sweet," but more than that, Christopher had an instinctive feel for the rhythm of the piece, such as it was. He added crescendos and decrescendos, held notes at just the right moments and paused for dramatic tension. Somehow, he managed to string those seemingly random notes into something coherent and intensely beautiful, and the strange phonetic "words" felt as if they were words, as if he was singing of something both magnificent and heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
When he had finished, I found myself staring at Christopher in awed silence, profoundly moved. He himself seemed to have gone somewhere deep inside of himself, and as I watched, he blinked and focused his eyes on his surroundings.

Christopher said, softly, "Don't move."

I lowered my eyes from the young man's face and saw what he was looking at. We were still surrounded by crows on the hillside, but there were many, many more of them than I remembered being there when I walked up the hill. Now, they were eerily motionless, squatting down in the grass in silence, their heads cocked to one side or the other, their pebble-like black eyes watching Christopher intensely. The effect was extremely unsettling.

Then from somewhere far off, I heard Bowyn calling my name.

Startled, the crows all leapt into the air, and for one terrifying moment, Christopher and I were surrounded by a tornado of black fluttering wings, our ears assailed by indignant screeching.

Christopher covered his ears as though the noise was excruciatingly painful, pinching his eyes shut and screwing up his face like a little boy frightened by someone yelling at him. I glanced away, uncomfortable, as if I were seeing something he hadn't meant to show me.

"That was...odd," Bowyn said, as he drew near, looking up at the sky as if the crows might suddenly swoop down again. "I thought you were under attack, for a minute there."

"We were fine," Christopher said. He looked sullen now, all trace of fear gone from his features.

Bowyn glanced at me, but I just shrugged as I bent to pick up the laptop. We were fine, after all.


message 25: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Hi, Lou! Yes, we definitely have coyotes. I've recorded them from the porch. When they surround the house at night, it can be pretty creepy. We also have deer, foxes, fisher cats and wild turkeys. Fortunately, I haven't seen any bears yet. Those make me nervous.


message 26: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Jessica, I rarely get two hours of writing in, in one chunk. I'm too ADD. I envy anyone who can focus for that long!


message 27: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments BTW, Erich just pointed out that an "augmented 7th" is an octave, which isn't hard to sing at all. I should know this, because I majored in music. I meant to just say "7th."


message 28: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments To be fair, most of it was wracking my brain, and browser, for the song i wanted my stripper to dance to and then just writing his dance (which is tough as hell to write).

Jamie wrote: "Jessica, I rarely get two hours of writing in, in one chunk. I'm too ADD. I envy anyone who can focus for that long!"


message 29: by Lou (new)

Lou Sylvre | 360 comments I am so hooked on this ceremony piece, Jamie. It's spooky and surreal and I got set down right in the middle of it. I'm going to say awesome, but I mean it in the way of the dictionary definition. For me, the added draw is the musical aspect. I studied music (theory, history, voice, piano, guitar) for the first two years of college. In this case, when Christopher is singing in phonetic syllables, I think of shape-note singing. Are you familiar?


message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments Ooh, interesting effect with the crows. I quite like crows. I've got a bit of crow "medicine" though i rarely know quite what to do with it.

So this song has healing qualities? It's kind of the anti-Lullaby (ala Palahniuk).

Jamie wrote: "Murderous Requiem (working title) EXCERPT:


message 31: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Lou, I am familiar with shape note singing. I sang a piece or two in college with a choir director who loved to experiment and Erich has some recordings. It's beautiful stuff and very "strange" to modern ears.

However, the "phonetic syllable" in this story are actually -- our hero discovers -- magical invocations.


message 32: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Jessica, I hadn't heard of the anti-Lullaby. Do you mean the contemporary author, Chuck Palahniuk?


message 33: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments (He wrote "Fight Club", right?)


message 34: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments Yep. Lullaby is about a song that kills people. can be really useful, and terrible, of course!

Jamie wrote: "(He wrote "Fight Club", right?)"


message 35: by Lou (new)

Lou Sylvre | 360 comments Aha! Yes I feared there was some kind of spell-weaving going on with the syllables. Really fascinating ideas and I love the way it's written. I also think your working title is a great one. Jessica mentioned crow-medicine, I identify. Back to the subject of wild animals: here in the northwest, black bears (many of which are brown, go figure) are pretty common. A number of years ago, I lived in one of the more rural areas of our county, and I several times had to stop for a bear crossing the road. Weird feeling for a girl from Los Angeles County. So does that environment inspire your writing? (Aside from whistling at the edge of the forest, I mean?)


message 36: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Hmm. I should read that. Mine isn't necessarily a song that kills people, but there's a similar theme.


message 37: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Neil Stephenson did something similar in Snowcrash, with a digital virus that affected the brain, simply by viewing a scroll of "static" in virtual reality. Then of course Cronenberg had a similar theme in Videodrome.


message 38: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments I liked Fight Club and Choke but i really devoured Lullaby.

Jamie wrote: "Hmm. I should read that. Mine isn't necessarily a song that kills people, but there's a similar theme."


message 39: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Lou, the environment of New England is frequently a big part of my stories. My first film, and all subsequent horror stories I've written since, take place in a fictional town of Dunkirk, NH. (Dunkirk was supposedly the name of a manor house -- now in ruins -- that my ancestors once owned back in England. It means "dark church.") Murderous Requiem takes place in the White Mountains up north of here, where I grew up. NH is a wonderful place. We have settlements dating back to the 1600s.


message 40: by Damon (last edited Jun 25, 2011 12:19PM) (new)

Damon Suede (damonsuede) | 115 comments Jamie wrote: "Neil Stephenson did something similar in Snowcrash, with a digital virus that affected the brain, simply by viewing a scroll of "static" in virtual reality. Then of course Cronenberg had a similar..."

One of my favorite books! I think it's one of those reflexive themes that writers groove on.

How do you start a story, Jamie? Is it character first? Image? Setting? Genre?


message 41: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Hey, Damon! Good to see you!

I suppose it's genre, often. I have what I call my "moods," where all I want to watch on TV or read is horror, or angsty teen drama, or sappy romance, or what-have-you. Then I'll start to toss ideas around (or go back to a project I've been working on) and I'll come up with an idea for a story. Then I usually begin with characters, since that's the key thing for me. The plot can be fascinating, but if I don't like my characters, I can't write it.


message 42: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Jessica, I haven't actually read "Fight Club." Erich and I avoided the film for a long time, thinking it was nothing but a testosterone-fest. But when we watched it (after some friends practically forced us to) we were amazed. We completely fell in love with it. Someday, I'll read the novel.


message 43: by Damon (new)

Damon Suede (damonsuede) | 115 comments Jamie wrote: "Hey, Damon! Good to see you!

I suppose it's genre, often. I have what I call my "moods," where all I want to watch on TV or read is horror, or angsty teen drama, or sappy romance, or what-have..."
Boy do I now what you mean. LOL Do you pull photos and swatches for your characters or are they more a voice you hear?


message 44: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Actually, I do. I go online and do searches for the type of person I'm looking for, dredging up photos of models (and occasionally celebrities) who look like the characters. Then I add them to a wiki I keep for my notes. It helps a lot if I have a clear picture in my head of what a character looks like. One of the criticisms I often get is that it's hard to picture my characters, because I don't spend much time describing them, so I'm working on expanding descriptions of them.


message 45: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Davies (jessicaskye) | 10 comments It's really very true to the book, surprisingly. Palahniuk is a good writer, a rule-breaker. Some of his stuff is a little "far out" for me, but generally i like his style. You don't get bored with it :)

Jamie wrote: "Jessica, I haven't actually read "Fight Club." Erich and I avoided the film for a long time, thinking it was nothing but a testosterone-fest. But when we watched it (after some friends practicall..."


message 46: by Sue (new)

Sue Brown (sue_brown) | 190 comments Jamie wrote: "I get my ideas by standing naked in front of the forest and whistling."

Hi Jamie,

That certainly caught my eye!


message 47: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Sue, pretend I still look like that Viking picture I took of myself seven years ago. :-p


message 48: by Sue (new)

Sue Brown (sue_brown) | 190 comments Jamie wrote: "Sue, pretend I still look like that Viking picture I took of myself seven years ago. :-p"

Is this to scare the wildlife away?


message 49: by Lou (new)

Lou Sylvre | 360 comments Jamie wrote: "Lou, the environment of New England is frequently a big part of my stories. My first film, and all subsequent horror stories I've written since, take place in a fictional town of Dunkirk, NH. (Du..." That's an interesting twist, Jamie, that your ancestors actually lived in the castle Dunkirk. I actually had ancestors that lived in New Hampshire! At least for a time. It's a place I've always wanted to spend some time. At any rate, I'll be watching for the book! Are you films available, for rental say, at indie video shops?


message 50: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Fessenden | 182 comments Perhaps. But that reminds me of a story....

When I was 19 and living with my first boyfriend, I got it into my head that, for Easter, I needed to get an actually bunny rabbit. (Michael already had one, a foul-tempered dwarf bunny named Sebastian.) So we went to the mall and I picked out a beautiful black and white baby bunny, which I named Hyzenthlay, from the book "Watership Down."

Well, we let Hyzenthlay hop around on our bed the next morning, while I was still in bed -- naked, of course. She decided to crawl under the covers and, lo and behold, there was something that looked a bit like a carrot.

CHOMP!


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