Ask the Author: Jacqueline Firkins
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve always been a storyteller, but for the first twenty or so years of my career, I told stories visually rather than verbally. My primary career is as a costume designer for the theatre. There’s nothing I love better than developing worlds and characters, especially if I can do so with a group of collaborators. When I was about 35, I developed Essential Tremor (spectacularly known as ET). My motor skills decreased and I came to grips with the reality that drawing and doing detailed sewing work wouldn’t always be possible. I considered how else I might use my skills, training, and passion. Rather than take a script and extract the characters within, I began developing my own characters. Pretty soon all the hours spent over a sewing machine shifted into hours spent with a laptop as my brain burst with ideas begging to hit the page.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things is about a 17-year-old girl named Edie Price who moves in with her rich relatives, where she struggles to fit in and find connection. Her most likely option: the boy next door she’s had a crush on for years. Too bad he has a girlfriend. Enter Henry Crawford, the town’s notorious bad boy. But maybe he isn’t that bad. It’s a classic love triangle based loosely on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Friendships. Coming of age. Juicy kisses. Big love. Hopefully some laughs, too.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
The seed for HSAOBT was planted when a friend and I were discussing Jane Austen heroines. My friend had recently re-read Mansfield Park and was frustrated with the passivity of Fanny Price after enjoying Austen’s feistier and more outspoken heroines. But I’d remembered relating to Fanny more than to Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. So I went back and read Mansfield. I recalled why I loved its heroine. She was like me. I wasn’t feisty and outspoken either. I preferred a book to a party. And I always had a crush on a guy who didn’t notice me. Or more than one guy. So I started thinking about how I could bring that character into a contemporary world, allowing more readers access to a heroine I was grateful to find when I most needed her, during my teenage years.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Without giving too much away, there’s an ALMOST kissing scene that was super fun. I loved building the tension and layering in humour. The scene serves as the turning point in the love triangle so it’s not only funny or steamy, it’s vital for propelling the story forward.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
My undergrad degree in English Literature focused on women’s voices in the 19th century, so I’m heavily influenced by Austen, all 3 of the Brontes, Gaskell, and Radcliffe. I also love contemporary YA. John Green’s layered depth and wit. Rainbow Rowell’s ability to build a complicated, realistic, and gloriously messy love story.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Write it! If you want to publish a book, that’s another question entirely. But start with writing it. Have a rough plan going into it. It’ll save you a ton of work later. Know what you want to say and why. Keep reminding yourself of that as you write so you don’t meander too far off the central spine. Have fun. Let it be messy. Leave it alone for a while. Months if you can. Come back to it fresh. Find the story within the mess. Edit until you don’t know what to edit anymore. Then get some readers and keep working on it. Don’t expect a polished story to emerge in one step. Give it time and attention and patience and be willing to listen to others’ input. But start with putting words on a page and letting them lead you.
Where to buy HSAOBT: (pre-order only. Book out 12/17/19)
Where to find me:
Author website: https://jacquelinefirkins.com/
IG and Twitter: @jfkillsdarlings