Meet Jessica Bayliss: BROKEN CHORDS, Palm Beach Peril and More

In Author Interviews by adminLeave a Comment

Follow Me



Newsletter



Latest Posts


Latest Tweets


I’ve benefited in so many amazing ways from being a part of the Pitch Wars community…and one of them has been the chance to meet my incredible critique partner, Jessica Bayliss. She’s got so many exciting projects going on right now, including the release of her very first YA novella and the fact that she just sat on her first authors’ panel with none other than the legendary R.L. Stine. So, of course, I invited her on the blog to share the love.

Hi Jess! I’m excited to have you on the blog today…I feel like we have so much to talk about! First, a big congratulations on the release of your young adult horror novella, BROKEN CHORDS—which just won an Honorable Mention in a New England Book Festival contest. What’s BROKEN CHORDS all about—and what inspired you to write it?

Thanks so much! BROKEN CHORDS is about sixteen year old Lenora “Lenny” and Jeb, who are at the annual Gypsy Cob Music Festival. Last year, they competed in the amateur competition together, but Lenny choked on stage. She totally messed up their song, and afterward they had a big fight. Now, they haven’t talked all year AND Lenny hasn’t played her fiddle in public, either. (Jeb plays the mandolin.) So, now they’re back, and they have an awkward first meet-up at their friend’s bonfire, and this friend has a book on astral projection. She talks them all into trying it, and when they do, Lenny manages to leave her body. But before she reaches the astral plane, a demonic entity takes notice of her, and it tears her into its own between-world. It’s a very gruesome and creepy place (because I like ALL the scary). Now, the demon can pull her over there whenever it wants, and Lenny has to figure out why, how it is that Jeb is also tangled up in the mess, and fix it, or she might be trapped there forever.

I was actually inspired to write the book because I had to pee in the middle of the night while camping. Seriously! The fastest path from my tent to the facilities was through a playground, and of course my horror brain turned on, and I started wondering what it would be like if the swings started moving by themselves. And I freaked myself out so much, I didn’t go that way for the rest of the camping trip. (Which I managed to complete with zero ghostly encounters, thank goodness! I love the scary, but I don’t want to actually experience it.)  I decided right then and there to write a book with a haunted playground at night. The other pieces came together later on, but my first goal for the book was to get my haunted playground in there.

Big news…you just participated in a panel and your first-ever book signing at Palm Beach Peril, with four other debut authors and none other than the legendary R.L. Stine. So…how’d it go? Did things work out the way you expected? Any funny stories to share?

It was such a great experience! Mr. Stine is hilarious, and so kind. So is his wife, Jane. I was in serious fan-girl mode. As a young adult, I devoured his FEAR STREET books, and I actually still have one of my favorites, but I left it home. I was so sad. The panel was a lot of fun. R. L. started everything off with some stories from his career, then the rest of us were invited up to answer his questions. We got to talk about our books, ourselves, and take questions from the kids in the audience. And all of us had dinner afterward. What a thrill! And the other authors on the panel—Karen McManus, Shelia Sobel, Megan Miranda, and J.D. Fennell, were so great, as was the organizer, YA thriller writer Amy C. Parker.

When you’re not scaring the socks off your readers, you’re a clinical psychologist. Tell us a bit about your path to publication—and what it’s like to balance your two careers. How does your experience as a psychologist feed your writing…and vice versa?  

My path to publication wasn’t one I ever envisioned. I literally started writing in 2010 as a hobby because I was feeling burned out from completing my training as a psychologist and getting my first job. So, I decided trying to write a book would be a fun thing to do. I had serious questions about whether I’d actually finish it, but I did, and I knew before I was done with my first one that I had to keep writing.

It’s been tough balancing at times. The first real challenge came when I realized I’d need to find more time to write if I was going to make a serious go of it. So, I had to challenge some of my own negative thoughts about the impossibility of waking up an hour earlier than usual to write before work. (Though it’s never easy, it IS possible, especially with copious amounts of coffee.) That worked well, and still does, but now that I’m really starting my career and not just writing in my house alone, it’s getting harder. There is a LOT that goes into being a writer! I always feel like I’m behind on things, like website maintenance or newsletters. The one thing I never let go is writing, though. That’s my priority.

My work as a psychologist has definitely fed my writing. First off, just the task of completing a doctorate in anything is great prep for being a writer, because you learn how to work at one thing for years and years and years and years. (And years.) My job as a psychologist is definitely stressful, and writing is how I unload all of that. You hear a lot in my field, and so finding a way to unload it all is essential. I never write about actual clients, but you can be sure that the essence of universal human struggles, such as I hear about daily, end up in my books.

Along those lines, I’ve got to ask you about PsychWrite, your craft, consultation and coaching service for writers. Why did you launch it—and what services do you offer? Do you feel like your knowledge of psychology positions you uniquely to be able to help writers strengthen their characters and find their path?

I’ll start with the last question first. The answer is, yes! Psychologists literally listen to people talk all day. We become experts in understanding human thinking, emotion, and behavior and how all those are tied into each other. One day, it hit me, when you put that all together, you get plot and character arc. Literally. Situations cause thoughts and emotions, which cause behavior. Without realizing it, I’d been using psychological principles to guide my plotting and character development, so I decided to see if I could teach that to other writers. I created worksheets and a series of lectures to convey that, and so far, the writers that have participated have really liked it! (Unless they were just trying not to hurt my feelings. LOL!)

As a psychologist, I also spend a lot of time helping people voice ambivalence about their path, career, goals, and in helping them set the kind of goals that are most effective, while also looking out for barriers. This is all directly relevant for writers who sometimes struggle to meet their goals or to feel confident in prioritizing time for their craft. So, this is where the professional coaching part comes in.

Clearly, you have found a way to clone yourself…because in addition to being a psychologist, writer and coach, you’re also senior editor of Allegory Magazine. How’d you get involved with Allegory, and what’s the ezine looking for right now?

Haha! I wish I could clone myself! Allegory is SO much fun, and I’m very proud that it is one of the lit mags that pays all authors that contribute. I think it’s so important for us to get paid for our work. I got involved because I was in an anthology with the founder and editor in chief, Ty Drago. Because I knew of his work, I reached out to him one day to ask a question about a book I was working on. He has a really fun MG/YA crossover horror series, THE UNDERTAKERS, and I was curious to pick his brains about how far an author can go with certain things in MG. After our chat, he reached out to see if I’d be willing to read submissions for Allegory. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped at the opportunity. It’s not as much work as you might think. We have two editions a year, so two reading periods, and yes, during those times (usually June/July and November/December), it gets pretty busy, but it’s so cool to see all these stories. And the best part is that I get to give authors that most exciting part of being a writer; I get to tell them ‘yes.’ When one of the stories I flagged for further review ends up in the final cut, it’s a huge thrill. (And it puts me back in that moment when I got my first ‘yes.’)

Your first full-length novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING, comes out from Sky Pony Press this summer. What else are you working on? Oh yeah…and when do you sleep?

I keep wishing I could stop time so I can get more sleep, but even without magic, I do manage it. I am lucky that I write fast. I also plot, so I’m always working on my next book while I’m finishing this book (whatever this book might be). Right now, I’m working on some edits for TEN AFTER CLOSING, and I’m plotting the next book I’ll draft. I’m still working the details out, but it will be a YA thriller with a time-loop element. In between, I’ll probably jump back into revisions of a book I wrote this past year, a high-tech, YA thriller that I like to describe as a crazy game of dare crossed with a hostage situation. And it has a frenemy story mixed in. I CAN’T WAIT to get this one finished and to get feedback on it. I am SO excited about it, I might die. I’m sure I won’t die, but I am really excited about it. It is the book that’s almost too hard for me to write. I really want to nail it.

BROKEN CHORDS

Here’s how last year’s Gypsy Cob Music Festival should have gone. Lenora “Lenny” Ragno was supposed to rock her duet with her long-time crush, Jeb, during the open-mic competition. Then, swept up in the glow of success, he’d finally kiss her. Instead, Lenny choked on stage and spent the whole year dodging him online. And avoiding playing her fiddle in public. She thought her worst nightmare was behind her, but she was way wrong. 

Now, she’s back at Gypsy Cob where avoiding a public performance is about as impossible as hiding from Jeb. She thinks facing him will be the scariest part of the festival, but when one of their friends talks everyone into trying astral projection, Lenny catches the eye of a demonic entity that marks her as its own. 

Whenever it wants, the demon can pluck Lenny from her reality and transport her to a hellish between-world, haunted by its countless, gruesome victims. If she doesn’t want to become one of them, she must discover the nature of the demon’s hold on her and remove it. But how can she defeat a literal demon when she can’t even get over her personal ones?

BIO

Jessica Bayliss is a clinical psychologist by day and a writer all the time. Author of the young adult horror novella, BROKEN CHORDS, she has been a lover of thrillers and ghost tales since her days scanning VHS rental shelves—admittedly with eyes half-averted from the gory covers. She also loves to eat, cook, and exercise—in that order—and is a firm believer that coffee makes the world a better place.

Look for her upcoming release, TEN AFTER CLOSING (Sky Pony Press, spring 2018). For more information about Jessica and about PsychWRITE, her series of courses and workshops for writers, visit: www.JessicaBaylissWrites.com.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website

PsychWRITE resources, workshops, and coaching for writers

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Amazon

Sign up for Jessica’s Newsletter (all subscribers get automatically entered for a monthly drawing to win a free first chapter critique)

I’ve benefited in so many amazing ways from being a part of the Pitch Wars community…and one of them has been the chance to meet my incredible critique partner, Jessica Bayliss. She’s got so many exciting projects going on right now, including the release of her very first YA novella and the fact that she just sat on her first authors’ panel with none other than the legendary R.L. Stine. So, of course, I invited her on the blog to share the love.

Hi Jess! I’m excited to have you on the blog today…I feel like we have so much to talk about! First, a big congratulations on the release of your young adult horror novella, BROKEN CHORDS—which just won an Honorable Mention in a New England Book Festival contest. What’s BROKEN CHORDS all about—and what inspired you to write it?

Thanks so much! BROKEN CHORDS is about sixteen year old Lenora “Lenny” and Jeb, who are at the annual Gypsy Cob Music Festival. Last year, they competed in the amateur competition together, but Lenny choked on stage. She totally messed up their song, and afterward they had a big fight. Now, they haven’t talked all year AND Lenny hasn’t played her fiddle in public, either. (Jeb plays the mandolin.) So, now they’re back, and they have an awkward first meet-up at their friend’s bonfire, and this friend has a book on astral projection. She talks them all into trying it, and when they do, Lenny manages to leave her body. But before she reaches the astral plane, a demonic entity takes notice of her, and it tears her into its own between-world. It’s a very gruesome and creepy place (because I like ALL the scary). Now, the demon can pull her over there whenever it wants, and Lenny has to figure out why, how it is that Jeb is also tangled up in the mess, and fix it, or she might be trapped there forever.

I was actually inspired to write the book because I had to pee in the middle of the night while camping. Seriously! The fastest path from my tent to the facilities was through a playground, and of course my horror brain turned on, and I started wondering what it would be like if the swings started moving by themselves. And I freaked myself out so much, I didn’t go that way for the rest of the camping trip. (Which I managed to complete with zero ghostly encounters, thank goodness! I love the scary, but I don’t want to actually experience it.)  I decided right then and there to write a book with a haunted playground at night. The other pieces came together later on, but my first goal for the book was to get my haunted playground in there.

Big news…you just participated in a panel and your first-ever book signing at Palm Beach Peril, with four other debut authors and none other than the legendary R.L. Stine. So…how’d it go? Did things work out the way you expected? Any funny stories to share?

It was such a great experience! Mr. Stine is hilarious, and so kind. So is his wife, Jane. I was in serious fan-girl mode. As a young adult, I devoured his FEAR STREET books, and I actually still have one of my favorites, but I left it home. I was so sad. The panel was a lot of fun. R. L. started everything off with some stories from his career, then the rest of us were invited up to answer his questions. We got to talk about our books, ourselves, and take questions from the kids in the audience. And all of us had dinner afterward. What a thrill! And the other authors on the panel—Karen McManus, Shelia Sobel, Megan Miranda, and J.D. Fennell, were so great, as was the organizer, YA thriller writer Amy C. Parker.

When you’re not scaring the socks off your readers, you’re a clinical psychologist. Tell us a bit about your path to publication—and what it’s like to balance your two careers. How does your experience as a psychologist feed your writing…and vice versa?  

My path to publication wasn’t one I ever envisioned. I literally started writing in 2010 as a hobby because I was feeling burned out from completing my training as a psychologist and getting my first job. So, I decided trying to write a book would be a fun thing to do. I had serious questions about whether I’d actually finish it, but I did, and I knew before I was done with my first one that I had to keep writing.

It’s been tough balancing at times. The first real challenge came when I realized I’d need to find more time to write if I was going to make a serious go of it. So, I had to challenge some of my own negative thoughts about the impossibility of waking up an hour earlier than usual to write before work. (Though it’s never easy, it IS possible, especially with copious amounts of coffee.) That worked well, and still does, but now that I’m really starting my career and not just writing in my house alone, it’s getting harder. There is a LOT that goes into being a writer! I always feel like I’m behind on things, like website maintenance or newsletters. The one thing I never let go is writing, though. That’s my priority.

My work as a psychologist has definitely fed my writing. First off, just the task of completing a doctorate in anything is great prep for being a writer, because you learn how to work at one thing for years and years and years and years. (And years.) My job as a psychologist is definitely stressful, and writing is how I unload all of that. You hear a lot in my field, and so finding a way to unload it all is essential. I never write about actual clients, but you can be sure that the essence of universal human struggles, such as I hear about daily, end up in my books.

Along those lines, I’ve got to ask you about PsychWrite, your craft, consultation and coaching service for writers. Why did you launch it—and what services do you offer? Do you feel like your knowledge of psychology positions you uniquely to be able to help writers strengthen their characters and find their path?

I’ll start with the last question first. The answer is, yes! Psychologists literally listen to people talk all day. We become experts in understanding human thinking, emotion, and behavior and how all those are tied into each other. One day, it hit me, when you put that all together, you get plot and character arc. Literally. Situations cause thoughts and emotions, which cause behavior. Without realizing it, I’d been using psychological principles to guide my plotting and character development, so I decided to see if I could teach that to other writers. I created worksheets and a series of lectures to convey that, and so far, the writers that have participated have really liked it! (Unless they were just trying not to hurt my feelings. LOL!)

As a psychologist, I also spend a lot of time helping people voice ambivalence about their path, career, goals, and in helping them set the kind of goals that are most effective, while also looking out for barriers. This is all directly relevant for writers who sometimes struggle to meet their goals or to feel confident in prioritizing time for their craft. So, this is where the professional coaching part comes in.

Clearly, you have found a way to clone yourself…because in addition to being a psychologist, writer and coach, you’re also senior editor of Allegory Magazine. How’d you get involved with Allegory, and what’s the ezine looking for right now?

Haha! I wish I could clone myself! Allegory is SO much fun, and I’m very proud that it is one of the lit mags that pays all authors that contribute. I think it’s so important for us to get paid for our work. I got involved because I was in an anthology with the founder and editor in chief, Ty Drago. Because I knew of his work, I reached out to him one day to ask a question about a book I was working on. He has a really fun MG/YA crossover horror series, THE UNDERTAKERS, and I was curious to pick his brains about how far an author can go with certain things in MG. After our chat, he reached out to see if I’d be willing to read submissions for Allegory. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped at the opportunity. It’s not as much work as you might think. We have two editions a year, so two reading periods, and yes, during those times (usually June/July and November/December), it gets pretty busy, but it’s so cool to see all these stories. And the best part is that I get to give authors that most exciting part of being a writer; I get to tell them ‘yes.’ When one of the stories I flagged for further review ends up in the final cut, it’s a huge thrill. (And it puts me back in that moment when I got my first ‘yes.’)

Your first full-length novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING, comes out from Sky Pony Press this summer. What else are you working on? Oh yeah…and when do you sleep?

I keep wishing I could stop time so I can get more sleep, but even without magic, I do manage it. I am lucky that I write fast. I also plot, so I’m always working on my next book while I’m finishing this book (whatever this book might be). Right now, I’m working on some edits for TEN AFTER CLOSING, and I’m plotting the next book I’ll draft. I’m still working the details out, but it will be a YA thriller with a time-loop element. In between, I’ll probably jump back into revisions of a book I wrote this past year, a high-tech, YA thriller that I like to describe as a crazy game of dare crossed with a hostage situation. And it has a frenemy story mixed in. I CAN’T WAIT to get this one finished and to get feedback on it. I am SO excited about it, I might die. I’m sure I won’t die, but I am really excited about it. It is the book that’s almost too hard for me to write. I really want to nail it.

BROKEN CHORDS

Here’s how last year’s Gypsy Cob Music Festival should have gone. Lenora “Lenny” Ragno was supposed to rock her duet with her long-time crush, Jeb, during the open-mic competition. Then, swept up in the glow of success, he’d finally kiss her. Instead, Lenny choked on stage and spent the whole year dodging him online. And avoiding playing her fiddle in public. She thought her worst nightmare was behind her, but she was way wrong. 

Now, she’s back at Gypsy Cob where avoiding a public performance is about as impossible as hiding from Jeb. She thinks facing him will be the scariest part of the festival, but when one of their friends talks everyone into trying astral projection, Lenny catches the eye of a demonic entity that marks her as its own. 

Whenever it wants, the demon can pluck Lenny from her reality and transport her to a hellish between-world, haunted by its countless, gruesome victims. If she doesn’t want to become one of them, she must discover the nature of the demon’s hold on her and remove it. But how can she defeat a literal demon when she can’t even get over her personal ones?

BIO

Jessica Bayliss is a clinical psychologist by day and a writer all the time. Author of the young adult horror novella, BROKEN CHORDS, she has been a lover of thrillers and ghost tales since her days scanning VHS rental shelves—admittedly with eyes half-averted from the gory covers. She also loves to eat, cook, and exercise—in that order—and is a firm believer that coffee makes the world a better place.

Look for her upcoming release, TEN AFTER CLOSING (Sky Pony Press, spring 2018). For more information about Jessica and about PsychWRITE, her series of courses and workshops for writers, visit: www.JessicaBaylissWrites.com.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website

PsychWRITE resources, workshops, and coaching for writers

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Amazon

Sign up for Jessica’s Newsletter (all subscribers get automatically entered for a monthly drawing to win a free first chapter critique)

Follow Me



Newsletter



Latest Posts



Latest Tweets