Friday, July 10, 2020

Jessica Barry

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Barry's new novel is Don't Turn Around.

MY Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I have to admit that I’m terrible at titles for my books – it was my agent who came up with Don’t Turn Around. I think (hope!) it works well to convey the sense of urgency that propels the story, and also ties in with the overarching theme of pervasive fear that women feel going through their everyday lives. It’s a nod to all the times I’ve heard footsteps behind me on a darkened street and thought Don’t turn around, just keep walking, clutch your keys between your fingers, get your phone ready, pick up the pace. When a pair of headlights appear out of the night and begin relentlessly pursuing Cait and Rebecca, the fear they feel – and the sense that the only way to survive is to keep moving forward – is hopefully encapsulated in the title.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Pretty surprised! First of all, I think she’d be shocked that I’ve managed to write a novel in the first place. I grew up worshiping books, and the idea that I could write one myself and see it on the shelf of a bookstore or a library was definitely beyond my comprehension. I think she’d be surprised that I write thrillers, seeing as I’ve always been pretty squeamish about blood. But I hope that she’d be proud of the strong female characters and the story as a whole.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings! I could write the beginnings of books all day long (and often do, only to abandon them) but endings I find really tricky. I think it’s down to two things: wanting to do justice to the story, but also an impatience to see the book finished. And those two things don’t always work well together…

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There’s probably a bit of me in all of my main characters, but they occupy their own world. In Don’t Turn Around, I can definitely see some of my younger self in Cait – her scrappiness, and her independence – and I can see some of myself in Rebecca, too, particularly her impulse to people-please.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I often get ideas for stories from events that have happened in my own life, or articles I’ve read. Part of the inspiration for Don’t Turn Around came from a particularly unpleasant road-rage incident last year. It reminded me that, even if we might see our cars as safe little bubbles, the act of driving is fraught with danger.
Follow Jessica Barry on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue