Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Jessica Vitalis

Jessica Vitalis is the author of The Wolf’s Curse. She is a full-time writer with a previous career in business and an MBA from Columbia Business School. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters.

Vitalis's new novel is The Rabbit's Gift.

My Q&A with the author:

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

Because The Rabbit’s Gift is a companion novel to The Wolf’s Curse and the stories take place in the same magical world but examine very different themes (The Wolf’s Curse is a twist on Grim Reaper mythology while The Rabbit’s Gift features a French spin on stork mythology), I knew the title before I started writing. And it does give the readers a good introduction to the story in the sense that the book takes place in a country where human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits.

That said, the title might lull reader into thinking that the “gift” part of the title refers to a human baby, but the truth is more complicated than that. The story is told in dual points of view; on one side, we have a scrawny rabbit named Quincy, who is determined to prove himself to his starving warren. The other point of view is a young girl by the name of Fleurine, who longs for a sister to help shoulder the burden of her maman’s impossible expectations. When Fleurine catches Quincy stealing some of her precious gardening supplies, she follows him back to the top-secret warren, setting off a string of events that could prove catastrophic for rabbits and humans alike.

What's in a name?

Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of the writing process! Quincy Rabbit was chosen at random, simply because Quincy felt like the perfect name for a scrawny, know-it-all rabbit. A name that was chosen more intentionally was a side character named Elodie, a takeoff of the more traditional Melody, and the perfect name for someone with my character’s musicality. The most precious name in The Rabbit’s Gift, however, is Fleurine. When I first called my then 91-year-old grandmother to tell her that after 13 years of writing, I’d finally landed a two-book deal, she asked when the second book would publish. When I told her that it was scheduled for the fall of 2022, she said she reckoned she could stick around long enough to see through my dreams of becoming a published author. Fleurine is named in her honor (although the spelling is slightly different). Although I lost my grandmother just one month before The Rabbit’s Gift publishes, I was able to show her an advanced reader copy, which is a memory I’ll always treasure.

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

My teenage self would be shocked by my novel. I’d always had a passion for reading and writing, but it never occurred to me writing books was something I could do professionally. Even though I studied business in college, I took a lot of writing classes, but I always stuck to nonfiction, believing that I wasn’t creative enough to write fiction! The fact that I now not only write fiction, but fantasy, would blow my teenage mind.

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

They are both hard, but if I had to pick one, I’d say I struggle more with story beginnings. I almost always write my first act two or three times before I find the story I’m trying to tell, and The Rabbit’s Gift was no exception. Because The Wolf’s Curse was told by an omniscient narrator, I initially thought I’d have to take the same approach with Rabbit. When that didn’t work, I tried telling a story I now only vaguely remember—something about a kid sneaking into a farm to learn how to grow babies, I think? It wasn’t until I stumbled across the idea of writing in dual points of view with each character thinking that they were the hero of the story that the opening of The Rabbit’s Gift really came together.
Visit Jessica Vitalis's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wolf's Curse.

The Page 69 Test: The Rabbit's Gift.

--Marshal Zeringue