'Fast Five' with Jessica Drake-Thomas

Today Managing Editor Amanda McLeod caught up with Featured Artist Jessica Drake-Thomas with five quick questions about her reading and writing life.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash
Amanda McLeod: What has been one unexpected benefit of being a book blogger - what caught you by surprise, in a good way?
Jessica Drake-Thomas: I’ve met a lot of really lovely people. I thought it would be mostly me just reading and writing, and then posting…but there’s a lot of reaching out to writers and presses for review copies, and working with writers to help them promote their work. I saw a meme which portrayed a book reviewer as a snake, and I just thought…there’s a better way to review books, where you can give constructive feedback instead of negative feedback. Reading someone else’s book and reviewing it isn’t a powerplay, and when a writer requests a review, they’re trusting you with something that’s special to them. I can’t guarantee that I’ll like it, but I can guarantee that I will be respectful. I’m currently booked through December with review requests, and I’m actually considering increasing the amount of reviews that I accept per week, so my approach is working.

AM: How do you safeguard your reading/writing time?
JDT: I was pursuing teaching, and not only was I suffering burnout, it was also cutting into my reading and writing time and energy. So, I actually quit teaching in order to focus on writing. I’m a freelance writer and editor in addition to poeming and blogging. All that I do, at the moment, is read and write while my dog naps nearby, and it’s lovely.

AM: What's the first thing you recall reading that had a significant impact on you?
JDT: The “Riddles in the Dark” chapter from The Hobbit. It’s such a layered scene, with so much going on. I could discuss the history and references at length. As a child, the idea that someone was creeping about in the dark fascinated me, and even now, I’m still writing about things that lurk in dark places of the world. In my novel that I just finished yesterday, there’s a creature that lives at the bottom of a well… I think the scene just wedged itself into my psyche and got stuck there.

AM: Describe your writing routine (or lack of it).
JDT: I have a very set, strict writing schedule, due to freelancing. Usually, I’m working on several projects concurrently. I break them up into 2,000-3,000 words a day. I work on 2,000 words of my own work-in-progress every day. On weekends, I write reviews in the morning, and poetry in the afternoon.

AM: What are the patterns that seem to emerge repeatedly in your work?
JDT: Death, ghosts, and witchcraft.
Several people in my life have tried to put me into the role of victim and I’m not here for that. A lot of my work is about finding one’s own power and voice, and then using it to overcome and to step out of the role that others try to trap you in.