Jessica is a teacher in Colorado and also works in the library system. She just released 2 things- a devotional for anime and a novella collection with a bunch of friends.
She has tried to include deaf characters in her writing, and we discuss how that is good for the community and affects the writing.
[00:00:00] Jessica: Are you looking for new books to read? Do you like finding a new, special author? Are you tired of the same old books from the same old authors? Well then, welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths, a podcast where you can hear from fantastic new authors. Join Stephen Schneider as he finds and talks to authors you may not know, but authors that have worked hard to write great new books.
[00:00:28] Hear about their book and why you should check it out. So sit back and listen to today’s discovered wordsmith.
[00:00:48] Stephen: Great. Well, Jess, how you doing? Welcome to the podcast today. It’s good to see you. Thank you. It’s good to be here. So to get started, tell everybody a little bit about yourself, uh, who [00:01:00] you are, where you’re from, what you like to do outside of writing.
[00:01:03] Jessica: I am, my name is Jessica Bertrand. I come from the Western slope half of Colorado.
[00:01:09] I’m a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the local university. I’m also a part time library assistant for our public library branches. And so it’s a lot of fun. I have my bachelor’s in teaching and history and a master’s in school library education. Uh, what do I like to do outside of writing? I like to hang out with my family and friends and I really enjoy knitting and crocheting, um, and reading.
[00:01:36] And I also like the Olympics, so I have that on almost 24 7 right now, and I can get away with it. I would,
[00:01:42] Stephen: I would say, uh, if you’re a writer and a librarian and you don’t like to read, that’s a problem.
[00:01:49] Jessica: It is a problem. It’s really hard, because, like, I have my little cubby where I put all my library books, and it is always stuffed full right now.
[00:01:57] So, there’s always, like, oh, I should read this, and oh, I should [00:02:00] read this, so along with that and my to be read pile is huge.
[00:02:04] Stephen: Uh, isn’t all of ours. Yeah. Yes. Answer me this though. If you live in Colorado, why don’t you
[00:02:11] Jessica: ski? Because I’m not that much of an outdoor enthusiast. I tried snowboarding once. It didn’t really end all that greatly.
[00:02:19] I think I ended up with like two grapefruit sized bruises off of snowboarding. And sometimes it takes a little bit of money to start a new thing. So I don’t always go for skiing, but I know there’s a lot of really great places. And I’d like to try it sometime. Yeah, yeah, you live in a… Eventually. You should, yeah.
[00:02:38] But I also, I also live on the wet, the side of the state that’s a little bit more of high desert. So we don’t always get the same amount of moisture as everybody else does, so. Or right now we’re getting like way too much and flash floodings and issues. Okay, alright, that’s fair. So, you know.
[00:02:51] Stephen: It balances out.
[00:02:52] Why did you want to start writing? Why did you want to have a writing career as part of your life? Oh
[00:02:58] Jessica: man, well, I don’t know. It’s always [00:03:00] like the creative half of me has always been there. Like my family gets together and when we get together, we just tell stories. We tell stories of growing up So I was around sort of a storytelling oral history type culture And so that kind of just gravitated to me like thinking up stories and writing them down And so when I was younger i’d be like mom look at this story I read and she would read it and then she’s like well, why does your character do that or?
[00:03:24] What does the room look like or what made them feel that way? And so she started just asking me all sorts of different questions. And so then as, as it progressed to teenage type stuff, um, my parents allowed me to go to a couple of different like writing groups. And so one of them was a class that, um, was being taught by just one of the professors at the local university.
[00:03:48] And I ended up in her English class. When I was taking college classes. So that was pretty cool. And then seriously, it didn’t really start till about 2009, 2010, [00:04:00] when the American Christian fiction writers conference landed in Denver. I don’t know if it’s ever lived in Denver before or since, or landed there before or since.
[00:04:08] And so I was like, Oh, it’s really close. I can actually afford this right now. I don’t have to pay a hotel. I can bum a bed off of my auntie. So I did. And I went and then it started becoming like this thing where… Like, Ooh, I can actually maybe be published and start writing seriously. So that’s kind of that sort of break point.
[00:04:29] Stephen: Tell us about your book. Uh, what, what’s it called? Uh, like the genre and then a little bit about the synopsis of the story.
[00:04:36] Jessica: Okay. Well, I have two right now. I don’t know if I’d recommend having to come out in two different months. Perfect. Um, the first one is actually a devotional aimed toward people who love anime.
[00:04:48] Um, I met a couple of ladies on the Realm Makers Facebook group. And they were calling for submissions for a book called finding god in anime and i’m like Why not the worst they can tell me [00:05:00] is no so I ended up submitting three because three was the cap and I Submitted them and they accepted all three of them and that one came out um end of may beginning of june and then Um, my novella that I have out now Is called uranium downs.
[00:05:16] It’s part of the rocky mountain medley novella collection. Um, that one kind of was a promise A group of my local writing friends and I made to each other that were like, hey, we should do a novella collection. I’m like, sure. And the only recommendation for that one was that we had to set it in Colorado.
[00:05:33] So mine ended up being a young adult mystery set in a, um, fictional high school. Cause I couldn’t decide on which one. So it’s in my home area, but it’s a fictional location for high school. Cause I couldn’t decide. Which high school to set it at, and I have students that I know from all of them. So it’s sort of like this funny Nancy Drew meets Scooby Doo type of a feel.
[00:05:56] So it’s a mystery where some friends in history class end up starting finding [00:06:00] stuff, but then it’s a little Scooby Doo ish because of the fact that because there are four friends and they just meet each other, kind of like, they kind of know each other, but a couple of students are new. But yeah, so it’s, it’s figuring out how to be friends with different mindsets and struggling with different ideas and how to be friends maybe at the end after all of that.
[00:06:19] And so Uranium Downs was a lot of fun and, and I promise I don’t
[00:06:24] Stephen: say it’s a YA book. It is a
[00:06:27] Jessica: YA book. Yeah. Okay. It’s totally YA. Yeah. It’s written for high schoolers in mind. Yeah. But I’ve had, I’ve had a couple of adults read it and really enjoy it
[00:06:36] Stephen: too. That’s, that’s always good. And you probably get a lot of good feedback working at the library, seeing what kids like and what they check out and talk
[00:06:45] Jessica: about.
[00:06:46] Yeah. So I’m, I’m kind of starting those conversations cause I’m a little bit new to that particular library, but the teens in the area have like really allowed me to, to kind of talk with them and stuff. So that’s pretty cool.
[00:06:59] Stephen: And you [00:07:00] said you’ve written your whole life. So just. Coming out with a book and that it’s just something you’ve always done.
[00:07:07] It not necessarily, it didn’t sound like it was always a dream so much as it’s just who you are and what you did. Is there something else you’ve ever. Wanted to do or be,
[00:07:19] Jessica: well, I started wanting to be a teacher a long time ago. And so that’s kind of what I am. Okay. I’m a teacher. And so that dream was fulfilled and it’s kind of funny because you have to sort of think about it from, well, now I fulfilled that dream now what?
[00:07:32] And so then the next dream was like, Ooh, publication, that’d be really cool. So now I’ve done it. And it’s like this surreal type feeling because on one hand it’s like, I’m published. I made it. What did I do? And then on the other hand, it’s like, I got to do this again, but it’s like the story ideas never stopped coming like the other day, because I have like a whole list of ideas that just stay in my head and I’m like, okay, which one is it’s turn to come out?[00:08:00]
[00:08:00] And I have to go on a trip this weekend. And I’m like, you know, it’d be kind of funny if I wrote a book about a travel across some road trip with two like 80 year old guys. And I’m like, Wow. Where did that one come from? And so there’s always ideas and they’re always like, anytime you see something funny, I was like, Oh, that’d be really cool.
[00:08:18] We should write a story about that. And it’s just like always like populating. And so there’s always people in my head that. You know, it makes me sound crazy, but there’s always other people in my head. But as a author, it kind of makes sense because it’s just like all these ideas and how do you plan on the next one and which one to write next?
[00:08:37] Stephen: yeah. And I think a lot of authors feel that way. And it, it, it’s funny too. I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked this as an author, but people are always like, so where do you get your ideas? And it’s kind of like, where don’t I get my ideas? There’s always ideas.
[00:08:55] Jessica: Yeah. The really scary ones, because I love mysteries, and if I could spend the rest of my life writing [00:09:00] something with mystery in it all the time, it’s really bad, because I’ll walk by someplace, I’ll be like, Oh, that might be a good spot to hide a body, but you can’t say that out loud!
[00:09:07] Because somebody’s going to be like, do I need to worry about you now? And I’m like, yeah, all the time.
[00:09:14] Stephen: Right. You should frequently get rid of your browser search. Yeah. Uh, you’re writing YA as the kind of mystery. Is there a reason you wanted to write that type or is it just, that’s how you’re, you’re.
[00:09:36] Jessica: I don’t know, like, originally I didn’t set out to completely write YA because I have, like I said, I have so many ideas in my head that I don’t know if it’s going to stay YA or if it’s going to kind of drift in and back out, but it’s, I work with a lot of young people and part of it is I wanted them to have like, A different perspective on things, I guess.
[00:09:54] I don’t know. This one just kind of worked its way into being a young adult because I I [00:10:00] teach and I also Was like this is the perfect setting for like this history project that I want them to do And it seemed a better setting to do it in high school than in college because I mean there’s still some of the same Like dynamics when you’re doing group work, but at the same time, they’re kind of all contained a little bit more in high school setting than if it was in a college type setting.
[00:10:20] Part of it too, is that I’ve looked around and there’s not a lot of why a that is being There’s the deaf community doesn’t have a lot of literature that they can read. So one of the characters in uranium gowns is deaf. And so reading the book is going to be a little different because ASL leaves out all of the articles, like two a and the, a lot of those.
[00:10:44] And so I wrote it, some of the dialogue as if they were signing. And so that’s a little different experience for some people to get used to. But I kind of, um. Borrowed a little bit from Allison Gervais. I think I’m saying her [00:11:00] name, right? She’s written a couple of books with signing in it, and I really liked how she did that formatting.
[00:11:05] So I kind of borrowed her formatting style a little bit. That’s,
[00:11:09] Stephen: that’s interesting because, okay, let me ask this back up. Is this traditionally published or independently published? More
[00:11:17] Jessica: probably be considered a little bit more indie published because one of my friends with the collection. Decided that because it’s so unique because in the collection itself.
[00:11:28] We all have our individual stories, but like two of us wrote a historical speculative fiction, and the other one wrote a Christian contemporary redemption story, so the genre wasn’t one where a small publisher would be willing to take it on. So one of my friends is like, Oh, I’m just going to start a publishing company.
[00:11:47] And so it’s kind of indie, it’s kind of small publisher. So it’s kind of like this weird hybrid that we kind of ended up with and it’s, it’s working right now. Okay. I don’t know if that answers your question. Not that great, but yeah.
[00:11:59] Stephen: So, cause I [00:12:00] have a follow up question. Have you sent the manuscript through an editor?
[00:12:05] Jessica: Yes and no. So I belong to a couple of different critiques. So we did critique grouping and I’ve edited it a lot. And because I haven’t quite found an editor quite yet, we, um, there’s a couple of us that swap stories and we edit it that way. Um, I’ve had three beta readers look at it. And so, some of them catch it and I looked at one of them and I said I just want you to read it as a reader.
[00:12:31] And not as like a, I don’t want you to edit, I just want you to read it as a reader and they caught some stuff. And so, the next books out I’m probably gonna look for somebody who can edit. Just to make sure I’m pretty good on my game. And this one has been in the works kind of for 18 months. So I’ve used my self editing techniques until I can’t like see the problems anymore, and then I go back and I have other people have eyes on it.
[00:12:57] And there’s times where you like have 10 [00:13:00] people that have eyes on it and still don’t catch the typos. Here’s to the typos. Good job. You get a silver medal or something,
[00:13:05] Stephen: but I was just curious as to what an editor says about the writing. So it’s kind of ALS, but it’s words. I was just curious what they say, because I can see a lot of editors.
[00:13:19] Telling you to change that
[00:13:21] Jessica: right? Um, one of my friends who actually read it, I made it. I wanted to make sure it was accurate. She’s has like two college degrees. Now she’s deaf. And I’m like, I need to know if this is accurate for the character. I need to know if this is accurate for the wording. And so she came back and she didn’t really change a lot of it.
[00:13:39] We changed a couple of things, but Um, thankfully I was, she was able to help me with that mindset. So that helped a lot.
[00:13:46] Stephen: So let’s see, and the book is out or it will be out soon.
[00:13:51] Jessica: The both of them are out. The Rocky mountain medley collection came out July 1st, and then the finding God in anime came out June [00:14:00] 1st.
[00:14:01] The Rocky mountain medley collection is on Kindle unlimited, and it’s also an ebook format and paper format. If you buy the individual ones. Finding God in Anime is free all the time in ebook format, but if you want it paper, you’re gonna have to pay a little bit, but you can find it on Barnes Noble. Kobo and Amazon.
[00:14:18] Stephen: So it’s been out for about two months. Uh, what type of feedback have you gotten from other, uh, from readers?
[00:14:27] Jessica: Um, for finding out an anime, um, I don’t know a lot, like. Because they’re individual devotions. I haven’t heard as much and I’m sort of a little intimidated right now to, so to speak about looking at any of the reviews, some of the feedback from that one is we’ve had quite a few downloads.
[00:14:45] A lot of people have downloaded it. So that’s helpful with, um, uranium downs. I had a friend approach me the other day and she’s like, I read your book. It was good. I was like, you did. Cause sometimes like. I don’t expect people to read everything that I write because [00:15:00] I don’t always write in the genre that everybody reads in and I don’t really expect everybody to, but so far it’s been really good.
[00:15:06] Um, one of my beta readers gave me a heart attack when she was actually getting ready to, uh, like let me know how it was. She’s like, Hey, we need to meet for coffee. And I’m like, okay, don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. She’s like, well, I just want to meet and talk about the book. I’m like, Oh man, what do I need to fix?
[00:15:23] I got like 72 hours before this is due. And then she’s like, absolutely loved it. And I could have like just melted into a puddle. So that’s, that’s a plus. So, um, I haven’t looked at reviews for that one either.
[00:15:35] Stephen: Now, taking your book, uh, what would you rather see it as? A movie or a TV show?
[00:15:43] Jessica: I think I’d rather see it as a movie, because I don’t know which direction they’d take the characters if it was a TV show.
[00:15:49] Like with TV shows, sometimes they have to think of things to put them in. So I think I’d rather see it as a movie, just because… You could do a little bit more with it, I guess. I [00:16:00] don’t know if saying it that way is the right way, but you have more options to saying a little bit closer to the script. That is already in the book.
[00:16:10] Stephen: And where can we get the book? Uh, I assume Amazon. Yes. Where else can we
[00:16:14] Jessica: get it? Um, for Uranium Downs? Amazon’s the only one that we kind of have it on right now, but it’s also like if you have any listeners that are in the UK, Britain area, I heard that we were trying to do the ebook format for all the way on the Europe side too.
[00:16:30] So that’s kind of cool. Um, I’m kind of excited and a little nervous to see what happens with it on that side of the pond, so to speak. But, um. Yeah, but Finding Anna anime is also on Barnes and Noble. Okay, and
[00:16:43] Stephen: have you gotten it in your library?
[00:16:45] Jessica: Um, not yet. I requested it. It was one of those things that somebody’s like, because I was not entirely sure do I request my own stuff for the library?
[00:16:54] I was, I’d never done that before and one of my co workers was like, you should totally ask for it in the paperback [00:17:00] version and the e book. So I’m like, okay. So last week I actually did it. I, I can have 10 material requests open at a time. All of them are filled right now with ebook and paperback. So we’ll see what happens.
[00:17:14] I haven’t heard back at what Trent like pointed.
[00:17:17] Stephen: Do you have any plans for a followup book?
[00:17:20] Jessica: I wasn’t, but now I am because some of my readers are like, Oh, I love these two characters. I love Drake and Josh. You should do a story about them. And so. I’m going to be exploring more of the BMX world with them because, uh, BMX riders, and then all of a sudden, you know, watching the Olympics, I’m like, possibilities, maybe I could get them into some Olympic trials,
[00:17:46] Stephen: always ideas.
[00:17:47] Jessica: Yes. As far as other series, I have one that I wrote a couple of years ago. That’s still kind of in that weird editing phase and it’s called purling in Paris. It’s more of a romantic suspense. [00:18:00] Set in Paris. Um, I definitely have to change a few things, but that one’s about a former art forger who wants to get his counterfeits off of the market and his last one’s in Paris.
[00:18:10] And then, um, way before I even was thinking about. Being a part time librarian, I have a librarian who decided to go from a small town in Colorado to visit her sister who is an art gallery. She works in an art gallery in Paris and so they both crossed paths. And of course the bad guy who is in charge of the forgery ring doesn’t want the other guy taking stuff off of the market, so.
[00:18:33] That one’s kind of fun. And then, um, going along the lines of still wanting to have, um, people who are hard of hearing and deaf with literature, I have a series that’s like in the brainstorming stages called forensic silence, and my main character is a forensic anthropologist who is deaf. Each of the stories gets to highlight different levels of deafness and hard of hearing.
[00:18:54] So I’m kind of excited for
[00:18:55] Stephen: that. Now, have you, since you have your deaf characters, [00:19:00] have you looked into how to try and get your book turned into a braille, uh, story?
[00:19:06] Jessica: I haven’t even thought about that. That’s kind of a cool idea. A lot of them are pretty good with reading, but I hadn’t really thought about like the blind half of things because there are people who are deaf and blind.
[00:19:17] So I might start exploring things a lot more. Funny story is I have some family. Who said I should turn it into an audio book. So I’m kind of exploring that idea. And so I’ll just add the braille idea to it. It works. Yeah.
[00:19:30] Stephen: Cause that would be cool. Well, obviously, you know, if, if just because you’re right, there’s not a lot of deaf characters in books or even movies, there’s been a few, obviously they’re probably not going to get your audio book, but I was thinking about people that can’t see, because I actually thought about that and looked.
[00:19:51] Into it, and it’s kind of difficult to find anywhere that would take a book, a manuscript to turn it into braille, right? And I think that’s actually [00:20:00] sad because they don’t get the plethora of books that they could. So I’d be curious if you find out any information on that. Yeah,
[00:20:08] Jessica: no, I, that’s a good thought because I’ve had students, when I was substituting, there was a student who used braille and her book was in braille and every week she’d get the next chapter written for her in braille so she could be able to participate in class.
[00:20:22] So I love that idea. I love that thought and I’ll start looking into seeing, um, what I can do with that. Thank you.
[00:20:29] Stephen: Well, keep me in mind if you find out more info, uh, I’d love to find out more myself.
[00:20:35] Jessica: I’ll see what I can do. I don’t know if every state has the same thing, but we’ll
[00:20:38] Stephen: see. What are some of your favorite books and authors that you like to read?
[00:20:42] Oh goodness.
[00:20:43] Jessica: Um, are we talking like right now or from like childhood? Uh, both. Okay. So I was a big Frances Hodginson Burnett fan, so Secret Garden, Little Princess. Love both of those, um, American Girl series, yes, please. Um, I [00:21:00] love that we could see things through their eyes. And then at the end of the book they always had like, hey, this is really what life was like during this particular time in history.
[00:21:07] I am totally on an Agatha Christie kick right now. I like reading Andrew Clavin’s Homelander series. It’s on my shelf and I’ve read several of his other books. He has a really some really good Um, ronnie kindig anything ronnie kinnig is always good Um, she does both sci fi and military Type romance stories.
[00:21:30] So those are pretty good The series true lives of rembrandt stone is like it sucks you in and holds you down pretty much and they’re still releasing thankfully, um, but david james warren Is actually a compilation of three different authors. So you have David Warren, James Rhubart, and Susan A. Warren who wrote that one.
[00:21:49] And so they just decided to do a combo. So that’s been a lot of fun. Um, anything Robin Dinsmore fusion. And that just started coming out. Yeah. Yeah. [00:22:00]
[00:22:01] Stephen: Jim just started coming out. Right.
[00:22:03] Jessica: Yeah, they decided to do it over like the COVID lockdown and they wrote every single book. Every single book is done, but they’re torturing us by like making us wait two months in between each book before they release the next one.
[00:22:16] So thankfully
[00:22:17] Stephen: the next one, So you’re one of those Netflix
[00:22:22] You’re one of those Netflix people that, that wants to get it all.
[00:22:26] Jessica: Yeah. Well, they kind of, they kind of created the monster that way. They’re like, Hey, we’re, we’re going to publish out all five of the books or six. I can’t remember if it’s five or six right now. They’re like, we’re going to publish them all out in a year.
[00:22:37] And I’m like, really? And you’re going to, okay. Okay. Okay. I can do this. No, I was one of those kids. Like. It’s not open anymore, but we had this Christian bookstore. I could literally walk in because one of my other favorite series was the Jeannie McGrady series. Um, and I’d walk in and I literally had the store owner looking at me.
[00:22:59] [00:23:00] Hi Jessica. No, we don’t have the new books yet I’m like, oh come on So but yeah, um, I was
[00:23:06] Stephen: that kid. Okay, you mentioned a bookstore that’s closed Uh, do you have a favorite bookstore that’s still open? Um,
[00:23:13] Jessica: I’m still I’m sort of trying to figure out new local things because some of the stores that we had closed down Um, I live in this weird kind of area where it’s rural slash not really rural But it’s sometimes hard economically to keep bookstores in so i’ve started hanging out at like lithic books and and um fruta and checking out like they have a used bookstore.
[00:23:37] It’s called twice upon a time around here and And there’s others that I’m kind of like trying to figure out, but it’s kind of hard when they like, Oh yes, this new bookstore is open. Sweet. And so then you go in and then like a couple months later, they’re like, Nope, we can’t make it. And so it’s kind of hard figuring out the local scene, but there’s a couple of churches who have bookstores in them.
[00:23:59] So that’s [00:24:00] been kind of nice to figure that part out too. So locally is a little bit tricky right now to find some. Ones and get like reestablished and reconnected with the store owners and
[00:24:10] Stephen: stuff and I think you’re actually the second author I’ve had on here from the area that mentioned twice upon a was a twice about a tail bookstore So that’s
[00:24:20] Jessica: upon a time.
[00:24:21] Yeah. Yeah, they do. They they do like yeah. Yeah, I didn’t
[00:24:25] Stephen: know Okay, so before we end this first half of the podcast and move on to some other stuff Why don’t you tell everybody why they should get your book?
[00:24:38] Jessica: You know, this is a funny question because before you even like sent me this question, like two weeks before I totally asked this, like I had this whole like, Oh my goodness, I’m published.
[00:24:47] Why would anybody want to read it now? So I actually talked to some of my beta readers and I’m like, why would, why, why do you think somebody would want to read my stuff? The big question, which is funny that it kind of [00:25:00] ended up happening. So I asked a couple of them. They said because I write clean stories with vivid characters and I explore different perspectives From a variety of different people.
[00:25:10] Um, my characters are real and relatable. I write in a way that no one would be able to research on Google, one of them said. I’m like, well, that’s good. I’m, I’m nailing something on that point. And the one that almost had me doing cartwheels, because, you know, I can’t do a cartwheel to save my life, but if I could…
[00:25:28] I would have gotten close and she said my writing is descriptive and each character has a different voice unique to them I have worked so hard to figure out how to give each character their own unique set of of voices And so, you know, I liked it this particular uranium downs is focusing on friendship And friendship was the theme in this one.
[00:25:50] And so like, how do you be a friend to the deaf and somebody who’s hurting? How do you get past those layers? And can you get past those layers to actually continue on with a healthy looking [00:26:00] friendship? That’s kind of why I would say you should get my book, but
[00:26:05] Stephen: okay. Great. Well, uh, Jessica has been great talking to you and I hope people are interested and go check out your book.
[00:26:11] Me too. And so, uh, going to next talk, uh, some other stuff about, uh, taking risks. So thank you for being on the podcast. Yeah.
[00:26:21] Jessica: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
[00:26:26] Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author discuss the road they’ve traveled and maybe sometime in the near future, it might be you.