The Jesse Nolan Bailey Interview
In Interview Corner in the Speculative Faction we're happy to welcome debut author, Jesse Nolan Bailey. Enthralled by the magic that written stories contain, Jesse Nolan Bailey has always wanted to be an author. With his debut novel finally released to the masses, he can now claim such title with relief. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he has embraced the equally-gratifying lifework of hosting a trio of spoiled cats.
Q: Tell us about your debut novel, The Jealousy of Jalice, which is published on May 19th.
A: This is a dark fantasy, full of demons, betrayal, and a land troubled by a cruel tyrant. The story centers on Annilasia and Jalice, the former of which enacts a scheme that involves kidnapping the latter. Annilasia whisks Jalice off into a forest infested with beasts and demonic entities. Though the two were once childhood friends, they are now estranged and vehemently disagree about the state of the land and its ruler. Furthermore, a dangerous event from Jalice’s past threatens to complicate matters while simultaneously revealing dark secrets of how the land’s chaos came to be.
Q: It’s a highly complex world you’ve defined for the novel. Give us a flavour of what to expect in it.
A: I wanted a distinctly non-medieval setting, and although the story hints at post-apocalyptic lore, I didn’t want dystopia to be the main focus either. Rather, my vision encompassed a world with unique, primeval cultures that could feature diverse characters. The characters drive the story, and find themselves overwhelmed by unnatural monsters and demons, along with their own sins and failings. As for the world’s magic, it follows a blend of soft and hard magic systems--it has structure, but it too is a twisted, unpredictable enigma that the characters have to learn to navigate.
Q: You mention in your acknowledgements the ‘long years’ it took to write this book. I’m sure there will be a lot of other debut writers who will understand that producing their first story is a marathon and not a sprint! Tell us a little about your trials and torments!
A: I think every writer, with every book, faces the kind of trials I’ve come up against. Days lacking in motivation or inspiration, days of writer’s block. I think the worst are the days of doubt and imposter syndrome. Even after the first initial positive reviews, I would glance at the words that made up my book and wonder if I had talent. I think every writer deals with this in some scope or fashion. What I’ve found is that to overcome this, I just have to sit down and write some words. At the end of the day, even if those new words suck, I feel much better about myself and about life if I’ve got some on paper that I didn’t have before.
Q: The Jealousy of Jalice is certainly a very dark fantasy, there are some gruesome moments within its pages (I’m thinking of Delilee’s fate especially!) What drew you down this path?
A: Fantasy has always been my favorite genre to consume, but I’ve had a complicated relationship with horror. There’s been an innate fascination with the elements of that genre, but I’m a squeamish fellow, and I don’t do well with jump scares in movies. Yet, as this story evolved, so did my tastes in entertainment, and in recent years I’ve developed a strange affinity to darker fantasy and scifi storytelling. Horror has the ability, if used as such, to examine and dissect the harsher parts of life that may otherwise be too raw to examine in other genres. I’m not talking just about the gore and frights it creates. Horror uses those trademark elements to strip away the temptation to view life through rose-colored glasses. It doesn’t pretend that all things work out, because in real life, they don’t. So for this story, with the underlying themes and the personal events of my own life that I imbued in it, this darker story emerged and just felt right.
Q: Tell us about your writing habits and routines. Are you someone who is highly disciplined when it comes to writing or do you wait for the right mood?
A: There have been periods of my life where I’ve been very disciplined--specifically the 8 months of rewrites that took this story from a drawn-out piece of garbage to something other people might actually enjoy reading. When it got to a point where I got so frustrated at not being published, I sat down and stuck to a routine that ensured I made consistent progress.
But I’m not going to lie--there were large periods of time where I didn’t have the motivation or inspiration, and I let it keep me from writing. Those were in the early days/years. I’ve taught myself more discipline since then, so my fans shouldn’t fret that it will take me as long to write the sequel. I prefer, of course, to write when the ‘right mood’ strikes, but waiting for those moments is just not a reliable and consistent way to get a book written.
Q: Are you a plotter or pantser?
A: Plotter. Large chunks of the story take place in my head first--specific characters and scenes that I consider ‘trailer moments’ (i.e. the scenes that would get put in a movie trailer to highlight the basis of the story and the tone). Next, I get those scenes organized in an outline on paper and fill in the gaps. Then I start writing. I still allow room for spontaneous inspiration to arise and alter something, but I find an outline helps me know where the story is going.
Q: Which writers have inspired you? What books have shaped you into the writer you are now?
These might sound a bit cliche, but first and foremost, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. They were the first fantasy authors I read (big surprise), and the Lord of the Rings remains one of my favorite stories. In the scifi department, Michael Crichton awed me with novels like Jurassic Park and Sphere. In more recent years, Patrick Rothfuss and Robert Jordan are authors that have made a great impression on me, and I strive to emulate their style in my own writing.
Q: What challenges do you experience as a writer? What triumphs?
A: Most of the challenges are self-inflicted, like doubt in my talent and abilities. But external challenges include a lack of social presence (a difficult achievement for an introvert that struggles with social anxiety) and the newfound troubles presented by recent world events. The plans to approach bookstores to do signings, something I’ve dreamed about from day one, might be difficult to achieve with this debut.
As for triumphs, finishing this book is the number one item on that list. It’s hard to finish writing a book. It’s even harder to rewrite it again and again until it’s presentable. I’m still in shock that I’ve released it to the masses. No artist is ever truly finished with their work of art. There just comes a point where it’s time to move on to another project. But I’m mighty proud of this book, and maybe it’ll inspire someone else to finish their own book.
Q: In the film version of The Jealousy of Jalice, tell us who would be in the cast.
A: Jalice: Karen Gillan
Annilasia: Freida Pinto
Delilee: Bonnie Wright
Hydrim: Sidharth Malhotra
Mygo: Idris Elba
I'd like to wish Jesse lots of luck as he publishes The Jealousy of Jalice and I hope he writes many more stories! His book will be available from:
You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jesseNbailey
His website: jessenolanbailey.com