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My Life After Now Tour: Interview with Jessica Verdi

Monday, March 25, 2013
As a part of the My Life After Now tour, I have for you an interview with author Jessica Verdi. Come back later for Alice's review of the book.

My Life After Now
Jessica Verdi

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it's all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?

Now her life is completely different...every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
First of all, thank you so much for having me on your blog! Let’s see, a little bit about me: I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I love animals, tattoos, TV, and theater. And reading and writing, of course! I got into writing after ten long years as an on-again, off-again actor in New York. I was sometimes cast in shows, but in a city with so much talent and competition, those opportunities were few and far between. I started to get frustrated just waiting around for someone to cast me in something and finally give me the opportunity to be creative. I knew I needed to start making those opportunities for myself. And what better way to tell a story and use your own creativity than writing? Unlike acting, you don’t have to wait for anyone to give you the go-ahead—you can write on your own terms. And once I started writing, I knew it was what I was supposed to have been doing all along.

It's really cool how you went from acting to writing. It sounds wonderful to be able to choose your own schedule and stories to tell. What did you learn while researching for My Life After Now?
I already knew a bunch about HIV/AIDS before I wrote the book, but during the research process I learned a LOT more. The statistical facts of the virus, the more personal aspect of what it’s like to live with it, what the free testing clinic environment is like, what sorts of medications are available, the (shockingly high) rate at which young people in the U.S. are becoming infected, and so much more.

We learn about some stats at school, but there's nothing like hearing an actual story to learn about the realities of HIV and AIDS. Lucy goes through a challenging time in her life what with losing acting and her boyfriend, having her estranged mother show up after three years, and contracting HIV in a one-night stand. What was it like having to put Lucy through all this through the drafting and editing/revising process?
She really does go through a lot, poor girl, but I think it was important for her to have a series of really, really bad days in order to build the believability of her running away and doing something so out of character for her—the very thing that leads to her contraction of HIV. It was rough having to go through her journey with her time and time again, from the initial drafting stages all the way through revisions, but I love her (and her dads and her friends) so much, so I wanted to work hard to do her story justice. That’s what kept me going.

It is because she goes through all that that we can really sympathize with her. How did you go about finding the balance between sharing enough facts about HIV and all that Lucy goes through while keeping her story relatable and not preachy?
Whenever I found myself going into “preachy” territory, I took a step back and reminded myself this book is about a character, above and beyond anything else. It’s not a book about everyone in the world who has HIV, and it’s not a book meant to express an opinion on right vs. wrong. It’s a book about one character going through her own journey. So I just focused on her individual experience, her life, and the rest sorted itself out.

While the story is about Lucy at its heart, the people around her also move our hearts in different ways. Many of the characters reveal new sides to themselves as the story progresses. Is there any that surprised you in particular?
Yes, that happened so many times! But I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that the way Lucy’s relationships change with pretty much everyone in her life—her mother, her dads, her friends—always kept me on my toes.

Relationships are a big part of the book, I agree. Would you share an excerpt from the novel that sets the tone for Lucy's story?
If I told my family and my friends the truth, everything would change. They would look at me differently, treat me differently. Of course they would—I was different. But right now I was the only one who knew it. And that was the safest place to be. Because if the world outside me became as unrecognizable as the world inside me had, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do.

On the other hand, if no one knew, they would still be expecting me to be the same old Lucy. But how do you play the role of yourself when “yourself ” no longer exists?

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m in revisions for my second book, The Summer I Wasn’t Me, which comes out next April. It’s a love story set at an ex-gay conversion camp for teenagers.

Thanks for interviewing, Jessica. I'm looking forward to your next book!

About the Author

Jessica's Websiste | Facebook | Twitter
Jessica Verdi is a young adult author who writes envelope-pushing stories about not-so-pretty real-life issues, but always with a positive spin. After nearly ten years on the stage, she got an idea for a novel. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else. Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and works as an editor at a romance novel publisher. She loves all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the large and freakish, has been a vegetarian for most of her life, is a little too obsessed with TV shows about vampires, and has an amazing group of writer friends who keep her sane. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog.
2 comments on "My Life After Now Tour: Interview with Jessica Verdi"
  1. Wow.. this sounds like such a powerful story with a brave topic to touch.

  2. This book sounds very interesting. I can't wait to read it to see what happened.


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