So, Jessica – Luxury, who’s it for and what’s it about?
Hi Nik. Well, I’d like to think it’s for anyone who enjoys a good story. Though it broadly comes under the banner of ‘women’s fiction’, whatever that means, I hope it’s a book that men can enjoy as well – the story centres around three men who are friends at the opening of the book (you can read the prologue on my website) and the feud between two of them. So it’s certainly not just for girls…
What’s it about? Logan Barnes is a luxury hotel tycoon – kind of like the Gordon Ramsay of hotels. He’s in a glitzy reality TV show called General Manager, he’s flying high – he’s about to open an ultra-exclusive hotel on a private island somewhere in the Indian Ocean, called Luxury. It’s the culmination of years of ambition and a lot of hard work. But his old enemy and one time friend, Nicolo Flores, is determined to see him fail, and bring his empire crashing down. Why? Well, that’s what you have to find out by reading the book… And it’s not just Nicolo who is threatening Logan’s position at the top of the pile – his wife is addicted to pills and booze, his daughter’s out of control and his son is a muso rather than the heir to the throne Logan had hoped for. Can he keep everything from imploding?
Why did you write it?
Because it’s the sort of book I love to read. A big story, big characters, lots of drama – basically a bit of a return to some of the old-fashioned blockbusters that were around some years ago from writers like Shirley Conran and Harold Robbins, but brought bang up to date for a new generation of readers.
What do you hope readers will get from it?
Partly a good story, like I say above, but just as importantly an emotional resonance with some of the characters. You can’t have a good story without good characters. I want to make people feel something, because that’s what I look for in a book – whether it’s sadness, or a sense of injustice on behalf of one of the characters, or that great thrill when the writer manages to surprise you and it almost takes your breath away – I’m always looking for an emotional hook in what I read and what I write.
How long did it take you to write? What’s the Jessica Ruston Writing Process?
It took me a couple of years on and off, but, as with most first novels, that wasn’t in a straight stretch as I was doing it in bursts around other work, getting an agent etc, so it’s hard to say overall. The JR Process (TM?!) is still a work in progress, but I tend to start with a one page or so outline of the story – it may be as brief as a paragraph, but it just helps me to sketch out the premise and see how it looks on paper. If it still intrigues me I work it up to a couple of pages, and then will often run it by my agent. With my second novel, which I’m working on at the moment, I then wrote a longer outline of around 5,000 words for my publishers, so I had a chance to work out the broad strokes of the story. I expect it to change as I write, potentially reasonably substantially, but it helps me to have a blueprint when I start, even if I then veer away from it. I don’t like having everything planned in too much detail though – one of the biggest highs of writing is when you suddenly discover something that you didn’t know you knew, either about the characters or the plot. And then I start writing. Not necessarily right at the beginning, but with something that feels like it sets the tone. I do a lot of shifting around later on, so I don’t worry about chapter breaks in the early stages, I just write and break it up in chunks. I’m using Scrivener these days, which is an awesome Mac based writing programme, which has load of useful tools for novelists and screenwriters.
Why did you want to write about the uber-rich?
Hmm, good question. More scope for big sweeps of story and location I guess – in one sense the very rich are real people just like you and me, but with better hair… so all the emotional and interpersonal stuff is basically the same, but the difference is in things like the ability to country hop in a way that most people can’t. Big drama – even melodrama – is more plausible set against that sort of background, and you can get away with a lot more flashy stuff that’s fun to write. So, for my own amusement, essentially. And I can get away with better research trips…
What do you think the ingredients of a good book are?
It has to make me feel something, like I said earlier. That’s top of the pile for me – I can enjoy lots of books, in that they entertain me, or impress me, or make me laugh – but if there’s no emotional connection then I won’t remember it. Great characters that I want to know more about – and that doesn’t necessarily mean liking them. And a good story. One that keeps me turning the page, keeps me wanting to find out more. A bit of a mystery always goes down well with me – not necessarily a crime but some kind of secret, skeleton in the closet, unanswered question…
What does the word ‘story’ mean to you?
A beginning, a middle and an end.
Tell us something about you.
I once wrote to both the Queen and the Prime Minister (Mrs Thatcher at the time) asking if they would like one of our kittens.
What does your ideal reader look like, and what would you hope (s)he would say about Luxury?
I have no idea what they look like, but I hope they have nice shoes. Shoes are important. I hope they would say that they enjoyed it (obviously) and that something in it had moved them. That they would remember something about it. And that they would recommend it to everyone they ever met, but I think that might be pushing things…
‘Jessica Ruston’ is going to be entered into the OED and you can write its definition. What would it say?
…Could do better. Well, it’s what my school reports always said…
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given? And what would you say to someone who wanted to be an author?
Just get on with it. Don’t waste your time hanging around waiting for The Muse. The main difference between published authors and people who wish they were published authors is that the former get it finished. It’s relatively easy to have a great idea, the difficult bit is getting the bloody thing written. Oh, and that it’s a process, not an event…
What’s next for you?
Novel number two, which I’m hugely excited about. It’s a different story and different characters but in the same kind of style – a big, sweeping story with plenty of secrets and drama and scandal. And I’m working on a couple of other writing projects which are under wraps but which I am crossing my fingers about. Exciting times.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just thank you very much for having me and asking such interesting questions! Oh, and buy my book…