Interviewed by: Gill Sherry
“Anything is possible.”
Swedish born Jessica Jarlvi is the best-selling author of two novels, When I Wake Up and What Did I Do? Now based in Dubai, she is working on her third psychological thriller, due to be published next year. Read on to discover the story of her success and why reading is just as important as writing.
Please introduce yourselves to our readers:
Originally Swedish, I have spent the last twenty years living in different countries, working in publishing and PR, but I have always been writing. In 2016, I was a winner in a competition and signed with a literary agent. Since then, I’ve had two psychological thrillers published.
Tell us about your educational/career background:
I have a BSc (Hons) degree in Publishing and Business and a Masters in Creative Writing.
What made you want to be a writer?
Books had a great impact on me growing up – they opened up my world and made me more compassionate, I think, because they demonstrated that everyone is different and has a unique story. I wanted to write novels to entertain, but also to shed light on issues.
Do you have a favourite book/author?
I admire so many authors. At the top of my head, I’d have to say Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood.
Where did you get the idea for your first novel?
It was more like several ideas coming together in one book, but the inspiration emerged when I walked through a small, dark town and had a ‘what if?’ moment. What if something happened? How would it play out in this small town?
How much time do you spend on research for your books?
Once inspiration strikes, I spend a few days doing research, and then I begin to write. I’m more of an intuitive writer – I’m not someone who plans every chapter in advance – so I do most of the research along the way, which will shape the plot too.
You touch on issues such as mental health and OCD. Was it important for you to raise awareness of such issues?
Absolutely. We need to have a conversation about these issues, not stigmatise them. How will people come forward and seek help otherwise?
Many authors struggle to get published. What advice would you give them?
Keep writing and pitching. Writing a full novel requires stamina and dedication. It takes time to complete a novel and to edit it. If you’ve done this and you still don’t have a publishing deal, then make sure you’ve sent it to everyone who might be interested. If you have, then either look at the novel again with fresh eyes (preferably leaving it in a drawer for a month first), or write a new novel. To get published, it might take a few attempts. The trick is to not give up!
Tell us about the Montegrappa Prize:
After predominately writing fiction in Swedish, I began to write a novel in English, which I then submitted to the Montegrappa First Fiction competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. It was judged by a UK literary agent and I spent ages writing and re-writing those first chapters. On the day they announced the winners, it was magic hearing my now agent read an extract from my book, and getting up on stage to collect the prize.
How do you enjoy Dubai?
I’ve lived in Dubai for a few years and it’s been an interesting time. I love how international the community is, which has helped me learn about many different cultures.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Hang out with my family. My husband and I have four children so our house is always buzzing! Should I ever have a quiet moment, I read. I devour fiction in various genres, and also books on mindfulness.
Describe your ideal writing environment:
Ideally at home, surrounded by peace and quiet. But that is not my reality. So I write where and when I can – quite often in cafés between dropping off or picking up my children.
How long does it take you to write a novel, from start to finish?
My first novel took a year, the second one three months, but the one I’m working on at the moment is taking longer. I had a baby last year which has meant less time writing (and sleeping!).
When can we expect to read your third novel?
Hopefully next year.
If you had one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?
You write because you can’t live without writing. That means that no matter how many rejections you receive, you keep writing. Also, read as much as possible. That way, you learn what works and what doesn’t and that helps you edit your own books.
Do you have a message for the team at CP Magazine and our readers?
Always follow your dreams and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t.