THE CHAOS OF STANDING STILL by Jessica Brody
I’ve been a fan of Jessica Brody for a long time, and I was happy to feature her earlier this year. Besides having a delightfully ambiguous title, THE CHAOS OF STANDING STILL offers a unique take on the grief process:
Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.
She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.
But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.
And his name is Xander.
When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.
Ryn can’t move on.
But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.
In our last interview, you said, “I’m always juggling a million projects at once.” Is this still true, and in what ways, if any, do you find creative balance?
Haha, well, given that these interview questions were two weeks late to you, I’d say, I’m NOT finding balance right now. LOL. Yes, I’ve been juggling a lot lately. Right now, I’m finishing a first draft of my next sci-fi novel, the first in a new series, called A SKY WITHOUT STARS. I’ve just turned in the revised draft of my next contemporary (title to be announced soon!) and I’m currently revising my first non-fiction book, SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, all about plotting novels. This has been an unusually busy year, but basically my strategy has been dividing my day into slots or sections. Like I have a drafting slot (always in the morning when I’m freshest) for first drafts of books. Then I have an afternoon slot that is dedicated to revising. And I try to insert promotion and marketing slots between those. This way I can always stay focused on the task at hand and not get distracted.
Sounds like a great process–and I’d love to read SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL. Speaking of plot, I love how THE CHAOS OF STANDING STILL deals with grief. Was this theme always a part of the story or was in woven in gradually? Or both?
Actually the grief was never part of the original outline!
Originally, I just wanted to challenge myself as a writer, to see if I could write a rom com set in an enclosed setting and have the two characters believably fall in love in only 24 hours. So I set out to write a book about two teens who meet while trapped in the Denver airport during a snow storm. And although all of that is still in there, something interesting happened as I starting writing.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a new character appeared. Her name was Lottie. She was unlike any character I’d ever written. She was vivacious. She was bubbly. She spoke her mind. She was funny. And she was very, very dead.
I had no idea what to do with that. Dead Lottie was definitely not in my original rom com outline. But once Lottie was unleashed into the story, everything changed. It was no longer a cute, fun rom-com about a girl getting trapped in the Denver airport and falling in love. It soon became so much more than that. It became a story about a girl who lost her best friend and has been unable to let her go. Literally. Lottie is trapped inside Ryn’s head, still talking to her, still guiding her in death, just like she did in life.
So the story quickly morphed from a carefree, cute rom com to a rom com with this extra layer to it. A layer of unresolved grief. A topic I’d never touched before in my career.
I love when characters appear out of nowhere like that–and how they inevitably change a story. Stories can change in all kinds of ways–for example, your books also have foreign editions. What has been the most challenging about this process, and what’s been most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is ALWAYS seeing my book with all of these cool different covers! But on the flip side, you have very little control over the foreign publication process. That’s sort of a challenge. Most of the time I don’t even know what the book will look like until it’s out. Some publishers have actually run cover ideas by me before proceeding but I’ve found that doesn’t happen all the time. So you sort of need to learn how to let go of control when it comes to foreign editions.
Letting go of control can be difficult, but it’s often a necessary process. If you could tell you younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?
I think I would tell teen Jessica Brody that no matter what she chooses to do with her life, she can always change. I was a financial analyst for many years before I got laid off and decided to write a book. I think teens get very stressed out about making huge life decisions at such a young age. But hey, nothing is set in stone. You can always change careers. I did and it turned out pretty great!
Looking for Jessica Brody’s other U.S. book releases? Find them here.