Ohio-based Jody Casella has been writing stories since the age of seven. She majored in creative writing at Rhodes College and has an MA in English from the University of Memphis. After many years teaching and raising children, she’s thrilled to be making her debut with THIN SPACE (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster), a paranormal YA mystery about a boy coming to terms with his twin brother’s death.
Tell us a little about yourself:
Jody: I’m a former high school English teacher, a mom of two teens, a long-time writer and a big-time reader. Also, I walk my dog a lot.
Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Jody: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember–since I learned how to read. I was a Creative Writing major in college and started an MFA in poetry before I chickened out and became a teacher. When my kids were little I started writing again, short stories for kids’ magazines, and then I started writing novels. Thin Space is the sixth book I’ve written but the first to be published. Let’s just say it was a very long road to publication!
Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.
Jody: Thin Space is a contemporary mystery with a paranormal twist. Sixteen year old Marsh Windsor lost his identical twin in a car accident several months ago and he’s reeling with guilt and grief. He’s heard about the Celitc belief in “thin spaces,” places where the veil between our world and the world of the dead is thinner. He becomes obsessed with finding one in the hopes that if he can see his brother again, he can set things right.
Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?
Jody: When I first started writing, my stuff was more autobiographical–realistic/contemporary. Somewhere along the way I moved toward fantasy and the supernatural. I’m not sure why this happened but I think it was because I let my characters and their stories evolve and go where they wanted to go, regardless of how strange or weird it seemed as I was writing.
Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?
Jody: Towards the end of the book Marsh is finally nearing the point where he may find a thin space. I must confess that until I reached this point in the writing, I didn’t know if he was going to find a thin space, or even if there was such a thing as thin spaces at all. I kept writing until I found out. Let me just say, I did NOT see the end coming.
Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Jody: Well, I’m not a sixteen year old boy and I don’t have an identical twin, but I have experienced loss and grief and obsession. This is the cool part about writing fiction–how you can weave in bits of your own feelings and experiences into something purely made up.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Jody: One of my favorite books as a kid was a now out-of-print book called Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. It’s about a girl who keeps slipping back in time and trading places with a girl from the past. I loved the escapist aspect of the book, how you could leave your own life behind and play around in a different life. There’s all kinds of cool things about identity and lots of twists and turns in the plot. If you can find a copy of this book, I highly recommend it.
Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?
Jody: I do, in the sense that there are many days when it is hard for me to sit down and work. What I’ve learned over the years is that this is a pretty normal experience for writers and the only cure is to let go of your expectations, try to silence the doubts or at least shove them in the back corner of your head, and just write.
Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
Jody: I met one of my favorite writers, Meg Rosoff, at a writers conference and blathered to her like a gushy idiot. I’m afraid if I had a chance to meet other favorites–people like John Green and Sara Zarr and Courtney Summers–I would blather like an idiot too.
Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?
Jody: I am in the process of revising a novel that has the potential to be either really awesome or ridiculously horrible, depending on what day you ask me. (Today, I’m thinking it’s okay.) It’s a mash up between environmental disaster and Greek mythology with multiple points of view, more romance than I have ever dared to write, some humor, and also, death.
Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?
Jody: It took a very long time to go from finished manuscript to book on the shelf. The wait nearly drove me crazy, but now, looking back, I think I needed that time–to write other things, to figure out my writing and revising process, to learn how to absorb rejections and criticism, and to learn a bit about marketing. So, no, I don’t think I would change anything.
Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Jody: Keep writing. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.
Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Jody: I still can’t get over the idea that there are people out there–people I don’t know!–reading a story I wrote. So, thank you! Thank you! People I don’t know, for picking up my book and falling into my story.
Thank you so much!!