Author Spotlight: Jessica Dotta

Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winners from last week’s Author Spotlight with CJ Darlington is Nat Holmgren! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address (

This week welcome Jessica Dotta!  To win a copy of Jessica’s Born of Persuasion (Tyndale, 2013), leave a comment on this post.

JessicaforWebTell us a little about your book . . .

If you love the twists and turns of Downton Abbey, then you’ll love this novel! It’s my debut and I’m so excited to share it!

Set in England in 1838, seventeen-year Julia Elliston’s need to find a husband is more pressing than the average young lady’s. In the last six months her mother has taken her own life and a mysterious guardian has ordered her to Scotland. Unbeknownst to most, she’s secretly betrothed to her childhood sweetheart who lives in a distant parish. He, however, has changed.

Just when all seems lost, Julia catches the eye of a rich, titled dowager who offers to oversee Julia into society. There she discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past when she becomes caught in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own.

Why do you write?

I love story.

Story has so much potential to change culture, introduce new ways of looking at life and encourage others. The quote on my website says I write because:

“Every minute of life counts and never more so than during a crisis – that moment when things have gone so far there’s no right answer. We’re forced to make a decision; one that will be costly and have a ripple effect. I write because story can fuel courage, help one stand strong, and spark the desire to act noble.”

Best writing moment?

I was thrilled to get an endorsement from Liz Curtis Higgs. She writes amazing Scottish historicals—ones that you can’t put down and don’t want to. I have a shelf of her books that I rarely loan out. Her endorsement made publishing feel real.

Worst writing moment?

It was on a long, snowy walk in middle of January. I was barely recovered from the flu and not feeling well. That week I’d been told I was wasting my time writing, that no one would ever want to publish me. Another person asked why I would squander my time writing, when there were so many ministries I could pour myself into. I then received an e-mail from someone else writing to say my being a writer displeased God. These were three people completely unconnected with each other.

I went prayer walk in the snow, determined to search out God’s heart for myself. I knew that when I finished that walk, I would either quit writing or press on despite opposition.

I obviously didn’t quit. Rather, I think I grew more determined.

Not long after that day, I saw the trailer for Million Dollar Baby, and this line had me in tears:

“There’s magic fighting battles beyond endurance. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees but you.”

For a long time, I had that taped where I could see it every day.

Describe your ideal circumstances to write.

I used to get up at 4 a.m. in the morning to write, so that I wouldn’t be interrupted.

Not a good idea!

Now it’s my best writing hour, and it’s never easy to get out of bed that early.

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s too early for my internal editor to be awake, or if I’m so tired I’m less picky—but I seem to get more material early in the morning.

Right this moment, what does your office look like?

Ack! It’s very messy as of two hours ago. I have scrap-booking supplies spread over my desk as I’ve been working on one-of-a-kind bookmarks to accompany my book launch.

How would you describe your writing style to a reader?

I’ve been told by a lot of people who’ve read the story I remind them either of Jane Austen or of a Bronte sister. I think that’s because it has gothic overtones. I love haunting words and old, spooky houses.

I use modern fiction techniques, but I’ve been told that many feel like they’re reading something that could have been written by someone long ago.

cover2If you could write any book—on any topic—and be guaranteed a publishing contract, what topic would it be? (Or genre?)

I love YA and hope to write some in that genre, as well.

Ever had a bad review? How did you handle it?

I almost skipped this question, as Born of Persuasion doesn’t release for another month and I’m short on reviews—both good and bad—but then I realized this might be the only time in my life I can publically claim that I have never had a single bad review and it will be true.

What’s one thing you learned about the publishing industry in last five years? Last year? Last six months?

I’ve worked as an editor on Novel Rocket for several years and as a book publicist.

At Novel Rocket, we were always struck at how the bestselling authors were always the easiest to work with. They didn’t expect us to comb the web for their bio or photo. They were gracious and very thankful, even when we were a small blog. From that experience, I learned to treat every opportunity with the same respect you’d give a major outlet.

As a book publicist, I saw how few authors knew how to utilize a publicist well. Publicists are an amazing tool for building a career, but just like a hammer or power saw tool, you have to know how use it. A good one increases your workload, not decreases it.

As an author, I was surprised that Barnes and Noble and Amazon featured my book for pre-order at a huge discount. It’s wonderful that early enthusiasts can purchase it at this price.

How do you solve a grammar dilemma?

I am so lucky that have pocketful of author friends and English teachers. Perhaps that was God planned. I see what I think is on paper vs. what actually is on paper.

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? In between?

Definitely an introvert. Introverted, however, doesn’t necessarily mean shy. Introverts have a rich inner world, which makes sense for a writer.

Do you enjoy public speaking as an author? Why or why not?

Public Speaking is always a wild card for me. I’m never quite sure how I’m going to do. Sometimes I’m spot on, other times . . . well, let’s just go to the next question.

Can a person make a living as a writer?

There has been a lot of changes in the publishing industry and with the economy. It’s becoming harder to write full time and sustain it.

Nevertheless harder does not mean impossible. There are people who are surviving on writing alone.

Were there any surprises in your research?

Yes! I used to think that if I had been given the choice, I would have opted to live in Victorian, England. But after researching it, I am so thankful that I can love that era from a distance.

I researched as I wrote, and I was astounded at how precarious a woman’s position in that era was and how tough it was to survive there. It wasn’t all ball gowns, teas and dances. I did my best to capture the realities of being a woman in that age.

How can readers find you and your books?

You can read the first chapter of Born of Persuasion at

I also have a free quarterly online magazine for those who enjoy the allure of the past and are ready to take a break from this mad-dash work and relax and refresh. You can find me on Goodreads and AuthorsDen.

Barnes and Noble


LIKE this post? Click to Tweet: Three different people told @JessicaDotta that she should quit writing and yet she continued on.

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Be sure to buzz on over to my contest page and enter to win an iPad, Kindle Fire HD, or Nook HD in The Letter’s Giveaway!

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. Teresa Young says:

    I love DA so I am sure to love your book. Just from the synopsis I can feel Julia’s frustration and fear at not having control over her future.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks so much, Teresa! I’m with you on DA! I’m so glad it’s on television and gaining an audience. Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Jennifer C says:

    Wow, dream crushers! It’s amazing how we can put a spin on things like saying being a writer displeases God. Thankfully you didn’t listen!

    • Jessica says:

      Aw, thanks, Jennifer! It’s really wonderful to be where I am now! Those people have mostly fallen out of my life. I’ve learned how powerful it can be when ‘dream crushers’ leave the picture!

  3. I enjoyed the introduction to Jessica Dotta. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Kay Z says:

    I love historical fiction! Sounds like a wonderful book.

  5. Melanie Backus says:

    Thanks for info. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  6. Patty H says:

    I’m with Jessica, the more I learn about the past the happier I am to be living in our modern age!

  7. Jessica and I were in the same critique group some time ago, and she subbed the first couple chapters of Born of Persuasion. I was hooked immediately and have always wanted to be able to finish reading the entire book. And soon, I will be able to do that. Jessica is a wonderful writer!

  8. Real writers go through the snowy January walks. You, my dear, are a real writer!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Michelle! I almost didn’t share that story, thinking it might be too negative sounding. But then I recalled how terrible a day that was and realized knowing someone else under went it to would have encouraged me.

  9. Ane Mulligan says:

    I was captivated by your writing and story way back in what 2002 or 03? I can’t remember anymore. But you mist assuredly are a writer! I’m so thrilled by success!

  10. I LOVE historical fiction and now I cannot wait to read Born of Persuasion. It sounds thrilling.;)

  11. Megan Wilson says:

    Ack! I hate public speaking!!

    Your book sounds awesome! 🙂

  12. bonnie says:

    Enjoyed the interview & glad that you had the determination to stick with your dream, Jessica. Liz Curtis Higgs is definitely a good mentor – I’m sure there is little that she doesn’t know about Scotland. Like you – I have just about every book she has written ( & more than one form for several of them, ie: print book as well as dvd or cd) & seldom lend mine out either.

    Would love to read your book & hope I am lucky enough to win a copy. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!


    • Jessica says:

      Thank’s, Bonnie! I still remember the first time I opened her novel, Thorn in My Heart! I was so excited as I read her first sentences! I knew I had found a new favorite author! Wishing you luck!

  13. Carol Edwards says:

    This sounds like a great book and thanks for the interview.

  14. Tamara Wilkins says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this… I love historical fiction with twists and turns… 🙂

  15. felecia says:

    Looks great! Thanks for the chance.

    • Jessica says:

      Tamara, you’ll like this one, then! That’s the one comment I keep hearing over and over, the book took unexpected turns.

  16. Brittany McEuen says:

    Wow! So much to overcome with those discouraging comments! I enjoyed your interview and your book sounds really good.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Brittany! Your comment made me smile! God has brought me through really amazing circumstances. I am ever awed by Him.

  17. Connie Saunders says:

    Wonderful interview. In reference to your desire to write YA, as a librarian, I am seeing more and more adults migrating to that section in our library. There is some wonderful YA fiction currently being written!

    • Jessica says:

      Connie, you’ve got to write and recommend some YA to me. I read the ones that make it bestselling, once they become known, but please, please let me know about up and coming authors!

  18. I adore historical novels! They rock!

  19. angela chesnut says:

    would love to win.

  20. You had me at Downton Abbey & Gothic overtones. Congrats on your success! Please include me in the giveaway. Thanks for the opportunity!

  21. Bonnie Traher says:

    Would love to win.

  22. Jessica Jorn says:

    The synopsis of your book sounds wonderful and much more than a historical romance. I am definitely looking forward to reading it.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, so much, Jessica! While it does have elements of romance, it’s definitely not the story arc of the novel. 🙂

  23. Roberta Peden says:

    I would love this book.

  24. maryb says:

    I would love to read your book. Love the cover.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you, Mary B! As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I saw the covers! (You can see all three covers of the trilogy on my website.) Tyndale House did an outstanding job on them!

  25. Dee Stroud says:

    Glad you didn’t listen to all the naysayers. It sounds like an awesome book and one I would love to read.

  26. Melissa Dials says:

    Sounds like a great book!

  27. Sharon Timmer says:

    I love Downton Abbey also so this would be a book I will definitely read if I win a copy / thanks so much! 🙂

  28. Martha J. Sturm says:

    Jessica, so great that you persevered despite the negative comments!
    This book sounds like an intriguing read. Interested in seeing how your bookmarks turned out; I collect them 🙂


    • Jessica says:

      Martha! How fun! I sent out many of them out in review copies of the book. I only have a picture of ONE of the bookmarks! But it was a cute book mark!

      I need to make a whole new batch for booksignings and book clubs!

      I’ll pin the only picture I took on my Pinterest board “My Publishing Journey.” Let me know what you think. They were all different.

      I’m curious about your collection! Do you make them, too?

  29. Phyllis Kemp says:

    Your book sounds like something I would enjoy. Hope I win a copy. Thanks for the opportunity.

  30. Thanks for following God and your heart. Thank you also for not giving in to those “crushers” and standing your ground!! I loved your post!! Keep on writing!! Judy F

  31. I am a MAJOR Downton Abbey fan, so I am looking forward to reading your novel. And your answer to the review question made me smile. May you always have good reviews!

    • Jessica says:

      Tammy! I love that you’re a self taught cook! Keep your eye on the Giveaway. There’s some Downton Abbey Cooks (books) going up for grabs! Love your blessing on future reviews!

  32. Christine jensen says:

    Sounds like a great book!

  33. sharon says:

    A wonderful historical from a devoted Downton Abbey fan. Many thanks.

  34. Vivian Helton says:

    Sounds like a really interesting book. I would love to win it and rad it!

  35. Sandy I says:

    This book sounds awesome. I would love to read it.

  36. Nancy Luchene says:

    This looks like a book I would read. Hope I win!!!!

    • Jessica says:

      If you don’t, check out my virtual tea party on FB! People who send in a tea picture have a chance to win an autographed copy. Having a picture of yourself floating on the internet isn’t so bad 🙂

  37. Robin Baugh says:

    Congratulations on your book…I look forward to reading it!

  38. Beth Gillihan says:

    I enjoyed getting to know about you! I love reading about the Victorian era. Thanks for the chance to win!

  39. Susan P says:

    Very intriguing story! Definitely now on my TBR pile. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us!

  40. Sonja says:

    It sounds like a really interesting book. I haven’t read any of your books yet and would love to start! Thanks for the interesting review, also. Hope to win!

  41. amyc says:

    Nice interview. Would love to read this one. Sounds good.

  42. Thanks Suzanne for hosting Jessica. I love Historical Fiction also, and her book sounds really good. Jessica, I would love to read your book, so will try and win it. Good luck on your writer journey. God bless. I tried to do your etsy thing but don’t like to have to give info. on all of my friends. Sorry. Please put my name in the drawing. Maxie Anderson

    • Jessica says:

      Hi Maxie!

      I’m not sure I can enter a name without an e-mail address. I have my name and e-mail in one or two, as I tested them to make sure the fields work. If my name is randomly selected for those, I’ll use you as my sub. I’ll still need your e-mail address, though. E-mail me through my website 🙂

  43. Trudi M says:

    Well, I love Downton Abbey, so that’s a plus right there! The biggest appeal for me though? A new author. I love reading a debut novel, loving the way the author can weave a story together, then recommending it to all my book-lovin’ friends. How fun is that?!

  44. Carole F says:

    Excited to read this…

  45. Donna Brookmyer says:

    This book sounds wonderful! I would love to read it! I enjoyed reading the interview.

  46. Anne Payne says:

    Love the quote from your website! Your book sounds like one I will enjoy. I love Downton Abbey! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

  47. Mary Lou Peck says:

    THis sound really good. I love books written in this time period. Cant wait to read it and hoping you will do good in your new career choice. God Bless You…

  48. Ladette says:

    Looks like a great read! Thanks for the author spotlight and a chance to win.

  49. Howard Vosburgh says:

    I am intrigued and have already ordered a copy of this book. BUT, I would sure like a free copy, too!

  50. Barbara Thompson says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to meet Jessica. I love historical. After reading the first chapter, the book sounds great. Please enter me in the giveaway.

  51. Katie Grieb says:

    Looks good! I’d love to read it!

  52. Susan Stitch says:

    I’m so excited about Jessica’s new book, and her contest is really fun. Thanks for hosting this today.

  53. LeAnn Mooneyham says:

    Jessica’s book sounds like a great read. I mostly only read Amish books. Her book interests me. Congrats Jessica your book sounds really, really good.

  54. gurian6 says:

    This book sounds enticing…particularly after reading the first chapter. So…here’s hoping I win a copy.

  55. Tonja S. says:

    Please enter me. I love to read historical fiction.

  56. Connie Fischer says:

    Thanks so much for sharing information about a great new author. I’m really looking forward to reading her book. It sounds fabulous!

  57. Carol Hughes says:

    This sounds like a well researched historical novel. I hope I win.

  58. Pam K. says:

    The people who told Jessica she was squandering her time writing when there are more important ministries she could devote her time to and that writing displeases God certainly must not be readers! I have been ministered to many, many times by reading Christian fiction. There have been numerous times when I’ve felt God speaking to me through a well-written story. I am thankful for Christian authors who write fiction. Jessica’s book looks great so I am glad to have the chance to win a copy of Born of Persuasion. Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Connie!

    • Jessica says:

      Pam, thank you so much! I’ve thought about those comments over the years–especially as I grow in my realization of how unique we all are, and how we’re all called to different things. It’s amazing sometimes how we try to box someone into being what we think they should be.

  59. Amber says:

    This book sounds great! I’m a big fan of Downton Abbey. Hoping to win! amberdawnwhitlock[at]gmail[dot[com]

  60. We just finished a study of Job. Those three people who spoke to you reminded me so much of his friends!! Unfortunately, I think people who think they are helping often speak before they’ve stopped to pray. Who can know the heart of God??

    I am thrilled for you, Jessica, and SO looking forward to the launch of Born of Persuasion.

  61. Kd Brown says:

    Always happy to be introduced to spectacular authors and their books. I liked you on Facebook. Thanks for a great giveaway!

  62. Sherri Smith says:

    So you have me sold. I want to read the book. Reading the Q&A of you, the author, was intriguing, along with the synopsis of the story. It just whet my appetite to read.

  63. Patricia Boyle says:

    Book sounds great. As an avid reader, I read all genres but am especially fond of historical novels especially those set in “smog-shrouded” England.

  64. Marguerite B says:

    Thanks for the giveaway. BEAUTIFUL cover!!!!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Marguerite! I was lucky enough to receive all three covers of my series at once. I agree with you! I really think Tyndale outdid themselves!

  65. Renee Jackson says:

    This looks like such a great read; thank you so much for the opportunity!

  66. Sheri says:

    Great interview!! I am really looking forward to reading this new author and her new book. I love this cover and the book sounds like it is awesome!!

  67. Ola Norman says:

    I’d love to read this new author.

  68. Mary Dean says:

    Love this cover and the title is so intriguing.

  69. Kathy Jacob says:

    Love finding new authors to love!

  70. sharon miller says:

    Like reading new novelists and your book sounds very interesting about Victorian England. Love to win. sharon, CA

  71. Jessica–Thanks so much for sharing your wit and wisdom in the interview and for taking such good care of the commenters today! Loved reading your thoughts…really appreciated your reflections after being an editor at Novel Rocket. Interesting!
    Blessings to you as your book hits the shelves! Warmly, Suzanne

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you so much, Suzanne! Months ago Gina Holmes challenged me to start responding one-on-one with people, as I tend to otherwise hang back.

      Thank you so much for featuring me! I really appreciate it!

  72. Kate Leary says:

    My Dearest Jessica,
    As I have told you, I always knew that you would make it as an author, even from the 7th grade! I am so proud of you and am eagerly awaiting the release of your very first book, Born of Persuasion! I have always loved historical fiction and cannot wait to get my hands on your book! Reading the first chapter has only whet my appetite more. I’m so glad that you listened to God and your heart to continue writing! Best wishes always!

  73. Janet Estridge says:

    I would love to win this book for the church library.
    Thanks for the opportunity to do so.

  74. Lisa Harness says:

    The research on the past is very interesting to me; to see how life was at different times in history. Thank you sharing. Love to win.

  75. I am so glad you didn’t listen to Job’s naysayers!

    “I use modern fiction techniques, but I’ve been told that many feel like they’re reading something that could have been written by someone long ago.”

    That’s what historical fiction is after all, excellent deep research that you are there. Looking forward to the first of many of your novels! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

  76. Sonja Nishimoto says:

    Excellent interview. I look forward to reading this. Historical fiction is amongst my favorites! Best wishes for success!

  77. Shelly says:

    Glad you went for that Jan. cold walk, and wasn’t persuaded to quit writing! 🙂 sounds like a very good read, I hope to win and find out ! Also , enjoyed your interview !

  78. K. Finn says:

    Sounds like a great book. If I won, I’m sure I could read this and then pass it on to one friend after another.

  79. KayM says:

    Oh my! You had quit a mountain of criticism to overcome. I’m so happy for you that you made it.

  80. Sonja says:

    I haven’t read any of your books yet! But really want to. Thanks for the opportunity.