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 (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com).

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 http://www.jessicadotta.com/books/born-of-persuasion

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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