Jessie Bishop Powell grew up in rural Ohio. She now lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband and their two children. She has Master’s Degrees in English and Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Jessie’s first book, Divorce: A Love Story was published as an e-book by Throwaway Lines in 2011. The Marriage at the Rue Morgue is her debut mystery.
That’s the official bit. But here’s who I really am. I’ve been a writer since the age of ten, and I’ve been a lover of words for much longer than that. My grandfather used to read me the funny papers when I was little, and I would make him repeat the words I liked best entirely to hear the sound of them.
I compose on the computer. While I can write things longhand, I prefer not to, as I have ADHD, and my crummy script can’t keep up with my brain as well as my typing fingers can. I’m a self taught typing demon. My grandparents (the same ones who read me the funnies) had this antique Remington Rand that I would bang away at, making gibberish until I realized I could compose novels. The ribbon on the Rand stopped rewinding, and the keys jammed one too many times, so I upgraded to an electric typewriter, a Smith-Corona we got at a yard sale. It had a predictably short life, and I went on to a brand new Smith-Corona word processor. Sadly, it too lasted only a few months. (Dusty house + girl who writes nearly all the time = short lived electronics in the 1980’s.) (Getting rid of the Rand remains one of my lifelong regrets.)
My first computer cost fifty dollars and came from … you guessed it, a yard sale. (We were broke. And you could get some serious deals at those things.) The hardest part about the transition to full-on electronic was the loss of that thwackita-thwackita-whap-ding that even the word processor had retained. I still love no music more than the song of keys on paper. The screech-squack of a dot-matrix printer wasn’t a satisfying replacement, and even today, the apps that make your keystrokes sound more type-writerish miss the real sound by far. There is a weight to a depressed key that a computer lacks, and there is a heartbeat of space between the pressing of the button and the echo of the sound. A keyboard cannot replicate that pause.
But. I’m an electronics geek. So what the keyboard lacked in typing fun it made up for in gadgetry. It was an old 286 that someone had souped up to run Microsoft Works for DOS. It had a faulty fan, and the machine wouldn’t boot up if the fan didn’t come on. To jolt the thing to life, I used to hold it about two feet off my desk and drop it, thumbing the on switch (and it was a switch) as it passed by in free fall. It usually took around three drops to get the computer started. At some point, the mouse stopped functioning (and it was kind of a big deal to even USE a mouse on one of those), and I never fixed it. Then I replaced several other parts without ever fixing that problem. So I learned and got really good at using, keyboard shortcuts to do everything. I’m still that girl who tells you, “OK, now hold down the shift key and arrow down to highlight the text, then press CTRL+C to copy ; Now Alt+Tab over to the other window and press CTRL+V to paste.” (Actually, I didn’t learn Alt+Tab until later, because I didn’t need it with my first Windows computer, which had a functional mouse.) The point of this digression is that I compose electronically, save my work in he cloud, and only print out a copy for editing once the manuscript is complete. (And at that point, I CAN print several copies and hand write corrections all over them to transpose.)
As a college student, I knew few other writers. My undergrad college was comprised largely of nontraditional students in their thirties, and I started when I was sixteen, so I had a limited number of age peers, and they didn’t write for fun. It was an oddball three year college that tried to fledge its little birds by pushing us out into the world for our final year. So when I went to a traditional college for my fourth year of college, I was twenty years old, younger than all the other seniors in my classes, and completely unable to connect with the writing community. (I did connect with college and community theater groups.)
My first real writing community didn’t come until after graduate school (which was its own peculiar form of hell; I’m surprised Dante didn’t include that circle in his Inferno), a happy marriage, and two children. When I discovered blogging and internet writing challenges, I found myself surrounded by my peers. Finally, I had an audience other than my ever-patient (and thoughtful, and brilliant, and oh my GOD have I mentioned patient?) husband to bounce ideas off of.
Although I had completed and published Divorce: A Love Story with a micropress by then, it was really finding that community that finally reignited the writing spark graduate school had all but extinguished. (Seriously, do the MFA people. It’s smarter, and you can use it for plenty of ends.) Now, I juggle writing with full-time parenting and a full-time work from home job. (I’m an online college English teacher; the killer Master’s degree was worth something at least; I have a steady income. My husband actually enjoys his Ph.D., and he is a history professor here in Montgomery.)
I met Deni Dietz, my editor at Five Star by attending the Killer Nashville writer’s conference. I can suggest nothing more strongly than a conference to a writer looking to connect with peers and field professionals, and for a mystery writer, Killer Nashville is among the best.The sequel to The Marriage at the Rue Morgue, titled The Case of the Red Handed Rhesus comes out later this year, and I’m working on the third book in the series, The Mysterious Affair of the Spider Monkeys.
I’d love to come speak to your group or, better yet, work with your writing group or class for a few weeks. I’m a passionate and unflinching content editor, but I know how to present feedback so that it leaves people encouraged, rather than frustrated. Check out my Appearances tab to find out more or drop me a line at jesterqueen at charter dot net.