Jessica Scott is currently a company commander in the U.S. Army with 130 men and women under her charge. In addition to her 16-year career in the military, she’s also a mother of two children, the wife of an Army officer currently deployed in Iraq and an author. Her debut novel, Because of You, was the first in her contemporary romance series called Coming Home. The second book, Until There was You, was released this week.
Hello, Jessica and welcome to The Book Nympho! We are excited to learn more about you and your books in the Coming Home series so let's get started with our 20 questions. First, I'll start with some about you.
Jonetta: You joined the Army right out of high school. What attracted you to military service?
Jessica: Honestly, I’m a product of the 90s army. I didn’t do bad in school but I didn’t have any money for college. I figured I’d join the army, see the world and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Turns out, I wanted to be a soldier because it’s the best decision I ever made. It’s lead me to every other good thing that’s happened in my life.
Jonetta: I'm a former military brat (Dad was career Army) and understand how difficult it is to start as an enlisted soldier and then transition to an officer. What was your experience since you followed this path?
Jessica: I am a MUCH better fit as an officer than I was as enlisted. Which is not to say that I was a bad NCO but my strengths (being a book nerd, being a big picture planner and being focused on processes and why we’re doing things) are more utilized as an officer. Now that said, there was nothing harder than becoming a butter bar after being a senior NCO, let me tell you. Going from being treated like an adult to being treated like I was a kid again? Yeah, it was challenging. But in a good way because I learned so much.
Jonetta: At what point in your life did you feel the urge to write? You're a company commander, married with children....where do you find the time?
Jessica: There’s never enough time, honestly. When I’m on deadline, I have to let my kids fend for themselves (the hamsters take over). But otherwise, I try to write at night after they go to bed. Sometimes, I succeed, other times, not so much. I started writing seriously back in 2007. I thought I wanted to write stories that showed the real side of the military, the kind of stories about normal men and women in uniform and I figured I could tell those stories, you know?
Jonetta: Your stories DEFINITELY bring an element of realism and normality. You're also a pretty active blogger. Are you considering the possibility of writing in other genres (contemporary fiction, non fiction)? Why contemporary romance?
Jessica: Ultimately, my stories are a little less traditional than a normal contemporary romance. I delve into some pretty dark stuff and also, building the military world so that civilians can understand it is a pretty big challenge. The thing I’d love to write the most would be a story like Martha Raddatz The Long Road Home. I mean, how amazing would that be to write something that will be part of our generation’s narrative? We’ll see how that goes, you know? I’m working on publishing a book based on my blog from my year in Iraq but I’m going through the proper channels. I’d like to still be a soldier so I don’t want to get into any trouble.
Jonetta: Speaking of potential trouble, your stories have some criticisms about the military and associated life. Are they a blend of fact and fiction? Have you had any conflicts between your career and story topics?
Jessica: I won’t say my stories are criticisms of military life so much as they’re attempting to be accurate portrayals of military life. There is no “the army” when it comes to decisions. It’s a commander. A person. So I wanted to break that down and show how different relationships, different leaders impact different situations.
Jonetta: That’s an important distinction. Let's shift to your Coming Home series. What is the significance of this title?
Jessica: My stories are about soldiers coming home from war. When I came home from war at the end of 2009, it took me a long time to realize that coming home was not simply standing on a parade field. It was so much more than that. I wanted to write about that process and about the changes. I came home different. Not scarred or battle weary. Just different.
Jonetta: This clearly resonates in your stories. In the first book, Because of You, the main character (Shane Garrison) is struggling with being sidelined from duty and coming home because of injuries he received in action and still feels responsibility for those under him. Is his attitude typical of most soldiers in leadership roles?
Jessica: I won’t say that Shane was typical but I’ve met more than my fair share of guys like him. The thing is, there are folks out there who will do anything to be back with their troops. It’s really an honor to serve with people who have such an incredible sense of duty and selflessness.
Jonetta: I was really touched by how passionate Shane was about getting back to his troops. You've created some really attractive and intriguing men in this story with some pretty dedicated women in their lives. Is there as much romance in the military as there is in your books?
Jessica: There are some amazing men and women out there who are each other’s rocks. It’s awe inspiring when you see what the other person will do to keep their loved one from falling.
Jonetta: You portray more realism about the lives of military men and women than we typically see in other romance stories involving these heroes. What messages/themes are you wanting your audience to capture in addition to enjoying a great love story?
Jessica: I guess I wanted people to see that there was more to the story than people’s rank. There’s an entire world that people don’t understand. Heck, I’ve been in the army 17 years and I learn something new every day. I guess I wanted to show the behind the scenes look at some of the headlines. There’s always more to the story, you know?
Jonetta: I most certainly learned something so I think you hit all the right notes. You ended the first book with some unfinished story lines for several of the characters that are not in the next. What can you tell us about your future plans for these characters? Did you have a specific reason for delaying their stories?
Jessica: Yeah, well, we’ll sum up that hanging chad as one of those things Jessica will Never Do Again. When I’d originally planned and written the synopsis for each book in this series, it was much more intertwined than it is now. My editors worked with me and helped me see how the books would be stronger by disconnecting them somewhat. Laura & Trent’s story WILL be resolved in BACK TO YOU, which will be out in 2013. After that, we’ll see where we go from there.
Jonetta: Well, I’ll be first in line for that book! Until There Was You has remarkably different themes from the first book. What was your motivation for this story?
Jessica: When I first wrote Evan & Claire, I wanted to write about a strong military woman AND a strong military man. The underlying theme of how people come to identify strongly with the rank on their chest is still there but instead of dealing with physical wounds, I wanted to deal with more emotional issues. Both Claire and Evan have a lot to overcome and a big part of that is trust for both of them.
Jonetta: Claire and Evan are very attractive characters both in appearance and in personality. She's driven to be thought of first as an Army officer before her gender. Are there any parallels to your career and Claire's?
Jessica: Oh sure there is. Except that Claire can take an ass chewing SO much better than me. I screw up and it’s the repeater in my head all day long.
Jonetta: I think I’m more like you, too. Both Claire and Evan have serious concerns about becoming involved with someone in their same command or, in Evan's case, in the military. Should they have been quite so concerned or is this the reality of today's military?
Jessica: It’s a huge part of the stigma of getting people the right help. No matter how much we try to push people toward getting help, we still can’t overcome the idea that it will ruin people’s careers. What I attempted to do was show how sometimes, you have to risk the career to save a life.
Jonetta: I don’t think I was as aware of the career risks as you portrayed in the story. Do you find it tricky sometimes to be writing fictional stories about a career you're still in the midst of? I mean, do any of the people in or around your command think they see themselves?
Jessica: I make it a habit not to put real people into my books. I have used situations before and stuff my other half has told me but not real people. Also, I don’t tend to bring my writing life to work. It’s not something I talk about during the duty day because it’s not the place for it.
Jonetta: I've read the first two books and can think of at least three or four characters I'd like to have their own stories. How many books to you have planned for this series? When is the next book planned for release and what can you tell us about it?
Jessica: For someone who needs a plan, I have no plan. I’m going to write Reza’s story after I finish Laura & Trent’s and other than that, we’ll see where it goes from there.
Jonetta: I was SO hoping Reza was on your list! What other authors do you read and do any inspire your writing? If so, how so?
Jessica: I’d love to be able to write with the beautiful prose that Nalini Singh or Sherry Thomas write with. I mean, their imagery is just stunning.
Jonetta: Both are authors on my bookshelf so I understand what you mean. Now, just a few fun questions. Vampires or highlanders?
Jessica: Vampires. No idea why.
Jonetta: Wine or beer? If wine, red or white? If beer, light or dark?
Jessica: White wine (red wine makes me think of communion wine)
Jonetta: Bar or a nightclub (or something else)?
Jonetta: Boxers, briefs or boxer briefs (hubby or your soldiers)?
Jessica: For me or my soldiers? Boxer briefs. They look comfy ;)
Jonetta: Well, this is the end of our 20 questions! Thank you so much for being with us today and I hope you've had fun because we enjoyed learning more about you and your series. Because of You and Until There Was You are now available just about everywhere. Anything else you'd like to add?
Jessica: Thanks so much for having me here at the Book Nympho! I’d love to know how your readers feel about realism in their romances. I’m looking forward to giving away a copy of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU to one of your followers, too!