Interview: Jacquelyn Phillips

By Jessica Wright

Jacquelyn Phillips in New York at an open-mic reading of Cat and Mouse
Jacquelyn Phillips in New York at an open-mic reading of Cat and Mouse

Jacquelyn Phillips is an editor, student, and writer. Currently in the MFA program at San Diego State University, Jackie aspires to be the next top author. She was the editor-in-chief for the Spring 2014 edition of the pacificREVIEW, which was the highest grossing pacificREVIEW to date. Additionally, she is a co-creator of the online literary journal The Wardrobe, where she continues to edit and write. Her bubbly personality and limitless stores of energy keep her upbeat and constantly involved in one or more projects as well as a pleasure to interact with. Currently, Jackie is in the final revision stages of her adult novel, Cat and Mouse, the pacificREVIEW, and online at The Wardrobe. Readers can find Jacquelyn on Facebook and Twitter.

Recently, Jackie was generous enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me.

Jackie, what was the most rewarding aspect of being editor-in-chief for the pacificREVIEW: Strangely Ever After? How has this experience helped you grow as a member of the literary community?

The most rewarding aspect was the day I received the finished proof of the pacificREVIEW. Although I had a group of editors that helped me greatly during the reading period, it was still a very difficult process. As editor-in-chief, you’re given the impression that your word is the be-all, end-all, but that is not the case. Working on the pacificREVIEW helped me understand how to better work in a group scenario—how to delegate, listen to the opinions of others, and make decisions that, I felt, would better the journal. I spent so much time editing and re-editing the journal to make sure the dimensions worked and everything flowed that for a while, it felt like I had memorized almost every piece.

Strangely enough, I made a few contacts through the process that I have kept in contact with—including one of my current clients, whose novel I am currently in the process of editing. I’ve also received some great praise on the journal as a whole—how it was put together, the stories accepted, the pictures, and the poetry that was carefully selected (I can’t even tell you how many poetry submissions we received). My name is officially on a journal as an editor, and it’s something I can use in future interviews. That’s exciting news all by itself!

As a student, writer, and editor, what is your favorite part of being involved in the literary world?

Being a writer is by far my favorite part of being in the literary world. I live, eat, and breathe writing, as cliché as that sounds. When I haven’t written in too long my fingers begin to shake and itch—I simply HAVE to write. Don’t get me wrong, I am human and I get lazy and go weeks with writing as the very last thing on my to-do list. However, writing isn’t just a hobby of mine, it is a serious need. I want to become a famous author because writing is what I love to do. I want to change the world with laughter and tragedy. I guess that’s why I write very dark fairy tales and why I typically don’t like books with happy endings. Being a writer isn’t easy, though. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and if you don’t have a thick skin, you wont make it. People can be subjective and harsh. Good thing I’m not one to turn down a challenge, huh?

As a student, it’s hard to get into the literary world. Finding paid internships, or even unpaid internships that don’t consume all of your time, is difficult. I was luckily enough to find an internship with the Zack Company in my first semester of SDSU’s MFA program where I received a TON of editing experience.

As an editor, I’m still new. However, I enjoy it, and it’s what I want to do in addition to writing. It’s not easy, and it is time consuming, but I love reading the works of others. I’m currently editing my father’s memoir/business/self-help book titled, ORCAstration, which is based on his current coaching business and his time working as a killer whale trainer at Sea World in the early seventies. We hope to have it on for your viewing pleasure by the end of the year (2014)!

Do you have any strange or interesting writing quirks?

Oh, I literally laughed out loud at this question. Don’t all writers have quirks? Isn’t that what makes us writers? We’re strange and quirky—no? On a serious note, yes, yes I do. I typically write while watching Sex and the City or Cupcake Wars. I also have a playlist on my iTunes that is dedicated to those hours when I need to get some serious writing done. I know of people who need to stand while writing and people who need complete silence when writing, but I need some sort of background noise. The most difficult time I have writing is when I’m emotional. I try to make sure I’m not in an emotional state of being when writing so that my own feelings don’t affect the feelings of my characters.

Who would you say are your top three influential writers?

F. Scott Fitzgerald—My cat is named Gatsby and I plan on owning a beagle that I can name Daisy once I can afford a dog in my life. I own the movie and the book, a poster hangs in my room, and I have a t-shirt that has The Great Gatsby book text written all over it. Who wouldn’t want to live in the roaring twenties and attend Gatsby-esque parties? “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” [Editors note: quote from chapter three of The Great Gatsby]

Nicholas Sparks—Although people tend to look down upon his work, I own every single on of his books, most in hardback (I have a problem and need to buy them immediately when they come out). The movies, however, are awful. Sparks ignites the romantic side of me. Although his books follow the typical romance formula, I find them charming. They’re easy reads and entertaining.

J.K. Rowling—Her success has influenced me more than anything. When I was in high school I used to tell everyone that I wanted to be like her: rich, powerful, successful, and famous. I don’t approve of how the Harry Potter series ended, but I do admire her style of writing, the way she tied together (most) of the loose ends throughout the series, and how she inspired the power of friendship throughout the novels. They are more than entertaining and opened up the fantasy world to a lot of non-believers. Not everyone can be a J.K. Rowling, but that’s why I’m a writer; to break stereotypes and prove people wrong.

What has the process of getting Cat and Mouse published looked like? Will you be self publishing or going through a specific publishing house? Can you give any advice to individuals interested in becoming published authors?

Do what you think will make your work unique from everyone else.

It’s been a difficult process, honestly. I’ve sent my work to three literary agents so far (which is nothing in the greater scheme of things) and have been denied by two (I have yet to hear from the third). In order for me to build the courage to finish the novel, I traveled to New York by myself for a week. It forced me to network and meet people who are already in the business. I’m actually blessed to have had those previous agents deny my work. They gave me some great advice that I have incorporated into the novel. Cat and Mouse is in the final rewrite stage (I hope!), and I wouldn’t have seen any of its problems without the help of those agents. Although I do not dismiss self-publishing, I am trying to get my work noticed through literary agents in order to be published in a bigger publishing house. Of course, I am aiming for Penguin Random House or Harper Collins or a smaller branch based on the larger houses, but I tend to challenge myself in all aspects of my life. Go big or go home!

As for advice, thicken up your skin early. Believe in your writing and know you’re a talented writer. If you don’t believe in your own work, you won’t convince anyone else to believe in it either. I tend to be cynical about things, especially writing, but there are new authors published every single day. Listen to the critiques of others but don’t try to make everyone happy. Do what you think will make your work unique from everyone else.

Cat and Mouse is going to be an adult novel revolving around two characters: Lamont and Roxanne. Can you give me any sneak peaks or a summary to keep in mind until its release?

Here is the new and improved summary- you’re the first to see it!

“College—We’ve experienced it, read about it or seen movies filled with awful stereotypes about campus life.  It’s a time of discovery for young adults who have finally broken out of their parents’ protective grasps.  It’s a place where one can make new friends and leave that dreaded high school reputation behind.  It’s filled with sex, drugs, alcohol and really bad decisions.  However, people treat college as an excuse to get all of those terrible choices out of their system before they are face to face with the real world.  Roxanne is no exception.  A pre-med student at Sonoma State University, Roxanne lives in the shadow of her older sister, Lucy: beautiful, intelligent, good with men, married and a successful doctor who achieved straight A’s in medical school while living the life of a normal college girl.  Although pressured to impress her parents, Roxanne stumbles in her pre-med classes, seeming to gravitate toward her undergraduate poetry lectures and her spiral notebook filled with mediocre attempts at rhyme.  Desperate to live her life outside of her schoolbooks, Roxanne begins to focus on partying with her roommates, coming to the realization that interactions with boys doesn’t have to be painfully awkward and morbidly embarrassing.  She believes she can be confident and sexy—but is she able to keep her composure around the one boy who consistently makes her question why she deserves this truly unattainable idea of love and happiness?  In an attempt to discover the individual she really is deep down inside, does Roxanne stray too far from her intended path of safety, stumbling atop the rocky decisions of the path less travelled?  Is her love for Lamont Carwyn worth losing the lifestyle she once believed was stable?  Is Roxanne strong enough to play the Cat and Mouse dating game without suffering from a complete breakdown?  And more importantly, is she willing to let go of her parents’ expectations and her sister’s nagging voice long enough to find her own sense of happiness?  We’ve all suffered from an identity crisis—but what happens when relationships get in the way and destroy any trace of self-awareness in the process?”

In the spirit of good fun, if you could have been the original author for any book, which book would it have been and why?

I’m such a book nerd- here I am, staring at my bookcase trying to come up with the best possible answer for this question. Even though it may seem out of the blue, I would have loved to be the original author of A Dog’s Journey written by Bruce Cameron. If you haven’t read it, I would suggest it. It is through the point of view of a dog and cleverly written in a way one couldn’t anticipate. It’s raw and real and touches upon real life situations while simultaneously gripping at your heartstrings.

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