Jessica Weeks, author of Curse of Aten, released her book in May 2018. We wanted to catch up with the new author and see how life had been treating her since she was published.
Did you always dream of becoming an author?
I have always wanted to be an author, and I have always been obsessed with books. I used to write fantasy short stories when I was younger. I started my first novel when I was about 14 or 15. It was a crime novel, but I never finished it. When I started Curse of Aten, I was really determined not to stop until it was done.
What was your first job?
I got my first job while I was studying at university. It was a casual position with the University of Southern Queensland as a Student Ambassador. My main job was recruitment. They wanted us to know all of the different courses the university offered, as well as which campuses offered them, what the entry requirements would be, and all of the different ways you could get into university. In reality, you could just look it all up in the course handbook, so it wasn’t that hard. Sometimes I answered phones, but usually I would help set up and run open-days and school events.
How did you come about writing your book? Was that your intention or did you start writing for fun?
I started writing Curse of Aten for a friend of the family who was going through a rough time. I had loaned him some books of a similar genre and I thought I could write a short story to teach him a little bit about the Amarna Era and Egyptian history. That short story just kept growing and growing. I kept getting more and more ideas, and I just couldn’t get them out of my head until I had written them down. While I was writing, I did consider that it would be nice to share with my students one day – but I never dreamed that publishing Curse of Aten would become a reality.
What was your life like before you became an author?
I spent four years at university studying to be a teacher – where I never felt like writing anything I didn’t have to! Then I graduated and got a job at my old high school. I lived a typical teacher life: planning, grading, reporting… repeat. I wrote Curse of Aten during school holidays, on one of the very rare occasions that I actually had all of those things done before school broke (an extra two days off for a cyclone helped!). It was such an amazing experience, I just couldn’t stop writing until I’d gotten the whole story down on paper.
Did you face any struggles before becoming an author? If so, how did you overcome them?
I have always lacked self-confidence and never really wanted to share any of my work with others, mostly because I never felt that my work was “good enough.” It stems from my long-term struggle with anxiety. Having people read my book and be so enthusiastic about it has definitely helped! I am excited now to share more stories.
Now that you are a published author, how has your life changed, if at all?
I have more confidence in my own abilities, now that I am a published author. It has taken a lot of time to sink in, but now I have a nice sense of accomplishment. I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to.
I also use it all the time at work – if kids are complaining about having to write a paragraph, I say, “What are you complaining about? I wrote a whole book!” The other thing I like to remind them is, “If I can write a book, so can you.” I’d like to think that a few of them will take me up on that challenge one day.
Can you please describe a typical day in your life now?
I’m still a teacher, so my typical day starts by arriving at school at some ridiculous hour. I spend a lot of time planning lessons, marking or working on reports. Then I teach my kids (I try to encourage them to do more creative writing, now that I’m an author), do my lunch duty, attend a staff meeting that probably could have been an email… and eventually go home. Nowadays, I tend to spend a fair chunk of my free time getting lost in what I call the “potential story wormhole.” It usually starts when I come across some kind of historical mystery and think, “Gee, this would make a great story.” Then, before I know it, it has been three hours and I’m thirty-something-internet-tabs deep in research with a head full of ideas.
What is your most memorable moment of your life as an author?
There have been so many memorable moments! It would be a toss-up between the first time I held my book in my hands or the first time I saw it listed for sale on Booktopia. Those were the moments that made it sink in that I had actually achieved one of my dreams. The whole experience of becoming an author has been surreal. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself just to believe it!
In a few words, how would you review your experience with Pegasus Publishers?
Pegasus have been kind and supportive every step of the way. They have approached the whole process with such professionalism that I feel as if I have been sitting back watching my dream become a reality, without any of the stress. Every question I’ve had has been answered in a timely and courteous manner – even the really stupid ones! My novel has certainly been in good hands.
Why did you choose Pegasus Publishers?
When a friend encouraged me to submit Curse of Aten to a publisher, I’ll admit I did the obvious thing – I Googled it. Pegasus Publishers were on the list, and I recognised the name. I looked into their work and was very impressed. The submission process was very straightforward, so I figured, why not give it a shot? Looking at my novel now, I am so glad that I did!
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