Thrilled to welcome fellow TPP author, Jessica Barksdale Inclán, to the Spotlight today
Author Name: Jessica Barksdale Inclán
Book Title: The Play’s the Thing
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Congrats on The Play’s the Thing! You write in multiple genres—where do you get ideas for your novels and poetry?
I do write in multiple genres, and while the practice of writing is the same–sitting down and writing–the inspiration comes a bit differently. With The Play’s the Thing, the initial idea came from a slightly tipsy conversation with my older son’s partner.
“What if,” she said, “all the Jessicas in the world haunted Shakespeare.”
We had been talking about how Shakespeare created the name for The Merchant of Venice.
What if? I thought. Boom. Novel time.
With a poem, I can work off a feeling (joy) or a prompt (red vinyl) and just start. But the process of rewriting, revision, editing, sharing with other writers is the same for both. Nothing is ever done or half-done after the first go. Writing is truly a communication, and if my message, idea, thought doesn’t come through no matter the genre, back to the writing board I go.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read this book?
The Play is the Thing is a fun story. Most of us have imagined what it would be like to be transported back somewhere. But it’s also the story about a young-ish woman finally reclaiming her own life. She drops her family’s expectations of how she should live her life. She drops her own expectations, too. She opens up to something completely different and truly makes her way through some pretty intense circumstances, doing so while dealing with 1598 England, Shakespeare (her awe of him), and her fears. So really, at the core, this novel is the story about how we can find ourselves. Most of us just have this world to deal with, though, a place with showers, toothpaste, and antibiotics.
How long did it take for you to write it? Did you have to do any research?
I spent five years or so working on a very large, expansive family history novel that ultimately wasn’t working. I tried just about every method I knew as a writer and teacher of writing to make it work, but it wasn’t possible for me. Maybe I was too close, too enamored of the topic (part of my maternal line goes back to 1500 in Braintree England, and darn it! I was going to tell the whole story). But then I put it down, turned back to The Play’s the Thing, which was working. Later, I looked at the gigantic pile of my failed novel, and I knew I had a story to tell, but one that was contained by one century. I’ve been writing that story for the past few months. So far, it seems to be coming together. I suppose sometimes we have to truly prewrite (but for five years and five hundred pages? There is a better way, I’m sure).
How are you adjusting to promoting your book during a pandemic?
I hate to say this, but in many ways promoting books during a pandemic is easier. It’s not better because I miss human beings, and I miss reading in front of crowds and then later actually speaking to people. But Zoom has allowed us to reach into places we wouldn’t necessarily be able to get to otherwise. As a lover of books, I’ve enjoyed being suddenly in the offices of some of my favorite writers, looking at their bookshelves and seeing their artwork (and sometimes children, dogs, and partners!). While I fear for bookstores, many of them have added on Zoom events, so I hope that when all of this is over, we can keep some of the digital outreach but add back in the human component.
Where can readers find you?
My website is www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com<http://www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com>. And I’m on Facebook @jessicbarksdaleinclan. But if you like plants and animals, find me on Instagram, too! @jessicainclan. I teach novel-writing regularly for UCLA Extension (a novel two class starting in September) and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. I will be teaching a class on point-of-view on Zoom in the fall for Write on the Sound in October. And again, now that classes are held this way, anyone can attend!
Thank you, Jessica! The Play’s the Thing is out TODAY!
One evening when helping a colleague stage The Merchant of Venice, English professor Jessica Randall slides momentarily back to 1598. Later that night, she lands for good in the chambers of one William Shakespeare, a down-on-his luck playwright.
His biggest problem of late has been a non-stop stream of Jessicas apparating into his chambers nightly. Yet Jessica’s appearance halts the visitations, though neither have a clue why. Can she get back to 2018? They don’t know that either, and together they begin to craft a life together, all the while trying to break the time travel curse and avoid falling in love.
As Jessica grapples with practical (what is and how does one put on a farthingale?) and emotional (how to risk your heart when everything might disappear in an instant?) aspects of adapting to Elizabethan London, she must try to solve the mystery of the other Jessicas. More importantly, she must figure out how to get home without suffering from the broken heart she knows she can’t avoid.
Despite being thwarted at every turn, Jessica manages to navigate her new world and her old one and save not only herself but Will Shakespeare and his legacy.
Jessica Barksdale’s second poetry collection Grim Honey was published in April, and her fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, is forthcoming in May.
Recently retired, she taught composition, literature, and creative writing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.