“BLANK” Makes Me Happy – Jackie Morse Kessler

This month’s feature belongs to a woman I have an enormous amount of respect for, Jackie Morse Kessler. Her Riders of the Apocalypse series for young adults is tackling some serious subjects, and she’s doing it with a fantastic balance of fact, humor, and incredible imagination.

The second book in the series was released earlier this month, my review, and the thoughts from a member of To Write Love On Her Arms can be found HERE.

Jackie had this to say about what’s making her happy these days…

Quiet Times Make Me Happy by Jackie Morse Kessler

First, the context: extremely busy full-time day job (telecommuting, but that just means I work a lot in my PJs); two kids under the age of 10; a loving husband who goes to work and to school; house-stuff like laundry, groceries, dishes and yardwork-no-wait-make-that-snow-throwing; new-book promotion; writing the next book under deadline (EEEEEEEEEEEK). Doing tae kwon do is my major stress reliever. (Yes, I kick people to relieve tension. And they LIKE it!) 

So, this: At night, after the kids are in bed, Loving Husband and I go downstairs, grab a little junk food (my current favorite: Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate squares and a cup of tea), sit on the sofa and watch some television. It’s our alone time. It’s quiet time. It’s just a moment in a busy day when I’m with the one I love, having some chocolately yumminess and vegging in front of the tube.

My quiet time is my breathing time. It’s good. And it makes me happy.


Awwwwww… yay for quality down time with the huney 🙂

Here are a few questions I had for Jackie about her happy thing, and about her newest release, Rage.

ME: You have a full time job that allows you to work in your PJ’s? I’d like to go to work in MY PJ’s… would that be ok with you? Would you buy books from someone wearing PJ’s?

JK: I would totally buy books from someone in their PJs. Not only does it show incredible fashion sense, it indicates that you live, eat, and sleep books. 🙂

ME: What’s your proudest accomplishment in tae kwan do?

 JK: Breaking boards! Seriously, breaking boards just rocks. Especially when I don’t break my body in the process.

ME: There seem to be quite a few adult fiction authors who are stepping into the YA paranormal arena. Do you think it’s because the YA readership is increasing, or is the readership increasing because more established authors are writing for it? Is it difficult to arrange your story for a younger audience?

JK: It’s so wonderful that there’s a huge teen market that is hungry for books with teenage protagonists. As YA continues to thrive, there’s every reason in the world for authors to write YA novels. I think it’s less about moving from adult to YA and more about writing more books for more audiences.

In terms of writing YA versus writing adult…it’s all about the story. There are certain things I keep in mind — the lack of graphic nookie scenes, for one — but it’s really about getting the story down…same as it is for adult novels.

 ME: What prompted the idea for the Riders of the Apocalypse series?

JK: I had the idea for HUNGER for 10 years; I just didn’t give myself permission to write it. I didn’t think anyone would want to read about an anorexic teenage girl who became the new Famine of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But my agent convinced me otherwise — hooray!

I’m not the first person to write about this. Marvel Comics did it back in the 1980s, in the comic book X-FACTOR. A teenage mutant with the power to destroy food is recruited by a bad guy called Apocalypse to be one of his Horsemen. So gets a spiffy costume and a mechanical steed, gets the codename Famine, and gets to fight the good guys. Thing is, once the fighting starts, that’s the end of her being anorexic; now she’s just a bad guy.

Eating disorders are personal to me. I’m a former bulimic, and I still have warped body/self-esteem issues. So when I thought about HUNGER, the eating disorders aspect was much more important to me than the fantastical Horseman aspect. If you take the Horsemen out of HUNGER, you still have a story. A very different story, but still a story. If you take the eating disorders out, however, there’s nothing there. Much more magical realism than urban fantasy.

Once I handed in HUNGER to my editor, my agent said to me, “Which Horseman are you going to write about next?” And I was like, NEXT??? Um, can I have 10 years to think about it??? (Answer: No.) Based on the events of HUNGER, it made sense for the next Horseman’s book to be about War. In the book, War carries a huge sword, so it didn’t take long for me to make the connection between that and self-injury, with a teen girl who cuts herself trading one blade for another: the Sword of War.

LOSS, though, was different. The connection isn’t as direct as Famine/anorexia and War/cutting. LOSS is about a bullied teenage boy who is tricked into becoming the new Pestilence.

And BREATH will be Death’s book. **rubs hands gleefully**

ME: The protagonists of HUNGER and RAGE make very different choices in the books. Is there a reason for that?

JK: Yes, absolutely. But I can’t get into that without spoilers for those who haven’t read the books. 🙂 As River Song would say, “Spoilers…!”

ME: What kind of research did you do when writing Rage?

JK: Lots. Unlike with HUNGER, I had no personal experience with the major issue of the book. So I went online (thank God for Google) and began to research self-injury.
Along the way, I found a terrific website. Secret Shame has a lot of information about self-injury—what it is, and what it’s not. Without the candid information posted there, I doubt I could have written RAGE.

ME: Even with the harsh topic of the book, you managed to blend in lots of great, funny comments. Death actually has some of my favorite lines. How difficult was it to balance the serious theme of the book, with enough comedy to keep it from being overwhelming?

JK: I think it comes down to the narrative flow. It’s not like I tell myself, Ooh, Death needs to say something here to cut the tension. When I write, he (or other characters) will say something a little offbeat to give the readers (and the protagonist) a chance to breathe, you know? And hey: Death invented gallows humor. 😉

ME: I love Ares, can I borrow him?

JK: Sure — as long as you can gentle Ares, feel free! 🙂

ME: Part of the proceeds of Rage are being donated to To Write Love On Her Arms. How did you discover this organization, and how did you decide to include them?

JK: That’s all due to my brilliant crit partner, Heather Brewer. When I was writing RAGE, she suggested TWLOHA, so when I was done with the draft, I checked it out…and I was ecstatic over what I found. The organization is amazing, and it does phenomenal work. I’m proud to donate a portion of RAGE proceeds to TWLOHA.

I actually asked two questions that were deemed too spoilery, so Jackie has given me permission to email the questions and answers to anyone who has read both books and wants to know a little more about some of the storyline decisions she made. You can request in the comments, and I’ll email the two Q&As tonight after Jackie finishes answering questions here.

THAT’S RIGHT… this is your chance to ask Jackie about Hunger, Rage, tae kwan do… whatever. She’s graciously agreed to pop in from time throughout the day to answer YOUR questions! AND… one random questioner / commenter will win a copies of  BOTH Hunger and Rage!!! (Hunger is a finished copy, Rage is an ARC)(Please include your first name and your email so I can reach you if you win.) So… ask away… I can’t wait to see what you all come up with 🙂 And remember to let me know if you want the 2 spoilery questions emailed to you.


  1. Comment by Keisha Talley:

    Who is your favorite author?


  2. Comment by Mariee:

    Great interview!

    What has been your proudest moment as an author?

    marieimy (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Comment by Jackie Kessler:

    Keisha, my favorite author is Neil Gaiman. Also on my autobuy list is Heather Brewer, A.S. King, Ty Drago, Rachel Caine, Christopher Moore and Jim Butcher. 🙂

    Mariee, my proudest moment was the first time I saw my book on the shelf in a bookstore, with my kids saying, “That’s Mom’s book!” 😀

  4. Comment by Danielle:

    Is there a specific reason that Famine and War are female and Death and Pestilence are male? (Other than the two and two to keep balance).
    Danielle; kidsread @ worldpath.net

  5. Comment by Jackie Kessler:

    Danielle, Famine is female because the protagonist of HUNGER was female, and that made sense to me when I was writing the book. so that was intentional. Death is male because that’s just how the character was created; it just sort of happened. 🙂 War is female because I wanted the character to be a counterpoint to the protagonist (and thus to Famine), so that was also intentional. As for Pestilence, the character just happened to be male. After I wrote the initial scene with Death and Pestilence, I realized that I liked the balance of two and two. 🙂

  6. Comment by Jennifer:

    Time for questions has now ended. Thank you so much to Jackie for stopping by to answer everything.

    Winner of both HUNGER and RAGE is


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