Interview: Jessa Russo

Jessa Russo has been a friend of mine for several months. We both write YA, and wound up in a few contests together, and she’s always been wonderfully supportive and very involved in the writing community. Her YA paranormal romance, EVER, was published at the end of September by Curiosity Quills.
You may have seen an earlier post about EVER when my blog was hijacked by one of the main characters on her release date! In case you missed it, here’s the (gorgeous, so so gorgeous) cover as well as the back cover copy!


Seventeen year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated, and desperate to move on, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.

Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.

*I* have my VERY OWN AUTOGRAPHED COPY. (I know, sometimes my awesomeness is too much, even for me.) If you would like a copy of your own, you can go here for a signed copy, or here for a list of other places EVER can be purchased. Note: I’m sure the e-book is great and all, but if you get the paperback, you can marvel at its soft, caressable cover like I did. It’s just so smooooooth.

When Jessa announced her book deal, my knowledge of small publishers was pretty pathetic. Her deal opened my eyes to a whole new set of people to query whenever Between is ready. So when EVER’s release date finally arrived and Jessa made plans for her blog tour, I was most interested in learning more about her experience with Curiosity Quills and what it was like travelling a nontraditional path to publication.
There’s one answer in particular that makes me just FREAKING LOVE HER, as I’ve been screaming its message from the rooftops for the past few weeks. See if you can guess which one it is.

1. How did you hear of Curiosity Quills, and what made you want to work with them?

Believe it or not, until the contest responsible for my publishing contract, I hadn’t heard of Curiosity Quills. I had only started to consider smaller publishing houses, and had queried a small handful of them when I entered Sharon Bayliss’ contest. I continued to query smaller publishing houses while the contest went on, as well as a few more literary agents, not wanting to put all of my eggs into the contest. We all know how crushing those contests can be, and I had no doubt in my mind that this one would end up like all the others I’d entered.
(Psssst … it didn’t.)

As far as what made me want to work with CQ, I’d say Krystal Wade can take all the credit for that. She was an awesome face for the company (and I don’t mean looks, though she’s pretty too! Lol) … she was very upfront with me about editing issues, and the revisions she would require of me moving forward, but she also conveyed how much she loved my manuscript. I had some people gush about loving EVER, but I think that in order to maintain professionalism, there has to be a certain amount of seriousness to go along with the gushing. Krystal had that mastered in her offer email to me, and I was impressed.
(And most of you already know this, but I was obsessed with the skull on the CQ website. LOVE!)
2. How involved were you in the cover design and marketing plan for your book?
I was completely involved in the cover design. 100%. I had an idea that I wanted to see, and CQ allowed me to make it happen. I was incredibly blessed to have my favorite photographer (Face On By Tamara) take the picture, and she found models that were PERFECT for Ever and Frankie. She also doctored the image to make Frankie’s body translucent before we forwarded the image to a cover designer. My cover designer then made the cover EXACTLY what I was picturing. We have some amazing cover artists at CQ, but I have to say that Michelle (Alex and Me Designs) is my personal favorite. She knew what I wanted and delivered more than I had imagined. She understood my vision immediately and created the gorgeous cover you see now.
With a small publisher, a lot of the marketing falls on the author. Though I will say that CQ is extremely supportive and helpful, and they do everything in their power to help promote. I don’t know how much this really differs from Big Six pubs these days – I’ve heard that many authors are slightly surprised with how much falls on their shoulders. But in the end, no one – even a publisher with money at stake – is going to care about how high I climb or how low I fall the way I will. I have to remember that this is my baby, and I have to nurture it and present it to the world as such.
3. Why did you choose to publish with a small press rather than self-publish your book? What are the advantages? 
I don’t know much about self-publishing, to tell you the truth. When I was looking for representation/publication, I just knew there was a horrible stigma attached to self-pubbing that I didn’t want to have. Unfortunately, I have since realized that small, indie presses carry a similar stigma, which has opened my eyes to the negative way I once looked upon self-pubbing. It’s a shame we can’t all just support each other and lift each other up. I have followed my dreams and shot for the stars as much as the next author, whether they are big six authors or self-published, and regardless of how I chose to go about it. The differences between us are insignificant when you’re looking at your book for sale in bookstores. Isn’t that end goal the same for all of us?

(Megan’s busting up in Jessa’s answer to say: THERE! RIGHT THERE! Did you catch it? The moment I fell in love with Jessa all over again? It started right about “It’s a shame we can’t all support each other” and wrapped up around “Isn’t that end goal the same for all of us?” I swear y’all, it is like she is INSIDE MY HEAD.)
4. What’s the biggest surprise, good or bad, that you’ve encountered so far in the publishing process?
That’s easy. I’d say that the biggest surprise for me has been book reviewers. And yes, I meant reviewers, not just reviews. I knew going into this that not everyone was going to love my book. That’s just life, and I’m not an idiot. But I can honestly say that I am appalled at the behavior of some of the reviewers on Goodreads, and it has definitely tainted my experience, as well as the validity I place in that website as a whole. I no longer check there for reviews on books I want to read. I continue to add books to my TBR because I know authors like that, and I post reviews for books I’ve enjoyed, but as far as my own reading preferences? I will pick a book based on the blurb, the cover, and the recommendations received from friends, not the Goodreads reviews.
5. If you could tell everyone one thing about being an author with a small press, what would it be?
I really want to drive home the point that there are multiple ways to realize your dream, and small presses are a perfect option. I am so, so glad I made this choice. The people at Curiosity Quills are tight-knit and supportive, and I couldn’t ask for more. We help each other and build each other up, much like the online writing community does – but how blessed am I that I can find that same love and support within my publishing house!?

9 thoughts on “Interview: Jessa Russo”

  1. Such a great and enlightening interview. It sounds like you've had a great experience, and I certainly know how well you've done by yourself in marketing! And yes yes yes to supporting each other!!

  2. \”The differences between us are insignificant when you’re looking at your book for sale in bookstores. Isn’t that end goal the same for all of us?\” YES. Love, love, love this! It's so true. Great interview!

  3. Jessa is an amazing person, a fiercely talented writer, and Y'all should be MAD JEALOUS that she's my CP. I get to read all the new things first mwah ha ha. I love her so much, and am so proud of her for her beautiful book, and for her journey that is JUST beginning.

  4. Great interview! It was wonderful to hear more about Curiosity Quills, and how cool that you're so happy with your small press experience. I'm with you on the Goodreads reviews. I've noticed they are always far lower and much snarkier than reviews anywhere else. I just can't figure out why, if it's the audience GR attracts or what? It's scary, though.

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