October 6, 2010

Interview with Jackie Morse Kessler

HUNGER is Jackie Morse Kessler's first young adult novel, although she is previously published as Jackie Kessler. (She writes the Hell on Earth and Icarus Project series.) She is a former fantasy editor and current mother and cat owner. She is currently traveling about the blogosphere with T2T Tours. Yesterday she stopped at The Book Cellar and tomorrow she'll be at Yan's Books by Their Cover.


1. In HUNGER, Lisabeth travels all over the world in order to do her job as Famine. How did you decide what locations she would visit?

JK: Great question! I picked Sydney (the place where she meets War) because I wanted a place far away from Lisa’s home but still where the people would be speaking English (if not American English). I knew that Egypt would also be a place Lisa visited because she’d recognize the pyramids and know where she was. But the other two places I picked after doing a Google search about modern-day famines. The place Lisa goes to when she seeks Death is based on the Indian state of Mizoram, when bamboo flowered there (as it does roughly every fifty years) and brought with it a plague of rats. The other place, where she goes after Cairo, is based on Haiti.
2. HUNGER does a good job of mixing an issue storyline with genre fiction. How did you keep a balance between the two?

JK: Writing HUNGER was less about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse than it was about Lisa’s anorexia. So I focused on the eating disorder and blended in the fantastical elements. I think the book is closer to magical realism than to urban fantasy. (Sometimes, I think we should just call it “fiction” and leave it at that!)

3. What are the differences between your writing for adults and your writing for teens?

JK: It didn’t really come into play in this book, as it does in the follow-up book RAGE, but a big difference is not having graphic sex scenes and a lot of profanity. (But that may be less about writing for teens versus adults and more about my first series for adults was about a demon of Lust.) That’s the reason why I have a slightly different byline for my YA books than I do for my adult books.
4. How did you research the Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Lisabeth's anorexia?

RageThe Horsemen research really comes down to the Book of Revelations, with a few different interpretations that I found online. I used this as a starting point, and then came up with my own reasons for the existence of Horsemen. I touch on those reasons in HUNGER and again in RAGE. (And the Horsemen make plenty of appearances in popular culture, from comic books to songs to television shows. And other books too! Have you read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s GOOD OMENS? Please do so!)

As for anorexia and bulimia, most of that was personal. I used to be bulimic, and it was (frighteningly) easy to channel that mindset when I wrote HUNGER. Some details about anorexia I found online, and I watched an episode of the A&E series Intervention that focused on anorexia.

I wish I could say that interacting with someone who looks and sings like Kurt Cobain was based on experience. Alas!

5. Your bio states that you've never read any Jane Austen, despite having an English degree. Being an English major myself, I know that there's always some part of the canon you haven't read. What classic do you regret not having read (yet)?

JK: No regrets. Just books to add to my to-be-read pile. :) I suppose the first one should be P&P!

6. Do you think you will continue to write YA after the Rider's Quartet is complete?

JK: I certainly hope so. I have two loosely connected YA story ideas percolating, as well as a middle-grade novel possibility. But at the moment, I’m concentrating on books 3 and 4 of the quartet. :)


  1. Love the locations question and answer!

  2. Good Omens is one of the best books ever. I love it. So cool to see a mention of it here! I also can't wait to read Hunger- it's in my TBR pile. Great interview!

  3. Great interview. This book was so good (I read an ARC from BEA)...it really is magical realism and was extremely powerful!

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