Interview with Jessica Carrasquillo, Author of The Manchineel
16 Jan 2024
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Manchineel?
Oddly enough, the gardening accounts that I follow on social media sparked the idea. These are influencers who talk about plants, delving into not just the science but also the lessons learned from nature. There are many valuable lessons to be learned, but I started thinking: what if we explored a darker side? What about the brutal and heartless realities of nature?
I’m also intrigued by the concept of things not being as they appear, much like what we often encounter on social media. The person we’re watching isn’t necessarily who they truly are; it’s a persona. Who are they, really? What are they capable of?
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Manchineel, what would they be?
For Elyse, it would be “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift because it’s about reinvention out of necessity with a sense of revenge. Elyse ended up the way she is in response to past traumas.
For Ben, I think “Love the Way You Lie,” by Eminem featuring Rhianna fits based on its focus on a toxic relationship. The lyrics resonate with elements of his situation.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
I love contemporary fiction, romance, and psychological thrillers. My reading tastes are pretty well aligned to what I like to write.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
So many! I’ve heard amazing things about Yellowface by R. F. Kuang, I’m actually embarrassed I haven’t read it yet. I’m also excited to read Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
The caramel scenes! Making them, “delivering” them. Early in the book, we get hints of the female main character’s capabilities, but it’s in the caramel scenes where readers are given their first direct glimpse into her state of mind, the lengths she’s willing to go to, and her philosophy on justice. These scenes have elicited mixed reactions from early readers, ranging from enthusiastic cheers to utter horror.
Personally, I find it intriguing when books and films present horrific events in an ironic or humorous light, while still acknowledging the intensity and severity of the situations. That was the perspective I had in mind while writing these scenes, infusing them with a bit of dark humor.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
My quirk is my ADHD, which often takes me down various paths, requiring me to rein myself in. I believe this aspect of my personality contributes to the unexpected twists and turns in my writing. However, it also means there were many iterations of this book, including characters that will never see the light of day and storylines that didn’t make the final cut.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Do it scared. There’s a lot of opportunity outside of our comfort zones and some people don’t take risks because the fear of the unknown holds them back. Everyone feels that. So, do it scared. A year ago I was terrified to share my work with others, even my husband. But forcing myself out of my comfort zone, little by little, now I’m sharing my work with the world. I’m opening it up to criticism. It’s a scary thing, but it’s exciting too.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
Ben and Elyse’s methods are not recommended. Nor do I necessarily agree with Elyse’s world view and philosophy on right and wrong, though I do think it raises questions that will make readers think about the nature of morality and justice.
Jessica Carrasquillo is the author of the new book The Manchineel
Connect with Jessica CarrasquilloAuthor Site
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