19 April 2018

Jessica Jarlvi: ‘you only need one agent to believe in you’

Jessica Jarlvi, Author
by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students, Novels by CBC Alumni, Student Successes

Jessica Jarlvi completed our online six month novel writing course back in 2016. After this Jessica became one of the 2016 winners of the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction, and shortly after she signed a book deal with Head of Zeus imprint Aria.  Her debut novel, the psychological thriller When I Wake Up is available now in paperback. Her second novel What Did I do? will be out on May 1st. We caught up with Jessica to find out what she’s been up to and how her writing and publishing story unfolded after she completed the CBC writing course.

Your debut novel When I Wake Up was recently published in paperback after doing extremely well in eBook and then hardback sales. You were working on When I Wake Up whilst studying on our Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course in 2016, with tutor Nikita Lalwani. How much did your initial story change during the course (and after)?
I had only completed a few chapters when I joined the course, but testing these on my CBC course-mates was extremely valuable. Nikita was also helpful – she was very respectful of every writer, providing inspiring and constructive feedback. Knowing how others responded to the story definitely helped me to develop it.

Are you still in touch with any of your CBC course-mates?
I’m in contact with three other course mates and exchange writing with one of them on a regular basis. Forming these relationships has been one of the highlights of the course. You can’t underestimate the importance of trusted readers who are also writers themselves.

Your second novel What Did I Do? is out next month. How did writing this novel differ from writing your first?
I had signed a contract for this book before writing it and had a tight deadline. It therefore felt like a marathon to write it!

The crime and thriller market is very vibrant at the moment. What do you think draws readers to these narratives and what initially attracted you to write within the genre?
I think our fast-paced society is drawn to this genre because it encourages people to keep turning the page. Ultimately, I wanted to entertain my readers. Having said that, I might explore other genres in the future.

Can you give us an overview of your timeline from finishing the CBC course to getting your agent and then your publishing deal?
In 2016, I completed the course in May, signed with an agent in September and had a publishing deal in December. During the course, however, I entered a competition at a writing festival that was judged by a literary agent and was one of the winners. After the course ended and I had an interested agent, I was very motivated to finish the book and spent the summer writing every spare moment I had (with a day job and three children this wasn’t always easy but I found a way with the support from my husband)!

Do you have any advice to offer other aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! I had written a couple of books in my mother-tongue (Swedish) before When I Wake Up – they were close to being published but ultimately didn’t get picked up. You write because you love it and you keep going. Even when you face rejections, hang in there – you only need one agent to believe in you.

Finally, do you have any plans for your next project?
I’m working on two different ideas at the moment, one for adults and one for children. I’m really excited about both of them and can’t wait to start writing.

If you’d like to work on your novel with CBC, like Jessica did, check out our current novel-writing courses.

As well as selective entry courses we offer a series of shorter (six-week) online courses for all-comers: Starting to Write Your NovelWriting to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

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