Jessica Chambers has been inventing stories even before she was old enough to hold a pen. She has a passion for writing contemporary novels packed with emotion, complex relationships and often a touch of mystery.
Visually impaired from birth, Jessica currently lives with her family and Staffordshire bull terrier in the English town of Windsor. In addition to devouring fiction of all genres, she loves watching TV quiz shows and admits to being extremely competitive when it comes to a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Her latest book is Dark is the Sky.
You can visit her website at www.jessicachambers.co.uk.
About Dark is the Sky
Twelve years earlier, Olivia and Joel Cameron invited the family to spend the weekend at their new country home. Olivia hoped to provide them all with a much-needed escape from their anxiety over the recession crippling the nation; instead, the visit ended in tragedy when Scott, Joel’s wild and outrageously sexy youngest brother, was found dead. The repercussions tore the family apart.
Now, Olivia’s sister Violet has persuaded her to host a reunion. She claims it’s time they finally put the past behind them and laid their ghosts to rest. However, some wounds run too deep to heal, and some secrets are too destructive to remain hidden. Still grieving for the man she loved, Violet is determined to uncover the truth behind his death—a truth she believes lies within her own family.
As the web of deceit and hostility begins to unravel, family ties are tested to the limit, and no one will emerge unscathed.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Jessica. Can you tell us what your latest book, Dark is the Sky, is all about?
Think of it as women’s fiction with an edge, blending emotion, complex relationships and mystery. Twelve years after tragedy tore their family apart, the Camerons are reuniting for the first time since that fateful day. They hope that they will at last be able to put the past behind them and lay their ghosts to rest, but of course, nothing is ever that simple! Some wounds run too deep to heal, and some secrets are too destructive to remain hidden. As the web of hostility and deceit begins to unravel, and the truth about what really happened on that long ago summer’s afternoon finally emerges, family ties are tested to the limit.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Oh, the Camerons are one screwed-up family with enough emotional baggage to fill an entire series of Maury! Soft-hearted Olivia does her best to hold the family reunion together amidst the devastating discovery that her husband Joel is having an affair, while her sister, a high-powered lawyer, seems intent on raking up the painful past. Long-nurtured resentment simmers between Joel and his twin, once his closest friend, and his down-trodden sister-in-law appears on the verge of nervous collapse. Through it all, Olivia and Joel’s seventeen-year-old daughter is conducting a secret relationship with her cousin. So much drama, so much fun to write!
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Before writing Dark is the Sky, I would have had no hesitation in saying that my characters come almost entirely from my imagination. In fact, this is one of the things I love most about being an author, creating multi-layered characters that will hopefully stay with readers long after they close the book. However, when I wrote the wild, outrageously sexy Scott Cameron, whose death forms the focal point of the novel, I realized there’s rather too much of my ex in him to be wholly coincidental!
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I’ve never yet attempted to write a novel without at least some idea where it’s headed. I’m just not that brave! Supposing I got halfway through and then hit an impenetrable block? No, I always like to have an outline before I start writing, although that doesn’t mean the story necessarily goes to plan. Characters have a habit of taking on a life of their own and doing things I never expected of them, in which case I simply have to let them lead me into the unknown. Scary but interesting!
Q: Your book is set in the fictional English county of Denninshire. Can you tell us why you chose this as opposed to a real location?
As some readers may know, I suffer from a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has left me almost totally blind. This doesn’t generally cause a problem where my writing is concerned, but when I started work on my debut novel, Voices on the Waves, I encountered a stumbling block. The story is set in Cornwall, England, and there’s a chapter where some of the characters visit the town of St. Ives. The question was how to describe a place I’ve never actually seen. In the end, I was forced to rely on descriptions I found on the internet, but this was hardly ideal. So, when I began planning Dark is the Sky, I had a brainwave. Why not create my very own county and set my novels there? I wouldn’t be the first author to do this, and it would give me enormous freedom in so far as describing the scenery. Thus, Denninshire was born!
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Not so much in the development, no, but the setting is important, I think. The entire novel takes place in a single location, a converted farmhouse in the midst of the English countryside. Because of this, I felt it even more vital to ensure readers have a vivid mental picture of every detail, from the rustic kitchen and oak beams, to the wild grounds and tumbledown outhouses. Fingers crossed I did a good enough job!
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
We’ve jumped back in time twelve years to a balmy summer’s night before tragedy shattered their lives. The Camerons have spent a wonderful evening eating and laughing, drunk on cocktails and love, carefree despite their anxiety over the recession threatening the family business. Only Scott has any inkling of impending disaster, and even he could never have imagined that, in less than forty-eight hours, he would be dead and his family split in two.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Certainly! This scene takes place on the very evening I just described, after the rest of the family has gone to bed.
Violet’s words hang between them in a darkness thick with tension. All at once, she is perfectly sober. Arms folded on the table, now cleared of glasses, she keeps her gaze trained on Scott, standing at the edge of the patio with his back to her. Still he says nothing. Dragging on his cigarette, he stares out over the grounds as though unaware of her presence. Only the stiff set of his shoulders, outlined in the glow from the kitchen window, reveals his strain.
At last, Violet can bear the silence no longer. “Scott, did you hear me?”
“Yes.” His tone is even and he doesn’t look at her. “I heard.”
“Well, then, I meant what I said.”
“So what do you want me to do about it? I told you already—”
“Not to say it? Yes, you made that clear earlier.” Anger propels Violet to her feet. “Okay, so you don’t want to hear that I love you, you’d rather I just kept it to myself, but that doesn’t change anything. My feelings aren’t any less real because I don’t say them out loud. What do you want me to do? Turn them off and pretend they never existed?”
“That’s exactly what I want.”
“I see. Well, sorry to be an inconvenience, but, unlike you, I can’t turn my feelings on and off at will.”
Finally, Scott turns to look at her. Despite the amount he’s drunk, his expression betrays no emotion. “You have no choice. It’s never going to work between us. I’m not right for you.”
“Who are you to tell me who is and isn’t right for me? I love you. Nothing else matters.”
“Your career matters. I drink too much, smoke weed, throw my money away in casinos and lap-dancing clubs. Do you really think I’d make a suitable partner for a lawyer?”
“Aren’t you listening to me?” Violet slams a fist into the table. “I didn’t fall for you because I thought you’d make good marriage material. I suppose you’d have me end up with a fellow lawyer, or maybe an accountant. Someone safe and reliable, whose idea of a night out is a cigar and a glass of port at his club. Well, I don’t want that. I want you, suitable or not, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go hang.” She takes a step towards him, gaze intent on his face. “Don’t you love me? If you don’t, if you can look me in the eye and say it, I promise I’ll never ask you again.”
“All right,” he says. Throwing his cigarette to the ground, he crushes it viciously underfoot. “If that’s what it takes. No, Violet, I don’t love you.”
She grows still. Though mid summer, the breeze ruffling her hair carries the threat of winter. “What about the night we spent together?”
“That was just sex.” Scott walks past her towards the house. “I was at a loose end and you were available, not to mention willing. Get real, Vi. I can have any girl I choose. Why would I tie myself down, least of all to you?”
Violet blinks against the sting of tears; she mustn’t break down. “I don’t believe you really mean that.”
“You’d better believe it.” Scott pauses at the kitchen door, face hard. “You asked for the truth and I gave it to you. It’s not my fault you don’t like what you hear.” With that, he stumbles into the house and crashes the door behind him.
Thank you so much once again for giving us this interview, Jessica. We wish you much success!