Get ready to learn more about the book Undertow in this discussion with sapphic author Jazzy Mitchell.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Jazzy Mitchell about Undertow, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Workplace Romance category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write Undertow?
I was interested in writing about a strong female in politics. Nearly every female politician nowadays is vilified and ripped apart by the media. Yet, females should not be discounted as strong, resourceful, intelligent leaders.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Maggie Ambrose is my favorite character. She is a flawed woman who has worked hard to overcome her childhood trauma and family difficulties. She makes mistakes, but she owns up to them and keeps trying to do better. This character and the book are my most autobiographical. I grew up in Massachusetts under similar circumstances, trusted th wrong people while I was a young atorney, married for the wrong reasons, and dabbled in politics.
What inspired the idea for Undertow?
I wrote this during the 2020 presidential election cycle. I still hope a woman will be elected president at some point, and this book reflects my idea of that type of leader.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Since Maggie’s childhood occurs near the ocean and she struggles against the tide of expectations, challenges, and her own beliefs, this title fits perfectly.
How much research did you need to do for your book?
I did tons! Although I was in politics, it was long ago. I needed to research politics at the local, state, and national levels, including the campaign trail and the regular stops where a candidate visits to gather support. I also had to determine when caucuses, primaries, and presidential debates are held, how many electoral votes are needed, and how the democratic nomination can be secured. Since it’s become more commonplace over the last few election cycles, I did some research of when political figures publish their memoirs.
What is your writing process like?
I start with tons of research for whatever plot points I plan to write. I write an outline for the book with a chapter by chapter summary and in-depth character analyses. I include information on their backgrounds, quirks, challenges, their character growth arcs, ages, relatives, friends—anything I believe will be important. I also write lots of name variations, words I want to use, places my characters might be, and themes I want to weave into the story. For instance, I didn’t like the name I chose for the protagonist of Undertow, and it took me a few months to determine what felt right.
Once I feel confident about the major plot points, the themes, the characters, and the places they’ll appear in the book—such as for Undertow, Maggie is located primarily in Massachusetts and Washington DC, then I begin writing. And I ignore most of what I wrote! LOL I end up rewriting the chapter summaries as I go along, and I reverse engineer the timeline after writing a chapter.
I like using this process because it helps me to flesh out the characters, plot points, and themes. In fact, I end up writing most of the book in my head as I’m going through this process. Of course, I wish I could just sit down and start writing without all this preparation since it would certainly be faster. I have found thi process works for me though. The bottom line is I try to be a plotter, but I tend to be a pantser.
Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?
I have a three-year-old Maltese/Shih Tzu mix (called a Mal-Shi) named Delilah. Under five pounds, Delilah loves to sit on my shoulder or lap while I pound away at the keys. When she feels I need a break, she entices me to play tug-of-war with one of her many toys. She’s a COVID pup, and she’s helped me in too many ways to list.
When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
I try to write in a place where I won’t be interrupted or distracted. Many times I’ll listen to music which evokes the feelings I want to write about. I also think about what my character is like, how she would react, and why.
Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?
Definitely. As I get to know my characters, I tend to empathize with them and form strong attachments. One character I have in mind is Lexie Yamin from Musings of a Madwoman. She’s a smart, passionate senior partner at a law firm who made some big mistakes in the past. She treated Marcia, a young associate attorney, horribly years ago, and when she sees a chance to make amends and build a relationship with Marcia, she takes ownership of what she did and works hard to build trust.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Since I began as a fanfiction writer, I’ve kept tabs on other fanfiction writers. When some of my favorite stories by them were adapted to original fiction and published, I felt inspired to try my own hand at it. Some writers I admire who wrote for The Devil Wears Prada fandom include Lee Winter, Lola Smith, Milena McKay, and Roslyn Sinclair.
Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?
I read everything, depending on my mood and what’s happening in my world. Sometimes when I’m stressed and want to raise my spirits, I’ll read romance or a romantic blend with a happily ever after. If I’m feeling restless, I’ll read adventure or a thriller. If I want to get out of my head and indulge in new worlds and possibilities, I’ll pick up fantasy or science fiction. And sometimes when I’m feeling at a loss about the world and wondering how humans still exist, I’ll read a good post-apocalyptic story.