I grew up in Mammoth Lakes, CA where stunning scenery and a few very special teachers inspired me to write. As soon as I graduated high school, I made for the beach and eventually ended up in Orange County with a happy little family and a job as an English teacher.
And then by luck, or coincidence, or some cosmic force, things lined up for me to take a shot at my dream. I moved to a little gem of a beach called Crystal Cove, which is the setting for MOONGLASS; I had the opportunity to go from working as a full-time English teacher to working as a part-time librarian; and...I was about to turn 30 (more on that in the FAQ section too.) Long story short: after deciding to go for it and putting in a lot of hard work, I finished MOONGLASS, which is my first novel.
Moonglass is your debut novel. When was the first moment that you really felt like an author?
Oh, that’s a tough one because I still have to remind myself that it’s perfectly reasonable to call myself that! If I had to pin down a moment though, it would have to be when I saw Moonglass on the shelf for the first time. I started to get all teary-eyed and then my five year old daughter brought me back to reality. She said “Mama, can we go now? We have a whole box of those at home.”
In a market overwhelmed with paranormal, what drew you to contemporary? Do you think you’ll continue to write in that genre, or branch out into others?
I don’t think I ever consciously thought ‘I want to write contemporary.’ Contemporary stories are the ones I’m most drawn to as a reader because I feel the strongest connection to them. They’re also the stories that inspire me as a writer so I think it was a natural, if subconscious, choice. I don’t see myself straying from that.
I saw in your bio that you live at the beach. Since that’s the typical vacation spot, where do you like to go when you want to get away?
I don’t get away too much, but I think the perfect place to do that is the mountains. I grew up in Mammoth Lakes, CA so I have a special place in my heart for towering peaks and crisp air. There is something so peaceful and inspiring about that environment. It’s magical like the beach, but in a totally different way.
Do you collect sea glass? Have you ever found a piece of moonglass? I don’t think I’ve ever seen sea glass at the beach – am I just not looking closely enough, or is it only found in certain areas of the coast?
Yes! I have a huge collection of seaglass and can’t seem to stop searching for more. It’s seriously addicting. I’ve never found Moonglass, though every time the moon is full I say I’m going to go look. But I did find a red piece (my one and only) last year on my birthday, and I had it made into a necklace.
As for finding sea glass on the beach, it’s tricky. There are some beaches that are better for it than others. Some conditions that are better than others too. If you ever make it to Crystal Cove, I’ll show you the secret spots. ;)
The story of the Mermaid Tears was one of my favorite moments in the book. Is it real life legend, or did you invent it for the novel?
I WISH I had come up with that legend, because I think it’s so beautiful, but I did not. When I got into looking for sea glass, I came across it and knew I wanted to somehow weave it into Anna’s story.
The Crawler is a fascinating character. What inspired his story?
A real life crawling man inspired his story! When I worked as a lifeguard in Pismo Beach, there actually was a man that would crawl the beach every Sunday with crosses hanging from his neck. I always assumed he was repenting for something, but never got the nerve to ask him. Instead, I made up a story for him ten years later.
Did you do any research into mental illness when creating the character of Anna’s mother?
Yes. I did research bipolar disorder, which is what Anna’s mother suffers from, though it’s never explicitly named in the book. For the purposes of this story, I didn’t get into it too deeply because Anna’s memories of her mother and her illness were from a seven year old’s point of view.
Looking back, what piece of advice would you like to give your past self at Anna’s age?
Be bolder. Speak your mind more freely. Take a few risks. I was pretty shy back then, which is probably why I wrote Anna the way I did. She’s more like who I wished I could be.
What’s a random fact readers probably don’t know about you?
My guilty pleasure TV show is Swamp People. I don’t miss an episode. What? You said random. J
Will we see any of the characters from Moonglass in your future novels?
Hmm…it’s funny you should ask that question. Yes. One of the characters from MOONGLASS actually shows up in IN HONOR, which is my second book. But I’m not telling who. You’ll have to wait until next May to find out. J
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From Jessi Kirby, a debut novel about confronting the past in order to move ahead.
I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.
Thanks so much to Jessi Kirby for taking the time to answer my questions! I can't wait to find out who makes a cameo in In Honor!