Gertie MacLarsen believes she was given ugliness at birth. Growing up in an estranged home, the only times she feels beautiful are the nights her father comes in to show her the stars. The day of her 16th birthday, the same day that Sputnik traverses the sky, Gertie’s life is irrevocably changed. After a family tragedy, her elusive and alcoholic mother sends her to Willow Estate, a private mental institution, where she is thrown into a world of harsh therapies, dangerous hospital politics, and, surprisingly, a sense of family.
Within the walls of Willow Estate Sanatorium, Gertie finds awfulness and grace, terror and family. From hydro and shock therapy, to first love, to rape and suicide, the only thing Gertie is sure of from day to day is that growing up is not a choice and that forgiveness and acceptance are perhaps the greatest gifts anyone can give. As Gertie learns her fellow patients’ stories, she realizes she is not the only one alone in this giant universe and that finding yourself sometimes means letting the past versions of yourself go and letting others help you define your own center of gravity.
Set against the historical backdrop of the early space race and freighting mental therapies circa 1950’s, THE SHAPE OF THE ATMOSPHERE features a spectrum of supporting characters that brings the dramatic setting to life and a plot that explores what it means to know yourself in a world that never stops expanding and changing, and that humanity is possible, in any universe.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Jessica Dainty whose book The Shape of the Atmosphere moved as well as compelled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love women’s fiction but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Jessica Dainty, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Jessica Dainty will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Jessica Dainty!
Jessica Dainty is a native New Englander, who has bounced back and forth from the Northeast to Tennessee over the past 20 years. Jessica works as an English/Special Education teacher and Reading Interventionist in her county school system. When she is not writing her own words, she loves helping her students fall in love with reading, especially those who may have given up on it long ago. In addition, she coaches her high school swim team, does contract editing, tutors, and is an avid knitter.
She received her undergraduate from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she started in poetry. She took her first fiction workshop for the simple reason that it terrified her, and after that, she never looked back. She continued on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she studied with Hester Kaplan and AJ Verdelle, among others.
Jessica is drawn to darker literature with a slight silver lining of hope, and her writing reflects this. Her debut novel, THE SHAPE OF THE ATMOSPHERE, is a historical coming of age story set against the backdrop of the early space race about a young girl sent to a private mental institution in the 1950s. Additionally, Jessica’s short stories have been published in various places, including SNReview, Fiction Weekly, Scholars & Rogues, and Composition Cooperative.
She is represented by Linda Camacho of Prospect Agency.
Now, how wonderful does Jessica Dainty sound?! Jessica Dainty is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of Jessica Dainty’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and Jessica Dainty, I hope that you enjoy Jessica Dainty’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
The Shape of the Atmosphere is about a teenage girl in the 1950s who already does not subscribe to the societal view of women. But when her father and sister die in a car accident, her mother sends her to Willow Estate Sanitorium, a private mental health hospital. In Willow Estate, Gertie is surrounded by all types of women, many of whom did not fit into society in some way as well.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
Write! And do it without stopping to overthink whether it is good or bad. You cannot polish a blank page. Also, writing is a selfless act and publishing is long, slow, and full of rejection. Be kind to yourself. As much as we are our words, literature is still subjective. There is someone out there who needs your words.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
I think this can be subjective, but for me it is character. I would spend 500 pages with a character that fascinates me even if all he or she did was stare out a window. A story full of exciting plot but underdeveloped characters falls short for me. I also like beautiful words. While this is subjective too, it’s the type of thing that you just know when you see it.
What is your writing process like?
I had never heard the phrase plotter vs pantser but a fellow author posed the question to me and I am definitely a pantser. I often get a line or a character or an idea pop into my head and I just have to see where it goes. I often do not know what is going to happen in my writing until I get at least 2/3 of the way through my draft.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the type of book that I am writing. For this book, I spent about 6 weeks researching before I let myself write anything. I wanted to have a solid knowledge base so it came through organically on the page and did not sound like textbook information. I then looked up things as I needed. For the historical side, I printed out calendars from the years of the novel and mapped out historical events and the novel itself to be sure I had things happening on the right day. I realized on draft 3 I had everything a day or two off and had to rework everything and that was a hard day, but I managed to work through it! J
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
I am a little bit of both. Right now, I work full time, go to school for my Ph.D., have a research assistantship, tutor, and just got married, so my time is very limited. I try to work in writing time each week, but the weeks I cannot work creatively, I just pretend my Ph.D. work is the next great American novel. J
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I love to read. Since my Ph.D. program is 1.5 hours away and I go twice a week, I listen to audio books quite a bit right now. I am more of a by book reader rather than a favorite author, but I have really enjoyed Fredrik Backman lately.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
I am repped by Linda Camacho of Gallt and Zacker. Novel #2 is finished, so it is just a matter of time! Fingers crossed!
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Jessica Dainty! If you have liked what you have read about Jessica Dainty and are interested in learning more about Jessica Dainty and reading Jessica Dainty’s work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,