Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks talk Baby Name books, pomegranate allergies, and their signature sass

Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks from Figment.comWe sat down with Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, the hilariously snarky authors of the fashion satire blog Go Fug Yourself, to talk about their recent foray into YA wonderland with the novel Spoiled. Here’s what they had to say about their craft and the experience of writing their first novel together.

 

 

Where’s the place you most like to write?

HEATHER: I have a hard time writing anywhere but at my desk. I copy-edited Spoiled in my bedroom in the span of about two days, on the bed with my laptop, and it tweaked my back. Bad idea.

JESSICA: I write either on my living room sofa, or at my desk. “Sofa” is more weekend and night-time work.

Do you like to explore certain themes in your writing? Do you decide those themes ahead of time or do they emerge?

HEATHER: Both. We don’t pick a theme and then search for a story to fit it; we look for the story we want to tell first. And that story always has something underlying. But we find that it’s not until we’re developing the outline, or even actively writing the chapters, that the true themes and extra pieces really solidify and emerge. There have been times when I’ve realized, like, in the middle of chapter nine, “Oh, hey, these two thematic ideas dovetail kind of nicely actually…”

JESSICA: I had a moment the other day where I realized two themes sort of inter-played well in a scene that had been finished for like a year. Which maybe just means I am dim, but I like to think that it means if the A plot and the B plot are working well in harmony, they will work well even in places you never specifically intended.

How do you name your characters?

HEATHER: Over instant messenger. I’m serious. We’ll shoot ideas back and forth that way until we have a full name that we like. We realized a bit too late in the game that we have a lot of character names in Spoiled that end in y — Shelby, Molly, Teddy, Danny. And in the follow-up, Messy, we have another: Brady. Oops. But what can you do? We just want names that sound good and kind of fit the person we created in our heads, and we don’t usually know until we see it what that name is.

JESSICA: We also tend to like “M” names: Molly, Max, Mavis, Mitchell. One of the characters in Spoiled IS named after a girl who was mean to me when I was in kindergarten. But most of them are just out of thin air. I have, on occasion, used a baby-naming book for inspiration, but not for these particular projects.

Describe your writing in three adjectives.

HEATHER: Sarcastic, warm, and… polysyllabic.

JESSICA: Wordy, heartfelt, and sassy.

Do you base your characters off of people you know?

HEATHER: No — my great fear there is that we’d do that, thinking it was such a compliment, and the person would be like, “Well, thanks, is THAT what you really think of me?!?” But there are elements of ourselves spread out across all of them. Molly thinking her big toe is freakishly big? Me.

JESSICA: Molly’s pomegranate allergy is me. So there are bits and pieces from real life in there, but nothing actually fully based on anyone we know. I suspect that often ends, as Heather said, badly. Besides, you want to be able to take as many liberties with your characters as possible.

What would you do if you weren’t a writer? Or, what was the best job you had before becoming a writer?

HEATHER: I have no earthly idea, honestly. I decided to go into newspapers when I was sixteen. I think my favorite job was running the college student newspaper at Notre Dame, but I suppose that doesn’t entirely count, since it’s not a job I could do forever unless I had a million dollars so that I could afford to flunk my senior year over and over again. Working in reality TV was incredibly fun — it was a cool form of storytelling that was uniquely satisfying, because we only had the footage we had. No reshoots, no do-overs. So we HAD to make an episode out of it somehow. If it was a turd we had to polish it like it was a diamond. And some of my favorite episodes are the ones nobody else might pay any mind, but I know where they started and what a miracle it was that they ended up watchable and fun and just like any other hour. Really enjoyed that work.

JESSICA: I liked working in reality television too, most of the time, but I think my favorite job prior to this was when I worked at the front desk of my dorm at UCLA. We were basically the concierges for the dorm — and were in charge of the music that played in the lobby. It was really fun. A great opportunity to observe humanity. Also, it was essentially working from home, which paved the way for my current ability to work from home, I think.

Confess the geekiest thing you were into as a teen.

HEATHER: I suspect reading Soap Opera Digest religiously counts as geeky when you’re a teen.

JESSICA: I was the co-president of the drama club. Does that count?
What’s your favorite word?

HEATHER: I like writing “syzygy” in cursive. Seriously, do it. All those loops!

JESSICA: I use “awesome” way too much, so I suspect that’s my ACTUAL favorite word. My official favorite word is “portmanteau.”
Who’s the first person to read your stories?

HEATHER: Jessica. And then our editor. Seriously, if I showed it to anyone and they had feedback that was basically like, “Start here and then maybe do that entire thing differently,” it would mess with my head and become about trying to please too many masters.

JESSICA: Heather!
Can you leave us with three words to jumpstart a story?

HEATHER: The Dumpster shook.

JESSICA: Seems like a good start to me!

 

One thought on “Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks talk Baby Name books, pomegranate allergies, and their signature sass

  1. Inspirational! Jessica and Heather are heartfelt, sincere, and laugh-out-loud funny all rolled into one. I like how they run into writing problems like any author and create their characters so wisely. I’ll be checking their books out of the library!

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