This week, we’re bringing you something a little different—as we celebrate a book launch from our very own Career Authors editorial team. On March 22, Jessica Strawser is releasing her fifth novel, The Next Thing You Knowon the heels of last year’s rave-reviewed A Million Reasons WhyWe could think of no better time to kick off our latest series for the writing community, designed to take you behind the scenes into the making of a book—and what really makes a difference to its author along the way. We asked, Jessica answered.

  1. What’s the title of your book—and was that always the title?

The Next Thing You Know was originally called The Death Doula—at the center of the plot, the protagonist has such an unusual profession (which I wrote about here on Career Authors a few weeks back) that I was leaning toward the simple title structure of books like Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives. But in the end, it sounded too ominous for a story that is really about living your life with purpose and love.

“The Next Thing You Know” is pulled from a page late in the narrative, with deep significance: No spoilers, but readers will know it as soon as they see it.

  1. Who’s the main character of your book—and was that always their name?

My protagonist, Nova Huston, sheepishly shares the story of how she was named because her big sister wished on a star for a new baby in the family, and her parents found that adorable. Nova is much less charmed by this bit of family lore, but finds plenty of other significance in her name, supernova jokes and all. To her clients—terminally ill patients looking to make peace with the end of life—Nova is endearingly one-of-a-kind, living on the edge, eschewing rules, up for anything. To her family, she’s the daughter and sister who imploded her safe, steady life for reasons she doesn’t share with anybody.

Until one client changes her mind.

  1. At the start of the book, what’s the character’s goal?

The book is structured in dual timelines, and Nova has strong goals in each. In the “Now” timeline, she’s being accused of negligence in the death of her most high-profile client, Mason Shaylor, a 30-something musician whose fatal car accident may not have been an accident after all—and everything she cares about is riding on clearing her name of wrongdoing.

In the “Then” timeline, she’s meeting Mason in all his prickliness for the first time—someone so like herself, she can’t help but feel a connection—and rising to the challenge of helping her toughest client yet.

  1. What was the core idea for this novel—a plot point? a theme?—and where did it come from?

I was fascinated to learn about the increasing demand for end-of-life doulas—holistic practitioners who fill a widening gap between what our families and the traditional medical system can provide—and thought it must truly take a special person to that job… a job that is often misunderstood as sad or morbid when really, doulas bring hope and faith in the human spirit.

I started imagining why someone might feel called to this work, and how that person might feel misunderstood too… especially if a client’s family was skeptical of her role. And what if that client was no longer around to defend her?

  1. At what point did you come up with the final version of the first line?

In my last big revision, after I had my editorial letter in hand, I actually rewrote the entire first chapter from a different character’s point of view.

  1. Did you know the ending of the book when you started?

Yes—which isn’t necessarily typical for me. But because the book is told in dual timelines, in some ways it begins at the end. I’m simply unraveling the mystery of how we got there, what really happened, and who was responsible.

  1. What’s something in this book that you’ve never done before?

This book is in many ways an unlikely love story, between two characters who want nothing less than to come to care about each other a great deal. I’ve written love stories before, but never one so central to the plot.

  1. What part of your tour (or launch week) are you most excited about?

I have in-person events planned for the first time in two years! After an all-virtual launch last year for A Million Reasons Why, I’m looking forward to a hybrid mix of live events, online and off. (I’d love for you to pick a date to come join me!)

  1. Who in your #writingcommunity deserves a special shout-out for supporting you in writing this story?

I’ve never used fellow writers as beta readers before—but when this draft was ready for feedback, my usual go-to readers were all fellow moms who had their hands full with remote schooling and the stress of parenting through a pandemic. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking them, or anyone, really, but two writer friends stepped up and volunteered to help: Katrina Kittle and Sonja Yoerg, both of whom happened to have special expertise with certain aspects of my subject matter.

They went above and beyond, generously sharing their time and thoughtful insights that made a real difference to the story. I’ll never forget their kindness.

  1. How do you want readers to feel when they close the book? 

Like they don’t want to say goodbye to these characters, and they’ll still be thinking about them for a long time. I know I am.

  1. What did you learn from this book?

That we can impact each other’s lives more than we ever know.

To congratulate Jessica–and ask her all about THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW: go to our Career Authors Facebook page!

Writing community friends, we firmly believe we couldn’t succeed as Career Authors without supporting each other along the way! Read more about The Next Thing You Know and get your copy hot off the press.