Jessica Kapp Discusses Body Parts
The Children’s Book Review | August 15, 2016
Congratulations on your debut, Ms. Kapp! We are delighted to feature you on the site today. We’d love to learn a little more about BODY PARTS, and you as an author. Get your cup of coffee ready, and let’s get started:
Denise Mealy: BODY PARTS is an exciting, and sometimes terrifying, book about harvesting humans for organs. Can you tell us a bit about where you came up with this fascinatingly gruesome idea?
Jessica Kapp: Thanks for having me! I agree the concept is pretty gruesome! It’s pretty funny to watch how people react when I tell them what my novel is about. The story behind the idea isn’t so funny though…
The concept came to me after my husband almost died. Out of nowhere, he had a vein burst in his stomach, and two more veins—one in his esophagus and another in his liver—were on the verge of erupting. Doctors couldn’t explain why, and worse, they didn’t think he would live. At one point they mentioned putting him on an organ transplant list.
It was terrifying, and although his health stabilized, the fear stuck with me. What if he needed a new liver? How long would he have to wait on the organ transplant list? Would he survive the surgery? Worst of all, someone would have to die in order for him to live.
A few weeks after we returned home from the hospital, I started writing BODY PARTS, a YA novel about a pharmaceutical company that uses a foster center as a front to harvest organs from unsuspecting kids.
The setting for BODY PARTS is a somewhat remote island. What influenced you to use the island, and is it inspired by a real-life place?
Sort of. We used to travel to a remote island when I was a kid, and while the details are fuzzy, I remember there were few ways on and off the island. I wanted to pull from that experience—the hostage-like feeling of being trapped and reliant on the island alone. But everything else about the fictitious place is completely made up.
Tabitha’s red hair plays quite a bit in to the genetic components of your story. What kind of research did you do to create such realistic and believable science for your story? Is it true?
Yes! I did a ton of research on redheads and talked to a geneticist extensively on the subject of the liver and how drugs would metabolize differently in people with a predisposition or specific component in their system. We were even emailing each other on Christmas Eve while I was revising the story. She was so incredibly helpful and able to break down the science and help me fix issues I had with the plot.
Are there any exciting behind-the-scenes tidbits that you think readers would like to know about the book? Did you travel somewhere interesting for research, or meet someone fascinating? Was there an especially inspiring historical account that sparked your creative juices? Give us a glimpse in to the exciting world of authors!
The geneticist I connected with was pretty incredible to work with! Aside from that experience, I can tell you that the twins in the book are inspired by actual twins I know—and named after them as well. But unlike their book versions, the real life Meghan and Paige are fraternal twins. They are very athletic, and I imagine they would have done very well at the Center for Excellence.
BODY PARTS is your debut. What has been the most exciting part of being a debut author?
Having people you don’t know love your book. It’s very validating to know someone can’t get enough of your characters and is in love with your story, and they aren’t going to see you at Thanksgiving dinner or see you at the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE when my friends and family gush about my book, but total strangers loving it is pretty exciting!
Who was your favorite character, and why?
Ry. I love his vulnerability, and more importantly, his heart. There’s no question he is a hot mess. He makes mistakes and he has a lot of baggage. But he genuinely loves his friends and it shows. While he makes you want to slap him sometimes, his intentions are always in the right place.
In your mind, who is the real villain in the book?
The citizens. The people who would rather take a pill to perfect themselves than do any work on their own. Everything comes at a price. There is something evil about their willful blindness. They don’t care who pays the price—as long as it’s not them.
Are you ever surprised by your characters? If so, who?
All. The. Time. I’ll have a scene in my head, and all of a sudden they’ll jerk me in another direction. Sometimes it’s good and my heart starts pumping because I’m like, “Great, this is getting exciting!” Then other times, they’ll just sit at a table and refuse to get up. I swear my characters have minds of their own.
What was your journey to becoming an author? Did you write many books before BODY PARTS?
It took me a couple of years to actually finish a book, and it was exciting for about 2.5 seconds. After I finished I looked around the kitchen (this was before I had an office) and wondered, “What now?” Then I discovered the pain of editing. That book didn’t go far though, and in fact it will never see the light of day. It was more therapeutic than anything. But I knew I could do it. I could finish a book from beginning to end. So I wrote another story, but the market was saturated with hundreds of stories just like mine. I wiped my tears and tried again. I truly loved that second book and didn’t know if I could love another manuscript as much. Luckily, I fell in love with BODY PARTS just as hard.
How many words do you write on an average day? How long does it take you to draft a book?
This summer? *hides under desk* I’ve been terrible these past few months. I powered through a novel at a writer’s retreat and planned to plot out my next project while I let the words sit for a few weeks. But my plotting hasn’t gone as well as I thought. When I am productive at putting words on paper, I write about 1,000-1,500 words a day. It takes me about three to four months to draft.
Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a special hangout? Rituals?
My office. I love my MAC and only write on the laptop if I’m not home. I prefer to write at home more than anywhere. The only ritual I have is wasting time checking out social media sites before writing. I need to kill that habit and just get going as soon as I sit down.
Who is the first person to read your drafts? Do you have a critique group, or do you go it alone?
I could never go it alone! I need help. Lots of it! J
I have a couple of core critique partners, but I also have fabulous beta readers who are just as crucial to helping me polish my work. I typically send my work out to my CPs and a couple of beta readers after I’ve gone through the manuscript at least once. After I’ve incorporated their notes, I’ll send the manuscript off to more beta readers.
Long hand or computer? Antique hipster typewriter?
Computer all the way. Unless I’m traveling and without a laptop; then I jot notes down in a journal to transfer later.
What were the last few books you loved?
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon was amazing! I also loved SCYTHE by Neal Shusterman, the YOUNG ELITES series by Marie Lu, STARFLIGHT by Melissa Landers, ZEROES by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti, P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU by Jenny Han, EERIE by C.M. McCoy, MISSING PIECES by Meredith Tate…
Wait, you said a few. Sorry. I got carried away.
Favorite TV show?
I could watch Friends over and over again. But I recently discovered New Girl, and I’m really enjoying it! I’m also a big Walking Dead fan, although truth be told, it makes me a little squeamish sometimes.
What’s next for you?
I have another project, a Contemporary, in the hands of my agent right now. She’s compiling notes for my second round of revisions. It’s my first story told in dual perspective, as well as third person. It was a challenge for me but I really enjoyed it! And right after that project gets the green light, I’ll go back to the project I finished at my writer’s retreat and start revising. It’s also a Contemporary but told in first person present and based on an experience I had as a teenager. Then, probably several months from when you post this, I’ll get to work on the story that’s been nagging at my brain. It’ll be told from one perspective, and I’m really excited to dive into another speculative fiction story!
Written by Jessica Kapp
Publisher’s Synopsis: Never Let Me Go meets The Island for YA―perfect for fans of Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young.
Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha has been protected from the outside world. Her trainers at the center have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family. So she swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet her adoptive parents.
But when Tabitha’s told she’s been paired, instead of being taken to her new home, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason she’s been kept in shape: PharmPerfect, a local pharmaceutical giant, is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs.
Determined to save the rest of her friends at the center, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Diversion Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1635761665
“BODY PARTS is a perfect match for readers of light sci-fi and dystopias.”—Denise Mealy, The Children’s Book Review
About the Author
Jessica Kapp loves to imagine the what-ifs of life as she writes contemporary and speculative fiction for young adults from a small farm in Washington. When she’s not reading, writing, or talking books with the barista at her favorite coffee shop, she can be found on the soccer field. Visit her webpage at www.jessicakapp.com or on Twitter at @JessKapp
This interview was conducted by Denise Mealy. Discover more books like Body Parts, by Jessica Kapp, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Author Interview, Jessica Kapp, Science Fiction, Young Adult Authors, and Young Adult Fiction.