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About Jessica

Image by Ivana Cajina
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  • Where did you grow up?
    I was born in Canton, Mississippi but raised all over the state. I consider the entire state - from the Mississippi Delta to the Gulf Coast my home. Growing up in a place rich in complicated history and beautifully complex people, I was fascinated by people and their stories. I'd interview and write about my neighbors or make up whole stories in which they played a key part. I think they thought I'd become journalist or talk show host one day. They weren't far off. And there's still time...
  • Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
    My grandmother was the first person to put a book of poetry in my hand. In fact, she told me I'd be a writer one day - she'd had a dream about it. Now, she is no longer with us but her belief in me and her example of a grace-filled life, continues to inspire me. She also gave me my middle name, Deangelis, which I now use as my pseudonym to honor her.
  • Why did you write Gods Like Us: Folklore?
    I'd been attempting to write a novel for a while but nothing stuck. Then while taking a frustrated break from writing, I'd taken one of those DNA/ancestry tests. I got it back and I was obsessed. I dived into my ancestral origins (as much as could be discerned from this test) which seemed to be primarily Nigerian. I found so many parts of that culture beautiful and reaffirming, but what stirred my spirit was the Yoruba culture and religion, specifically. The idea that there was an entire mythology centering BLACK and BROWN deities and (according to many anthropological experts) were much older than the ones I'd been taught about in school, blew my mind. How was I not taught about THEM? What could I learn from them? In diving deeper, the story - my story - of self-discovery came pouring out of me and onto the page in the form of this novel. I'm still learning and I'm sure there will be more to write soon.
  • What do you hope to write in the future?
    I am in a full blown love affair with Young Adult Fiction. I will likely continue to write in the genre. However, I have dipped a tow in children's books (stay tuned for that) and I have aspirations of writing a screenplay. Ultimately, I will write as long as I am capable so we will see what the future holds.
  • What was your favorite book growing up?
    How can I choose just one?! I grew up in the Harry Potter era so... But if I must choose, I would say the first book I re-read as a child was Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. It had all the elements I love in a good book- nuanced relationships, mystery, and humor. Thinking of it now, I might just re-read it again.
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