30 September 2013

Meet the Contributors: Jessica Knauss

Jessica Knauss with Alfonso X
Jessica Knauss joined Unusual Historicals last April with her post about Traitors and Turncoats in medieval Spain. Her first historical novel, Seven Noble Knights, is seeking representation. She has two other historical novels set in medieval Spain in the idea/research stage and also writes contemporary fiction for the young at heart. A literary translator in her "spare time," Jessica's English version of the Abencerraje was recently adopted as a college textbook. Here are three more facts in her own words:

I was born a writer. I often got sidetracked because I have so many other passions (as writers should), but I've written fiction or poetry off and on since I was about six years old. After I finished my PhD, I didn't get the job it seemed everyone, including me, was expecting me to. It turns out, I wasn't meant to be a tenure-track teacher of Spanish language. Before I sat back to consider what other lucrative options might be available, I began writing again, this time armed with astonishing historical knowledge and research ability. I've added other simultaneous careers, both to feed my love of books and to pay the bills, but I haven't quit writing since then.

I've been fascinated with Spain almost as long as I've been a writer. I was a child when the idea of Spain dropped into my head unbidden and soon took over my heart. I approached Spain from every angle: I watched Zorro on TV ad nauseam; learned Spanish as soon as I could; listened to music in every genre; got a degree in translation from Spanish to English because I just knew everyone wanted to enjoy Spanish literature without putting in all the hard labor of learning the language; learned the history and tried to keep up with the politics; and, finally, earned a PhD in medieval Spanish literature. A terminal degree in any subject could be considered the culmination of one's love for it, but I think it's only now that I'm exercising my fiction chops on it that I'm really doing it all the honor I can.

I can't seem to stay put. Since I met my husband, I've followed him wherever the wind takes him. As I write this, I'm in our most temporary location to date: living in a hotel. We've been here going on five months now, which rivals some of our other lease agreements, but having our furniture (and books!) in storage keeps this from seeming like a permanent arrangement. Whenever it comes time to move somewhere new and unknown, I tell my husband, "I can write (and freelance edit, and work for Loose Leaves) anywhere," but there is a limit. For historical fiction, it's impossible to research properly if you don't know from one moment to the next whether there's a good library nearby or if your own books are located several time zones away, no matter how good the internet is getting for this stuff. For writing in general, I have to settle down somewhere long enough to build good relationships with a new critique group. I'm lucky my amazing group in Arizona is still willing to include me on Skype.

For what seems like years now, my husband and I have been promising each other that the next one is the last. But this time, it's for real. This time, we'll move somewhere so ideally situated for careers, weather, or families, that we won't even imagine the grass is greener elsewhere. Right? Please wish me luck in finding that perfect location.

Other than a driven fiction writer, Jessica Knauss is a freelance editor and a founding partner and editor at Loose Leaves Publishing. Find out more about her historical novel here, and her other writing and bookish activities here. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, too!