In Joshilyn Jackson’s last novel, Someone Else’s Love Story, she introduced minor character Paula Voss, a sassy and intimidating (not to mention totally hot and stylish) divorce lawyer who is the childhood best friend of the male romantic lead of the novel. I really enjoyed Someone Else’s Love Story, and a lot of it had to do with Paula. Whenever her character turned up on the page, I knew the air would crackle with attitude, and she would challenge everyone around her to cut the bullsh*t. I wanted more Paula. More Paula!
And that’s exactly what Joshilyn delivers in her new novel, The Opposite of Everyone. This is Paula’s novel. Joshilyn tells her story, and I loved every minute I got to spend next to cunning, calloused, and confident Paula. The Opposite of Everyone is a marvelous novel, (early reviews have been very complimentary), and part of the joy of the novel is seeing the way she’s forced to reevaluate her life’s structure, and grow a little. By the end, we adore Paula even more as she discovers her true strength lies not in the distance she ably maintains between herself and others, but in the way she crosses that distance.
BOOK CLUB GIRL: Where did the character of Paula Vauss come from?
JOSHILYN JACKSON: Paula is a minor character in SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY. She started taking over every scene she was in, early on. She has all the best lines of dialogue in that book. She is a difficult person---edgy, tough, guarded, combative---but loyal to a fault. I knew early on I wanted to keep writing her. I had to cut about ten thousand words of Paula out before I could turn SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY in, and some of those favorite bits ended up in OPPOSITE.
BCG: Paula has had quite the nomadic upbringing: “We’ve been tambourine players and yoga teachers and Ren Faire workers. We were vegans with Eddie, then spent the next winter squatting in Tick’s deer blind. We’ve read palms and tarot on the street near Anthony’s tiny New Orleans apartment… I was somehow all those incarnations --- an amalgamated girl who felt like me.” Was your childhood a roaming one like Paula’s?
JJ: To some extent. My dad was Army, and we moved every year. When I was about nine, he retired, and we went to live on the Florida panhandle (or, as I like to call it, Lower Alabama). I remember weeping helplessly when I understood we were not going to move again, because I was used to being able to reinvent myself every year. I was scared I would get stuck with a version of myself I didn’t like.
I also have a few things in common with Paula’s mother, Kai. As a young woman, I failed out of college rather spectacularly and wandered around in Kai’s faux-hippie, Gen X subculture for several years before going back to school.
BCG: Kai is shown through flashbacks and memories. Did this make her character more difficult to write because we’re seeing young Paula’s perspective of her?
JJ: No---I actually really enjoy writing from the POV of adolescent and tween characters. Their frontal lobes are barely little nubbins, so they can act without understanding or fearing the consequences. They live very immediately and they have huge feelings and are growing into themselves in such interesting ways.