The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Jacqueline Cioffa, author of The Vast Landscape.
Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and a celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector, and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in the anthology, Brainstorms, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness. She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth, and film lover who’s traveled the world.
Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw, and heartfelt.
What is your book’s genre/category?
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Bold contemporary fiction, The Vast Landscape shares one woman’s journey filled with doubt, mistrust, fame, and self-discovery. Join Harrison on her quest to find inner peace despite the harrowing obstacles placed in her way. Will she succeed in stripping away her complex armor to unmask the flawed, beautiful, and strong iconoclast kept hidden for so long?
How did you come up with the title?
The title was inspired from a large landscape portrait an artist, photographer friend gifted me that lives on the wall in the Zen room, the place where I write.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was very, very sick, with Manic Depression and made the decision to leave New York City to move back home to the Finger Lakes and a simpler, more manageable way of life. I made a pact to write everyday, stream of consciousness. The Red Bench was a coping mechanism, a way to hold onto to hope, and frankly to stay alive.
The Vast Landscape began as memoir, and many of the passages are excerpts from The Red Bench sprinkled throughout both The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine.
Once I freed The Vast Landscape to be fiction I realized Harrison, the protagonist could go anywhere. I had a larger canvas for her to stomp on.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Trusting the words, the absolute and complete freedom I feel releasing thoughts onto the page, whether dark or light.
I am discovering the story and characters for the first time as well, and because I rely on a lot of real life experience and characters for inspiration, I’m always surprised and invigorated.
Jacqueline, what is the most challenging aspect of writing for you?
The editing, marketing and all the ‘stuff’ that comes after. I find the business, publishing, and marketing aspects to be quite challenging which is why I’m so grateful for Rachel Thompson, and that she asked me to join Gravity Imprint. She is a talented author, gifted and a humble, marketing guru. My words are in the best, most capable hands with Gravity Imprint. I pinch myself daily.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
John Irving, Joan Didion, Samuel Beckett, Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, John Green, Patty Smith, Nicolas Sparks. It’s pretty eclectic; I find inspiration across the board. I’m a visual writer and I love watching films adapted from books. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
My parents are my first favorite humans, kind, generous, solid, loyal, and nurturing. They gave me a solid foundation, moral fiber, enough room to grow, and pursue my dreams. My BFF who believed in the magic of my words way before me, and still does even when I don’t.
Author Mark Blickley who read my earliest works and emphatically encouraged me to pursue a career in writing later in life. (I’d already had successful modeling and makeup careers).
Rachel Thompson, Julie Anderson, Marla Carlton, Feminine Collective, and all the empowering women who challenging the stereotypes daily.
Nicole Lyons, writer and founder of The Lithium Chronicles, the fierce, courageous Mental Health Advocates I’ve met through sharing my Mental Illness story.
Anyone, and everyone who champions others and dares to dream. There are quiet and loud warriors changing the world in positive ways.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
The ‘Zen room,’ where I wrote The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine. It’s filled with talismans, inspiration Buddhas, crystals, a vast landscape canvas portrait, and childhood memories.
Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I’m a goof, I like to watch Lifetime Movies and chew Bazooka Bubble Gum.
What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?
I was blown away and delighted by the overwhelming visceral reader response to both The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine. Readers have an immediate and intense connection to the stories. Their response and desire to dissect the characters, understand, talk about the tears, joy and connection they felt. That still shocks me in the very best, and humble way.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I wrote my truth first and foremost for me. I gave Harrison all the messiest, strongest, ugliest, prettiest, chaotic, stoic and flawed parts of my character. But I also created a fantastical, sanctuary for her to live and dream. The Cove, the safe, mystical, magical dwelling by the sea filled with stars, sunshine, beach, hope, love, emotion and family. For her, and me. And, ultimately the readers.
Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
Don’t try to mold yourself into some preconceived idea, lust after another, more successful author and don’t compare yourself to anyone. That is a recipe for disaster. Find your unique voice and look around, pay attention. Humans are complex fascinating creatures. The possibility for good stories is happening all around you. It took me forty-seven years to get published, and I’m still learning the craft. Write like you can’t live without it out, and don’t be in a hurry.
Author site: jacquelinecioffa.com http://jacquelinecioffa.com
Bleeding Ink on FeminineCollective.com http://femininecollective.com/jacqueline-cioffa/
Where can we find your book?
The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine are currently available on Amazon.
Look for The Vast Landscape re-release in early December and Georgia Pine to follow with Gravity Imprint of BookTrope Publishing.
What’s next for you?
Writing my column, Bleeding Ink for Feminine Collective, Mental Health Advocacy,
The repub of Georgia Pine, the sequel to The Vast Landscape with Gravity Imprint, and finishing Evergreen, completing The Vast Landscape Saga.
Then it’s back to the red bench, and a walk in the woods, to start fresh.
I do my best writing while walking.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Jacqueline. I wish you continued success with your writing and blogging!
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical literary novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, and book clubs in across the United States have enjoyed the book. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.