My guest this week is the multi-talented Jessica Bell : she is author of the fantastic dystopian novel “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”; a poet with 3 poetry collections under her belt; a writing/publishing coach; graphic designer; voice over actor; daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends; singer-songwriter; and singer with the ambient electronica band ”Keep Shelly” (where she is known as the ballsy alter -ego Bruno). Phew! How does she do it all?! First, let me tell you about her book, ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” …..
MY BOOK REVIEW
I was sent a copy of the “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for reviewing and are my views are entirely my own. “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is written by Jessica Bell.
Let me admit from the start – I’m a thriller fan that also likes to read the odd historical novel, travelogue and classic literature. So, when Ben approached me with this book, a dystopian genre offering, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’m glad I welcomed the book with open arms though, as the story kept me riveted from the very beginning to the very last word. The story is set in a near -future world that is ruled by happiness and the pursuit of happiness is everybody’s goal in life – without happiness you are doomed to die young; with happiness you are granted immortality. But finding real happiness isn’t easy especially when time is running out. Selma Beyett runs the new local bakery, and her husband, Jerome, must die in six months unless he finds perpetual happiness. He has a loving family, a job he adores … so why can’t he find happiness. Icasia, a misfit and ”tatter” doomed to die young for the crime of her child’s unhappiness. Icasia gets food for herself and her son by bartering, and when she walks into Selma’s bakery to barter new customers for food, Selma and Icasia strike up on an unexpected friendship. In a desperate effort to save Jerome from death, the two ladies go on a profound search for happiness and what they discover leads to some questions about what we take for granted and what happiness really is. Very thought provoking, highly entertaining and a great read. Loved it. 9/10
I’m so pleased to be able to welcome Jessica onto the blog! Hi Jessica!
Hello 😊I am Jessica Bell and I’m an author, designer, singer/songwriter and publisher and I work from a little corner in my loungeroom. I’m also a mother of a two-year-old boy named Madoc Maximus, whose first spoken phrase was ‘half a moon,’ and who once claimed the renovation banging next door, was ‘the heartbeat of building’.
“How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is set in a near-future society ruled by happiness. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel?
I was watching The Giver. And I wondered what would happen in these kinds of stories if the characters didn’t fight against these totalitarian societies, but instead learned to live happily within them, and of course, whether that would make an interesting story. Would these dystopias potentially become utopias, or a mix of the two? And how/why?
I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?
I love getting inside the heads of my characters, so I wouldn’t say any were particularly hard or easy. I did very much enjoy writing Jerome’s character, though, I think because I love the challenge of writing a person who is totally different from myself. I think I most enjoyed the very first time he attended DeathCare Therapy. I also loved writing the secondary character of Phyvwonoh, the therapist that behaves a little like AI … but perhaps isn’t!
I loved the main character Icasia Bloom – and I did have a soft spot for Selma’s husband, Jerome, too. Do you have favourite characters?
Jerome is a clear favourite. But since the antagonist of this story is actually the Globe and not one particular person, I pretty much fell in love with all them for one reason or another.
You have, so far, written, a memoir, 5 novels, 3 poetry collections and a “Writing In A Nutshell” series and a variety of publications. Were there any aspects of writing “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?
This is the first book that has ever started with a clear outline and chapter summaries. I usually write by the seat of my pants, but this book needed clear organization. When reading the final product, the world doesn’t actually seem very complicated, but in order for everything to make sense, and slot together, a lot of backstory needed to be written that actually didn’t need to end up in the book. It was very hard for me to cut it all out! I’m going to provide access to all that backstory to subscribers of my newsletter soon.
If “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Icasia Bloom, Selma Beyett, Jerome and Leila?
Oh gosh, I never do this. I always create a unique picture in my head. Okay, after a bit of Googling, I’d say the following:
Icasia: Claire Foy
Selma: Nicole Kidman
Jerome: Matthew McConaughey or Colin Farrell
Leila: Sophia Lillis
Music also plays a big part of your life – being the daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends as well as being a singer/songwriter and singer in the ambient electronica band “Keep Shelly”. Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or in music or did you actually have other career aspirations?
I wanted to become a dancer as a pre-tween. I would make up my own choreography in my bedroom to artists like Madonna, Prince, MC Hammer and Technotronic! As a teen, I wanted to become a rock star. That dream has never left me. I still want to become a rock star! But I guess I’m getting on a bit now, so I’ve accepted my fate. As a young adult I aspired to become an archaeologist, so I started out at university studying archaeology. But I was terrible at maths and continued to fail the research methods modules, and therefore quit. I then asked myself, what do I already know how to do? (I was a lazy young adult!) and decided that I already knew how to speak English, so signed up for a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English. Ha!
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
The last two years since having my son have been difficult to find time to read, but before that, oh yes. I devoured around one book a week. I’m open to any genre if the writing hooks me. I do especially love speculative fiction, especially Margaret Atwood’s. Also a big fan of Marilynne Robinson, Rebecca Miller, Roz Morris, Jeanette Winterson, and Magdalena Ball.
Is “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” availableto purchase worldwide?
If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why?
I will most likely be diving into the sequel to my memoir ‘GO: A Memoir About Binge-drinking, Self-hatred, and Finding Happiness’. The sequel is tentatively entitled, ‘STAY: A Memoir about Self-love, Changing Your Life, and Living Your Dream’. So, the place I would ‘travel’ to again, is the STAGE. I’ve really missed performing live since the pandemic.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Outfit one: ripped black faded jeans, a band t-shirt and a black pair of laced ankle boots from Camper (flat no heels).
Outfit two: Bright coloured leggings, and a body-fitted casual black mini dress, and black converse sneakers.
Post-mother/pandemic days: Barefoot, viscose lounge wear from Oysho!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Love Oysho for me, and Mori Baby for my son.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
To be honest, to fit back into my performance outfits! I haven’t been able to get back to my skinny self since having a baby. My favourite is a pair of black sequined fitted pants and an apricot-coloured semi-see-through tank. Yes, I wear a lot of black.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots! More rock ‘n’ roll.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Best I just share my portfolio site iamjessicabell.com where you can access all the different facets of me and all my socials. 😊
Fabulous chatting to you Jessica! I love your style of writing and you’ve probably converted me to including some dystopian genre books to my reading list! Thanks also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a copy of ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” to review.
All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Jessica Bell.