Thank you Mady at AllAuthor for providing this sensitive and forthright interview.
Living in Waltham, MA, writing has become a way for her to explore the world through her mind. Attending free lectures, book readings, and poetry slams make up most of her social life. Jessica Lucci perseveres in her recovery from abuse and proudly advocates for mental health. Having herself been a survivor, Jessica says, "Reaching out is one of the toughest things to do, but you are tough, and you can do it." Her newest book is coming this September. “Watch City: Waltham Watch” is dynamically different from anything she has previously published. The author does not believe that all things happen for a reason, but she does believe that some good can come from the bad.
Who is your all-time favorite poet and which is his/her best work according to you?
My all-time favourite poet is Langston Hughes. I first read his poems in middle school when my class studied a unit on poetry. At the time, I was completely ignorant of the racial undertones, but I deeply appreciated the themes of struggle and demoralization. The poem that most struck me and which continues to pang my heart is “Let America be America Again.” Particularly in today’s political climate, I find it resonates with truth that all Americans should hear.
What activities do you like to indulge in in your free time?
I am lucky to live in an area where there are dozens of independent bookstores and libraries nearby. Attending free lectures, book readings, and poetry slams make up most of my social life.
Where do you live? What is your favorite thing about the city?
I live in the city where my new book, “Watch City: Waltham Watch” is set in. Waltham, MA offers a unique blend of beautiful historic sites as well as modern innovation. It is home to multiple museums and colleges, with a variety of opportunities for me to broaden my horizons.
What inspired you to tell your story in the form of books?
Books to me have always been a great escape. Writing has become a similar way for me to explore the world through my mind. I value the idea of being well-read; to explore multiple genres and understand other people’s ideas through their books. In every book I write, no matter what the genre or style, I promote the same themes of hope, perseverance, and community. No matter what form it takes, my story is still the same.
You are a great example of channeling the negatives in your life into something positive. How important do you think being positive through the struggles is and how can one do that?
I do not believe that all things happen for a reason, but I do believe that some good can come from the bad. It is this idea that drives me through the toughest moments of my life. Have I screamed and cried? Yes, absolutely. For me, it has helped to take the risk of trusting people. A friend, a family member, a therapist… Having someone I can text and say, “I’m having a tough day. Can you keep in touch with me throughout the day” sounds so simple, but it is tremendously helpful. I am also a firm believer in setting aside time to grieve or recharge. If there is an anniversary or holiday or date coming up that is going to bring up memories and feelings of trauma, I will purposely take a day for myself to acknowledge it. That can mean filling my day with activities as a distraction, or it could be telling a few close people that I will need extra TLC that day. Self-care in this way is vital, and deserved.
Having yourself been a survivor, what advice would you give to any one struggling with mental health issues?
The number one thing I would say is, you are not alone. When you have an invisible disease, or hidden pain, it is so easy to slip into anonymity. You might feel like a burden, or unworthy of attention or help, or feel like reaching out is a sign of weakness. Let me be so tender and clear: you are important; you are seen; you are worthy; you are loved. Reaching out is one of the toughest things to do, but you are tough, and you can do it. You do not have to go this alone.
Which is your favorite poem from ‘Freedom for Me’? What is it about?
“Freedom for Me” is my most personal book. It is compiled of poems I wrote while experiencing domestic abuse and violence. Each one brings me back to that moment, that feeling in time. One poem which is powerful to me, is quite simplistic. It is “If.” It is about keeping up a brave front to the world, denying yourself of the empathy you would give to others. This is an issue that just about every person I have spoken with who has survived abuse. Hiding the pain seems so necessary, but when you begin to treat yourself with some of the grace you would afford other people, you can begin to value yourself and start healing.
What is ‘To Die a Bachelor’ all about? What inspired you to write it?
“To Die a Bachelor” is a book I am proud of because it depicts real issues of real women in real prisons. It is DEFINITELY not for the under 18 crowd though. There is a lot of graphic sex; when I gave a copy to my mother, I covered a third of the pages in black Sharpie! I was inspired by the female prisoners I became friends with, hearing their stories, sharing their aggravations. I originally wanted to write it as non-fiction, giving each woman her own chapter. Instead, I felt it would be more powerful if I connected all the women in an underlying plot. I do not consider it a novel, but rather like short stories that work together. The phrase “to die a bachelor” is from my screen idol, Greta Garbo. One of her movie lines was “I shall die a bachelor.” This was a goal, not a lament, and I thought it was a perfect androgynous phrase that many of my characters could relate to.
What realities have you tried to uncover by your poems in ‘Person Numbers: Poems from Prison’?
“Person Numbers: Poems from Prison” is comprised mostly of short, simple ideas. I wanted to give readers the understanding that women in prison do not have the opportunity to wax poetic, but their thoughts are still precious. Whether you are a prisoner in the physical sense of living behind bars, are a prisoner in the captivity of an abusive relationship, or are trapped inside yourself by a mental or physical ailment, the feeling of being stuck is very real. We all search for freedom, in one wa or another.
Do you have a real life inspiration behind the character of Aggie?
Aggie is based on an important woman in my life. I would love to write more about her life someday, and give more of her back story. To me, she is an example of a woman who was abused as a child and teen, fell into a life of gangs, drugs, and prostitution, suffered the loss of children and relationships, and served time in jail for her crimes. Through it all, she remained a loving, caring person. Anyone who saw her on the street would probably judge her. To me, she is a symbol of friendship, and women supporting each other.
Your books hit on subjects that are still stigmatized in the society and difficult to talk about. Personally, how important do you think it is to talk about these issues?
We stigmatize things we are uncomfortable with. I think that we as a society need to realize that pain is not evil; bad things are not punishments. I do see positive changes in the overall shift of society’s attitude to mental illness, abuse, prisoners, sexuality, and grief. Feelings are stigmatized! From my experiences, I have learned that we DO need to talk about things that are uncomfortable. We need to respect our emotions, and the affect that our beliefs might have on other people. We need more empathy for ourselves and others, and be willing to participate in respectful discussions.
How do you feel about the shift of reading from physical books to digital ones?
I think it is fantastic that we have more opportunities to share and create works through digital media. Personally, I enjoy the tactile experience of holding a book as I read, and I find that I retain more this way. I do find e-books to be convenient, and appreciate having reading material at the ready on my phone. I do, though, always carry a book with me!
Which is the next book you are working on? When will it be released?
My newest book is coming this September. “Watch City: Waltham Watch” is dynamically different from anything I have previously published. It is an alternate history/steampunk adventure set in 1884 America. A famous inventor finds herself embroiled in a new city's despotism, and her secret quest is thwarted. My main themes of empathy, respect, and community, are prominent, plus time travel and some cool sci-fi robots! I wrote it as a source of escapism, and discovered a lot of truth while doing so.