Interview with Jessika Fleck!



The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.


First off, thanks so much for having me here at The Royal Polar Bear Reads! I’m super excited to be a part of the Debut Author Dash and love that we were paired up!

  1. How did The Castaways turn into a novel? What was your inspiration? What made you write this book? Who are the people who pushed you to write The Castaways?

The Castaways began as two separate ideas that came together during a walk through a corn maze. The first part was about a friend of mine who was struggling with her daughter being cruelly bullied. They had been on my mind quite a bit. The other part had to do with portals and alternative dimensions, unsolved mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle. Right around that time we took our daughters to the pumpkin patch, and, as we always do, raced through the corn maze. During that walk (I was with our youngest who was more interested in roaming than winning), my mind reeled. Somehow, in this brain of mine, the idea for The Castaways was born.

My daughters are always a significant source of inspiration. It’s important to me for them to see me work for what I want and to follow my passions. I’m also equally pushed to write by my characters and their stories. Wherever they come from–whether completely fabricated or based in some truth–their stories become very real and important to tell.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing The Castaways?

The most challenging part of writing The Castaways was definitely finding a smooth transition between Olive’s contemporary world and her fantasy world (I’m pretty sure my editor would agree ;). Jumping genres midway through a book is a risk and we worked really hard to get it right.

  1. What was the lesson you want to impart to your readers when they read The Castaways?

I try not to be too heavy-handed with lessons and themes, though this book definitely had some pretty obvious ones. The value of working together, friendship and family, of choosing to be kind, and of being true to yourself and accepting and loving that self-care certainly has woven throughout.

  1. What challenges did you have to overcome when writing this novel?

Writing two groups of very different characters (many with their own arcs) was highly challenging and took several rewrites.

  1. Given the chance to date someone, dead or alive, fictional or not, who would it be and what will you do on your date?

Oh, my goodness… This is definitely a hard one, but if I HAD to choose, hands down, it would be the character ‘Death’ (one of my faves of all time) from The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak and we’d simply walk along streets of Venice (one of my favorite places ever) and talk all night long.  

  1. If you are going to give your 10-year-old self advice today, what would it be?

I’d assure her that she’s extremely smart and tell her not to let anyone convince her otherwise. Also, that one day she’ll look back at how she’s styling her bangs and do a major face-palm. (It was the late eighties)

  1. Was it your dream to become a writer? If you are not a writer today, what will be your career path?

Not at all. I stumbled upon writing in an attempt to tap back into my creativity after having children. If I wasn’t an author today, I’d probably be an advocate for new mothers and breastfeeding in public (something near and dear to me) or, I don’t know, possibly go back to working in social services (my college degree) or go back to school for a librarian degree because books. ❤

  1. Totally Random: Thoughts about depression?

As someone who has struggled with a traumatic brain injury and the resulting anxiety and depression, I have LOTS of thoughts. I believe it can be just as hard and taxing and stressful as having a physical chronic illness. I hate that it’s so stigmatized by our society–we need to have a serious wake-up call to mental illness in regard to perception and shaming and health care in our country. Mostly, we need education, from a young age, that depression and mental illness isn’t something that people choose or don’t choose and that there is help in many forms and that access, while often hard to come by and expensive (again, we need health care reform in this regard), *is* available.

  1. What made you decide to write in the fantasy genre?

Honestly, I can’t imagine writing anything else–at least not with near as much passion. Our world needs all the magic it can get right now and I’m happy to provide a little through my books.

  1. What is your favorite quote in your book and why?

Olive’s, “Just be.” Because, such great words to live by.


15452326Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. More at


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