23 Oct 2014

The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart by Jessica Ashley Dafoe

Successful, lucky in love, taking the world by storm?.....not quite. Portia Delaney is down on her luck, disgruntled in a dead end, mind- numbing career with little prospects and is not even close to finding a stimulating romance to take her mind off her lack-luster situation. Her defeatist attitude and unmistakable idiosyncrasies don’t help much either.
But with rock bottom comes a choice, lie down and enjoy the cold and barren ground beneath, or climb that ladder of success to the top. Portia finally sets out to do just that. With a fantastic group of friends and a bit of fateful circumstance on her side, she begins her trek up and out of the despair filled trenches. But Portia soon finds out that with success, often comes hardships and unwelcome competition.
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Author Interview
Do dreams ever inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?
I tend to use daily occurrences and past experiences in my own life and accounts from those around me to inspire my writing. I find the dreams I have, when related to my writing, are more a product of me focusing so much on the experiences I am preparing to write into my work. For instance, I wrote the physical characteristics and a fraction of the initial exchanges I experienced with a handsome friend of mine, into my novel. After putting so much thought into his gestures and expressions, I did have numerous dreams of him, all G rated, of course. My day dreams most definitely inspire my writing. My day dreaming is what brought Portia’s inner voice about. Portia is the heroine in my debut novel, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. She’s set on transitioning into her desired career, as am I.

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?

I’ve really been writing all my life purely for enjoyment but have always been very secretive with my work. There were times I wouldn’t even let my own family read my writing. My creative writing was put on the back burner throughout university as my efforts were expected to be put toward churning out essays based on other’s creative writing. Finally I graduated and began to write a blog, outlining interesting moments in my dating and student life. That morphed into short stories that I didn’t seek to publish. I did, however, publish numerous faith-based articles on Faith Writers. These small steps towards making writing a more permanent fixture all allowed me to gain more confidence in sharing my creativity. I finally decided I was going to do what I had always dreamed of doing, writing a novel. I finished it and published it all within the span of a year and am beyond happy that I did. My one and only published novel is The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. It was published in August of this year. I am currently working on the sequel and hope it will be ready for publication by next fall.

What is it about 'chick lit' that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres?
Chick-lit is just so relate-able in almost all ways. Even if the situations are to the extreme, as a woman I can always identify with some facet of the female characters’ and their natures. For me, a great novel is made great by being true to human nature and experience. The twists and turns are all welcome, but if I don’t find myself connecting with the characters in some way, I lose interest.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is a humorous tale set in Toronto, Paris and New York. It focuses on Portia Delaney, a single 30 something woman, who is set on making her dream career as a fashion designer a reality. She faces numerous hilarious hiccups along the way while attempting to achieve this goal and there are love interests and relationships that develop. She is surrounded by a lively and vivacious group of girlfriends, some supportive, others take the form of obstacles and Portia is faced with some tough decisions. It is an entertaining, fun and lighthearted novel, meant to be one that will brighten someone’s day.

What inspired you to write it?
After living in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, for 7 years, I have been subject to the harshness and the sweetness that it doles out to the career-minded woman who is striving to make it. I initially began writing this project more as an autobiographical tale of my own experiences in the city. I began to write and my own voice became muddled with a fictional narrative. I realized that my style is most certainly catered to fiction, so ran with the narrative that was ruling my keyboard. Portia Delaney was born with the inspiration of my own experiences and also those recounted to me from my own close friends and acquaintances. There are definitely autobiographical elements to her personality. I can be a bit of a mess by times.

Have you ever spotted anyone reading your books anywhere?

Seeing as it has only been about a month since publication, the only people I’ve seen with hardcopies in hand are friends, acquaintances and family members. It is still an incredible feeling. The most surreal moment yet was when I saw my novel on the shelf at Book City Yonge & St. Clair, one of the best independent bookstores in the city of Toronto.

Who designs your covers?
I bought the rights to the cover art from an artist via stock photos. Then I indicated how I wanted it adapted and used on the cover to the design team at Friesenpress. They did an incredible job including all that I requested.

If your latest book was made into a film, who would you cast?
As Portia Delaney, the main character, I would cast Jennifer-Love Hewitt. Portia is beautiful but awkward in her social encounters with members of the opposite sex. Jennifer is stunning but plays the nervous and awkward moments well.
For Portia’s main romantic interest, Guillaume, I would cast my friend Jayson Woolley. He is an unbelievably handsome model and talented actor from New York, so the obvious choice for the smooth, Parisian. I’m not sure how his French accent is but it can be worked on.
As Nina, Portia’s energetic friend and side-kick, I would cast Reese Witherspoon. She’s cheerful and bubbly and perfect for the role.

What's your favourite Chick Lit book that made it to the big screen?
Definitely Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. Both the book and the movie are near the top of my list for romantic comedies.

What were the last two books you read?

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple and Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. Both were excellent and had me turning the pages at a lightning fast speed.

Name one female author who you think deserves to be better known.
Lynda Renham. Her latest novel The Dog’s Bollocks is a gem.

Where do you write?
I need a constant buzz of activity when I write. Silence is death to my writing so I generally hit up various coffee shops in the city. I never go to the same one twice in a week as I like a change of scenery.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? And did you follow the dream?

I always wanted to be a writer, whether a journalist a novelist or a children’s book editor, I knew the written word was my calling. At one point I wanted to own a bookshop as well as be a librarian.

In the movie of your life, who would play you?

I’ve been told that I have a striking resemblance to Jennifer Connelly, but have also been informed that for mannerisms and appearance, Jennifer Esposito would be someone who could get the job done right. Apparently I need a spunky and sassy leading lady to play me and Esposito has what it takes.

Speed Round...
Top drink to make you tipsy? 
Shopaholic or shopadon't? Shopaholic, unless I get to the point that I’ve got credit companies after me. It hasn’t happened yet though so I’m doing just fine.

Sky high heels or closer to the ground?
If I could handle them all day every day, I would totally choose sky high because they’re fierce, but alas practical me steps in to make the shoe wear decision and I generally go with kitten heels.
E.L. James or Jilly Cooper? Jilly Cooper.
Cry baby or tough cookie? Cry baby with a hard-coated exterior
Exotic beach or enchanted forest?
Exotic beach, preferably somewhere in Fiji.

Can a book be too witty? Well, that's actually what I thought about The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. There was comedy from page one right up to the end. There were moments of pure hilarious entertainment which left me sitting on the edge of my seat.
I must admit that I found it a little difficult to really engage with the main character, Portia, because I couldn't understand the real her. Not that I didn't like her, I just felt like she was a little too predictable. Many of the things that happened to her were a little over the top and I found it a little hard to keep up at times.
If you like your chick lit absolute packed full of silliness (think Shopaholic meets Bridget Jones), then this book is for you. Me? I prefer it just a little more toned down.

Jessica Ashley Dafoe resides in Toronto where she is an educator by day and a literary enthusiast and writer by night. She attained her BA in English Literature at The University of Ottawa and her B Ed at Brock and Queen’s University.
When Jessica does not have her nose in a book or is not scribbling out her ideas for her newest tantalizing tales, she's most likely keeping busy trying out various exciting activities and delicious cuisine that the great city of Toronto has to offer or planning her next getaway to her immediate destination of choice. The travelling bug bites her often.
A romantic comedy addict to the core, she enjoys all things silly, frivolous and emotionally endearing which is the reason she writes stories that encompass all of these qualities.
Connect with Jessica!
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  1. Thank you for the spotlight! "Too witty"? "Shopaholic meets Bridget Jones"? Exactly what I was going for and those portions of the review absolutely made my day.

  2. Well then you certainly did that, Jessica!! Good luck with the rest of the tour :D


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