Soon after noticing the stares and frightened murmurs of her new peers, Laura Rivers—the pretty new girl at Englewood High—discovers that her being new isn’t the only thing putting people off. To her shock, Laura has an unfortunate doppelganger: the girl who killed herself just a year ago. A dead ringer for a dead girl, Laura’s plight at Englewood High just got a whole lot spookier. So begins Dead Ringer.
“The ingoing objective was to write a young adult (‘YA’) version of Gone Girl,” explained Boston College alumna Jessie Rosen, BC ’05, who released Dead Ringer this past Wednesday. “It used to be that YA was all [dystopian] universes and Hunger Games stuff, and now it’s sort of become more realistic fiction.”
Though no stranger to creative pursuits in writing, Rosen’s publication of Dead Ringer is her first proper novel, as well as her first endeavor into the popular young adult genre of writing. Formerly involved in the advertising industry—and the creator of the critically acclaimed “20-Nothings” blog—Rosen is entering a new space, both creatively and professionally, with Dead Ringer.
“The market is very saturated right now, making it very hard to break in as a young writer,” Rosen explained in a recent phone interview following the release of her book. “So at the suggestion of my agent, I write a book proposal—they thought that it would be good in terms of what I like to write, good for my style, and also just a good opportunity to break in. So we talked about lots of different ideas, and I thought, ‘How dark I could write, considering most of my other writing was comedic?’”
A New Jersey resident now residing in Los Angeles, Rosen’s career in writing has been a methodical one, first finding a start in marketing in New York, but eventually leaving behind the 9-to-5 lifestyle in pursuit of writing full time. “As I started to get more interested in script-writing in particular, which is what I was doing and what I still am doing in addition to the book, I realized that the highest percentage of work in that realm is in Los Angeles,” Rosen said.
“When I first got here I needed to have a full-time job because writing was not yet paying me a full-time job salary, but I worked on my scripts and projects on the side until I was making enough money from freelance writing where I could leave that full-time marketing job.” Rosen’s bold decision to pursue a career in the ever-uncertain creative industry was, in her mind, partially informed by the values she experienced during her undergraduate studies at BC, in particular those of the Jesuits and their sense of “finding a vocation.”
“It’s the idea that we’re not just supposed to find a job to pay the bills and just get by and live for the weekend, but we can find a purpose in life,” Rosen said. “I was always really struck by that with BC, the whole discernment process, and that’s what led me to leave my marketing jobs and really pursue my writing full-time—I really give BC so much credit for that.”
Rosen’s creative side was certainly on display during her time at BC, particularly within the communications discipline. With classmates, she created what exists now as BCTV. She also founded a weekly news recap magazine called Now You Know, and wrote for The Heights. Rosen cites her senior year fashion and culture column on The Heights as her true first experience writing creatively and freely in the first person.
“The spirit of BC and the community is a very honest one. It’s like, be honest with yourself, be honest as a person, and share who you are with the world,” Rosen said. “I think my writing style is very honest because I was given the opportunity to really be myself at BC and it worked for me—people liked what I was writing and what I was about.”
Speaking to the strong market around the YA genre, the Dead Ringer title has long-term ambitions to continue onto a second and third book of the same storyline if the demand is sufficient. As Rosen noted, “The idea was always that if Dead Ringer did well, books two and three, which are loosely conceived of, would be picked up by the publisher.”
Rosen’s experience at BC, among other motivations, was what ultimately inspired her to overcome the anxiety of potential failure and make the decision to pursue her creative dream. Letting go of that fear, she said, is both the hardest and the most important part.
“There’s just a lot of fear, ‘Can I do it? Is this going to work out?’” she said. “And then once you say, ‘I am pursuing my dream of being a full-time writer’ … if you fail just the fear of that is terrifying. I wish I had jumped faster, because I just think that if you do jump, you motivate yourself to make that money and find those opportunities and make it happen.”