When I wrote The Mason List, I did not expect this kind of response from people. I didn’t know if people would even like this story. I really, really didn’t expect the passionate comments, emails and messages from people who wanted to know more about Jess and Alex. It blows my mind and blesses my heart – all at the same time.
I have tried to figure out a way to address these requests and feelings from readers.
The Mason List was written as a stand-alone book. I never planned to write anything outside the original story. I lived in the world of Jess and Alex for three years. I lived their words and thoughts and feelings. They tossed around in my head, haunting me at times. I am not saying never on more Jess and Alex. However, I am currently working on Wyatt and Emma’s story. Hopefully, I can share them with you soon.
On the other hand, I am a big behind the scenes junkie. I look up everything: meanings behind the endings of movies, song lyrics, books etc. I spent two hours reading John Green’s Q/A on his website after I finished The Fault in Our Stars.
For now, this is what I have decided to do for The Mason List. Some of the questions are from readers who have contacted me. Some come from the frustrations that I have read on the reviews. Some are just behind the scenes of writing the story and what I thought about the characters and their actions.
I know this isn’t exactly more, but I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for reading The Mason List and loving the story of Jess and Alex.
The Mason List Q/A
Why was there such a large time jump between Jess waking up and the Epilogue?
When I wrote The Mason List, I saw it as a journey for Alex. The journey ended when Jess woke up. She had a sense of peace with her anger toward the Masons. She turned the hatred into something spectacular. She accepted that miracles may come in all forms, which was the final piece for her.
What the heck happened between Jess waking up and the Epilogue?
I imagine Jess and Alex living happily ever after. Life for them is perfect and boring. Alex had a particular difficult journey and then it was over. So I see them living out the life they always dreamed of together. I see them at Sprayberry having the time of their life.
And that Epilogue?
Through-out the whole story, Jess and Alex made a wish. They even made one pledged in blood. This is why I included the Epilogue. I wanted everyone to know that in the future, the wishes and pledges and hopes of Jess and Alex came true. They grew old together.
How old are they exactly in that Epilogue?
“Until they had no teeth and no hair.” To me they are at least 70+ in that Epilogue. The reader comments about it just being 20 years in the future – are not correct. I am really sorry I didn’t get that across better. It was the whole point of even including the Epilogue. Jess and Alex are around 26 at the end of story when he wakes up in the hospital. So the Epilogue is a drastic jump – just to show their wish came true.
So what did they wish for? For the love, tell me what they wished for?
“What did you wish for?”
The answer to that is the same for each of them.
“I wished for you to stay with me forever.”
And that is exactly what they got. They always wished to keep the other forever.
Alex was pregnant at the end of the story. Did she have a boy or girl?
Alex had a boy. They named him Tanner. And no I didn’t make this up for the question. I had a trash can draft where it was in an Epilogue. That epilogue I thought was extremely sad. Yes, sadder than the one in the book. So it wasn’t included.
Jess and Alex had a boy named Tanner. He was a good child, almost perfect. I felt they deserved a perfect child after everything they had been through. I also thought Alex would have a very real connection to Tanner because he lived inside of her during the worst time in her life. He was with her when she thought Jess was dead.
And other children?
I actually thought Jess and Alex had two more. A girl and then another boy they named Jessup aka JJ.
What about Jess’s recovery?
Well, he was hurt really bad. I figured it would take awhile to get back out there. But I never doubted that Jess would get back on a horse. I think he may have struggled some getting back out there on the ranch. I’m sure he went through his own emotions of not being able to return to his job. Sprayberry was his life as much as Alex. So yes, he made it back out there. He spent the rest of his life on the ranch.
Many readers hated the main character Alex and some of her actions in the story. How do you feel about Alex?
First, I am very protective of Alex. I created her. I wrote her thoughts and words. So it’s like the concept, I can say bad things but don’t you dare! Haha. But honestly, I also had a love- hate relationship with the character when I was writing the book. However, I look at the world around me. People carry the baggage of the past in all sorts of ways. That baggage can make them into interesting people. Sometimes they make good decisions and sometimes they make bad decisions.
In writing, I don’t like bland characters. There’s nothing like a bland character to make me flip through pages. So if a reader felt something toward Alex –whether be love, pity, or hate – then I think she was a good character.
I didn’t realize how “dark” Alex was until the final edits. I knew she may come across as unlikeable. She had problems. I’ve read the passionate comments from people who want to yell at Alex or slap some sense into her. It actually makes me laugh. Sometimes I wanted to shake some sense into her too, which is why I created Sadie. It gave me an outlet to say things to Alex.
Was it hard to write a character that had these kinds of issues?
Yes, writing Alex was hard at times. I think for me it was interesting exploration of the mind. Usually in this type of story, I think it would be told from Jess’s point of view. The guy trying to save the troubled girl. The “hero” story with details of the devotion and love and angst. The Mason List was a different type of story than I normally read. You see inside the mind of the troubled. You see them wrestle with decisions and mistakes. I’m sure this would have been a much sweeter story if it was told from the Jess’s point of view.
Why do Jess and Sadie put up with Alex?
I liked the idea that someone this messed up, could eventually find happiness. I liked the idea that someone like Jess could love her despite the flaws. I liked the idea she had a friend like Sadie who saw past the issues.
They both wanted the best for her and saw the good person inside of Alex. I like Sadie’s line where she says, “Sweetie, you seem to need a friend more than an enemy and I am either one or the other.” At the end of the day, Alex was her own worst enemy and Sadie knew it.
Do you think she was ungrateful?
No. I think she had alot of pride and hurt. I think it manifested into different things. I don’t think she’s ungrateful. Ungrateful people take things and use people. Sadie addressed that in one of the conversations. Alex wanted the exact opposite. She wanted independence and financial freedom. An ungrateful person would just camp out at the ranch, do nothing, and try to marry Jess for the money.
How did you reach the decision to include Dutch in the story?
I wrote The Mason List during NaNoWriMo. They give writing prompts. One of those days, it said something like “Add Ninja’s: Literally or Figuratively”. So I added Dutch.
Do you feel there’s a double standard with Jess and Ashley vs Alex and Dutch?
No, I don’t. And I think that’s apparent because the story is in first person from Alex. She does not feel wronged or cheated on by Jess when he’s with Ashley.
However, I do feel like she had jealousy but didn’t realize what she felt was jealousy toward Ashley. Some of it was anger toward her harassment but there was jealousy too. It shows a little when she’s at the dance with Jess. She’s happy to have “that” kind of relationship with him again. Either way, they were not together nor were feelings expressed between Jess and Alex at the time.
However, everyone knew how Jess felt during the Dutch chapters. And did Alex “cheat”? I say no. They were not together. However, emotionally it was still wrong in many ways what she did to Jess. That was a chapter I rewrote many different times. I wanted a reader to see why she was doing it, understand why she was doing it, but still feel like it was wrong. That’s a very hard thing to get across. I don’t know if it worked the way I hoped.
So the scenes at Rochellas?
Rochellas was a hard one to write. I reworked it and reworked it, trying to get what Alex was going through projected into the story. Jess kept getting closer and closer to her. And she liked it. And it made her panicked. So she acted out. You could do those “what if” type things? What if Jess came back that night and told her he loved her? Would that have changed things? Would she have done what she did with Dutch? But the way I saw it, that’s the fairy tale ending. In reality, Jess left like he did. And Alex screws her life up even more.
And I really liked adding the “out of body” experience. It made me think of an interview I did once. And I kept saying all of these strange answers and I felt like I was sitting there watching myself, and I wanted yell – What are you doing!
I think that about Alex. She didn’t really want to do those things. She was just in a very, deep troubled state at the time. And part of her knew it. And part of her was drugged at the time too. That definitely helped her face some of the reality.
Why did Jess not express his feelings sooner with Alex?
You have to keep in mind, Jess and Alex met when they were eight. They don’t see each other that way. After spending so much time together, they don’t naturally understand those feelings about the other person. It’s like the other person is an arm or leg. You see them as part of you. And those feelings can get very confusing on what it means.
As they got older, Jess knew Alex very well. It’s why he didn’t kiss her sooner. It’s why he never said he loved her. Telling her things before she was ready, would only back fire. I hear the groans now. Yes, a book from Jess’s point of view would be interesting.
When Alex decided to tell Jess she loved him, it didn’t take much for her to just let everything go. Why?
Jess finally said he loved her. She finally let him. That changed a lot for her. She couldn’t pretend anymore. Alex addresses some of this when she’s talking to Jess. But she carried that weight for so long, it was either going to kill her or she had to let it go. And hearing Jess say he loved her was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She saw him. She saw the hurt she was causing was much worse than her conflicted issues of actually deserving him.
Also at this point, she had not reconciled the Mason List. That happens much later. So at this point, she’s just accepting her past and loving Jess.
What about the “steam” level between Jess and Alex?
This has been an interesting reaction from people. I have seen reviews from readers who were angry about the lack of steam. They felt cheated by the lack of payoff after investing that much time in the story. I have received emails from readers who specifically liked the fact it was not very steamy. They liked the sweetness and change of pace from stories with a lot of steam. I also had readers (who don’t normally read this genre) suprised at what I did put in the story. It’s been a very wide range of reactions from people.
I personally don’t have a problem with “steam” in a book. I read all sorts of books with all levels of steam. If the steam enhances the story or character development, then I like it. However, I also don’t feel every book needs steam to have a love story between characters. Sometimes the build-up or even the hint of steam, makes certain stories better. That’s who I am as reader.
As a writer, I don’t feel The Mason List was a story that would warrant a graphic sex scene. Because we follow the characters from such a young age, much of the story is told from a kid perspective. It felt strange to have a steamy scene later in the story. I wanted to keep a more even tone to the over-all book. So in my opinion (and feel free to disagree), The Mason List worked better with fade to black scenes and scenes that elluded to the acts.
Also, I intentionally did a fade to black with the beach scene. Alex had sex for the first time with Dutch, who put the video on the internet. So when Alex had sex with Jess, I intentionally had him shut the door. Her monologue ended with, “This time around, no one would see except the only person who mattered.” I wanted everyone to be shut out from that scene. It was a private moment for Alex after the first time was not private. It was also a private moment between Jess and Alex. I don’t think everyone caught how intentional I was with that fade to black scene.
Why does Alex throw-up all the time?
That’s has a multi-layer meaning. First, I was suffering from acid reflux during NaNoWRiMo. The feeling of a burning stomach was something I could describe pretty easily. Second, I know people who get bad stomach issues when they are in certain situations. Third, if you keep in mind, Alex is actually pregnant in all of the present day chapters. So it would normal for her to feel that way. And I also thought if you are currently feeling sick, you would probably remember all the times you were sick in the flash backs.
Did you always know Ashley would be the one taking care of Alex in the present day chapters?
I call the present day chapters the frame. I wrote the frame last. As I wrote the chronological order, I knew I wanted to bring Ashley back into the story in the present day time. I wanted them to have some sort of reconciliation. In small towns, people don’t always leave. As you grow up with people, you see them in a certain way as a kid, but they become different people as adults. Yet, everyone still knows everybody. I really liked the idea of this person being so terrible then coming back into Alex’s life as a different person. They grew up. Ashley had a kid. She’s a different person now, but it’s a little hard at first for Alex to see her that way.
Did Alex and Ashley become friends after the accident?
I imagined them getting along, seeing each other in town. Maybe even the children playing together. I think Ashley did bring that dinner over for Jess and Alex when he was recovering. That’s what people do in a place like Arlis.
How do you feel about the town of Arlis in The Mason List?
Keep in mind, the whole story is Alex’s perception of the characters and of Arlis. There’s good and bad in small towns. One of my favorite lines in the book is actually in the hospital waiting room scene. I think it showed Alex coming full circle with her view of Arlis. “We were notorious, but we were their notorious, which made it feel comforting.”
Is Arlis a real place?
No, there’s not an Arlis, Texas. It was hard actually coming up with a fictional name in Texas. Most names already existed. However, I did pick the location based on Mineral Wells,Texas. I attended a wedding in that area a few years ago. I wanted a place that I could imagine when I was writing. I thought about Mineral Wells. It’s a really pretty place.
Yes, that place does exist. But I have not been there. Hope to visit one day. It does have large cliffs.
Do you eat Skittles?
I have been asked this question a few times now. I don’t hate Skittles but I don’t purposely eat them either. I added the part of the Skittles after going to the movies with a friend’s little boy. He ate Skittles the whole time, crunching them in the seat next to me. I thought it would make a good character trait.
And the gray shoes?
I saw a children’s book with a princess dress and tennis shoes on the front. Alex got gray shoes after that.
Is Jess really that awesome?
Yes. I believe so.
Is Jess Mason a real person?
No. I don’t know a Jess Mason. He was inspired by a lot of things in life. Alex needed a hero so I created him. I pulled from a lot of places and a lot of different people – real and imaginary. There’s even a little bit of me in Jess. I like to listen to country music while driving on dirt roads. Actually, anytime I go to Texas, it feels wrong to listen to anything but country.
But all those pieces you loved about Jess – fun, rugged, patient, sexy, and loyal – I do think guys like him exist in the world.
Is Alex a real person?
No. She was also pulled from a lot of different places and a lot of different people too. Sometimes, once I really got to writing Alex, I was able to “think” in Alex. So her reactions to situations became more natural. There’s also a little bit of me in Alex. I’m terrified of heights.
What about the character names?
It’s been so long since I created the name Jess. I needed a rugged, fun, Texas personality name. I’m also a fan of Gilmore Girls. I’m not exactly sure if that had anything to do with it. I also thought I created the first name Jessup from scratch. Since then, I have actually seen people with the name Jessup.
As for Alex, I wanted a rougher, non girl name. She was a tom boy most of the story.
Where is Sadie today?
Alex was only a small portion of her life. I am a fan of Scandal. I see Sadie living in the Olivia Pope world of DC. On another note, she was one of my favorite parts to write in the book. Once I started hearing her dialogue in my head, I loved to write her.
And Jess’s dialogue?
I loved writing his too. I heard his twangy, sappy voice. It flowed like pancake syrup.
The title of the book is The Mason List. Was that always the underlying end game when creating the story?
No. I remember when the first concept for the book flashed for me. All the stories I’ve read had the rich family hating the poor girl. What if the poor girl hated the rich family? So as the story progressed, Alex started mentally keeping the list. Then it transferred to paper. I knew somewhere along the way, it would have to come full circle. I wanted a resolution to the list.
At the heart of The Mason List – is well, The Mason List. Alex didn’t understand why the Mason family would just help people. In the end, she does realize the true reasons. The Masons didn’t help the Tanners because of some end game or for recognition or for gratitude. They helped a father and his daughter because it was the right thing to do. I know in our world today- this is a really hard concept to grasp. Unfortunately, many people tend to help others only when they can get something in return. However, I believe the old concept of life can still exist. You can help others just for simple fact that it’s the right thing to do. Those people may embrace it or not. They could jump up and hug you. Or you might find an Alex or two out there in the world. Either way, I still believe some people do good without any hidden agenda. I really liked this concept weaved around the love story.