Jessie Stephen's Heartsick is for anyone who has experienced heartache. This book is designed for a good sob, a tub of ice cream and a bottle of red wine. It's called self-care! Based on three true stories, Heartsick is about the lows and highs of a break up. It's painstakingly relatable, and a reminder that whilst a relationship ending feels like it can break us, there's also the opportunity it can also make us.
Jessie is the ultimate story teller. We're in actual awe of how she's woven together these stories, as is the rest of Australia - this debut has been one of the most talked about we've seen in ages. Which is why we are glowing to have had the opportunity to chat to her about it and learn a bit about the woman behind the words.
We'll kick it off with our fave question to ask... what is your favourite thing about yourself?
This is a hard one! I was out with my parents recently and I overheard my mum telling some story about my childhood. She was saying how terrible I was at netball but I never gave up, and she said: “She’s always been very determined”. I liked that!
I think my favourite thing is my determination, and how competitive/driven I can be to get (some) things done. Not my taxes though. I’m not determined to do my taxes.
In your spare time, what’s your favourite genre to read?
FICTION. Which is a strange answer because I wrote a non-fiction book. But I probably read at least one fiction book a week.
What is one surprising thing you learnt about heartbreak while interviewing for and writing this book?
I learnt how many of us are still walking around carrying the grief of a broken heart. Two out of the three people I interviewed had had their heartbroken years ago, and I sort of expected them to tell their stories retrospectively. But both cried when remembering what happened.
I’m not sure many of us ever ‘get over’ a heartbreak. We learn to live with it and often move on with other people, but I think it’s still a scar so many of us carry.
Did writing this book make you more optimistic about love and relationships?
Yes and no.
Yes, because it reminded me that no matter how a relationship ends, you can’t take away what was felt at a particular moment, and the incredible experiences you shared with that person. A beautiful, passionate relationship isn’t erased just because it ended. And no one has their heart broken without first falling in love, which is one of the most incredible things a human being can experience.
But I suppose it scared me a little too. Falling in love is one of the biggest risks we can take. If we are in a relationship, then we are designing our lives around a feeling. And there is nothing to say that a feeling can’t change at any given moment.
I have so much respect for anyone who’s ever had their heartbroken because they took a giant leap. But over the last year, I’ve spoken to people who are picking up the pieces of that heartbreak, and I’d be lying if I said they’re all okay.
What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
Probably Honeybee by Craig Silvey. Loved it. Stayed up very late reading it and cried multiple times!
What is the most challenging part of writing a book?
The. Whole. Thing. Haha.
I know everyone says it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done but holy hell nothing could have prepared me for that. The hardest thing I’d say is the self doubt. Because I’m such a reader, I know what good writing looks like. And I’d often read back on mine and think “That’s not… it”, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
There were so many tears borne out of frustration. I think turning up in front of my computer the next day and trying to write, when I hated what I’d written the day before, was one of the hardest parts. But you edit and rework and keep at it, and eventually it turns into something you can be proud of.
If you had the power to snap your fingers and change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I’d lower CO2 emissions. Enforce renewable energy. Outlaw cutting down forests and driving animals to extinction. Is ‘fix the natural environment’ too much of a ridiculous answer??
Heartbreak has hit. What’s your quick fix?
Mine isn’t a pretty answer, but lean into it. Let yourself feel it and read about it and listen to songs about it and bathe in it. You’ll be surprised how helpful this is to the healing process. The person who goes out and hooks up with someone the day after a relationship are the ones who will be struggling the most in six months.
This is a really weird recommendation too but… watch the Katy Perry documentary. This became my ritual for a while. If you haven’t seen it, basically Katy Perry is at the HEIGHT of her career, selling out arenas, everyone in the world loves her, and then one day she’s dumped by Russell Brand.
I remember thinking “even Katy Perry gets dumped…” It’s a good way to break the cycle of self loathing and remind yourself that heartbreak has nothing to do with your quality as a human being. It happens to the best of us.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who is hurting/needs a bit of healing?
As cliche as it might sound, get to know yourself again. Meditate and watch where your thoughts take you (which is often to very ugly places). Remind yourself of what you love doing as an individual who isn’t compromising with anyone else. I love writing (as in, with a pen and paper) when I’m at a real moment of crisis. It’s very interesting what comes out. Sometimes you don’t know what’s hurting you or what you actually want until it’s down on a page.