Hi JD, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I’m 40-something, married with one child. I’ve been with my husband for 25 years and we live in the mountains of Maryland. I have 2 dogs, 2 cats and a large aquarium of fish. I’m a nerd and a geek. I love fantasy, sci-fi, comics, tabletop roleplaying and video games. As well as also being a computer programmer and IT Project manager in my day job. I’ve been addicted to books for as long as I remember. I’ve forgotten more books than many people have read. Welcome!
Discuss your newest book. Nocturnal Voyeur started as an idea of how to combine Lovecraft and Traditional Paranormal Romance. Which really should be enough of a warning for folks. The FMC, Fiona, has the power to control the Dream realm, but doesn’t know it. By controlling her, various evil supernatural creatures would be able to use her power. Mack, a Native American Bear Shifter, has traditionally controlled access to the Dream in Chicago, so he has an interest in her as well. But his desire for her isn’t to control her, his goes much further, as he feels they are fated to be together. Because Fiona’s powers were awakened in her sexually by a shadowy otherworldly being, her abilities start out with her being able to see into people’s sexual fantasies and are tied to her own sexual desire. Mack helps her learn how to control the very fabric of dreams, but in the end she has to learn to master it to save Mack’s life. Sounds very good.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I’ve always wanted to write, but was afraid to. Some people have inspirational stories of how their teacher mentored them, unfortunately I have the opposite. I was not a good student in school due to boredom. The one class I was excited about in High School was Creative Writing. I’d lived in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the library since I was 8. I already had Foundation and Dune under my belt by middle school. I wrote this wonderful story (at least to me) for my first assignment. After the teacher looked at it, she questioned me about words I’d used. As a reader, you know you end up with a rather large vocabulary. She didn’t think I knew the meaning of several of the words and accused me of plagiarism. After I defined all the words for her, I gave her the bird and walked out of class, never to return.
I realize this is somewhat of the opposite of what you asked, but for me the struggle was overcoming that fear of rejection. When I finally got old enough to decide I’d rather do what I’ve always dreamed of doing instead of being afraid, I finally just started to write. Good for you! I hate when teachers put a student down instead of lifting them up.
What are your current projects? I have two currently. Both are being written as novels and not short stories, so that changes the format a lot for me. Lets me take more time developing characters and plot, and actually less sex.
Dorothy Surrenders is a companion story to Arrested by Passion and Nocturnal Voyeur. In the two previous books we encounter Dorothy. She was Kathleen’s old friend in Arrested and Fiona witnesses something horrible happening to Dorothy in Voyeur. Surrenders starts out nearly a decade before the other two stories and ends at the same time as AP and NV. That arc is set mostly in the 1930s. Dorothy’s story is going to be very dark, she suffers a great tragedy and becomes nearly a slave through part of it. But in the end it is a love story and Dorothy will be rescued.
I’m also working on an untitled Contemporary Urban Fantasy. Though the mythology between the worlds will remain the same. It’s the same universe, just further in time than the 1930s stories. There will still be a love story, the Paranormal plot will be the primary plot. The main character will be a monster hunter named Ash. His partner and eventual love interest will be a supernatural creature he rescues, who turns out to be a Fallen Angel.
What books have influenced your life most? I love old Sci-Fi and read so much of that in my formative years, it’s always stuck with me. Stranger in a Strange Land, More Than Human, Dune, and I Robot influenced me on an almost existential level. They explored the human condition above and outside the human. But my love for supernatural came from the Anita Blake and Sookie Stackhouse series. I started reading those back in the early 2000s.
What inspired you to write your first book? The 1930s era stories are actually inspired by a roleplaying game, a movie called To Cast a Deadly Spell and Agent Carter. My favorite era, cool.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? I have lots of MCs, though the one that is nearest to my heart is Kathleen from Arrested by Passion. She’s a willworker ie; a mage in the 1930s. She’s also a reporter and uses a pseudonym to hide her sex from her readers. Her struggle to succeed in a man’s world and her conflict over accepting her sexual desires vs her strong independent nature resonates with me quite a bit. I like that she’s so strong on her own, but yet so submissive in bed. I dislike the stereotype that a woman is weak if she’s submissive.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? You can be weak and still strong and vice versa. That no one is perfectly good, everyone has flaws. Also, that sometimes, evil is just evil, it has no excuse.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? Katheryn Winnick as Fiona from Nocturnal Voyeur, she plays Lagertha on Vikings.
When did you decide to become a writer? I have always wanted to, but was afraid of rejection letters. Self-publishing is why I decided to take the chance.
Why do you write? Because I have all these ideas bubbling out all the time. My problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it’s having enough time to write them down.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? Try not to laugh. A Cracked article. I was just so intimidated by the idea of trying to get published and if I could find an audience or not. I started out writing my stories as erotic shorts. They were easy – I like smut – and low-risk in that I didn’t spend months writing to find out that no one liked it. The article pointed out how easy it was to use Amazon to self-publish and the basics of writing erotic short stories. I did not make a ton of money with my shorts and the immediate feedback I got was that I should be writing full-length stories out of them.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Definitely part-time.
What is the hardest thing about writing? Getting the time to do it, plus staying consistent across books. I cross over a lot, and have character sheets and short descriptions so I can quickly remember their eye color etc.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Deciding how gross I want to go. I find I tend to go very graphic because that’s how I see it in my head and I want the reader to be able to see it and feel it.
What is the easiest thing about writing? The world building and mythology and ideas.
What book are you reading now? Oh, The Girl with All the Gifts. That story has been such a kick in the gut – wow. Totally new twist on the zombie story. I love Mike Carey.
What is one random thing about you? I love villains. My favorite is Maleficent, followed closely by Loki. Some villians you can’t help but love.
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer? I jot notes down on pen & paper or notepad on my phone when I have an idea on the go. But for writing it’s my computer and Scrivener.
What does your writing process look like? Lots of brainstorming with my husband or my friends. Then long drives with music or soaking in the bath to think about character voice. Then I jot out outline cards in Scrivener, which match up to chapters. From then it’s more seat of the pants and what the characters what to do. Once I have a chapter written, I run it through some online tools to catch anything obvious. Then I have several editing partners review it, my husband included. Once it’s complete, I have some Beta readers take a go at it.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? I think the bath is the weirdest. I’ll float there and listen to some instrumental music (can’t have vocals, they’re distracting) and run through dialogue and character reactions in my head or a loud.
How important are names to you in your books? I try to make them accurate to the time and culture of the character. I also try to avoid any other major books character name, though I don’t always do that.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I like to surprise people, sometimes that has led to misunderstanding about a plot or that a character seems too mysterious because I didn’t want to give something away. In Nocturnal Voyeur I wanted people to keep guessing about Mack – what are his real motives? My favorite though is Milady’s Command. It’s a short erotic story, but it’s a bit tongue in cheek, and that was missed by at least one reviewer. The whole 1980s Harlequin Romance vibe was deliberate and about half way through you figure out why. Better read it to find out!
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? Oh. Well, I picked a really conflicting genre to start with. Paranormal, historical, erotic romance turned out to be a harder sell than I thought. Not just any historical, but 1930s. I love the era, but most people who love the era don’t mix it with paranormal. The fact that Agent Carter is tucked into the mid-season break of Agents of Shield should have been a big hint for me that the audience for that era just isn’t as big. Most historical romances are set earlier than that. I have a whole rack of reviews that start with, “I don’t normally read X, but …” Most of them liked it once they read it, but it’s been a struggle to get them to pick them up. I should have started with straight contemporary PNR/UF, then once I had readers who loved what I wrote, I could get a bit more experimental.
What is your favorite motivational phrase? The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be done. Strangely, this is from my endodontist who hits me with the shot as soon as I sit in the chair so I don’t just keep dreading it.
What is your favorite book and why? Snowcrash. I love the concept, the new cyberpunk, the banter and vision. So many neat things in this book, so many new ideas. Strong female character too, and the ultimate Alpha – he has a freaking nuke in the sidecar of his motorcycle. 🙂
Do you have any advice for other writers? Write what you love, it won’t be as much of a chore then.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I roleplay, read, play video games, watch movies – I’m an action movie addict, especially Asian ones – drink beer and margaritas, cook, garden and try to get my son to do his homework.
From where do you gain your inspiration? Everywhere. Books, movies, mythology, roleplaying games, songs. The other day I was trusting Google maps to get me somewhere and I thought, “We just trust this thing to take us to where we want to go – what if it was evil?” I’m going to fit that in somewhere.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around? I hate the idea of rejection letters and being forced into a box. Having someone else do my marketing and editing would be nice – but by all accounts, the big publishers don’t spend much money on your marketing, so you still need to maintain your own social platform.
How do you market your books? I’m still boiling this down to find the most efficient way. I’ll tell you, Twitter is useless for marketing. Facebook blogs and the like might get some clicks. But the absolute best is via Newsletters. Not just your own, but big names with 10k+ subscribers in your genre. Don’t bother with the ones that aren’t targeted to your genre.
Why did you choose this route? Because I could do it myself. I’m the kind of person who buys a book on tiling and tiles their own bathroom. Literally did this. Same with painting, electrical wiring, computer building etc.
Would you or do you use a PR agency? Considering it. Because it comes down to time. I could build the network and take the time to post everywhere, but that means I’m not writing. Writing is the one thing that no one else can do for me. But I need that PR person or agency to not be a dick. No slamming other authors or being pushy – I hate hard sells. Plus I only spend as much on advertising as I made on books 3 months ago – ie; what I get from Amazon in that month I’ll spend on ads.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? If it’s ok if I name drop – Love, Lust and Lipstick Stains and Shameless Book Club have cost effective newsletters for steamy romance books at less than $20. I Love Vampire Novels and Romance Devoured newsletters are in the $50-70 range. The holy grail is Bookbub, but you’re talking $500 and up there, and they are very choosey. But I’d definitely stick with email newsletters, unless you’re ready to tackle Facebook ads. For a grassroots effort, if you are patient with Goodreads, it’s a great place to find reviews and beta readers.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book? Too much. But I try to not use writing time, but to use other moments. Like the Doctor’s office or waiting on hold on a phone call or while I’m cooking.
What do you do to get book reviews? I have a detailed spreadsheet of blogs that do erotic romance reviews and I use Goodreads and my newsletter. I’ve gotten some nice organic reviews as well though Goodreads recommendations and Facebook takeovers.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far? It’s still about 50% of the ones I’ve sent copies of the books to. Which is about average.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers? Find groups appropriate to your book – ie; the BDSM group on Goodreads is great and has a fantastic review program. So does the Fifty Shades Support Group. Your newsletter subscribers are obviously a great resource, they already liked you enough to subscribe!
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Ah. Other than trying to not let them keep me up at night, I try to look at them critically. Is there something to learn there? Or maybe that person just didn’t know what they were about to read. A lot of my current reviewers seem to have overlooked some of the book description or maybe I was too subtle in the description. “Amorphous shadowy lover” may have been too vague for some people.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you? Amusing, no. Painful, yes. I had a Thunderclap go out with half of the links to a typo on the cover (facepalm). No one noticed it though.
What’s your views on social media for marketing? People don’t click off of Twitter. They might for Facebook for a sale or freebie. Free or cheap Facebook takeovers are good and can net you some totally new readers, but don’t just spam them with ‘this is my book, buy it’. Hell, never spam anyone with ‘this is my book, buy it’ no one likes that. Engage on a personal level, be interesting, make friends.
Which social network worked best for you? I like Facebook, but I’m about to make some serious changes to how I do my newsletter. Lots of unique and interactive content will be exclusively available there.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do? Pick a popular niche, develop it, then get experimental and play with tropes. Get the readers comfortable with you before you try to get them to try a chocolate covered banana dipped in red chili.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work? I contact a bunch of Book bloggers that I’ve already established a relationship with and asked them to post, plus used all the free newsletter options. I need to re-look at this I think.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why? Kurt Vonnegut – I’d love to sit with him and drink beer for hours and just talk.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human. They were writing really new concepts back then, no one else had ever written anything like it before. How neat that must have been. Now it feels like there is nothing new under the sun, and we’re just struggling to come up with some new twist.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Start writing, find a peer review group to look over each other’s writing. You’ll learn so much by critiquing other writer’s work. Can’t find one, start one.
How can readers discover more about you and you work? I’m all over the social media spectrum. My website is under development, but until then: