In my last post I talked about how reading Backwards to Oregon changed my life. Backwards to Oregon was written by Jae, whom I have had the fortune of interviewing!
I think most people know who you are, but let’s say there is someone reading who doesn’t, what would you say is the most important thing to know about Jae?
That I love books—writing them, reading them, editing them. When it comes to my own books, I want my readers to know that I work hard to deliver a high-quality book every time, with three-dimensional characters and a realistic love story that makes you fall in love with both characters too.
Do you prefer e-books or physical books?
It’s not an either/or thing for me. I buy mostly e-books because otherwise I would run out of space on my bookshelf. Plus e-books are really convenient when you’re traveling. But if I really like a book, I’ll buy it as a paperback too.
Do you feel different about writing now than when you first started?
Honestly, no. I was always passionate about writing, and I still am. But, of course, now writing is my job too, so that means I can’t skip a day of writing because I don’t feel motivated. Being a full-time writer isn’t all about sipping lattes all day and feeling kissed by the muse. Sometimes it’s hard work. But it’s still the best job in the world.
Once you said, in an interview, that one of your biggest fears was having all characters be the same – do you feel like you’ve managed to not do this?
I’ll let my readers by the judge of that. So far, I think I managed to avoid it. I see it so often with writers who publish several books a year. Sometimes, their books and characters are weak copies of earlier novels. I don’t want that to happen to me, so I put a lot of extra effort into creating my characters. I create character sketches that include a lot of details from their childhood, past relationships, job history, their fears, strengths, and weaknesses. I want my characters to be fully developed story people that my readers want to hang out with.
Would you say Backwards to Oregon is your biggest success?
That depends on what criteria you use to measure success. It’s not my best-selling novel of all times (that would be Just for Show and Something in the Wine) nor did it win the most awards (that would be Second Nature, which won five awards). But it’s certainly a book that still resonates with readers. When I asked readers for their all-time favorite lesbian / women-loving women novel for the free choice square of Lesbian Book Bingo, Backwards to Oregon was one of the top 15 answers.
If you didn’t work as a full-time writer and editor, is there any other field that interests you? Psychology again or something else?
I’m interested in a lot of things, but I’m not sure I’d want to do any of them for a living. Being a psychologist was great, but since I’m an introvert, working with people all day took a lot out of me, so I probably wouldn’t want to do that again. Honestly, being a full-time writer is a dream come true for me. But if I couldn’t do that for some reason, I’d love to do something else with languages.
How do you balance writing with the distraction of social media and the internet?
I always say the Internet is the biggest blessing and the greatest curse for writers. I try to do my writing in the morning and early afternoon and turn off the Internet until I meet my daily word count goal. If I use the Internet to look up things while I write, I sometimes fall down a research rabbit hole… Half an hour later, I find myself reading a fascinating article that has nothing to do with my initial research question at all.
Once I’m done writing for the day, I do marketing, connect with readers via social media, and answer email in the afternoon.
Do you have a favourite social media?
Hmm… In the past, I would have said Facebook, since I started out not liking Twitter much. But over time, that has definitely changed. I’ve been on Instagram for just a few months, and I really like it. Having a mainly image-based social media is a nice change of pace.
Is there any novel of yours that took longer to write than the others?
The writing itself almost always takes the same amount of time—about three months for the first draft. What differs is how long the research phase and the revisions take.
Just Physical is the book that I spent most time revising. I had to rewrite the entire book several times to get Jill’s emotional journey right. When it comes to research, my historical romances (Backwards to Oregon, Hidden Truths, and Shaken to the Core) took much longer, and I also did a lot of research on asexuality before I started writing Perfect Rhythm. So these would be the books that took the longest to finish overall.
When you start planning a new novel, do you start with the story or the characters?
Always the characters. They are at the core of the story. They are the story. Once I know who the characters are and what they need to learn and how they need to grow during the course of the book, that determines the plot.
If someone had never read any of your books, which one do you think they should start with?
That depends on what kind of books they like to read. If they like historical fiction, I’d say start with Backwards to Oregon. If they like paranormal romance, I’d say start with Second Nature. If they are mainly reading contemporary romance, I’d say either Just for Show (which is a romance that starts out as a fake relationship) or Damage Control (which is a celebrity romance).
Is there anything in your writing journey that you’d like to go back and change?
Not much actually. Maybe making that huge leap into writing full-time a little sooner or with more confidence. But all in all, I look back without any regrets.
What is next for you?
I’m eagerly awaiting the publication of my newest romance novel, Paper Love, which will be available everywhere on August 29. It’s my first book that is set in Germany—in the city where I live—and I’m curious to find out what readers think.
I’m in the middle of doing research on my next novel, book #2 in the Fair Oaks series. It will have different main characters than book 1 (Perfect Rhythm) but takes place in the same small town in Missouri.
I’m also traveling a lot right now. I just got back from a trip to the US for the GCLS conference, and I’ll leave for EllCon in Bristol soon. It’s always great to spend some time among people who are just as passionate about books and about lesbian fiction as I am.
You can find out more about Jae here.