J is for Jae

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!

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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?

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 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?

Just Physical_Jae

 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?

Paper Love_Jae

 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.

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You can find out more about Jae here.

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I is for Identity (on fan fiction, being a lesbian, and lesfics)

Yesterday I went horse-back riding for the first time in 12 years. And it was amazing. Once upon a time, I was quite the horse-girl, been riding since I was seven, filled my walls with posters featuring horses, etc etc… I’m sure most people recognize the stereotype. And then I moved from home, grew up and just forgot about all of it. I want to find my way back, I really do. It’s a huge part of who I am.

It was the same with writing. The first time I announced I was going to become a writer was when I was five years old. I wasn’t able to write yet, couldn’t even spell my own name properly (Before you judge, my legal name has nine letters. Count all my middle names plus last name, my name has 9+8+4+4=25 letters, that’s a lot when you’re little.) I don’t know why I said I was going to be a writer, I just did. More on that here.

So I started writing. First, through pictures – my dad helped me with the words – then by hand, then on a computer. My childhood and teenage years were dominated by five main stories that I planned and stuck to.

However, between 19 and 23 I didn’t write anything, I even stopped writing poetry. I went to university and then started moving around a lot. I didn’t pick it up until I, by mistake, discovered fan fiction.

Fan fiction is the reason I’m an author today. Not just because it got me back to writing. It did that, but it did so much more than that too. Fan fiction made me interact with people. These people became my friends, some of which I’m still in touch with today. One of these people, whom I’ve sadly lost in touch with, gave me a couple of presents.

The presents were: Backwards to Oregon by Jae, Second Nature by Jae and Lady Knight by L J Baker. I started with Backwards to Oregon and my life was forever changed. This might sound strange to some. But I was a lonely little lesbian. Except for my wife – then girlfriend ya da ya da – we didn’t meet people “like us”. At University of Aberdeen all my friends were gay boys (don’t ask me how that happened XD ). Other lesbians? They didn’t exist and if they did, it was far away from us. Not that I have that many lesbian friends now, but I know that we’re out there. I know some online and I know that we exist. We’re real, you know? The online community of lesfic writers and readers has done wonders for my sense of self and identity. Maybe that makes me incredibly silly, but it’s still the truth. It makes me feel less alone. Less abnormal.

I feel sorry for the readers of my old fan fiction account, because it’s abandoned now even though I get the occasional likes and follows. It still exists and I’m proud of most of the stuff I wrote there. Mass Effect, Dragon age, Game of Thrones, Rizzoli and Isles, Portal etc… it’s fun to play with other people’s characters, it just is. It was great practice for me too, until I felt ready to play around with my own. In the beginning I wrote both but more and more, my own fiction took over. I don’t have time and energy for both.

(If anybody is curious about my fan fiction you can find that here, however please remember that my writing ability has gotten so much better since then.)

I realize more and more that I’m the same person I’ve always been. I have always loved horses, I still do today. I have always loved writing and telling stories, I still do today. Some things change, of course, but all in all, I’m still me. That will never change.

 

H is for Home

It’s like coming home from a long trip, that’s what love is like. It’s like coming home.

– Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black

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I’m not a big fan of the character Piper Chapman from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. This is just my opinion of course, if you like her please don’t take offense, but she’s either the worst written character ever or the most well-written. Either way she comes off lacking in substance, she’s whimsical and has no sense of loyalty. But the quote above is the best quote I know for love. The type of love that isn’t new, that isn’t the passionate craze of the newly infatuated. The type of love that you have for someone you have known for a long time.

“Old” love. Companion love. True love. That type of love is definitely a feeling of coming home.

The wife came home yesterday. She’s been gone on a working trip as I’ve mentioned before. Without saying too much, she had been staying somewhere were she wasn’t allowed to use a phone. I hadn’t heard her voice for over 20 days. I was fine when she called me at the airport in Cape Town and still the moment I heard her voice, I burst into tears and all the feelings I had kept myself from feeling, came to the surface.

Meeting her after her 24 hours of flying was even better, and no tears then.

Home is truly where the heart is.

I’ve grown a lot this summer. I have overcome my fear of thunder. I have developed a new respect for heat and forest fires. I have, for hopefully the last time, woken up to the smell of smoke. I took up riding again. It hasn’t been a relaxing summer but I think I can go back to work in less than two weeks feeling accomplished.

Another H I can mention is horses. I’ve started planning my next novel (novel number five, can you believe it?), it’s a bit different than my other ones. It’s set in England, during the 1940s. On a horse farm. I’m trying to write an anti-hero, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’m going to post this and then start dinner. I hope everyone who reads this has had a nice summer too, hopefully without too much forest-fire/heatstroke drama. I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously looking forward for autumn and colder weather now.

 

 

A (Not So) Short History of Women Riding Astride

I’m gathering research for my new novel, this is very relevant and awesome-ly written.

Susanna Forrest

IWWH covers I enjoyed talking about the history of sidesaddle on Countryfile – it was my first experience of TV and everyone was incredibly friendly and easygoing. We did a few takes of different parts of the interview and it was hard to know whether to embellish what I’d said each time or to say the same thing again. There’s so much material to use but you only have seconds in which to say it, and the entire segment on sidesaddle was six minutes long. This slot had to include the presenter, Ellie, having a sidesaddle lesson, a display by the Legover Ladies and interviews with saddler Laura Dempsey and Roger Philpot. The result is that you simplify as colourfully as you can and make a mental note to do a blog post which clarifies a thing or two. I haven’t seen the programme yet as I can’t watch it on iPlayer…

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G is for Good

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… or bad.

Yesterday I was lying in bed with my wife (that’s her hands and legs up there by the way). We were tired and silly and just talking and laughing. I can’t remember anymore how we got there but I decided to tell her about the most sensual part of a novel. I like stories that make me bleed. Stories that make me cry and ache. I just like feeling a lot. I like sadness. I don’t like vanilla stories were everything just falls into place.

Whenever I think of aching moments in stories, I often think about Radclyffe’s “Passion’s Bright Fury”. I love this book (And not just because I have a little crush on Saxon Sinclair). There is one specific scene that always destroys me.

This is the excerpt of that part (the scene is that Sax (the doctor) and Jude (the director) are going upstairs to the roof of the hospital before Sax’s shift starts. They talk a bit, make out a bit, and then the following happens) :

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F is for Freedom

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Before I get into this blog post I want to thank Lynn over at Lynn Lawler’s blog who has written a lovely review of Stargazing, my new novel. You can find the review here or here.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of “State of Emergency”, “Out of Hand” or “Stargazing” – please don’t hesitate to leave reviews on amazon or goodreads if you liked them. Leaving reviews is a simple way to give some love to your favorite author.

When I planned this blog post it was the day before my vacation started. As a teacher I get something of around six and a half weeks every summer. Of course, some days I do work on, planning and looking through new material but otherwise I’m free. I was looking forward to continue learning the piano, finishing ”A tale of Spiders and Canned Soup” (my next novel) without a couple of days. I wanted to go running and swimming etc. Instead I have re-organized at home, donated books and clothes. I have gone back and forth to my wife’s work, helping to prepare for her work trip to South Africa. She’s works in IT and she’s going down there to help with… something. She’s been doing insane hours and haven’t even had a day off during the weekend for a couple of weeks. This morning she left.

I’m such a silly woman. When I said bye to her at the airport, my tears came and I clung to her even if I know we’re going to see each other agian in just half a month. We just need each other so much, it’s a little bit crazy to still be this way after an entire decade.

I’m not into being alone so I’ve gone with my parents to their boat. I figured two weeks of fresh air, sea water, book reading and sun would do me good. I brought more books than clothes, plus my kindle. A book of soduko I want to work on. Also some horse magazines.

When I was a child I loved horses. I took every opportunity to go horseback riding or even just brush one or muck out. I wouldn’t say I’m good AT ALL. I just know basics like brushing, tacking, walking, trotting, cantering… I’ve done a little bit of jumping. That’s it. I realise now that I want to pick it up again. I want to be good. I would be happy if I could just do a bit of show jumping within the next twelve years, you know?

It’s a crazy dream so far. I have as a goal to just go riding at a local stable two times this summer and then wait and see how that felt. We kinda sorta hoping that I’ll get pregnant some time this year too and if that happens I’ll have to put the riding on hold for a couple of years. But I’m in it for the long haul, I don’t mind waiting. I like working towards goals even if it takes me years to meet them.

I still can’t believe I’m a published author, I have two books at home with ”my” name on it. Physical books. That I can touch. I can tell myself to sit down and write a book and it’s something I can do. Surely if I have the discipline to do that, I can learn to be a good rider?

Time to walk the dogs again, then I’m going to drink copious amounts of tea and try to get some writing done.

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Announcement

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Tomorrow on the 22 of June, “Stargazing” comes out. It’s a lesbian romance about Star and Lissa who, even though the like each other, one fundamental difference. Lissa is a work-a-holic virgin and Star is a somewhat laid-back pornactress.

Here is the blurb:

“Lissa stared open-mouthed at the GIF that played over and over on the screen in front of her. Heat flushed to her face, igniting her skin. Her heart started pounding in her chest. Stupid internet, it should really come with a warning label. She swallowed once. Twice. Just scroll past it. Of course she was going to scroll past it. She wasn’t going to sit there and stare at… Star.

Lissa is a twenty-something party-planner. She’s never been interested in relationships or sex and as the years have gone by she has retreated more and more into her work. Everything changes when she meets Star, an porn actress with a heart of gold and a troubled childhood.

They say that opposites attract, but how much of that is true? What chance do they have when one of them is a virgin and the other one star in pornography?”

Stargazing Cvr

E is for Exhausted

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I’m not really exhausted. Honestly. But part of me wants a vacation. I know this from last year – there comes a time in April where my brain stops functioning and I just can’t anymore. Can’t write. Can’t be active on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook (I’m trying honestly). Can’t read books. I guess it’s normal for teachers. Summer is coming, it’s been a long year of texts about body parts, countries and flowers. Lessons about punctuation (ever tried to teach someone where a sentence ends? It’s harder than it looks.) Lessons about 15+15 and 8-3-5, not to mention countless fights, drama among my girls, booboos and actual wounds and that time one my student got a “butterflycomb” (who sends a butterflycomb with their kid to school?) thrown into his eye. Don’t worry, he was fine even though we didn’t think so first. It’s been a year of angry (and not-so-angry) e-mails from parents. Of hugs. And pieces of art from my students that I want to spread all around me. Of meetings. Of tears from me when it’s just too much pressure to do this stupid, wonderful, lovely job.

My brain has shut down a little bit. It’s on hiatus. It’s just trying to survive until June when I finally can breathe again. Be myself again. Be a writer again.

Right now I just want to be alone. Do my job. Work on miniatures that don’t require brain-power the same way (current dollhouse pictured above). Maybe write a short story. Cook. Walk with my dogs. Cuddle with my wife.

That’s all there is left of me.

I’m sorry I can’t do better.