Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?
I think I was destined to be a writer. I’m the stereotypical writer, a la Joan Wilder from ROMANCING THE STONE: Introverted, slightly (okay, more than slightly) neurotic, prone to daydreaming. Everything about me is less interesting than my characters—I’m shorter, paler, lazier, and wear longer skirts and shorter heels.
Except that I’m prone to odd incidents—like the time I think I was almost sold into slavery by a Russian boyfriend’s babushka—that I tell myself will make a great scene in a book someday. Really, there was no choice except to become a writer.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always written. My grandmother assembled a chapbook of my early works, which goes all the way back to “My Pomes,” poetry from grade school, rife with unicorns and misspellings. Which pretty much describes my writing today, too, except I replaced the unicorns with demons. It took me almost 100 rejections over more than 10 years on nearly a million final draft words to get here. Maybe because of all the misspellings.
What is your writing process like?
Due to my day job and the incontrovertible fact that no one should ever have to get up before the sun, I write at night. The hours of 8 pm to midnight are prime time, although I sometimes go until 1 or 2 a.m. Two to 3 a.m. is my stupid hour when all systems fail, no matter how much sugar I’ve consumed.
I’m a plotter, which means I sit around a lot and stare at things. It may look like my brain has been stolen by zombies, but actually I’m working. After I’ve thought awhile, I fill out a bunch of charts and worksheets and graphs I’ve assembled over the years. About halfway through that stack, I lose interest and jump into the first draft. I write through chapter three in a passionate heat and certitude of brilliance. In chapter four, I suddenly realize the story hasn’t actually started yet and throw out chapters one through three, keeping only—maybe—the characters’ names. I reorganize and write through chapter seven where I notice the characters have been talking for the last fifty pages. I blow something up. I continue to blow things up—literally or figuratively, as needed—until I get to the end, where I remember, with a sinking heart, that I never got around to plotting that part. I weep for a bit, consult my favorite craft books by Donald Maass, Robert McKee and Syd Fields, and then write The End.
In the second draft, I add the plot, the character arcs, a villain, the romance, the real beginning and an actual end.
In the third through seventh drafts, I try to unearth the story from the mess I’ve made. Eventually, I send it to my mom, who tells it’s awesome, which gives me the strength to send it to my critique partners, who tell me, yeah, it needs some work.
I go through it again. Finally, in the polishing round, I lash myself to my chair, and delete every extraneous that, so, just, shrugged, snorted, turned, gazed, and breathed, and then delete another 2,000 to 10,000 words, depending on how much I’ve overwritten.
Er, as you might have decided for yourself, it’s not a process I necessarily recommend.
Can you tell us about your new release Seduced by Shadows?
SEDUCED BY SHADOWS is my first published novel, an urban fantasy romance and the first in The Marked Souls series.
From the back cover:
The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, but now evil is
winning, and The Marked Souls are caught in the middle…
After an accident left her near death, Sera Littlejohn is struggling to
piece together her life. But when a violet-eyed stranger reveals a supernatural battle veiled in the shadows, Sera is tempted to the edge of madness by a dangerous desire.
Ferris Archer takes Sera under his wing now that she is talyan, possessed by a repentant demon with hellish powers. Archer and his league of warriors have long risked their demon-shattered souls to stop darker spirits from wreaking havoc. But they’ve never fought beside a female talya before, and never in all his centuries has Archer found a woman who captivates him like Sera.
With the balance shifting between good and evil, passion and possession, Sera and Archer must defy the darkness‹and dare to embrace a love that will mark them forever…
This is the beginning of a new series correct?
When my editor called to say NAL wanted to buy the book, she asked me if it was part of a series. I said, um, yeah? (Because what kind of idiot says no?) She said, great, she was meeting with the editorial board the following week, and could I have something ready to show them? I said, um, yeah? (Because, again, what kind of idiot says no?)
Luckily, it was a three-day weekend and my XY was out of town. I brainstormed those three days solid, hopped up on cookie dough and various high fructose corn syrup beverages (did I mention I have a sugar addiction?), and at the end of the three days, I had nine books—three interlocking trilogies, with each book and each trilogy strong enough to stand on its own plus an overarching plot line for the whole thing.
I fancy myself a very analytical, methodical writer (anyone who’s seen me in the throes might disagree, but I always mean to have a plan) and I have never before had a story—let alone NINE stories—emerge so organically. I typed it all into a spectacular (if I do say so myself) spreadsheet and, I swear, the thing looked like tablets straight from the muse. If the muse used Excel.
Book 2, FORGED OF SHADOWS, will be out in June 2010.
What are you currently working on?
I’m hard at work on Book 3 of the Marked Souls, tentatively titled VOWED IN SHADOWS. And, of course, I’m reveling in the upcoming release of Book 1 :) Someone asked me recently how I felt about my long-time dream coming true, and I wondered, can you really call it a dream when it’s so much work? I never work that hard in dreams. Usually I’m too busy running around without socks. Or drowning.
Where or how do you get ideas for your books?
Ideas pop up like toadstools. And I live in the Pacific Northwest where toadstools don’t even bother waiting for the rain. They (ideas, not toadstools) sneak in at night as I’m falling asleep, and they’re jumping around impatiently in the morning when I get up. They come in the shower (ideas AND toadstools, depending on when I last scrubbed the shower), while walking the dog, when driving to work, while talking to clients (don’t tell), when I’m doing the dishes. Mostly, they intrude when I’m struggling with the work in progress. Nothing like a shiny new idea to distract you from a WIP.
Like the name of your blog, Greta, most ideas want to be gotten to NOW. I think most writers have more ideas than they have hours to write, which is insanely frustrating. I find that if I give them a folder on my computer and the start of a file, usually I can get them to lay quietly until I can work with them. But it’s maddening to think how many unused ideas are no doubt sitting in the hard drives of my favorite authors!
As an author, you must be an avid reader. What books do you enjoy reading? Who are your auto-buy authors?
Yup, I’m a book addict in addition to the sugar problem. I read a bit of everything, but I always return to romance, science fiction, fantasy, YA, and thrillers. My XY is a big non-fiction reader, so I steal his books too. I have a lot of auto-buys, too many to list, but just to name the ones I can see from my desk right this second, Gena Showalter, Patricia Briggs, Dean Koontz, Jeaniene Frost, C.L. Wilson, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jessica Andersen, Maggie Stiefvater.
What books are on your keeper shelf?
I have lots of keepers, but there are a few I keep and read repeatedly. Frank Herbert’s DUNE, Patricia McKillip’s THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL’S DART, Ann Maxwell’s FIRE DANCER, and of course Tolkien. I think they all have in common an intricacy of worldbuilding and a beauty of language to which I aspire.
What was the first romance book you read or the one book that has stood the test of time for you?
My first was my mom’s copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s A ROSE IN WINTER! Here it is, the passage that sealed my fate as a romance writer: (This is after the hero teases the heroine into going to the ball with him; he had promised her wouldn’t pressure her for lovin’ at the ball and this is on the carriage ride home.)
A throbbing pressure grew in the man’s loins. He had played out his hand with patience, but now it was waning before the tumult of his passions… [His] hand came up to cup the fullness of her breast…
A shocked gasp caught in Erienne’s throat… She held him at arm’s length and confronted him in a breathless whisper… “[You] gave your word!”
“Aye, madam, that I did,” he whispered back. “But listen well, my love, and mark the bounds.” He leaned closer. “Sweet Erienne, the ball is over.”
Oh delighted sigh! “Listen well, my love, and mark the bounds.” Throbbing tumult indeed! It was my first romance and still, I think, one of the best.
If your book was made into a movie which actors would like to see as the lead characters?
Hmm, for Ferris Archer, I need someone tall, dark and handsome. Not too boyish. Intense, focused, and dangerous. Joaquin Phoenix? Christian Bale? Guy Pearce? I’m thinking seriously about Joseph Fiennes, now showing in the new SF show Flash Forward. But I haven’t quite decided. I’m sure I’ll know when I look him in the eye. What? Yes, I DO need to be there for the casting.
And if we cast one of the men above, I suppose I could trouble myself to play Sera Littlejohn. But if I’m busy, I could reluctantly turn over the part to Charlize Theron.
If you could switch lives with one of your characters who would if be & why?
Are you kidding?!? I wouldn’t be caught dead living their lives. The things that happen to them… Eesh, it’d probably kill me. Sure, it’s my fault they’re going through all that, but I created them to explore tough questions like where does evil come from?; does it matter if you are good?; how do immortal demon fighters get demonic ichor stains out of their trench coats? (24-hour dry cleaners, turns out.) I figure if my characters survive, they deserve whatever happiness I can give them. That’s the promise I make and I wouldn’t take that away.
When you are not writing or reading, what do you enjoying doing in your spare time?
What means this ‘spare time’? Must be one of those futuristic concepts like ‘paperless society’ and ‘personal jet packs.’ But when I can, I like to hike and garden because it gets me outside and gives me a chance to convert sunshine into Vitamin D. I also like to bead—mostly jewelry—because that’s a project I can finish in an afternoon and wear, unlike a book which takes waaaay longer to make and looks kind of funny hanging around my neck.
Where can readers find you on the internet?
Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessaslade.
If you could ask readers any one question, what would it be?
I’d ask, ‘What’s the last book you recommended to a friend, and why?’
Thanks for inviting me, Greta! I’ll be checking in throughout the day, so if anyone has any questions or wants to make fun of my dubious bathroom cleaning skills, fire away.
***Leave a comment answering Jessa’s question and one lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Seduced by Shadows. Good Luck