FlashFlood

writing about writing

Jaye Wells – The Interview

Posted by Flood on June 5, 2006

This week we sit down with Jaye Wells, of jayewells.com. An author, wife, mother and art scholar, Jaye tells us about how her blog began, her completed manuscript, and how she killed Fabio.

Jaye, thanks so much for taking some time for this interview. You look terrific. Can you tell us when and why you began writing with publishing in mind?

Thanks for letting me talk about myself. And by the way, those shoes are fabulous.
How did I get started? Well, I was a magazine editor before my son was born and a freelance writer after that. So I’ve been published in magazines and on web sites. But articles and copy writing lacked excitement for me. I had talked for years about writing a book, but had all the tired excuses for not trying. Then as my thirtieth birthday approached, I decided I needed to take a chance. Fate stepped in one day as I was scanning a list of continuing education classes at a local college. The class was about how to write a romance novel. Since I read a lot of romance it seemed like a good place to start. I started my first book in that class. I also joined RWA and the local RWA chapter in Dallas, called DARA. That was a year and a half ago. I now have one completed manuscript and am halfway through my second.

Wow. How long did the completed manuscript take you?

When I started that book I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I wrote on it for about six months. Then finally I hit the dreaded wall. I won't call it writer's block cause it was really just that I didn't understand plot structure. I sent an email out to my local RWA chapter asking if anyone was looking for a critique partner. To my delight a lady emailed saying that her critique group had an open spot after one member had to leave for family reasons. I met the three remaining members and we hit it off instantly. It was amazing to me because they're all published and have been working together for over ten years. Anyway, they taught me about story boarding. I threw out all I had (about 50,000 words) and started over. It took me three months to finish the book after that.

What's the best thing about writing, for you?

The days when it’s fun and things are flowing. It’s like an addiction. You spend the not so good days trying to reach that high again. One of the worst things about writing is process of getting published. It’s demoralizing in many respects. Sometimes I wish I was the type of person who could be content just writing without wanting to be published. But I’m not. I love having an audience, which is one reason why blogging is so great.

It's really a fun way of communicating with people you would not have met otherwise.

Totally. I've met some great people. I find it interesting how many of the bloggers I interact with are from genres other than my own. It's a great way to get different perspectives.

I am not sure what paranormal romance entails. That's your genre, right?

Paranormal romance is a love story that involves characters such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts, etc. I write about vamps.
My books are what is sometimes called “light paranormal.” I can’t stand these guys in capes lumbering around bemoaning their damnation. Dude, you’re immortal. You’ve got preternatural lovemaking skills. Have fun with it! But I see myself branching off into other genres—maybe women’s fiction? Who knows?

Are preternatural lovemaking skills based on anyone you know?

Are you trying to get me in trouble?

Haha. The protaganist in your novel is a museum curator. Is that a reflection of your art history education?

Yes. I got the idea for that book when I was working at a museum. One of our galleries had a portrait of a fine looking man in uniform from the 18th century. And I thought, what if a woman had a crush on a guy in a painting and then out of the blue he showed up?

Interesting twist. So, how did you come to start blogging?

This is kind of a funny story. My best friend and I were talking one night. We decided we needed to write an advice column. I’m a suburban housewife and she’s a single lesbian in New York. We figured between the two of us we’d solve any problem out there. I had heard about this thing called a “blog,” and said it might work as our medium for all this great advice. So I went online and checked out blogging sites. As a test, I signed up for a Blogger account. It was so easy I decided to start one for myself. Somehow in my excitement I forgot all about the advice column. Although it might be a fun feature in the future.

Sounds like a great ad for Blogger: Even *I* could figure it out!

Ha. That's true. Although I am proud that in the year or so I've been blogging I have learned some of the more advanced tricks, like setting up RSS feeds, changing my template and such. I am addicted to checking my stat counter, too.

What's the theme of your blog?

If I have a style or theme, I wish someone would tell me, cause I have no clue. I try to blog every week day. I hate it when people go more than a couple of days without an entry, even if it’s a link or something. Gotta keep the readers coming back.

Without readers, we're nothing. What's your favourite entry on your blog?

I enjoyed the series I did on personality types. My critique group uses them when we’re developing stories, and it’s a subject I find fascinating.

I just liked personality-profiling for my own ego stroking, rather than anything to do with character work.

Please, it's that way for me too. Total mental masturbation. But it does work with characters too.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

First, I get to talk about anything I want. Second, I love that some people make a point of checking out what I have to say every day. How awesome is that? Third, I get to count doing a blog entry as writing on days when I make no progress on my book. Fourth, I love the community. For the most part, everyone is supportive and there’s a real exchange of ideas. It’s exciting.

I agree. It's also nice to not feel so alone in the craft.

That is one reason why I encourage new writers to join writing groups. RWA gets a lot of flack, but you can't beat it for resources and networking, even if you don't write romance. It's nice to be around people who get what you're going through.

What other advice do you have for new writers? New bloggers?

The best advice I have for new writers is not to believe every bit of advice you read about writing. It’s so easy to get bogged down in advice from people, books, etc. Then you think of a million stupid things to distract you, i.e. what font should I use or when I finish my book how do I find an agent. Just shut up, put your butt in a chair and write. Worry about all that other crap once you’ve finished something.
New bloggers should avoid discussing the minutiae of their day. The best bloggers who talk about their lives make the tales entertaining. Don’t tell us what you had for dinner unless it’s a good story. For example, Reality TV isn’t real. There are producers editing the tapes to make mundane events seems more dramatic. Don’t lie, but don’t bore us either. I also think trying new things is fun too. Do a contest. Ask questions of your readers. Make it interactive and people will want to hang around. Also, I’ve also found a large part of my new traffic comes from people who click on my profile when I’ve commented on other blogs. So if you want readers you have to be a reader and commenter.

It's a quid pro quo kind of deal for a lot of people.

Like you said, without readers we're nothing. If you want people to read your blog you have to share the love.

Whose blog do you use most as a writing resource? What website?

Miss Snark, Evil Editor, J.A. Konrath, Paperback Writer, and Buzz, Balls and Hype are all excellent sources for info about publishing and writing. I probably have about fifty writing-related blogs I check out though.

What blogger would you like know more about?

Well, you of course. The first time I saw you on Jason’s blog and after when you commented on mine, I thought you were a guy. I’d love to hear more about the name “Flood” too.

It's my second name, but the one I generally answer to. Weird, huh?

I love it! As someone with an unusal name, myself, I appreciate it. Oh, I forgot to say, I’d love to know who Miss Snark and Evil Editor are.

Wouldn't that ruin the game?

I suppose, but I am intensely curious by nature. I love trying to solve mysteries.

Tell us about your writing process.

I do a lot of writing at Starbucks while my son is in school. I also write at night. I am not one of those people who has to do a certain number of pages a week. I write pretty fast when I can focus. It’s making myself focus that’s the challenge. I don’t have any rituals or superstitions related to writing. My only habit is sitting on my patio and smoking while I write. I enjoy writing by hand although I don’t do it as much as I should. I do have to edit on hardcopy though. My hubby bought me a beautiful pen from Levenger for Christmas. It writes beautifully. It was my first pretentious author accessory. I also couldn’t live without my laptop. I belong to a critique group. We meet plotting days when we’re all starting on new books. When we plot we do a storyboard for the next book we’ll be working on. The board is divided into twenty squares. Each square is a chapter. We make notes for each scene in a chapter on Post-Its. The board is not set in stone, but definitely helps us get an idea of structure. However, for shorter pieces I rarely plot. Sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and write by the seat of my dungarees.

How does your family feel about this path you are on?

I wouldn't be where I am in my writing without my husband. He's the one who doesn't let me make excuses or hide behind fear. I’ve already written the dedication to him for the first book I get published. He rocks. The rest of my family is supportive, but they don't really understand why they can't just walk into a bookstore and buy my books. I try to explain that it's a long process, but you kind of see the suspicion in their eyes–like they think I'm lying and I really must suck. What will really be fun is when I sell and they all assume I'm rich.

You've queried. You've been rejected and accepted. How have you kept an even keel with that?

Well first of all, I have yet to be accepted. Unless you’ve heard something I haven’t. If that’s the case you’d better call me ASAP. No?

Sigh.

Oh you were talking about the e-zine? Yes, I was published at The Square Table. See, now that I've moved on to fiction, I tend to discredit my previous publishing credits. It's like starting all over again because editors don't care if I had a couple dozen articles published in a lifestyle magazine or an essay published about getting a tattoo. They want to know I can write fiction and keep the reader engrossed for 400 pages. And it's a very different animal from a 2000-word article on the newest bathroom trends.

As for rejection, it's part of the deal. It sucks. Like everyone, I have days when I swear I will never send out another query again. And really bad days when I swear I will never write another word. But then hubby laughs at me and tells me to get back to work. Or my critique group reminds me that the road to publication is long and I need to just do what I love and not pressure myself about the publication part. I hate it when people are sensible. But you know what really keep me going? My son. I never want him to let a little discouragement keep him from pursuing his dreams. What kind of role model would I be if I gave up because some faceless agent (or fifty) didn’t fall in love with my story?

I’m impatient. And I have control issues. Not a good combo for someone in a business this slow with so much out of the writer’s control. I try to focus on getting the words on paper and enjoying the ride. But I won’t lie. It’s frustrating as hell. That’s why it’s nice to have friends who are writers. People who have been there. They remind you that you aren’t special. Getting rejected is part of the dues paying.

And you'll just keep going for as long as it takes?

I know I will be published in book-length fiction. I feel it in my bones. So, yes, I'll keep at it. Although, I have to remind myself that getting published isn't the finish line.

Romance Is Murder is a smart and funny story.

Romance is Murder is the result of a post I did a few months ago. I had seen a write-up about Thriller Fest. They had all these cool author events, like mock autopsies and trials. I complained that romance conventions didn’t have cool things like that. One of my readers, Jamie Ford (who has a fantastic blog—check him out) said it would be funny if someone wrote a suspense set at an RWA conference. He said, “Lock the doors, Fabio’s been murdered.” I thought the idea was funny. So I sat down and started writing. It started as a very short story, but took on a life of its own. I decided to do it as a serial on my blog. It’s gotten some good reaction and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. It’s one of those things I haven’t plotted out. I plan to do more installments in the future. I don’t plan on making it into a book. I mean, can you imagine Fabio’s rabid fans busting down my doors? Not to mention his lawyers. The story has made me interested in writing humorous suspense though. We’ll see.

It cracked me up but it also had a kind of hardboiled feel. Pulp-y.

Honestly, I don't read a lot of mystery. I inhaled the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich though. I loved her voice in those books. I enjoy suspense or mystery when there's some humor to soften the edges a bit. But I wasn't trying to sound like anyone or anything with that story.

What do you think has changed about your blogging style since you began?

As I said earlier, I started my blog on a whim. At first, I didn’t make it public. I just wrote stuff I found funny for my friends. I basically harassed everyone to comment and it became kind of a joke. I’d write outrageous stuff to see if I could get a reaction.As I got more into the blogosphere I realized the potential for getting my name out there. Plus I wanted more comments. What can I say? I like the attention. So I made it public and started talking more about writing. I stopped talking so much about my family and doing things just to amuse myself. Now I try to remember that I have an audience that isn’t required to read me everyday.

You mentioned Jamie Ford earlier, he's very funny. You also lean heavily on humour in your blog and writing.

Is this where I am supposed to be self-effacing and say I don’t think I’m funny? I don’t know that I could write without some humor involved. I’ve written some darker stuff, but I think my voice just naturally lends itself to humor. I love making people laugh. Plus, I think having a good sense of the ridiculous helps keep me sane. Sometimes it’s a matter of having to laugh at life, otherwise I’d cry.

Jaye, it was great of you to share some of yourself with us.

Thanks for having me. It was fun exposing myself in public.

*

Next Week: Bernita Harris

FlashFlood interviews writers weekly, who blog. Any writer at any stage of of publication is interesting. If you would like to know more about your favourite blogger or want to be interviewed yourself, email me.

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