Message from Jade: Please feel free to use these interview questions and answers, either partially or in their entirety.
Tell us a little something about yourself.
I was born and raised in Colorado and still call it home. I’ve been married to the same man forever and we have four lovely children. I’m probably overeducated (a bachelor’s degree with a double major, a master’s degree, and a master of fine arts), because I pursued higher education so that I could teach college…and now I only teach on occasion. I do have a day job that I hope to one day kiss goodbye thanks to writing. I got a taste of how that could happen with Bullet and I hope to enjoy it again!
How would you describe your books?
I strive for realism more than anything else. If I someday write a book about an alien, I hope people read it and think, “Wow. This feels so real.” For me, as a reader, to get lost in a fictional world, it has to feel real to me, and so that is what I shoot for when I write. Are my books real? No. But do they feel real? I sure hope so.
Is it hard to come up with new ideas for books?
No. You would think so, but it’s not. What’s hard is keeping up with all the ideas in my head! Right now, I have close to forty story ideas, and I don’t have a clue how or when I’ll ever get to them. So I pretty much have to go with whatever story is tugging my virtual sleeve and follow it wherever it goes.
What responses to your writing have affected you the most and why?
Even though I wish it wasn’t true, it’s the extreme responses, both good and bad, that affect me most. The gushing reviews where someone loved the book—those are awesome, land me on cloud nine, and reward me hugely for doing what I love most. The other extreme, though—really nasty, mean reviews, one where the reader acts like I personally set out to ruin her life by writing a novel—affect me negatively. I used to read all my reviews, feeling like I could learn something from each one, but the one-star reviews are not worth it. If, by the first sentence, I can tell it’s mean and nasty, I stop reading. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. The reviewer is welcome to her opinion, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it.
How long does it take you to complete a finished book?
Depending upon the length, of course, the first draft takes me between one and two months. Also, some books are easier than others and just flow, and those get written more quickly. Some are like pulling teeth to get out of my head and onto the page!
Who are authors who have inspired you?
The list could go on and on and on, but there are two huge inspirations. Don’t get me wrong—there are dozens of authors, living and long gone, whose stories I love and whose words have changed my life in some way, but there are two authors who have inspired me more than any other.
First, there is Stephen King, and I’m sure he figures highly on a lot of writers’ lists. Not only is the man by far the most prolific and probably most published author on the planet—with no end in sight, mind you—but, in my opinion (as both a writer and a writing teacher), he has written one of the best, most practical guides to creative writing that’s out there. I have used tips from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft not only in creative writing classes I’ve taught, but I’ve also recommended it time and time again to writers, both already published and aspiring. The first time I read it, I thought, “Wow. That’s how I write. I’m not a freak!” Yes, there are lots of solid books on writing out there, but what makes King’s stand above the others is it’s not a textbook. The first half of the book is very much personal memoir, a good reason for any of his faithful readers to pick it up, but the second part, where he gets into the nitty gritty, is a simple “guide” to writing. What I like about it is that he doesn’t pull punches and he doesn’t get on a high horse to talk academia. He’s in the trenches telling the troops how to survive. I find myself going back to that book time and time again. It’s that good. More than that, though, I love much of his fiction. Misery is and always will be one of my favorite books.
My other inspiration is Toni Morrison. The woman can weave a story like few can, and every time I reread one of her books, I’m blown away. She can paint a picture with words so much that her prose is like poetry. Her stories also cut to the core, and many have touched me deeply, have moved me so much that they have forever altered my way of thinking. Books like Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Paradise—I cannot fathom how anyone could read those books and set them aside, not having changed emotionally. Morrison’s fiction forces you to think about who you are and what you believe, what you value, what you hold dear. Any author able to move me on that level, not just emotionally but intellectually, will have me as a faithful reader for life. She is incredible in a way that few authors are. And don’t get me wrong—hundreds of authors have my respect—but Morrison is at the top for me.
Who or what has been your biggest literary influence?
That’s tough. I’d probably have to say writing instructors, both creative writing profs and academic writing teachers. They were the ones who taught me technique and then I taught myself how to bend the rules. They were the ones who gave me continual feedback and knew me as a writer and as a person. They influenced my growth every step of the way.
As far as authors who have inspired me, I don’t know that I can say I have someone who has specifically influenced me, because I feel that everything I read influences me (whether it’s something I loved or disliked). That reason alone is why Stephen King recommends that writers read widely (in his book On Writing). I suppose you could say that book, and thus King himself, has also been influential. What I love about that book is that King validated for me the way I was already writing. It was nice knowing a published, well-loved author wrote the way I did. It made me feel like I was “doing it right”—although nowadays I don’t feel like there’s a right or wrong way: if a person is writing and getting the words down, that’s the right way for him or her.
What can you tell readers about your early writing days?
Let me first say that I have always been a writer—even before middle school. Writing has always been something important to me, published or not. But, as an adult, I set my eye toward publication. When my children were young, I would go through periods of trying to become traditionally published. I’d had success (under another name) with poetry, short stories, academic writing, and journalism, but being published as a novelist continued to elude me. I would throw the feelers out there (query letters with synopses) every once in a while when I would finish writing and revising a book to my satisfaction. I got a lot of nice rejections. Then life would take over and the need to be published would go on the back burner. I never stopped writing, though, because it’s a compulsion. I would feel the burning desire to write and I’d get something done and start sending out queries again…and receiving rejections along with them. Some were form rejections, but many were personal, and one I remember in particular said I had a strong writing voice and a great story, but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. I felt like, in the writing world, I was always the bridesmaid and never the bride. But I couldn’t and didn’t stop writing. I just stopped writing query letters. Then, in late 2012, a very close friend of mine (Stacy Gail, an author with Samhain and Carina Press who now also has a few indie publications under her belt) landed a publishing contract. If you think I write a lot, you should meet Stacy. She puts me to shame. She and I were chatting as we often do, and I felt the burning desire to submit to a publisher again. I was working on my most current compulsion (Tangled Web) and had no intention of doing anything with it; I just had to get it out of my head and onto paper. Talking to Stacy, though, I got the itch again. Sure, I had to write; it was in my blood, after all, but writers also want to be read. I could have gone my whole life with all those manuscripts in my trunk, but I wanted more. By early spring, I had my manuscript with beta readers and I was drafting another query letter (ugh! I seriously hate those damned things!). Then Stacy mentioned a successful woman by the name of Amanda Hocking (perhaps you’ve heard of her?), and the rest is history. After doing some research, I published Tangled Web on Amazon for the Kindle in April of 2011…and the rest, as they say, is history.
What draws you to write romance?
I don’t just write romance, although it is the main genre I write. I write romance for a lot of reasons, but the biggest—I think—is that I find romance to be full of hope. Romance focuses on two characters on a journey. They are falling in love but have hurdles along the way that they have to find a way to overcome. Most romance involves other elements—for example, I write a lot of rock star romance novels, and very often there is another plot, such as a band member overcoming drug addiction or following a band’s rise to the top—but the main story revolves around two characters finding a way to overcome their differences so that they can spend the rest of their lives together. In spite of the fact that I consider myself post-feminist and that I “don’t need a man,” my heart swells when I read a story of love realized. I can’t help it!
How much research do you do for your books?
When I was working on my first graduate degree, one of my first professors told me I was a “scholar and a researcher.” I can’t tell you how proud that made me, because I work hard when I write. Sure, there’s a huge difference between an academic paper and a work of fiction, but the work in putting them together is sometimes similar…at least, in my case.
I was recently asked by one of my blogger friends if I’d researched something I’d talked about in the book of mine she’d just read. My answer was “Absolutely!” I research a lot when I’m writing. Sometimes, my research is minimal (like looking up the way a company spells its name to make sure I’ve got it right in my book), but other times, I have to do a lot of digging, especially if I’m dealing with something I’m not as familiar with.
Let me be clear: research is important.
It might be more important to me than to other authors, because authenticity means a lot to me. If something feels fake, you’ve lost me (as a reader or a viewer). I have to be absorbed by the story, and it’s only possible if I can believe (or suspend my disbelief)—I must believe the scenario is likely—and that’s why I feel like research is necessary.
My husband and I watched a movie a few years back, one he’d been looking forward to for a long time. It was quickly ruined by its lack of credibility, at least, in our case. Part of the story was set in Gunnison, Colorado—the place where he and I met and lived years and years ago. We were able to “let go of” the fact that the setting in the movie didn’t look like Gunnison. We understand that filming can’t always take place in the exact right location. But then, when the movie had Gunnison and Colorado Springs half an hour apart, they completely lost us. Maybe they appear to be that close on a map, but the two are a good three hours apart, and you have the Continental Divide separating the two to boot! That lack of knowledge—which could have been corrected with a minimal amount of research (Google Maps, for heaven’s sake!)—ruined the story for me, and there was no getting me back.
Research can be done in a number of ways. Sometimes I ask readers questions (I did for Feverish and Savage and even Bullet—and I acknowledge those answers in the back of the book, because asking questions of people who know often gives better information than looking something up online), but a lot of times I do conduct research online.
I prefer to do what Stephen King advocates—that is, writing what I know—but that’s not always possible. When it’s not, I research. So, to answer the question, I research as much as I need to, and the amount of research varies from book to book.
Where do your ideas come from?
My best ideas come to me in two places: when I’m driving long distances, listening to music and letting my mind wander, and in the shower when I’m thinking about a book (sometimes one I’m currently working on or sometimes one I plan to write in the future). Both places are equally difficult to have these ideas, because there’s no paper and pen immediately handy! I sometimes have cool ideas as I’m waking up in the morning, but that happens less often.
Do you ever get ideas at random moments? How do you hang on to them?
A lot, unfortunately. If I’m somewhere inconvenient, like in the shower, I just keep repeating it over and over in my mind until I can write it down. If I’m driving, I turn on the video on my phone camera and speak what’s in my head until I can get home and transcribe it.