Hello! Welcome to my blog, Jessica, and thank you for answering my
nosy discerning, questions!
First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
Regarding myself – always fun answering that isn’t it? You kind of ask yourself, ‘well, how am I presenting myself at the moment?’ What’s funny about it is that often when meeting new people, especially lately, I usually start talking about my research education in social work and my volunteer work. I’ve got a friend who always chimes in after I’ve started on all that with, “oh, and she’s got her second publication coming out soon!” Oh, yeah, I do that too.
I don’t know if there is much of an underlying theme. When I think of the things I tend to write, I generally think of them as essentially sweet love stories at the root, but there’s usually some strange twist or circumstance to throw it all into chaos. Maybe a ‘theme’ would be something like ‘responses to love interrupted.’
How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
I think I first realized I was ‘different’ (read: a writer) when I was about 4 or 5. I used to love to draw and would sit in my grandparents living room at my little table drawing for hours on end. I was never especially hyperactive as a kid, I liked to play outside and stuff, but I really enjoyed nice, quiet indoor activities too. At one point I figured out if you take a piece of paper and fold it in half, like a card, then add a couple others to it, it would be like the pages of a book. That was it for me, I started making little picture “books” all the time. Then it went from then until about after high school before I did any ‘real’ writing. Ten years after that, I took the jump to try publishing something.
What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?
Well, I’d seen other people do it. So I thought I’d take what I considered a ‘tight’ story, scrub it up a bit, and give it a whirl. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I was cautiously optimistic, figured the worst they could do would be to say ‘no thanks’ – in which case I’d have been no better or worse off anyway. It was kind of like something I couldn’t see any reason not to do.
I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?
Romance, definitely. I find I write very sex-lite. It’s there, but more as an aspect of a relationship and not the central focus. Personally, I’m more interested in exploring the bond my characters have and when there is sex involved, it’s rarely graphic. I most often go with the “fade to black” concept in sex scenes.
What draws you to the M/M genre? Have you written in other genres?
I wish I could articulate that better than I do, but I’ll give it a try. I grew up with and have always had diversity in my life. I knew people from a lot of different cultures as a kid and my parents had a number of gay friends. I never really realized that there was anything different (still haven’t). It was only later that I became aware that some people weren’t ok with that, and I’ve never been able to comprehend that. I believe in people being who they are and being respected as they are.
As for why writing – I’ve read and written F/M, but I never seem to be able to write believable female characters. Frankly, I get annoyed with them. We girls are probably too complex to easily characterize. I’ve always felt guys in general tend to get a sort of “rum go.” Say what you will about male privilege, I wouldn’t want it if it comes with all the other psychological expectations society heaps on guys. And honestly, I just like boys.
City Girl or Country Mouse—and why?
I totally used to be the country mouse sort. Then I started hanging out in town with friends and going back to school. Now, even living in the suburbs just outside the “city proper” feels like being cut off from civilization. I can’t wait till I can start looking at places in town.
“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?
Well, for one thing, I tend to write a lot of UK-based characters and locations. I get that mostly from my Welsh family side and being raised with stuff like The Young Ones and Monty Python on TV. I also think I’m the sort of person to look at that concept on its side – writers should know what they write. Writing is something that opens up new worlds for me and sends me down new avenues of exploration. It’s a good way to keep growing and learning.
Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?
I get a general idea and try like hell to keep it on track. I write like I drive, I’m trying to go this direction and here are the lines to stay in – now try not to plow into a pole!
What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?
Me, sat on a beach, for days, with cabana boys continually refreshing a glass of something frozen, sweet, and alcoholic. Yep. Otherwise, just give me the plushiest hotel room you’ve got and I’ll be fine with that.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?
I love all my darling characters equally, of course! And now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…. One of my favorite characters isn’t even a “main character.” Kristof Anders (Krist) in Sins of Another is probably my most favorite. He’s… difficult. He’s fun and flamboyant and over-the-top to the point that people often find him quite daunting. He enters a room like he owns not only the room but the very air through which he walks as well. He presents himself as larger than life. He lives his life on his terms and no one else’s. But he’s the one you want in your corner when you’re falling apart. Heart of gold? Try platinum. He’s a clubber who has no trouble going through a series of one-nighters, but denies that he wants a stable love-life because he doesn’t want to see anyone hurt in the end. He’s a maddening contradiction who I can’t help adoring.
Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?
I’ve written loads, but only have two in publication (plenty more to come if I have anything to say). That said, I like Sins of Another most because it’s to do with a subject that is very close to me in the work I’ve chosen to pursue – HIV prevention and care. I would recommend readers start out with Possession, though, because it’s much lighter.
What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?
A few months ago I would have put my cat Stanley at the top of the “most important” list and I still miss him every day. Doing without my dearest friend has been a true challenge in the last half year. The rest of things, though, in no special order: my awesome circle of friends, tea (and coffee when necessary), and the last one I think I’ll split between music and movies. All things that get me through when I’d otherwise be needing to strangle people.
If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?
I’m never quite sure, if I had to pick one. I’d probably pick whichever gave me either more hours in the day/week or some kind of super energy to get more stuff done!
Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?
A few years ago I’d have said I’d love to write full-time. And I still would. But with having developed my social work research career, I definitely see that being my primary occupation. That kind of blows my mind, because I’d have never even considered the possibility of doing PhD level research.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a published author?
Like the ad says, “just do it.” Take what you’ve written, ask someone you trust to give you their honest feedback (probably the toughest part!) Look around and get a feel for what publishers are reputable (one good rule of thumb – does this publisher have books in libraries?) Look into their submission processes and make sure there’s nothing in there about giving them money to publish. Contact some of their authors and ask about their experiences in publishing. And then, go for it.
Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?
Oh my goodness yes! It’s like the friend who has to prompt me to tell people I’m also a writer. I’ve only just gotten into the idea of regularly blogging. I always worried I was far too “stream of consciousness” until I realized other people do that too. Things like facebook and twitter kind of mystify me though. I know I’m supposed to use these media for reaching out, but I’m never quite sure how it works. I seem to be mostly surrounded by fellow writers, so that’s a lot of preaching to the choir (lovely as the choir is). Personally, I really like the idea of doing in-person promo. Readings and signings seem so cool and handing out promo items around town. Maybe that’s an ego thing on my part!
How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
There’s usually a grain of a real-life experience in there. Kind of like a popcorn kernel which explodes into something totally different. Or an acorn that grows into an oak tree. Possession started because I actually saw a door holder like the one in the story at an antiques shop and couldn’t begin to understand why anyone would want that in their home. Sins of Another came about probably because I hated my job at the time and needed to exorcise some of that negativity into a story. And because I grew up during the 80s and knew a number of people as a child who were lost to AIDS.
Research: love it or hate it?
Love it! Building a career on it, and I think it’s one of the awesomest parts of being a writer, having an excuse to explore stuff.
Editing: love it or hate it?
I don’t mind editing. I’m such a perfectionist. I do so much of my own editing of a story before I even consider submitting it for publication that the official edits tend to be easier. So that’s something.
How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?
Quite a lot. The cover, especially, is what potential readers see first. It’s got to be the thing that piques an interest. And then the blurb has got to give them a fair idea of what’s in store as well as hooking ‘em. From there it’s down to the author to reel ‘em in, clean ‘em, fillet ‘em, fry ‘em, and serve ‘em with lemon sauce. More or less. I have been overwhelmingly thrilled with my covers, it’s one of the coolest parts of the publication process to me.
Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?
Not at all. I’m so pleased to have my work out there period that I’m not too worried about critics. I never put much stock into what they say anyhow. Some of my favorite books or films were panned, so it’s no bother to me. Anyway, when Possession first came out the lowest rating I got on it was a 2-star with the “review” that it was an “OK paranormal.” Well, heck, I’ll take OK!
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?
I do sometimes when the mood takes me. Usually when I do, though, I listen to things that tend to be fairly non-lyrical like classical or tangoes. Otherwise I just start singing along or listening too closely to the lyrics. But it doesn’t tend to influence the story. If anything I might pick something to listen to that reflects the story, but not the other way round.
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
I suppose I sort of miss them, but we still work together during edits and through the publication process. And I can always go back and re-read, so it’s not like I’ll never see them again. I rarely consider sequels because I like a story to be done when it’s done. Frank Lloyd Wright was once asked what his favorite project was. He said, “the next one.”
What are your writing goals for 2013? Your personal goals?
For writing, I’d like to get a few more things written as well as putting a few more up for publication (not necessarily the same few!) My personal goals are primarily to finish up my BASW in spring and commence the MSW in fall.
Sins of Another was released on April 29th by Dreamspinner Press. Check out this link (and all the other fantastic deals that Dreamspinner has going on this entire month as they celebrate their sixth anniversary!)
Blurb: One morning Padrig Kennedy comes home to find his partner, Nick Glenfielding, in bed with another man. Shocked, hurt, and vulnerable, Padrig flees and meets a stranger who seems to offer comfort—but he force-feeds Padrig a steady diet of drugs and prostitution instead. When he finally surfaces from his hell, it’s to another system shock: he’s now HIV positive.
Nick descends into darkness as well. Devastated by losing Padrig, he finds no consolation in the legal career he doesn’t love and tries to find solace in alcohol, spending his days in an ever-deepening haze.
Padrig and Nick find each other again, but their relationship can never be the same. If they’re to stand any chance of a future together, they must do the improbable: make sense of the past and learn to cope with new burdens they’ll bear for life.
Bio: Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. She is a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she has been active in the community, including serving as library director on the executive board of a local GLBT community center. Outside of writing, Jessica has a wide range of interests and hobbies: from Mozart in a music hall to punk in pubs, from Shakespeare to Vonnegut, from salsa dancing the night away to afternoon coffee in the square to kicking back with a good movie. She loves meeting new people and exploring new places, always open to whatever elements might inspire her next writing project.
Sins of Another blurb: