Q: Tell us something about yourself, Jessica.
A: I’m a Canadian married to an Englishman. I watched a fair amount of British sitcoms and dramas as I was growing up—good thing since otherwise his Lancashire accent might have been even harder to understand. We live in Southern Alberta, though I was raised mostly in British Columbia. I spent three years in Iran when I was a teenager. We moved there when I was 12. We returned to Canada before the Iranian Revolution took place. Thank goodness for that.
I like to knit, crochet, and quilt—though I don’t quilt as much as I used to. I’m also an architectural draftsperson. I have three children and two grandchildren. I also have two cats—one with diabetes and one with Bog-of-Eternal-Stench breath. I swear I can smell him when he is bathing himself on the other side of the living room.
Q: How long have you been writing and how long have you been published?
A: I’ve been writing for about twenty-eight years. I’ve been published for five of those. I had a hiatus of about ten years in the middle of all those years. My first husband and I got a divorce and writing romances is no easy thing when in the midst of a divorce and the aftermath. One of my daughters suggested I get back into my writing about six years ago. So I did.
Q: Did you start with short stories, a novella, or a novel? And what made you actually sit down and start something?
A: All those many years ago, I started with a novel. No one was really writing novellas then. I took creative writing at the University of Victoria. I wanted to write science fiction. However, I couldn’t come up with any ideas. This was frustrating me. My youngest sister suggested I try romance since I liked to read those. Well, I had more ideas than I could handle. I’m a pretty firm believer that once a writer has found their genre, they will not run out story ideas. I wrote ten novels in the beginning. I found an agent and she started to flog a few of my manuscripts. However, no luck.
Once I started writing again after my divorce, I joined the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association. At one of our meetings, the instructor said that novellas were selling well and that the e-book industry was taking off. So, I wrote and placed a novella. And then another one, and then I got a contract for a Paranormal Contemporary Romance series of three novels. Meanwhile, I started to self-publish as well.
Q: Why do you choose to write in your particular genre?
A: As I mentioned, my sister suggested I write Romances. What I particularly like about this field is that there are so many romance subgenres. I can write a Romantic Mystery, a Time-Historical, a Western, a Fantasy, a SF, a Gothic Horror, a Contemporary Spy, and so forth. It is impossible to be bored when writing in this genre.
Q: What’s the hardest part of writing for you? What’s the easiest part?
A: The hardest part is being persistent. There are so many distractions that can easily tear an author away from his/her work. Sometimes, you wake up and you just don’t feel like writing that day. And, while taking a break now and then is healthy and necessary, if you want to get more than one book out a year, you have to be consistently persistent.
The easiest part is completing my final draft and knowing it is good. Perhaps that doesn’t exactly answer the question, but reaching the final goal makes the rest worthwhile. I love being able to re-read something I’ve written and being surprised by how good it is. Did I write that, I ask myself? I suppose that doesn’t sound very humble, but there it is. After all, if you looked back and thought everything you wrote was crap, then you’d never publish anything, would you?
Q: Do you aim for a certain amount of pages/words a day?
A: No, not really. I aim for at least two chapters a week. That works out to about 25 pages. I can finish a first draft in about 3 months depending on the length of the novel.
Q: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
A: I don’t use a plot or outline. I have a general idea where I am going with a story and I’m a believer in the happy-ever-after ending so I know what is to happen between my hero and heroine. That said, my books all have a strong plot other than the love story. I like books where something happens. This often requires lots of thinking as I proceed. I talk over some plotting ideas with my youngest sister and sometimes with my brother, working out tricky bits. My writing group is a great help in this area too.
Q: Tell us about the covers and how they came about.
A: I have since received almost all my books back from the e-book publisher where I had placed some of my books. Obviously, when those books were released by the e-book publisher, they looked after the covers. When I first started self-publishing, I found an e-book cover artist here in Alberta to do the covers. We worked out a concept for that series. My youngest sister said she could do as well so she now does all my covers. I’m very pleased with them. I’d rather pay family anyway. My daughter Erin Miller took the photos for my two Christmas novellas. My sister and I came up with the concepts for my other series.
As a reader, I like to immediately recognise that a book is in an author’s series and so we carry that idea into my own covers. My advice is to get your cover done when you are around half way through your book. If you do that, then you can incorporate the cover details into your book. For example, if you wanted your heroine to have red hair but the perfect picture for your cover has a woman who is blonde on it, then you can change the heroine’s hair to blonde. Or, you can make the bike colour in your book the same as the one you found for your cover.
Q: How do you market your books?
A: I have a website and an author’s Facebook page. I tell everyone on my personal and author’s Facebook about a new release. I’m not very good at marketing. I depend a lot on a good product. Marketing and promoting a book can be so distracting and time consuming. I suggest the same as others have suggested; the best marketing and promotional tool you have is to write and publish another book.
Q: Do you have a strategy on finding reviewers?
A: No. Perhaps I should, but I don’t. I ask for reviews when I give away or sell a book, but I’m reasonably certain most of those never get around to giving me a review. People are busy or don’t know what to say.
Q: Do you read reviews and how do you feel about good/bad ones?
A: Sure I read reviews. I just shrug off the bad ones because you can’t expect everyone to like your book. That’s impossible. Sometimes I’m so pleased with an excellent review that I thank the reviewer.
Q: What are some day jobs you have had and how do they, if at all, impact your writing?
A: I’ve worked for my father, who was a silviculturist, at his nursery, I worked in a bakery as a baker’s assistant, I’ve done some daycare work, but mostly I’ve worked as a drafter. Everything you do, whether it’s work or play or hobbies, will make its way into your writing. That should be a given. It’s no different from character-mining from the people you’ve met or observed in your life. A quirk your uncle may have could become the quirk of one of your characters. My father had one—he used to comb his beard up and then down while he drank his coffee. Just thinking, you know. I haven’t used that quirk yet but I’m going to one day.
Q: How do you find or take time to write?
A: I’m currently between jobs so I tend to write in the mornings and then do chores or run errands in the afternoon. When I work, I write during my lunch hour. Then, I’ll sometimes write at night after my husband goes to bed—particularly if I am working to a deadline.
Q: How do you feel about e-books vs print books?
A: I like either. There’s room in my life for both. There is no doubt that e-book readers make it possible to carry around many books at once. The font size can be altered to suit the reader. On the other hand, there is something wonderfully visceral in holding a print book in your hand.
Q: How do you feel about alternative vs conventional publishing?
A: I would not have 10+ books published if I had gone the conventional publishing rout. Conventional publishing is slow. So bloody slow. When I had an agent and she was trying to place my books, months and months would go by before we heard anything. Sometimes more than a year would pass before we heard that they didn’t want my book. If they had wanted it, then another year or more might go by before the book was published.. What’s that all about? When you’re twenty, maybe two years doesn’t mean so much, but when you reach my age, two years is a bloody long time to wait. When you self publish, you can have your book up on Amazon within a few days of its final draft as long as you’ve prepared the cover ahead of time.
Q: What do you like to read in your spare time?
A: I rarely read anymore. Instead, I listen to audio books. I listen while I’m getting ready, while I do household chores or gardening, and while I’m driving. I listen to all sorts. If I’m working on a romantic ghost story then I listen to ghost stories. If I’m writing a romantic mystery, then I listen to mysteries. If I’m writing a Regency Romance, then I listen to Georgette Heyer. I like fantasy, alternate reality, sf, Steampunk, and so forth. I like long books, too. If I’m paying for a book I want a book that takes 12 or more hours of listening time.
Q: What projects are you working on at the moment?
A: I’m working on a Jane Austen Continuation. This is a sub, sub-genre of the Historical Romance. It is the story of Kitty Bennet and how she meets her husband and they fall in love. I’m calling it Pemberley Haunted. I’m not even halfway through and the cover is already done. Before it is finished, though, I’ll be re-issuing the first of my Paranormal Contemporary Romances, called “Come Dance With Me.” We’ve done another cover, renamed it, tweaked it a little, and it will be available on Amazon at the end of March. The series is called “A Back Beyond Paranormal Romance”.
Q: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
A: I want to be able to write full time without having a day job. I want my readers to always be happy and pleased that they’ve chosen a book written by Jessica L. Jackson. My stories will make you laugh and even cry occasionally, and hopefully take you away from the struggles you may be having in your day to day life. I don’t write books full of misery. Everyone has difficulties in life. No one is exempt. I write books that will make my readers smile.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: Keep at it. Find your right genre and read in it. Learn your craft but don’t get bogged down in the minutia of writing. Everyone loves a good story. Find one and write about it. Take the leap.
Q: How can your readers contact you?
A: My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My website is www.jessicaleolajackson.com. And my Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/jessicaljacksonwritesbooks.