Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown? I’m originally from Alliance Nebraska. I spent the first half of my youth on my grandfather’s ranch. I’ve been on the East Coast now for twenty-three years, and what I miss most is the pace. Life moves slower out West. People take their time, stop to smell the flowers and enjoy their day, much more than I’ve noticed where I live now. Everything moves a little slower. My husband often teases me that my father even talks slow. I tell him that’s because he takes his time thinking about what he wants to say before he says it. It’s neat to see the old men playing checkers on the porch, or a cowboy riding fence, no hurry, living in the moment. Or even when you look up at night and see stars not blocked out by city lights, or children playing in their yards without fear—games you played as a child. It’s cliché, but that’s how it is in the smaller towns. It’s a Normal Rockwell painting, come to life.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Everything. Seriously, it changed from day to day. One moment I wanted to run a ranch, the next I wanted to fly into space. I still can’t make up my mind, so I make up adventures to compensate.
Tell us about your latest book. My Boogie Woogie Bugle Guy is one of my favorite genres, military romance. Frank, an Army trumpet player, plays Taps at hero’s funerals. Grace Daniels is a police officer in a small Massachusetts town, trying to recover from the loss of her twin brother, killed in combat. When Frank searches for Grace, to make good on a date, a WWII reenactment of a swing dance party, Grace’s brother arranged before his death, he discovers the woman of his dreams. Now, he needs to convince her that he’s all she could every want, even if he’s a soldier.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing? Many new authors and readers are not aware that half of being a successful author is promoting your work. It can take hours of posts and networking to get the word out about your books. You don’t want to barrage the readers with your propaganda, but you still want them to know about your novels. I think finding the balance between family, writing and promoting, is probably the most difficult for me.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out? Set up a good website and maintain it. Keep it up to date and go in and add fun things like excerpts or cuts that didn’t make it into the story. Give the readers things to explore when they visit. Make sure you link all your books on it to publisher buy links. As a reader, I hate going to a site, clicking on a cover and not going anywhere. If I want to buy a book, I don’t want to hunt for it, and links often make the difference between a sale and a reader finding another book to read. Make it as easy as possible for your readers to get your books, as well as reach you. I can’t tell you how many blogs or websites I’ve gone to where the author was unreachable. Don’t be unreachable. I actually got a contract from a publisher because one of their editors read a novel I’d written and contacted me about writing for them. Agents and publishers might come looking for you, and if they can’t reach you, it’s an opportunity lost.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Yes, but usually after I’ve gone on a writing binge. I think it’s my brain’s way of telling me it’s time to take a break. I have one right now. I’ve been laid up with a bad knee for a month, waiting for surgery and you’d think when I have nothing better to do, I could write. Not so. So when I get stuck in author’s limbo, I take time off and read, work on crafts or other projects I’ve put to the side. It always comes back to me when I’m fresh and I usually get hit with multiple ideas and end up with six or seven novellas or novels afterward.
How did you deal with rejection letters? When I first started writing I was all about getting an agent. After thirty-one rejections I stopped counting. Learning your craft doesn’t happen overnight and you have to serve your time and part of that is getting those nifty form letters that say “You’re not right for us.” There was so much I hadn’t learned I hadn’t learned about my craft, and I made a lot of mistakes prior to publication. I made a lot of them. Seriously, the novel I was shopping, sucked. I won’t show that one even to my best friend now. Regardless, when I got their rejection letters, I’d send out the next batch. I finally put agent-shopping on hold and focused on my primary goal—publication, and that meant finding a critique group and getting honest feedback. It was painful learning all I was doing wrong, but worth it. Now my focus isn’t so much about getting an agent, as writing a story that will get me a solid contract with a good publisher. I have seventeen published novels, novellas and short stories now and I can tell you everyone of them was a learning experience. You can’t let the “no” bother you. It happens to anyone brave enough to try. Even some of the best writers have been tossed in the slush pile. Look at J K Rowling. Twelve publication houses told her no before she got a contract for Harry Potter. Steven King was rejected forty-one times before he was accepted. Jim Butcher submitted to agents and publishers for two years before he snuck past security and into an agent’s coffee at a writer’s conference. He didn’t get and agent that day, but he got to meet a few people that would make a difference later. He continued to submit and get rejected, over and over, and over, focusing on agents who represented stories like his, until one day. Booyah! Tenacity is the key. Like Marilyn Monroe said, “I wasn’t the prettiest. I wasn’t the smartest. I just wanted it more than anyone else.” When you send out those query letters you have to ask yourself, how bad do I want this?
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? A critique group. A backbone. Tenacity and a desire to become an author. Pen and paper, if you don’t have a word processor or computer. My first three stories were hand written until I could afford to buy a computer. Hand writing slows you down and makes you think. It is a great way to uncover the guts of a story and find unique twists you might otherwise miss. Sometimes I still write in notebooks.
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content? Rule of thumb, wherever my prospective publisher draws it. Some topics I won’t breech, pedophilia, incest, rape for titillation, necrophilia, bestiality and the other no-no’s that are both repulsive and immoral. I think every author has a limit as to how far they push it. As for gory descriptions, it depends on the novel. I have some dark stories out there, that have some graphic detail, but it’s never thrown in for the shock factor. It’s there because it needs to be, to make an impact on the reader and expand on the “why” in the plot. You won’t know the why of the fear, unless you see why through the character’s eyes. I’m never easy on my characters, and it’s par for the course, especially in my darker stories.
Don’t forget to give us links to your website etc. http://authordljackson.com This will take you to all my links and haunts. Including publishers, graphic artists and fellow author links.
Thanks for having me.