With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Jaye Wells
Jaye Wells is a former magazine editor whose award-winning speculative fiction novels have hit several bestseller lists. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and is a sought-after speaker on the craft of writing. When she’s not writing or teaching, she loves to travel to exotic locales, experiment in her kitchen like a mad scientist, and try things that scare her so she can write about them in her books. She lives in Texas. For more about her books, upcoming events, and writing craft articles check out http://www.jayewells.com.
As a bestselling author, do you feel pressure to succeed and outdo yourself with each new book? If so, how do you deal with the stress?
I used to feel that way, but I’ve learned the hard way that is the path to burn out. Now, I focus more on process and writing the best book I’m capable of writing and letting the rest work itself out. It’s also important to keep up with self-care when writing. I do yoga, meditate, go for long walks, and make sure I’m getting enough time with friends and family to make sure I’m balanced.
What is it about speculative fiction that makes it so fun to write? How did you first get into this genre? What authors inspired you?
Speculative fiction genres allow me to write about real world problems, conflicts, and characters using metaphors. Plus, it’s just plain fun.
I got into writing paranormal stories about a decade ago. I took a writing class because I decided it was time to finally try writing instead of just talking about it. The teacher advised us to look at our bookcases and see which sorts of books we read the most. As it happened, I had shelves filled with tons of vampires stories—ranging from Anne Rice to Sherrilyn Kenyon to Bram Stoker. I’d never realized before that moment how much I enjoyed reading those stories. I decided to write my own vampire story, and pretty much never looked back. Although, I should say that over the years, my main subject matter has evolved from vampires to magic users.
It’s said that you like to “try scary things so [you] can write about them.” What kinds of “scary things” have you tried and how have those experiences influenced your writing?
That quote mainly referred to all of the training I did for my Prospero’s War series. My main character, Kate Prospero, is a cop, so I signed up for a couple of different police academies, which required me to drive cop cars at top speeds and do ride-alongs in the middle of the night. It was a lot of fun, but I probably would have talked myself out of it had I not needed the experience for a book.
You’ve composed many blog posts and Youtube videos about the craft of writing. Why do you find Youtube and blog posts to be such effective mediums for your message? Have you ever thought about writing a book about the craft?
They’re good mediums for me because I can easily put up new material every week. They’re both also easily shareable. The Youtube video series is a new addition and I’m really enjoying it. I keep each of the lessons under ten minutes so they’re easy for people to watch when they need a little inspiration.
You’ve written about writers needing to be more flexible. What strategies do you have for writers who are looking to get out of their comfort zone? Do you ever struggle with flexibility? Why is being flexible so important?
Flexibility is important in that every book offers new challenges. The more tools a writer has in their toolbox, the easier it is to duck and weave when new problems pop up. I also think we have to be less invested the in the mythologies we create about our writing. If you tell yourself that “real writers” don’t do this or that you could be actively working against your own progress. We get too invested in “shoulds” and acting like writing has to feel like punishment to be legitimate that we forget that writing can and should be fun a lot of the time. Being flexible allows more space for play.
You also write under the pseudonym Kate Eden. What made you decide to do this? How did you come up with that name in particular?
Kate Eden is the pen name I use for my Murdoch Vampire series. Those are light-hearted paranormal romantic comedies as opposed to my fairly dark and gritty Urban Fantasies, so I felt a new name was required to reduce confusion.
There’s no particular story behind the name. I just wanted something that sounded appropriate for the genre and that sounded nice to me.
Your protagonist Sabina Kane has been described as a strong female character. Who or what inspired you to create Sabina? In your opinion, what does it take for a character to be considered “strong”?
Honestly, I hate the term “strong female character.” I think it creates the expectation that the women with be a caricature instead of a three-dimensional female character. Sabina is strong physically and mentally, but the reason she works as a character is the work I put into developing her as a complex person on the page.
There are all sorts of ways people can be strong. They can be physically strong, mentally strong, strong in their convictions, strong in their connections to others, strong in their faith, or just simply strong in their belief that they have the right to pursue their goals. I hate that we act as if females are only strong when they act like men. Or that men are only strong if they fall into traditionally male roles.
The best way for writers to write “strong” characters is to make them complex and make sure they have agency in their own stories.
What’s next for you? Are you working on a new book? Any speaking engagements we can look out for?
In five weeks, I’m graduating with an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. I’ve also got a new Appalachian Gothic novel on submission to editors. It’s definitely a time of transition for me, but I’m excited to see where these new paths take me.
Thanks for interviewing with us, Jaye!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley has an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is a teacher, an editor, and a writer, who loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.