Jaye Wells is one of those authors who, finally, after years of resisting the pull that had been built into her from birth, succumbed to the creative instinct and launched herself into fiction writing well into adulthood. Just like so many of us who choose this path, for her the need to string words together in some semblance of entertaining order is strong, and she does it with a compelling new urban fantasy character, Sabina Kane, and a ballsy sense of humor. As she describes in her blog, “How did you cultivate such a wicked sense of humor? I made a pact with the devil. My dark master feeds me witty lines through my dental fillings.” That pretty much says it all.
TH: Can you give a brief arc of your career as a writer/author?
JW: After several years as a magazine editor/freelance writer, I took the plunge into fiction the year I turned thirty. I took a class at a local community college and was hooked from day one. Very quickly, writing fiction went from a potential hobby to a career goal. It took three-and-a-half years and three completed manuscripts to land an agent and a contract. My debut urban fantasy, Red-Headed Stepchild released on March 31 of this year.
TH: What is The Story of Jaye? Is it a novel? A short story? A urban fantasy pot-boiler?
JW: Great question! If it’s a novel, it’s probably a comedy of errors.
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
JW: Well, according to my mother, I started showing the signs very young–overactive imagination, love of word play and reading. But I always felt writing was a calling, like the priesthood. One day, the muse of writing would appear and you’d just know it was your calling. Of course, it’s not like that at all. I resisted the path for years, held back by self-doubt. But once I took that writing class I mentioned, I started meeting other writers and realized the self-doubt was part of the gig. I also found that all those things that made me feel like a weirdo–talking to myself, daydreaming constantly, etc–were also indicators of being a writer. Finding that community felt like coming home, I guess.
TH: Is there some unrealized accomplishment that you’re striving for in the near future?
JW: When I was unpublished, I always saw getting published as a sort of finish line. But now I realize there’s more obstacles and challenges once you cross the threshold. So I guess the big goal now is to learn to enjoy this journey and make the most of it. Making the New York Times Bestseller list would be nice too, but I’m trying to just enjoy the ride and constantly strive to improve my craft.
TH: Do you have any writing stuck away somewhere that will never see the light of day, but nevertheless helped you build your skill to publishable?
JW: No word a writer writes is wasted. I wrote two manuscripts before I wrote Red-Headed Stepchild, and they each taught me something. But in addition to those, every article, angst-filled teenage poem, blog post and essay I’ve written has taught me something about the craft.
TH: What are some of the things that inspire you?
JW: Wow, this answer could turn into a book if I let it. Art and history are two biggies. I got my degree in art history and I’m constantly mining that knowledge for my fiction. Whether it’s searching for metaphors and symbols, or using the research skills I gained earning that degree, it influences my work heavily. But, like a lot of writers, I find inspiration in every day life. Whether it’s an overheard conversation (I’m an unabashed eavesdropper) or a news article or some unexpected detail I see when driving down the road, life offers so many opportunities. Being a writer makes one both a participant and observer, constantly storing away little details.
TH: Where did Sabina Kane come from? Did she spring full-fledged from your subconscious, demanding to be written about, or was she more of a gradual construction?
JW: Sabina’s voice was pretty clear from the beginning. I was driving down the road when she first spoke, and I nearly ran off the road trying to get it down. But her personality and background grew organically as I fleshed out the world building.
TH: What are some of the most effective research methods you have used for writing fiction?
JW: I’m a total nerd so I love research. I own a library of random reference books. Every time I go in a bookstore I buy more–even if they aren’t directly related to my books. It’s an addiction. But I also use online resources a lot. Since I’m writing fiction and have created my own world, I don’t have to worry as much about exacting detail. This means I generally use research as a brainstorming tool more than anything else. But if I need city details or other real world facts, I have a bunch of sites I rely on. Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus, historical societies, etc are all invaluable. Oh, and the other area I spend a lot of time researching is character names. For me, names have power, so it’s important I choose a name that not only sounds right, but also has some sort of context, whether than be the meaning, origin, etc. I also keep a notebook with all sorts of documents about my world. It has printed pages form sites, pages of brainstorming, dossiers on each of the races and some of the characters, name indexes, etc. That helps keep it all organized and handy so I don’t have to go searching back through hundreds of manuscript pages.
TH: What about the writing process most appeals to you?
JW: I love different things about each step of the process, but the most thrilling is that moment when I’m hooked by an idea. It’s like discovering a new world and being the first to explore. There’s just so much potential at that moment.
TH: What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work? Are there any promising marketing avenues that you might yet explore?
JW: Well, I’m it’s still early days so I’m not really sure what will be successful. But I started a blog several years before I signed my first contract. I can’t say enough about the amazing support I’ve received from the writing community, most of whom I met through my blog or on others I read and regularly commented on. Blogging isn’t for everyone, but when done right it’s an effective promotional tool. I approach my blog like it’s a column, and I really try to either entertain or educate with each post. Of course, once I sold I had to start doing more promo posts, but I still try to make them fun.
TH: Have your reached the point at which you realized that you had “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances where you had that realization? Do you recall how that felt? If not, what is the milestone you’re seeking?
JW: You know, I’m just the kind of person who will probably never feel like I’ve made it. There’s always something new to reach for. I actually think that the minute I’d say “Well, that’s that then,” is the moment I’d give up. But like I said, I don’t think that will ever happen. No writer is ever perfect, there’s always something new to learn.
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Do you take that approach?
JW: I take my writing seriously, but I try not to take myself too seriously. Yes, writing is a business for me now. But the idea of portraying some fictitious brand version of myself is laughable. What people see is what they get with me. Whether that’s a brand or not, I don’t know. But I certainly don’t sit around trying out personalities that just aren’t me in order to sell more books. I think in this day and age, people are pretty savvy about branding and can smell someone being disingenuous from a mile away.
TH: Do you see yourself ever writing under a pseudonym?
JW: Not really. I suppose it would make sense if I started writing a completely different genre. However, I’d resist it unless absolutely necessary. For one thing, I’d have a hard time keeping things straight. For another, it would feel false, if that makes sense. I know a lot of writers use them and have good reasons for it, but I just don’t think it would work for me.
TH: How do you balance the business and creative sides of writing as a career?
JW: It’s something all writers struggle with I think. I’m still pretty new so balancing the two is still a challenge. The Internet is a fantastic marketing tool, but it can quickly become a foul temptress trying to lure you from your work. I think the old cliche of “protect the work” is really true though. If you allow the business and outside voices online distract you from the creative process it can be deadly.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
JW: Right now, I’m finishing up the second book in my Sabina Kane series, called MAGE IN BLACK. It’s due for release in January, 2010. Then it’s on to book three, which is tentatively titled GREEN-EYED DEMON.
TH: What project do you see yourself tackling after this trio of red-headed step-children?
JW: The more I write about Sabina’s world, the more I realize there may be more than three books. But whether that happens or not, I have a stable full of frisky ideas trying to get my attention. I’m not sure after creating such a spin on vampires for this series that I’ll be able to work on other vampire series, but I have some other creatures I’d like to tackle.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author?
JW: Getting the call was pretty amazing. It’s a long story, but basically my agent called to tell me we had a three-book offer. Then in the next breath he told me we were probably going to auction. Two days later, Orbit preempted and we had ourselves a deal. The whole experience was just so much more than I ever imagined. But each step of the path to publication was a high point. Getting cover blurbs, receiving my ARCs, my first review, release day–it’s all been so cool.