The Quirkies extend a warm welcome this morning to Joey W. Hill. Joey is one of my very favorite authors and I was thrilled when she agreed to be our kick-off interview for Quirky Ladies blogs that highlight talented writers in the romance genre. Joey writes both contemporary and paranormal erotic romance and every time I read her I get lost falling deep into her eloquent, beautiful prose.
An added bonus, today is a release day for Joey. A Vampire's Claim, the third book in your vampire series that began with The Vampire Queen's Servant comes out today. To the left you can see the cover of the new release. Joey, you have been truly blessed by the cover art gods in this series. Each of the previous two were just as wonderful. And, readers, for stopping by and visiting with us during the interview, The Quirky Ladies will send one lucky commenter a copy of the new book.
Once again, welcome Joey. And let's get on with it, as I know your fans are chomping at the bit to hear from you.
Michelle Pressma (MP): To start off, can you tell us a little about A Vampire's Claim and what inspired your expansion from contemporary into paranormal erotic romance? How did you stumble into this vampire universe?
Joey W. Hill (JH): Lady Daniela and her servant Devlin (Danny and Dev) were a pure delight. They're a little different from my recent books. While there's always a streak of darkness in my paranormals (okay, often a really broad swathe), these two had the great Australian laid back attitude about things, so they met every challenge and setback with a matter-of-fact dry humor that was really enjoyable. The book also has way more physical action--guns and explosions and chases--and that was a lot of fun.
There's a blurb and excerpt on my site of course, but in a nutshell, Dev's a WWII veteran. The book is set in 1953, in the Outback. He's an experienced bushman who's resourceful enough to get a female vampire out of any trouble she can find, and Danny fits that bill. She's returned to the Outback after a 30 year hiatus to reclaim her sheep station from the scumbag who took it over after her mother died. After she does that, she also wants to challenge the psychotic Region Master for control of the territories, despite the fact she has no Council backing and she's considered rather young and inexperienced for such big goals, at the paltry age of 200. But Danny is very independent and her own woman. She hasn't even taken a fully marked servant, shying away from that kind of commitment. But when she and Dev cross paths in an Outback pub, he's too irresistible to pass up.
I've always vacillated between paranormal and erotic, with romance being a constant for both. My first published book was an epic fantasy, and my second was a contemporary erotic romance. If I look back through my publishing history, even when I was doing more contemporary erotic romance titles, I was occasionally delving into the paranormal. For instance, If Wishes Were Horses, was about a small town police chief and the local Wiccan priest who ran a women's erotica shop, and their attempt to solve a murder with a paranormal twist. Chuckle. It's why I started out in e-publishing. The cross genre authors (not to mention erotic romance!) were anathema to New York back then, and now they can't get enough of them. Just goes to show--always write the book of your heart, and if it's meant to be, eventually someone will want it! And don't quit your day job. ;>
Anyhow, I have always loved vampires. I was a Buffy fan, but when Angel left, I followed him to his series. Apparently the romantic vampire hero was my thing, though Buffy was a great heroine. Joss (who I worship), just went a little overboard on the angst thing for her after awhile. Which, given that my books are very angsty, is the pot calling the kettle black!! I've read vampire books, but they never really explored the eroticism and power exchanges between vampires and servants that I wanted to see. I think what piqued my interest was a key scene in one of the early Anita Blake books, where Richard was climbing out of Jean Claude's bed, after JC had spent a night with him, using him as food and possibly for other things. So one day, I got the idea for a 1000 year old vampire queen who needed a new servant, and the young man sent by her previous (now deceased) servant to fit that bill. Jacob and Lyssa's love story was a very memorable one to write. I've had enough readers ask about another story for them specifically that I think they'll eventually get it--as long as the publisher continues to be happy with the series, of course!
I guess I don't think too often about the demarcation between the paranormal and contemporary, because, to be frank, the muse leads me around by the nose. If my contemporary takes a sudden dive into paranormal waters, I assume that's where it was meant to go, and vice versa. While that has worked for me thus far, it has caused me a problem at least once. I have one story, the second in that epic fantasy series, that has not caught much interest because the first half of the book is almost purely historical romance. So a publisher or reader who is expecting paranormal is understandably baffled by 200 pages of historical romance, unless they've read the first book in the series. So while I don't write to trends, I do understand sometimes, if you can't rewrite, you have to shelve a project until the time is right for it.
MP: I agree that timing can be everything in finding a market for a book. And I am more excited than ever to read Danny and Dev's story now. What a fantastic setting and quite a treat for your readers to get more of a glimpse of the Down Under. As your most recent full length book releases have been the paranormals (A Mermaid's Kiss and A Witch's Beauty), are there particular challenges to switching between writing in different genres? I know you've blogged at your own site on the issue of pacing and the difficulties you've faced monitoring pacing differences between the contemporaries and paranormals. Are there other differences that challenge your writing process?
JH: Pacing is probably the biggest challenge. Paranormal does require more set up. I'd compare it to the pilot for a great TV series versus an ongoing episode. A lot of times, the pilot leaves us a little flat because we don't know the characters, we're not familiar with the setting or the storyline, and all those things have to be set up. That's a paranormal. We have to get the reader to the part where the characters start to live, and the plot draws them in, and yet still give them all the information they need to orient them to the world of mermaids, vampires, etc. It's tricky. For me, the characterization is everything. As soon as I possibly can, I want them to be center stage, because that's where the reader is going to connect.
Subject matter can also be an issue. In contemporaries, I'm known for doing complex explorations of emotional issues between two characters. Paranormal opened up the macrocosm issues--good vs evil, fate of the world, etc. and when that layer intertwines with the emotional issues between my characters, the book has more ground to cover. I have readers who enjoy both these genres, and readers who prefer one vs the other, depending on what's their cup of tea.
I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the main thing for me is staying true to the muse while keeping an open mind to feedback from readers, CP's and editors. When you write in two genres, as noted above, you'll lose some readers in the switch between them. You'll also gain some. Reviewers who loved your contemporary work may be "blah" about your paranormal, and vice versa. So keeping your eye on the ball, not being pulled into twenty different directions of self-doubt, is probably one of the biggest challenges of writing the two genres.
The one constant between the two is that there will always be a love story and a HEA. To me, there's no point to reading a book if it's going to leave you with the message "Life sucks and nobody gets what they want." Duh, do I really need a book to tell me that life isn't always fair? What, do I live in a plastic bubble in the land of Happy Happy Joy Joy? Convince me that sometimes things do work out. Give me some incredible obstacles, and then give me hope that those obstacles can be surmounted. That's a great book.
MP: I agree with you that leaving our readers with hope is the key to satisfying stories whether you write about emotionally intense issues between characters or the more macro issues of good versus evil. Hope is what keeps us going as a species. Speaking of which, what keeps you going as a writer? And where do you see yourself moving in the future? I know you have plans to continue on with both your paranormal series and your contemporary Nature of Desire series. Any new directions beyond that in the horizon?
JH: You're right. I've always believed that while, as a species, we're pretty screwed because we're way too self-centered and self-destructive, there is something bright and shining about the human spirit. There may be hope for us yet.;>
There are two parts to my answer on what keeps me going as a writer: what makes me write and what keeps me writing. The "what makes me write" part is pretty esoteric, but that doesn't make it any less real. I can't NOT write. When I'm writing, I find an inner space where things are right and balanced, at least for that moment in time. It's a sense of completion and tranquility that would be like losing a lung to abandon. For that reason, I suspect I'd write whether I had an audience of ten readers or ten million. But that leads to "what keeps me writing." The readers. And no, I'm not just blowing smoke up the proverbial backside. Writing, the artistic endeavor, is marvelous, for the reason stated above. Writing, the business,...Holy Major Deity of Your Choice. It's constant deadlines balanced with promo work, never having a real day off, first drafts followed by edits followed by print galleys followed by industry research followed by conference preparations followed by another deadline on top of a print galley that has to be turned in yesterday...er, you get the picture. In some ways, it's like going away to camp--grueling, stress-filled fun. But what makes all of that worth it, beyond the unshakable need to create a story, is the reader who takes the time to email me and say "This story made a difference in my life." Whether it gave them a valuable escape time, touched them emotionally because of things in their own lives, or inspired them in some creative endeavor of their own--wow, that NEVER, NEVER gets old.
There's also a second crucial element to "what keeps me writing." My husband. If you're married, you can't do "writing the business" + "writing the art" without the support of spouse. No one would take that much neglect of the marital relationship, not to mention anything remotely close to cleaning, laundry, cooking (snort), etc, if they didn't believe 100% that writing stories was what you needed to be doing. And for that, I owe so much of my success to my husband's love.
As far as future direction, you're correct. Right now the contracted future is Mermaid's Ransom (the next in the Daughter of Arianne series) and two more books in the vampire series, as well as a contribution to the second Unlaced anthology (tentatively called Unbound). Mermaid's Ransom will be about Jonah's daughter Anna, and the vampire Dark Spawn called Dante, that you all met in A Witch's Beauty. The two vampire books will focus on secondary characters from A Vampire's Claim, which you'll meet shortly if you've pre-ordered the book, which I'm sure you've done (grin). The anthology will be Peter's story from the Knights of the Board Room series.
However, in the uncontracted future...wow, there's a lot of things. I want to do another book about Jacob and Lyssa specifically, probably revolving around her new interaction with the Fae world. I want to do Gideon's story, Jacob's brother. For the Nature of Desire series, there are 3-4 sets of characters at least that want their stories told: Brendan and Chloe, Julie, Ellen, Rory and Daralyn, and who knows how many new characters THAT will introduce. There's another mermaid adventure to offer--Marcellus and Clara, who you'll meet in Mermaid's Ransom. And the Knights of the Board Room have two more boys who've not met the love of their lives yet, Jon and Ben.
Now, outside of my ongoing series, I have another male/male erotic romance I want to write. I also want to rework the epic fantasy book I mentioned earlier, bring it up to date, and try to pitch that series again. It will have five books, and will involve everything from high fantasy to paranormal contemporary settings to vampire elements. I continue to be excited about it, so I know it is meant to be, when the time is right.
While all of the above will fall in the paranormal or contemporary romance categories, there are a couple other projects I have that could branch into other areas. I have an idea for a young adult story, though I'm not entirely sure it would be marketed as a young adult, because it has to do with a young adult dealing with an innate D/s orientation, much the same way homosexual youth have to deal with that kind of issue. I also have a women's fiction book exploring a daughter's journey, perched on the wall of her family's life, but we'll see. Even in paranormal and erotic romance, I tend to dive deep (as I said earlier), to get to the heart of what and who we are. With those two stories, I might get completely lost and never be heard from again (wink).
MP: Whoa! I'm staggered to hear what's on your plate ahead. And tickled since I know that means years worth of your wonderful stories for me to enjoy. As we wrap up today, is there any last message you'd like to send to either your readers or fellow writers out there? Words of wisdom you've learned through your process?
JH: For readers--never hesitate to let an author know how you feel about their work, good or bad. The good helps to keep us going in the right direction, gives us necessary inspiration. The bad (meaning constructive bad, not just a vague "You suck!"- laughter) draws our attention to areas we can improve. If you have an author react negatively to such feedback, that's their mistake, not yours, no worries.
For writers--I always have the same three rules for success, if success as a writer is in Destiny's cards for you:
#1 Hone your craft. Never stop learning and improving it.
#2 Know the business, and stay on top of it as much as you can.
#3 Never give up.
Those three things seem to be the key to success for every successful author I've ever met (except for those absolute freaks of nature who happened to run into an agent or editor during their grocery shopping, wow'd them in the frozen food aisle and became world famous authors overnight--but those are like the people who wear size 0 clothing. We don't think they deserve to live--laughter). I also threw in the Destiny comment because being a successful author is very much like Forrest Gump described it--some planning, some feather in the wind. None of us know how much of each is needed, so all you can do is work your ass off on the planning part, which is those three things, and hope your feather lands on the nose of the right people. Until then, as Anne Lamott says (paraphrased), love writing, because that' s the most important thing.
MP: Well, Joey, our time's up for today, but I am so thankful that you were able to join us on the big release day. And I would encourage our readers to leave a comment for you with any questions or reflections. Remember, one reader who comments will win a copy of A Vampire's Claim. If you would rather not leave a contact email with your blog comment, please send your email address off line to email@example.com after responding. For everyone else who hasn't already pre-ordered the book, I'm sure you'll be visiting your favorite on-line or brick and mortar book store to pick up a copy today.
Also, I'd like to let everyone know that Joey W. Hill publishes an online monthly newsletter which includes contests for signed books and other great things, as well as occasional early peek excerpts on upcoming releases and vignettes featuring characters from her full length works. To join it, just send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the guestbook link on her site, http://www.storywitch.com/. You can also visit with her on her blog or Facebook page (Joey Woody Hill). Readers who want to talk with other readers about her work can join the yahoogroup http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fansofjoeywhill.
Thanks, everyone, for visiting today to read this fun interview. And let those questions for Joey roll.