Thank you JM Stewart for taking time to have an interview with us. We absolutely enjoyed your answers and believe that aspiring and fellow authors will gain some valuable knowledge and experience from your perspective.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Never give up. One thing I’ve learned is that this business is very subjective. One editor’s no could be another’s yes. Keep writing, keep improving your craft, but never give up. Being the creative souls that we are, I think we’re all a little extra sensitive. We put our very hearts and souls out into the world. I don’t know a single writer who hasn’t had a “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this” or an “I suck” day. But get back up and keep going. That next book might be the one that breaks through and you’ll never get there if you don’t keep putting them out there. Never give up.
What are your current/future projects?
I’m currently writing a three book series that’s a bit different for me. I usually tend toward the sweet, heartwarming side, but I’ve decided to try my hand at writing something hotter. I’m turning up the heat. The working title is The Rules of Engagement Series. This is the basic idea: Three wealthy bachelors. Three hot flings. Three sets of rules each must break to win the hearts of the women they love.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve read romance since somewhere around high school. I’m an avid reader. I don’t read as much these days. I have to balance between my duties as an author, and my family, etc, but I used to devour a good two or three books a week. I adore the genre. I’m also a romantic at heart. I love romantic movies, too. So, it was kind of a no-brainer for me.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
If I’m in the car? I repeat the word or phrase that came to me over and over until I can get somewhere I can pull over and jot it down. We got rid of our landline phones, so I take my cell phone with me everywhere. So, I just wait til I get to the store or wherever it is I’m going and send myself an email. I’ve been known, though, to get up in the middle of a dead sleep and go running to my computer to jot down something or hop out of the shower and grab a piece of paper. Happens so much I’ve started taking pen and paper into the bathroom with me. lol
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I usually know about how long the story will be. Each couple’s story is unique, some are more complicated and therefore longer. Some are short and spicy, but relatively simple. But my books tend to run one of two lengths. Around 55,000 words for the short ones and around 80,000 for the longer ones.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I do believe I’ve evolved as a person because of being an author. Being an author requires me to do self promotion. I’m a shy girl. Very introverted. Being a writer really suits me, because I’m my own best friend. I’m a hermit by nature, so I have no problem being alone with myself (okay, a writer’s never really alone, but you know what I mean). So, it’s forced me to come out of my shell and start reaching out to people. I’m an awkward person, always have been, and I never really learned the art of being social (Hi. I’m that girl who says all the wrong things at all the wrong times). But little by little, with the help of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, I’m learning to come into my own…mmm…power, I guess you’d call it. It’s terrifying to be honest, but it forced me to grow as a person. It’s also forced me to learn my own self worth.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I think covers are very important. I’m a reader first, a writer second, and covers are what first draws or repels me. A really great cover catches my eye and pulls me in and a bad one can make me put that book back on the shelf or skip it entirely.
A title can do the same. It can make me stop and take a look at the book, but it’s not really what draws me.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
As a writer, I love reading what people say about my book. I consider that feedback and I’m grateful to anyone who leaves one, provided they aren’t of the “you suck” insulting variety (they’re rare, but they do happen). I’ve learned a lot about what my readers want and expect in a book from reading the reviews I get.
As a reader, I do read them, the good and the bad. These tell me whether or not I’ll enjoy the book, but I’m also looking for things in the book that might contain that might be a no-go area for me. I’m looking for things that will have me putting the book immediately back down, and I’d rather not pick one up if it’s going to end up being a waste of money for me. Reviews can also tell you if a book isn’t what it promises (for example, I’ve read more than a few books where the book I paid money for actually ends 60% in and the last 20% is all promo for other books. I think that’s cheating).
So, I’m a fan of reviews. BUT…I’ve also picked up books based on horrible reviews, so I think, really, you have to take them with a grain of salt. Everybody’s different, we all see the world differently, and so the same book hits different people different ways. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean it’s horrible. Someone else might love it. So, reviews are very subjective.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
Besides the self promotion? lol Getting it wrong. Sometimes, a story requires me to do research, because I don’t have actual experience with something, and my biggest fear is that I’ll interpret what I’ve learned the wrong way. In my upcoming release, Whatever It Takes (due out in December), my heroine is a third degree black belt in karate. So, I had to research the process of how she’d earned her degrees, all about the sport, etc. I’m shaking in my shoes waiting for that book to release, to see how I did! lol
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
Oh geez. This is like picking a favorite child. I have admit, the one I’m the most proud of isn’t published yet. It’s a work-in-progress that has yet to find a home. But mostly it’s a favorite because it touched me the most. But… for the sake of the question, I’d have to pick my upcoming release, Risking It All. This was a previously published book that’s getting re-printed by another publisher as a prelude to the second book (Whatever It Takes). I wrote this book originally ten years ago, so it’s gone through more than a few revisions over the years. But my editor this time had me fleshing out the book even more than it had been. To me, it’s gotten a complete overhaul. The plot remains the same, with a couple of twists added that weren’t in the original, but it no longer feels like the same book anymore. It got lengthened by a lot, the characters more fleshed out. It was hard work, but I’m very proud of the way it’s turned out. I can’t wait for it to release. 🙂
What is the intended audience for you book?
My current books and the next two releasing at the end of this year… I write toward the sweet, heartwarming side of romance. The Romance Reviews called one of my novels, The Playboy’s Baby, “the absolute perfect read for the hopeless romantic” and I think that perfectly sums up my style. So my intended audience are those readers who prefer a more heartwarming, emotional book.
Though at the moment, I’m also working on a three book series that’s a bit hotter, a bit on the spicier side. So, I will eventually have some coming for those who like their romance a little hotter.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
A Second Chance at Forever is set in Las Vegas and the heroine is a part time stripper. She’s a computer geek by day who works in a strip joint on the weekends in order to help her mother pay off medical bills incurred during her fight with breast cancer. It’s where she meets the hero for the first time.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
If it weren’t for the advances in technology, I wouldn’t be published. My first book started out, years ago, as e-book only. So almost all of my readers are people I’ve met or who have found me online.
My favorite platform is Facebook. It’s where you’ll find me the most. I believe my listing here on Author Shout is for my author fan page, but I’m the most active on my personal profile. If you’d like to connect, feel free to add me as a friend. 🙂 Connect with me on Facebook HERE
What makes a good story, why?
Emotion and real characters. I want characters who feel as if I could meet them in real life and I want to be able to experience their world with them. Make me care. Make me cry, though, and I’m yours. That’s rare, for a book to touch me so deeply that I cry, so if a writer can do it, I’m a fan for life.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Oh geez. I think names can be really important for the romance genre. I mean, how sexy is the name Rupert? And romance is, after all, essentially a fantasy. But most of my characters name themselves. I’m a character writer, so my characters come to me first. I tend to say that I just take dictation; I’m writing their story, not mine. So, they usually come to me with a name. But sometimes, they’re a bit more elusive and I have to hunt for them. In which case, I open up a baby name website and let my fingers do the walking until one jumps out at me. I do the same for the last name by pulling up a website that lists the most common surnames. Babynames.com is the baby name site I prefer.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews. I can’t help it. I want to know how people are receiving my books. It’s kind of a “how am I doing?” sort of check in for me. I will usually tab the “helpful” vote, as my way of saying thanks to the reviewer for taking the time, but otherwise, I never respond otherwise. We’re all different, we all like different things and reviews are just opinions.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Paranormal. I’m a believer and I’d love to write one some day. Unfortunately, most of them are suspense and I don’t really write suspense.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
My first book, actually. The entire reason I started writing in the first place. I had a dream one night. It was just an image. I saw a boy in a wheel chair. But he intrigued me so much. I just knew he had a story to tell, so one day I sat down at our computer and tried to write it. Then I found a message board of other writers who took me by the hand and taught me the craft behind it. I’ve been hooked since. 🙂
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
My characters are strictly fiction. They’re real to me, because I have a very active imagination, but they’re not real. But they all contain little bits of myself. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t put bits of themselves into their characters. But the hero and heroine of a book I just contracted (Someone to Rely on, due out around March 2015) are the most me I’ve ever written. That book has the most me in it. The characters grew up in dysfunctional families. The heroine’s mother was an addict, the hero grew up with an abusive father who beat him. What happens when children who were shown all the wrong things grow up to be adults trying to learn how to love themselves and each other. They face their demons in this book. I grew up in abuse as a child, so while their individual stories are completely made up, I used a lot of my own experiences to fuel the emotions behind them. I put a lot of my own pain into this book. I have to admit, I’m terrified and excited for it to release next year. It’s probably going to be the one book where I won’t be able to read the reviews, because it hits too close to home.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
All of the above. It started as a hobby, but now it’s a career, because I aim to make money doing it and I work full time at it (60+ hours a week). But I write because it’s in my soul, because I have to do it. These characters live in my head, as real to me as the readers who read them. They keep up at night. Writing their stories down is an obsession I have to follow. If I never published again, I’d still write.