Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, S.J. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Hi, Michele! Thanks so much for having me here! My background, let’s see…I’ve been writing for years, and even when I was young before knowing how to physically write, I would make up stories for myself. When I hit college, that’s when I started to get more serious about writing and that’s when I first realized I wanted to become a published author, with a little help from one of my characters, Jesse Alexander.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first full length novel was Conquest. I wrote it back in 2005, but at that time, really wasn’t sure what to do with. I knew I wanted to get it published, but hadn’t a clue how to go about doing that. So I spent a lot of time researching the industry, and decided to build a portfolio of smaller published works to show a publisher that I was a serious author. While I worked on getting short stories published, I continued working on Conquest to make it stronger. When I finally got up the courage to submit to publishers in late 2008, it didn’t take long before that acceptance came from MLR Press and Conquest was published in 2009.
When did you start writing mm romance ? What about this genre interested you the most?
Conquest was the first m/m romance I’d written, though I had a fantasy series I was working on before with a gay character. For me, Conquest was the first thing I’d written that felt really important. I’m a strong believer that all people have a right to equality and love, and with writing Conquest and m/m romance, I found a way to express that belief.
How many books have you written thus far?
Published, I have two novels with a third releasing in July, and I’ve had some short stories in various anthologies. For novels in the works, too many!
Do you write full time?
Oh, I wish! I’m a stay-at-home mom, so that’s my full-time job. But I do write as much and as often as I can.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I think it chose me. I never really had a clear vision of what I wanted to do for a career. I attempted studying legal assisting in college, but wasn’t happy with it. When it hit one day writing was what I really wanted to do, it was quite a revelation and now I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to share my work with people.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Usually I start with looking over the last few paragraphs I wrote the day before to get it fresh in my mind again, but then I jump in and start going!
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’m a total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author, so normally, I just pop open Word and go where the story takes me. I’m not organized enough to do outlines, notes, or tape recorders. It can be hard not always knowing where I’m going, but sooner or later I find the ending.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I do a ton of research before going into a story, and throughout writing, I’ll double and triple check my facts. I try very hard to keep my stories accurate to whatever the topic is, whether the character is a rock star or a samurai. A lot of my research is done online, and even then I’ll check facts against different websites to make sure I’m getting the right info. If it’s something I can research in person, like a type of cologne, then off I’ll go to see for myself. I’m a bit obsessive like that!
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
My characters are really individuals in of themselves. If there is some of me in them, it’s unconscious and I don’t recognize it. They’re certainly all more interesting that me! Most of the time, they just come to me. There might be a theme I’d like to write, say surfers like for my short story in the Surfer Boys anthology, and if I keep that subject in mind, sooner or later a character steps forward. But some, like Jesse from Conquest and No Fear, just burst forward with ready to talk.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
Depending on how much time I’m given to write and how much the characters are talking, I’d say about one to three months. But usually, it has to be pried away from me because I feel like nothing I ever write is finished or polished enough, and that’s just to let my editor see it. It’s a bit longer before I’ll let readers see it. It’s that darn obsessiveness again of wanting everything to be as perfect as possible!
Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I write straight through, clawing and fighting my way to the ending! Once I get there, it’s always such a relief and I feel like the hard part is over. I have the finished shell of a story that I can go over again and again, and build upon.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I’ve never suffered from a long bout of writer’s block. Oh, but now that I’ve said that, get me a forest’s worth of wood to knock on! I do, though, have a fear of it hitting someday. I think all writer’s do deep down, that someday the creative well will be empty. I’ve had times where I’ve hit hard points in a story where I don’t know what to do, and at those moments, just stepping away, doing something else, listening to some music, usually helps me work through it.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience?
My biggest hope is they’ll enjoy it, and as they finish the last word, they’ll have a good feeling in their heart. No matter what challenges my characters face, in the end, I want my readers to walk away feeling positive.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Number one – a good editor is worth their weight in gold. I’m very fortunate to have one of the best editors around working with me at MLR Press, Kris Jacen. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from her and how with every book, she makes me a better author. Number two – Friendships with other authors and readers are invaluable. To have support around you, people who can understand the downs of writing and who you can share the ups with make it so much sweeter than trying to struggle alone. Number three – Never give up. If you have a story you believe in, even if you’re handed rejection after rejection, keep polishing and working on that story until you get it out there. It really is true that rejection isn’t personal, and where one house might think you’re work isn’t right for them, another will love it, so stay strong.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Mine usually come to me as I’m writing. Or sometimes, like the one I just finished the first draft of, I’m still pondering between a couple choices. It’s so crazy that I can write a 100K word novel, but sometimes struggle coming up with a couple words for a title!
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I shouldn’t admit it, buts it’s probably a little on the immature side. I’ll giggle at the silliest things. And my husband is really good at making me laugh.
What is the most frequently asked S.J. question?
I’d say since all my novels so far are centered around rock stars and the music world, I get asked a lot what bands I listen to, and if Jesse and Evan were inspired by real life musicians. Which I listen to all types of music, everything from rock to classical, and even though when I was writing Conquest and No Fear, I didn’t base Jesse and Evan off any particular artists, there are a couple who I hear them in now. But that’s a secret. I keep it to myself because I don’t want to influence readers’ opinions on what they sound like. I want readers to make them their own.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I hang out on Yahoo groups like author Ethan Day’s quite a bit. I’ve done some advertising, and I have my website, Facebook, and other social sites. I might be launching a blog in the near future to try and see if I can be the most boring blogger ever, which I think I stand a good chance at. Oh, and doing interviews, of course
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
My muse loves music, so I listen to quite a bit. The ideas just flow when I have some good songs playing. But I’ve also found sometimes I have to step away from a story because if I keep hammering, it almost starts to suffocate the spark. Letting it have some air lets it burn brighter.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
I believe ebooks are going to do to publishing what MP3s did to music. I know very few people who buy CDs now. There’s nothing like being able to click a button in the comfort of your home and have your purchase within seconds. That instant gratification is a huge pro for consumers with ebooks. And not only that, just like how MP3s have made it so easy to access international artists, ebooks have done the same thing in being able to take an author’s book worldwide.
Really, the only downside with ebooks that I see is the pirating. It seems like authorities take the theft of music and movies so much more seriously than the theft of books, which I completely don’t understand. I just wish there was a way to secure ebooks more, like if there could be a security code on them where the book would self-destruct if it was broken. Hopefully something in the future will come out about to help with that.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I’ll read pretty much anything. M/M erotic romance, historical fiction, fantasy. All that matters to me is there are characters I can get attached to. If so, I’ll read it!
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I’d probably still want to work in the book business in someway, but taking the whole book aspect out of it, I’d like to be in the music industry. Not playing, though. I sadly haven’t a hint of talent!
I recently read your novels Conquest and No Fear. Where did you get the ideas for those stories?
They really came with the main character, Jesse Alexander. Back in 2005, I was in a creative writing class and given the assignment to do a dialogue exercise. As I was walking through campus after class, mentally complaining because the prof said we couldn’t use any characters already presented in class and I didn’t know what to write, all of a sudden, there was Jesse, standing front and center in my mind. He started telling his story, and for my assignment, I submitted the part of the first chapter where he and his brother are talking about Jesse’s music, which I got an A on!
But also, the professor told me it was my best work, and Jesse still wanted to talk. Conquest was my first contemporary romance, and it was also the first m/m I’d written. But the most special of all the firsts, it was the first time I’d written something that I knew I wanted to get published because I believed in it so much.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I love all my covers. I’m lucky at MLR Press to have some input into my covers, though, usually my ideas are pretty rough, which makes me even luckier that I’ve had an amazing cover artist for all my books there, Deana C. Jamroz. She does really wonderful work and has been able to take my fumbling with ideas and craft something beautiful.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love spending time with my horses. They’re very relaxing to be around. Reading and watching movies are favorite pastimes too, even though I haven’t been able to do much of either lately. My child keeps me hopping, so all my free time these days goes into writing. But I also like being outdoors, going for walks in the woods with my dogs and little guy.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Yep! The third Conquest novel, Keys to Love, which follows keyboardist and pianist, Julian Forrester, will be releasing this July!
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
I think one of the biggest things you can do for yourself is network and build friendships in the business. When I was trying to get published, I shouldered it alone, not even knowing where I could go to make connections. If only I’d known what a huge community of writers is on Facebook and the other social networking sites, not to mention authors’ Yahoo groups like Ethan Day’s I mentioned earlier. The support on these groups is amazing, everyone is so kind and helpful. And all the authors I know are always willing to take a moment to give advice if an aspiring author asks them for it.
The other big thing, don’t give up. Sadly, rejection happens. And sometimes, it happens a lot. That in no way means you should give up. I try to look at it that rejection is nothing more than an opportunity to improve. If you get one, just look at your story and ask yourself, what can I do to make it stronger? But never give up!
What future projects do you have in the works?
The top three I’m working on are all m/m. One is centered around a rock band other than Conquest. Another is a vampire erotic romance. And the third is focused on a classical violinist. Now I just have to decide who gets my full attention next!
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
I can be found on my website, http://www.sjfrost.com/. I have my contact info there, along with my Facebook and other social sites. Feel free to friend me on any of those sites! And my novels can be found at MLR Press, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and many more stores. I’ve been in a few anthologies too, and the info on those short stories can also be found on my website.
Are there any fun facts about S.J. Frost that you think your readers would like to know about?
But here’s where it goes back to me being boring again! Well, I don’t know if this is fun or mental, but I have to eat a piece of dark chocolate everyday and especially when I’m getting ready to write. If I don’t I’ll struggle with writing until I do!
Quick, name five things under your bed.
Most likely a sock or two, a cat or two, some other things I won’t say, but I’ll let your imagination run wild…
What is your favorite T.V. show/movie? Ever.
The Black Stallion. I’ve loved that movie since I was a little girl.
Do you have any pets? What are they and their names?
I sure do! Ready for the list? Here goes!
Dusty – Collie
Shane – German Shepherd
The Cats (yeah, I live in the country. If you have a barn, the stray cats will come.)
Chick – Paint
Stormy – Paint
Sierra – Paint
Caleb – Clydesdale
And coming soon…a baby Paint from Stormy and Chick.