Undercover With Hayley B. James

Desk Lobster

Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to be with us today, Hayley. Why don’t we begin by having you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grace your website.

I’m living in New Mexico. I’ve taken community college courses for a range of majors, but I haven’t achieved a paper degree. I stumbled upon male/male romance thanks to the wonderful internet and here I am.

When you first began writing, what genre(s) interested you most?

When I started writing I was already into m/m genre so I actually started there. Add a dash of mystery, suspense, and a lot of angst-filled drama, and you’ll have my first written story. I initially started writing to release some thoughts I had locked away after a good friend was killed in a traffic accident, but the more I allowed myself to write, the more I fell in love with writing.

How many books have you written? How long did it take for your first book to be published?

I write a lot and have a hard drive full of stories, but only the one published book, Undercover Sins. I started sending submissions out in 2010. Dreamspinner Press picked it up four months after I contacted them.

How long does it generally take for you to complete a novel?

It depends if I’m focused on one or if my writing-ADD has forced me into writing two, three or more at one time. I’m a fast writer when I have my attention span dedicated to the plot and no blocks, so usually it takes me a few months.

Have you written any stories that have been published in anthologies or magazines?

I sure haven’t.

When did you start writing in the Male/Male genre? What about the genre interested you the most?

I began writing male/male in 2006 and started in the suspense genre. I guess I never had that itch to write until I discovered “Yaoi” which (In a nutshell) is gay romance from Japan. That was my first exposure to m/m romance and paved my way into writing.

Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you try to dedicate to your writing?

I hope for a day when I can write full time, but right now my writing is a hobby/side venture. My “day job” supports me. Usually I put in 2 hours a day on writing, more if I’m motivated and less when I’m blocked or busy with life.

Do you typically do revisions/edits as you’re writing, or do you write straight through and revise later?

I do small revisions and edits while I write. When I begin writing for the day, I review what I wrote last. It helps me remember where I was since the breaks between writing is sometimes wide.

Do you outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?

I usually prefer a small outline of key points to get to, but I often find the characters write the story out of the outline anyway. I build a straight line to follow, and they take the scenic path. But for Undercover Sins, there were no plans. I wrote it for kicks and enjoyed the process.

What sorts of research do you do before and during the writing process of a story?

If I have facts I’m referencing or real places I’m basing the setting around, I use Google and Bing like we’re best friends. For Undercover Sins I researched human trafficking statistics—which proved to be difficult since agencies can only estimate those numbers.

What has been the most difficult topic you’ve ever tackled in your writing?

I don’t like rape in any sense. In Undercover Sins there’s a scene that is essentially rape and I did my best, but I avoid it as best as I can.

How much of yourself, your life experiences, and the people you know manifest themselves into your characters? Do you have one particular character you love above all the others?

I’d say this happens a lot. I’m constantly taking mental notes and I try new things just for experience that might eventually help me writing a scene. I took a citizen police academy and volunteered to be tasered just so I could write a taser scene if needed. (And yes, it hurt)

I always fall in love with one character from a work. I try not to tell the others, but I think they all know. For Undercover Sins, I adore Ty/Gabriel. I know his behavior is horrible for a cop, but I like the bullheaded drive and how he isn’t entirely as strong as he believes he is.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get beyond it?

I suffer from blocks a lot. Since writing comes second, I get stressed from work or friends and can’t stand to look at a WIP, or what I do write needs to be deleted and forgotten. So I write without direction and just write whatever. I also read more.

When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they feel, experience, or gain from it?

For Undercover Sins, I just hope they have fun. The process for me was highly enjoyable and I want the read to be just as easy, enjoyable ride. In my future works I aim for tears since I enjoy it when a book makes me cry. It’s easy to cause a smile, but difficult to cause wet tissues.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?

It wasn’t directed at me, but Kurt Vonnegut said “Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.”

I believe this is true. Every scene needs to have a purpose, and I try to stick to that rule. If I’m reading a scene for editing and I don’t know why it’s there, I remove it or tweak it appropriately.

Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing now that you’re a published author?

Don’t take rejection from publishers personally. Rewrite that manuscript. Revise. Edit. Tweak. Look over the synopsis and better it. Learn from failures and move forward. Or change it up and submit an entirely different one.

Book publishers are not charities. Like most authors, I’m my biggest critic. But obviously I did something right. I constantly remind myself this in order to keep my confidence.

Learn from those bad reviews. Don’t look at a 1 star review and cry. (ok, well, cry first.) Take the points the reviewer picked out and tore apart and learn not to do that again. (Within reason. If they hated a name…well, tough cookies.) The bad will hurt but it’s still an opportunity.

If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?

If you’re bored with the plot or characters while writing, your readers will be bored when reading. I’ve heard this advice a lot and it speaks truth. You don’t have to write what you know, but you should write what you like or love.

Do you generally have the titles of you work planned before you begin writing, or does that happen later on in the writing process?

I try to name a WIP right away. It’s mostly for my OCD about organization, but also because referring to “untitled” with a beta starts to wear out the excitement over the project. I like to have my babies named—even if I change the title later.

What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?

When is the next one out? It’s hard to answer since I don’t have a planned sequel for Undercover Sins, and I don’t have a novel planned for release at this time. I hope to have one finished and in the publication process by this fall/winter though.

What is your most memorable fan experience?

A received my first fan email just after Undercover Sins was released. The reader told me she loved the book and then berated me about Leon’s treatment. It was all in good fun, and it’s an email that will stick with me since I hadn’t expected anyone to care for or remember Leon. He isn’t a main character but obviously someone fell in love with him.

When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase awareness of your work?

I wish I could say I’ve done more. I blogged, I tweeted, I was interviewed by the lovely top2bottom site, and I participated in the publisher’s online release.

Of all the fictional characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite?

I do. His name is Efren and he’s in my current WIP which is a rewrite of my first work. He’s optimistic with a big heart despite the storm clouds in his life. I hope to have his story finished in a few months.

Digital media (e-readers/Android aps/tablet computers, etc.) is changing the way people access and enjoy books. What pros and/or cons do you see surrounding the business of e-publishing? How do you see e-publishing evolving in the years to come?

The convenience of e-readers is astonishing. I believe making it easier to buy a book over the internet and having it instantly delivered to the customer increases sales. I personally can spend money like the world is ending tomorrow when I have a mouse and a PC, but when I’m in the bookstore I try to keep it below $20 at checkout.

However, it is much easier to steal a PDF file than a paperback, and, unfortunately, people will steal when it’s easy and seems harmless. They don’t realize downloading a copy is just like taking a book off of a brick and mortar store shelf.

But in the end, digital copies are here to stay. I don’t think they’ll completely replace paper in my lifetime.

When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?

I read mystery, crime-thriller, and true-crime. I don’t really have a preference over the time period as long as there’s murder. 😉 Also: biography types written by retired police officers are among my favorites.

I’ve read and enjoyed Josh Lanyon (who hasn’t?), and recently I’ve enjoyed LA Witt, and Rick Reed. JR Loveless is among my favorites, and not only because I call her a friend. Years ago, the first m/m romance I read was her story—now it’s a popular novel.

Aside from romance, I read all of CS Harris and Elizabeth George last year. They’re both on my ‘will buy’ list. But my all time favorite authors are now dead and won’t be publishing new works: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Heller (Catch-22 is my favorite book), and Kurt Vonnegut.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’d be sad. But really, I’d still be at my “day job” working the day away.

Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?

Does procrastination count as a hobby? I’ve mastered that skill.

I love to read of course. I’m a believer that authors need to read. It oils the wheels just as much as writing does. I also enjoy the occasional video game, and I watch anime when I find time and a series I like. I also watch way too much Netflix streaming, and I’m ridiculously obsessed with the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series.

What’s your favorite fast food?

It’s a tossup between Subway and Wendy’s. I definitely go to Subway more often (I edited most of Undercover Sins there), but when I want something salty, Wendy’s fries cannot be beat. However, I visit Starbucks more than either of the above.

If you could travel through time, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?

Victorian era. I might not be a girly-girl, but the dresses were so pretty. I also love a man in a waistcoat.

If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?

I tried to think of someone I admire but honestly, I’d want to eat with Johnny Depp just to stare at him.

If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?

I actually use my dining table and beside that you’d find a lobster dressed as a butler. I love lobsters and butlers so my talented friend dressed a stuffed lobster as a butler. There’s also a waiter.

What’s your favorite movie?

Oh, that’s a hard question. I think I’ll go with Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. I could watch that 100 times in a row.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Barking dogs.

Do you have an all-time favorite fictional character?

That’s another tough question. I think I’ll say John Watson. Of course, there are many takes on his character. I prefer the smart, silent Watson in the support role for Sherlock. He has a life but his friendship and admiration for Sherlock keeps him there despite how difficult Sherlock is.

How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?

My humor is dark, morbid, and gross with the often light-hearted side. I laugh at a lot of things. Joking around with my closest friends, it can get fairly gross with sex references. It gets distasteful as well, but I can find humor in the worst of things.

Who are your favorite actors, both male and female?

Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr. and Leonardo DiCaprio. I find them all talented and the first two delicious.

Who’s on your iPod/MP3 player?

The Spill Canvas, Alkaline Trio, and Panic! at the Disco are always on my pod in their separate playlists for convenient listening.

Without getting up to look, what’s under your bed?

Carpet. Dust bunnies. Probably a cat toy. Maybe even my cat. Perhaps a ghost.

Do you speak more than one language? If so, which ones?

I’d love to speak a second language, but I find it difficult enough to master English lol.

Thanks again for spending some time with us, Hayley. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

Thank you for having me!
www.hayleybjames.com is my blog. I’m active on http://twitter.com/HayleyB_James and I have a page on http://www.facebook.com/HayleyBJames

We’d love it if you’d share a favorite excerpt from one of your books.

“THIS is a genuine pet shop.” Ty looked around the store. Dogs, cats, reptiles, fish, and birds filled the large, open space of the strip mall‘s only pet shop. ―I don‘t know what to think about this.”

“Did you know that interaction with an animal has been proven to release the same endorphins that sex does?” Demetrius walked across the room and stopped at the cat cages to lean down and poke his fingers through the bars.

“You‘re lying to me.” Ty followed.

Demetrius smiled at the cat rubbing against his fingers. “I adore cats.”

“I had you picked as a dog guy,” Ty stated evenly, keeping a small distance between them.

“Dogs are loyal creatures, but cats are much cleaner.”

“Strange,” Ty murmured. “I was under the impression that you‘re allergic to cats. It was in a report from a Chicago team.”

“I am,” Demetrius confirmed, straightening. “You seem to know everything about me, Ty.”

“That is my job.”

“Of course it is.”

“Do not forget about Galo‘s call,” Lee reminded, and Demetrius waved a hand at him.

“I will hear the phone if he calls this early.” Demetrius unlocked the cage to take out a cat. He closed the door and cradled the animal. “What is something you love but cannot have, Ty?”

“People like you gone.” Ty rested his arms on top of the cage and grinned at Demetrius. “Evil like you shouldn‘t exist.”

“You speak so freely.” Demetrius smiled at the cat and rubbed its ears. “It is like you believe I won‘t murder you just because you‘re helping me.”

“I can‘t allow myself to be scared of monsters like you.” Ty lowered his tone. “You can threaten me all you want. Go ahead and kill me. You won‘t get me to beg for my life. You‘re not worthy of such a thing.”

“I might just love you,” Demetrius laughed.

“Fuck off, psycho,” Ty snapped, offended by such a statement.

“I was talking to the cat, Ty.” looked at Ty and chuckled at the glare.

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