Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Jenna, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in northern California, so while I haven’t lived there for almost twenty years I still have a great deal of affection for the area. I studied humanities in college with the intention of teaching at a university level, but about two years into my master’s degree I realized the academic life was not for me. I worked in retail for a little bit and then spent ten years in IT.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first book was the novel Chiaroscuro, the love story of a baker and a painter. It began life as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2005, and then I spent about six months rewriting it.
Chiaroscuro is the exception to the rules: I submitted it to my first choice of publisher at the beginning of December 2006 and it was accepted on New Year’s Eve.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I started writing it about 2003, and it’s the only genre I’ve published in professionally.
I’m still figuring out what it is I like about m/m. It could be as simple as “one hot guy is good, two hot guys are better” or it could be that I enjoy exploring the mystery that is the male mind and heart. I’m not sure. All I really know is that it makes me happy.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
I spent about ten years learning to write for an audience before I tried submitting anything to be published professionally. I like to think that’s why my first novel was accepted so quickly.
I’ve published 17 books so far.
Do you write full time?
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?
The profession chose me. This is what I wanted to be since I was nine years old. I don’t know what I’d do or who I’d be without the constant need to write a story.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Awake, breakfast, shower, write. Lunch, walk, catch up on social media, write. Dinner, TV, write. Sleep.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
A combination of both. If I’m rereading what I wrote the day before in preparation to begin writing for the day and I think of a better way to say something, I’ll make the change right then rather than wait until the official “editing” period.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I like to have a plan, but I’m open to changing that plan during writing. It’s happened more than once that I’ll be editing and then realize a more interesting twist or a better way to make an event happen, and I’ll make that change and do a lot of rewriting.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
If it’s anything I don’t know off the top of my head, it gets researched. Locations are a big one, as well as procedures, such as police procedure for the latest book. Since I write about foodies a lot, I consider all the cooking shows I watch to be research, too.
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?
I think there’s a little bit of every author in their characters.
I don’t particularly like character charts or questionnaires. It always seems like they ask things that just aren’t important and don’t allow for characters to surprise me, which I love. I generally start with a plot, and then figure out what kind of man would be in that particular circumstance. The name and face come along at this point, but details often emerge in writing the rough draft.
I’m not sure what you mean by where to draw the line.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
That depends. I’ve written something I was perfectly happy with in a month; I’ve spent four years trying to make another story right.
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 used to, and then I read an article that talked about how writer’s block is an invention of the Romantics when people started to believe that creativity was something that happened to you rather than something you did, and that has helped a lot in understanding what causes me not to write. So now when I feel like I can’t write, I write through it, and eventually I start liking it again.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
Happiness, amusement, and the feeling they’re just read a good story.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Getting published is only the beginning.
Yes, you have to do promo.
The business is in a constant flux, but fretting about it too much will make you crazy.
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?
Choosing the title is usually the last thing I do. I’ll keep a list of possibilities if they come to me while I’m writing, but I usually don’t know what the title will be until after I’ve typed The End.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Wry and a little quirky. My whole family is a little off-kilter.
I was exposed to Monty Python’s Flying Circus at a young age and I think that explains a lot about me. I like British humor and smart humor. I don’t like bodily humor or slapstick.
What is the most frequently asked Jenna Jones question?
“When is the next (whatever series) book coming out?”
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the next novel in the City by the Bay series, which focuses on Leo Bellamy.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
When I was in college I took a creative writing class from the late Leslie Norris, a poet. He said once I was good at “stillness.” I still try to play to that strength and not write things that feel alien to me any more than I can help.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I’m incredibly introverted, so any kind of putting myself out there is difficult. I keep a blog and tweet occasionally, and I’ll host my publisher’s blog sometimes.
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?
I feed it with movies and books, talking with other writers and storytellers, looking at beautiful photography — there’s a whole world of inspiration out there.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Romances, histories, books about movies, books about writing, novels by my favorite authors, poetry, science fiction, horror, yaoi manga.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
No idea. Somebody else.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
From faces, from names, from things I overhear in coffee shops, from existing characters, from dreams, from idle thoughts…
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I’m not comfortable with covers that are explicitly sexual, and my publisher has respected that. I like that most of my covers are focused on objects or are a little abstract.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I watch movies, play computer games, knit or do other crafts, go to museums and read.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
My latest book is called Ebony Angel, and I plan to have a sequel or two for it in the next twelve months.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Writing is an art but publishing is a business. The sooner you accept this and start learning the business, too, the more at ease you’ll be once you get that contract.
What future projects do you have in the works?
I have a list I call The Big List of Next. On that list for this year I have the Leo Bellamy story, a sequel to my Birthstone The King’s Diamond, a reimagined fairy tale, and a to-be-edited novel about opposites finding each other thanks to their mutual love of Shakespeare.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
My main website (as I call it, the Mothership) is http://jennajones.com. I’m also on Twitter as @jennalynnjones, which is also my username on Livejournal, and I have a blog at jennajoneswrites.blogspot.com.
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
This is from Ebony Angel. Austin Archer is a police detective trying to solve the murders of several young people in his small town. At a crime scene he spots a mysterious figure.
Movement caught his eye. A dark-haired young man also watched the scene from beyond the police tape. He looked like a student himself in an orange sweatshirt and ragged jeans, and hadn’t drawn up the hood against the rain. His hands were shoved deep in the sweatshirt pockets.
Austin drifted closer to get a good look at the young man, and paused by one of the patrol cars. The man burrowed deeper into his sweatshirt, and when the van doors closed he turned away and started to walk to one of the little alleys between the houses.
Austin followed him into the alley. The guy hadn’t been among the neighbors Austin had questioned –Austin would have remembered a sweatshirt that ugly. The man walked at an even pace. Austin walked fast to catch up to him, and finally caught him by the shoulder. “Hey–”
The man turned and looked at him. Something inside Austin surged. I know you.