Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Neena. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure. I’m currently a grad student living in Northern British Columbia. I’ve worked in various jobs, from office work to teaching English in Japan. I’m a fan of many geeky things such as anime, manga, SF/F, and Asian ball-jointed dolls. I also love animals and live in a house overflowing with cats and dogs.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first and only book to date is Storms and Stars. It took around six months to write and about that long again to get published.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I used to write fanfiction, so I’d say that was my way in. Between that and reading BL manga, I discovered that I find M/M relationships more interesting than het ones when it comes to romantic fiction. It’s a little different from the mainstream and it means at least twice the hot guys!
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
That’s a bit hard to answer because this was the first book I polished up and submitted. I’ve been writing or telling stories my entire life. I have several other unpublished projects on the go, although only one I would say is pretty close to submission.
Do you write full time?
No. Right now my schooling is taking priority, unfortunately.
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. As I said, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ll do it whether I get paid to or not and regardless of what my day job is.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
I’m not going to lie, a certain amount of it will be spent procrastinating on the Interweb! Once I had gotten the ball rolling, though, I would spend as much time as possible that day in front of the computer writing.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I don’t revise as I write. Writing and revising are two different tasks that I feel need to be done separately.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’m increasingly plotting things out in advance. I think it’s important to be willing to follow the muse where it goes, but I also find I get stuck less if I know where I’m going.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
It really depends on the book. Most of my stories so far have not required much research. I’ll typically do it later in the process rather than at the beginning. At the beginning I just want to start getting something down on the page while the idea is fresh.
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?
Consciously I don’t try to put me or others into my characters, but I know little bits sneak into them. I would not feel comfortable trying to write a character strongly based on someone I know. I do have characters inspired by creative types I admire (musicians, actors, etc) but they also develop their own personalities. I develop my characters fairly organically, letting them grow in my head as I write. I am being a tiny bit more methodical these days and asking myself questions about them. I would draw the line on trying to write a real person’s actual personality and history into one of my books.
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?
I tend to alternate between projects so that makes it harder to guess, and I do many more drafts now than I used to. I would average it out at about four or five months. Writing and revision are completely different tasks for me.
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 don’t get serious writer’s block anymore. A major way I’ve gotten past it is by developing a habit of writing regularly. If I leave it purely up to inspiration and “the right mood,” that makes it easy to get blocked. I also went through the programme in the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and found that helped, too.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I hope they can lose themselves in the story and that they fall in love with the characters. In other words, I want them to have the experience I have when I’m enjoying a book.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
I’ve learned to let myself take writing as seriously as my job or my studies, to not fear the submission process, and to be a little less nervous about feedback.
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?
Titles come much later in the process.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
A lot of things make me laugh! I’m a big comedy fan. I love stand-up, satire (Stewart and Colbert are favourites), and especially British comedy. My pets also make me laugh every day.
What are you working on now?
I’ve got a paranormal M/M romance in the works that I hope to get done this spring.
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?
To turn the internal editor off while you write. That negative, questioning voice in your head just gets in the way and makes writing difficult. I can’t always successfully turn it off but I really try to.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Promotion and marketing do not come naturally to me at all. I’m not an aggressive person. So far I’ve just been trying to make myself available to fans through places like Goodreads, placed a couple of ads, and participated in some online events. I’m definitely still learning about promotion!
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 think it’s important to seek out experiences, no matter how small. I also find other creative works — books, movies, TV shows, music, art — inspire me.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Obviously M/M romance (particularly BL manga) is high on the list! For the most part, though, I like my romance mixed with something else. I’ve been reading fantasy for years and occasionally read SF as well. Other than that I’m partial to comedy, especially that written by British authors.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
If I had the ability or talent to do so, I’d love to be a voice actor.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
Ideas can come from anywhere. I’ve been inspired by other stories, by TV or movies, etc. Storms and Stars first started to form in my mind because of a specific Asian ball-jointed doll, oddly enough. The artist’s image that came through in that doll got me asking myself some questions, and that’s how Villam and Luke’s universe came about.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I only have the one so far. I like the retro-style font and (of course) the gorgeous model they chose! If I had to nitpick, my only issue is that his eyes are the wrong colour.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I like many geeky pursuits. I spend a lot of time on my Asian ball-jointed doll collection. I enjoy playing video games and I watch a fair amount of TV. I also enjoy playing with our dogs.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Well, I’m hoping I can get that paranormal M/M romance out this year . . .
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
First of all, read a lot. Writers learn to write by reading. Also, try to separate writing from revising. Lastly, when it comes time to revise, very little in the rough draft is sacred. If it’s not working, be prepared to make changes.
What future projects do you have in the works?
The previously mentioned paranormal novel, plus another project set in the same universe as Storms and Stars but focussing on other characters.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
I’m on Twitter as @NeenaJaydon. My homepage is at http://www.neenajaydon.koemoe.net/main.html. I also have a LiveJournal at http://neenajaydon.livejournal.com/. You can also find me on Goodreads.
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
This excerpt is from Storms and Stars, published by Torquere Press. It is early on in Villam and Luke’s relationship. They are enemies who have been stranded together on an uninhabited planet. They’ve declared a truce, thinking that they’ll have a better chance of surviving together. It hits some of my personal buttons, so it was really fun to write.
Villam spent every night in stuttering moments of sleep, waking every time Luke so much as breathed too deeply. To his bemusement, the would-be kidnapper didn’t seem to have any difficulty falling asleep.
But not deeply. Whenever Villam gave up on sleep in the creeping grey light of morning, Luke would immediately open his eyes and sit up. His unreadable eyes followed Villam’s every move.
“I’m an officer of the Imperial Fleet,” Villam said one morning, irritated. “I keep my word.” One of Luke’s well-shaped eyebrows trekked upward. It was soon pulled back down again, but Villam grimaced at what it had communicated. “Did you have something to say?” When he got no reply, Villam glared right into the other man’s eyes. “Do you speak Empirish, or are you just particularly bloody-minded?”
After a pause longer than Villam thought himself currently capable of tolerating, Luke spoke.
“Both,” he said. Laughing out loud, Villam startled a tiny songbird into flight. “South,” Luke went on.
“I think we should go south.” His fingers, an odd mix of deft grace and sturdy joints, pointed to the hill. “There are too many dangerous holes up there. Following the ridge,” his ring and pinky fingers traced the rocky part of the hill that jutted out near the top, “we can see the layout of the land. That green stuff past the lake looks wet. Following the ridge is better.”
Villam examined the ridge, then turned to gaze down at the lake. He nodded.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s do it your way. Well thought.”
What would have gotten him a salute or a straightened spine from a soldier got him nothing from Luke. Villam sighed to himself, prodding at his bristly chin. He despised the feeling of whiskers, and this was turning into a beard; he hadn’t yet succumbed to the mad urge to try shaving with his sword. He glanced at the knife Luke was using to trim fern heads.
“Lend me your knife, would you?” he asked. Luke didn’t look up from his task.
“I’m hardly going to attack you with it,” Villam snapped. “I just want to shave.”
“Fine.” Villam sat down, his back to a tree, and crossed his arms over his chest. “You’ll just have to shave me, then.” He’d meant to irritate Luke into giving up the knife, but all he got in reaction was a shrug. For a moment he hesitated; then, not willing to back down, Villam lifted his chin. “Well?”
Without a change of expression, Luke set aside the ferns. He rinsed his hands and the blade from a canteen. Then he walked over to Villam and looked down at him, holding the knife in one hand, the canteen in the other. Villam’s heart skipped a beat; he didn’t allow himself to look away. Something in his stomach sank with Luke as he went to his knees.
Luke poured a small amount of water into his palm, then patted it onto Villam’s face. He looked Villam in the eye as he raised the knife; Villam swallowed reflexively, his body tensing. As always, he felt as though Luke were taking his measure, but he didn’t know against what standard. When that attention moved to Villam’s cheek, it was only bringing his willpower to bear that stopped him from jumping at the first touch of the blade against his alert skin.
It was a sharp knife, gliding against his jaw; Luke’s calloused fingers were gentle as they pulled his skin tight. Villam gazed at the tendons in Luke’s throat, the subtle swell of his jaw, and the potent shape of his Adam’s apple. He licked his lips.
“Stay still,” Luke murmured. He was intent on his work now, making his way to Villam’s chin. A lock of his hair brushed the bridge of Villam’s nose. It was so quiet now, the birds on the water settled down to rest; he could hear his own breathing, louder than Luke’s, quicker than it should be. Luke’s lips were resting thoughtfully closed; their shape was gentle, just slightly lush, and shaded a paler relative of burgundy.
The only hint that Luke thought anything of what he was doing was a single sharp look as he put the edge of the knife to Villam’s throat. Feeling his face harden, Villam met that challenging gaze; his fingers curled into the dirt. In that moment, he remembered in a visceral way that they were enemies, and that he was foolish to trust. Luke’s palm slid down his neck, a warm contrast to the goosebump-raising chill of adrenaline. Then Luke bent his head to focus on his delicate work.
Villam’s confused senses found the ticklish sensation almost unbearable; he closed his eyes and realized that he was holding his breath. He could feel Luke’s body close to his own, but only making contact through that one steadying hand, and his jaw clenched. As strange sparks bolted down his spine and his skin tightened, Villam had an urge to take hold of him with both hands and grip hard. His fingertips wanted to know what Luke’s chin might feel like; his legs wanted to press into Luke’s, to feel and to trap.
This is ridiculous. He’s just —
Then Luke’s touch was gone, taking the precisely uncomfortable knife with it; Villam opened his eyes, then gasped as chill water splashed against his bared face. Luke picked up his small canteen and stood up while Villam ran an exploratory hand over his face. His skin felt rubbed raw, but free of whiskers.
“Thank you,” he said as steadily as he could. His heart hadn’t quite understood that the process was complete.
“My knife is only for my use,” Luke said. “I’ll use it for you, but don’t touch it.”
“Fair enough,” Villam replied faintly. Then he gave himself a mental shake. “Enough lounging about. Let’s put your plan into action.” He smiled at Luke’s puzzled look. “Let’s pack up and head south.”