Read on to see how!
Hi, Jennifer, and welcome to The Novel Approach! I’m so glad to have you here with me today. Let’s just jump right into things and have you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get to the contest portion of the program.
Q. When did you decide that writing was going to become more a serious pursuit than a hobby?
I’m not sure I ever decided it, honestly. I’ve admired the writing of J.M. Snyder since I discovered it via a book of free shorts years ago, and I’d dreamt about publishing with her press, but it takes a while to work up the courage to submit anything. In my freshman year of college, I submitted a novel-length work which was rejected; it took me over a year to submit anything again. But when I did, J.M. accepted it, and I’ve been whirling to keep up with where it’s taken me since.
Q. What was your first published story, and how long did it take you to write it?
“Singing Alone,” and it took a lot longer from first word to completion than it did to actually sit down and write it. I usually have about six projects going on at once, and “Singing Alone” was no exception. I wrote the first couple thousand words at a coffee shop while feeling really overwhelmed and alone during a year studying abroad in Germany, and then I set it aside for a couple of months. I later found it, reread it, completed it, edited it – a process which took about a week in itself – and submitted it. About six months altogether (which is really long for a 10,000-word short), but I was working on a lot of other projects simultaneously (including getting settled in in a foreign country, which is a task in itself).
Q. Have you always written M/M Romance? If not, how did you find your way to it?
I’m a yaoi convert. The first yaoi anime I watched was Gravitation, which in retrospect could easily have been heterosexual, but I was fascinated by the fact that it wasn’t. I fell into slash FanFiction from there, writing it throughout high school, and ended up with almost a hundred stories by the time I decided to turn to my own characters. At that point, they were so out-of-character they were almost unrecognizable when compared to canon that I was getting complaints, so I think it’s a good thing I decided to create my own.
Q. Of all the characters you’ve created, who would you say is your favorite and why?
It’s hard to say – I always adore the one I’m working with – but characters like Dan Rorney, the narrator of “Champagne Bubbly,” and Andy, the protagonist of my current project, are always fun. They’re completely normal people and have no major issues, but they’re plagued by little neuroses which are extremely fun to aggravate. Dan, for instance, is a perfectionist, and each little thing that goes wrong sends his blood pressure skyrocketing – usually straight to his face, which stresses him further, because he hates blushing. Making sure his hair is out of place, his tie rumpled, and of course, his top-shelf champagne nonexistent is my calling; I poke him with a stick and wait to see how vivaciously he explodes.
Q. If you could offer one word of advice to a writer just starting out, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to create your own characters and tell the story you actually want to tell. I didn’t realize if I focused on the stories I wanted to tell and made them my priority, an audience would develop on its own. Most people are willing to take a risk on someone or something new, so long as it’s well-written (and sometimes even if it’s not). Figure out what it is you want to write and write it, no matter what anyone says – that’s the first step, and although it’s a big one, you’ll never regret taking it.
Q. If you could trade lives with any one fictional character, just for a day, who would it be and why?
Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. He’s a kick-ass wizard, and no matter what anyone throws at him, he always comes up fighting – and he manages to save the world every single time, no matter what he has to sacrifice to do so or how little recognition he gets for doing it. Harry is my hero. I’d probably die within six minutes of stepping into his shoes, but I’d kill for the chance nonetheless.
Q. Have you ever read something and thought, damn, I wish I’d written that? If so, what was it?
All the time. Someone wiser than me (on Twitter, I believe) said the only writers who think their writing is great are the bad ones, and I’m definitely an adherent to that axiom. Whenever I pick up a book by Jim Butcher, Orson Scott Card, or Brandon Sanderson – that man is magical, I swear – I become absolutely drenched with discouragement because I know I will never be able to tell stories like they do. But then their stories pluck me up and transport me to new worlds, and I am encouraged with them simultaneously, because I’m honored to live in a world which produces such amazing storytellers.
The more encouraging moments are when I read through my own stories and stumble across a passage that just works and can answer that thought with, “Wait, I did write that! But how?” It doesn’t happen often, but it makes all the rest worth it.
Q. Where’s your favorite place to write?
I found a wonderful spot in Heidelberg, Germany, right under the crook of a centuries-old sandstone bridge, where I could watch the water flow by, type on my iPad, glance up at the crumbling castle from time to time, and listen to the sounds of the old-town city center behind me – a beautiful mixture of snippets of half-decipherable German and horrid American accents…that was wonderful. Failing that, because the year in Germany is over and I’m back in California (and the flight is really long), I like coffee shops. I need background noise, be it musical or vocal, and while I’m extremely introverted when I’m writing, the semblance of life going on around me is comforting and encouraging. I like at least pretending life isn’t passing me by.
Q. How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
It’s always the little, quirky things. I’m endlessly entertained by the twists and snags of language. For instance, there are at least three words for “comfortable” in German. “Angenehm” refers to the metaphoric and social atmosphere, when one is comfortable talking to someone; “bequem” is reserved for physical comfort, as in couches, chairs, and cafeteria stools; and “gemütlich” is this wonderful conglomerate of a word encompassing “cozy,” “welcoming,” “warm,” “open,” “homey,” and twenty other terms I can’t list off – it has no direct translation into English. On the other hand, “böse” is an adjective which relates everything from unruly in the phrase, “Bad dog!” to the “evil” appellation of a James Bond villain. These things – the little mysteries of language and life – never fail to tickle me.
Q. Do you have news of any works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
It would be counter-productive to describe all the half-written stories I’m working on, because I never know which narrator will be talkative next, but I’ll let you know what’s slated for publication in the near future. “Blast Off” is a short piece on a man determined to get his ex-lover back after a six-year absence, no matter what the lover says, and will be published in November. It’s special to me because it’s set in a futuristic society which, while it doesn’t get much screen time in the short, is the setting of an in-progress novel where I can play with water worlds, spaceships, and genetic mutations, all the while staying true to my M/M self. (I didn’t have enough science fiction toys as a child, apparently.) Next after “Blast Off” will be “Valentino’s Valentine,” a tale of what goes wrong when you actually hold to those “okay-to-kiss” lists some couples make before entering committed relationships; as the prize in a soda-can contest, Will wins a date with movie star Vincent Valentino, but he soon realizes the real romance is the one waiting for him at home. Finally, in March, “No More Lonely Lullabies” will pick up Cole and Jake’s story a year after “Singing Alone,” where the happily-ever-after Cole predicted hasn’t quite arrived. I’m very excited to announce my first print book, an anthology of three of my music-centric stories, will be published in April under the title “Heartsong,” which I find quite fitting; the goal of romance is, after all, to sing to readers’ hearts, wouldn’t you say?
Q. Where can we find you on the internet?
My homepage is www.jennifercierra.weebly.com, and links to all of my stories are available there. (A convenient releases newsletter subscription button, which is feeling quite lonely lately, is also there.) Past that, I’m available on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CierraJennifer) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/JenniferCierra). I love hearing from readers, so please drop me a line!
Q. Would you be willing to share an excerpt from one of your books with us?
Of course! This is from “Champagne Bubbly,” my newest release (which is also up for grabs as a freebie give-away – check out the details below!):
About half of the guests had arrived when, after checking my hair and making sure the sweat wasn’t too visible under my armpits, I finally exited my office. Andrea, looking stunning in a navy blue, knee-length sailor dress I was fairly certain was from Guess, leg-enhancing patent leather heels, and her long dark curls, gave me a relieved grin.
“Hey — glad to see you. I was starting to worry you’d gotten lost in the desk-clutter.” Andrea was always complaining about my addiction to paper scraps, but I just couldn’t work my iPhone the way she could. Too old-fashioned, maybe.
I forced a smile, ignoring Andrea’s immediate suspicious reaction. “Sorry about that. I’m here now.”
“Uh … okay. Listen, Dan, do you know where the champagne is? I can’t find it.”
“It’s coming,” I promised, but before I could answer Andrea’s confused expression, Mrs. Cameron, my eclectic boss, grabbed my arm, pulling me aside.
“Danny!” she whispered, voice horror-filled. “It’s an emergency!”
“What is?” I asked, mind racing. Did the caterer forget the vegetarian canapés? Was there a recall on GQ scarves? Did someone die in the living room?
“I’ve been looking at that book of yours, and there’s a typo.”
My heart stopped beating. If Mrs. Cameron, who was notoriously blind as a bat, could see it, it was glaring. And on my first real book, too … Voice low, I asked, “Where?”
“Here, right on the back,” she answered, grabbing my elbow in her claw-like fingers and leading me to the white-clothed table with the advance copy of my book enshrouded by white roses and quill pens. My pride and joy — my baby, even if my mother was convinced it was just trash fiction.
She lifted the book, flipped it over, and pointed to the promotional blurb. I blinked at the familiar text, confused. “Where?”
“Right there!” Taking in my baffled expression, she read, “‘Jacob, a successful auto mechanic in the L.A. Basin,’ blah-blah, ‘has always felt something was missing in his love life — but then he meets Charlie Somers. In his eyes, Jacob starts …'” She stopped, looking at me expectantly.
I blinked. “… what am I supposed to be noticing?”
“Sweetie, the pronoun’s wrong! And you call yourself an editor? You wrote ‘his’!”
“Uh … Mrs. Cameron …”
“Right there, see? ‘In his eyes’?”
“Mrs. Cameron,” I coughed to clear my throat, “I told you the book was slash fiction, didn’t I?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t see horror elements having anything to do with a simple typo …”
“Horror elements?” I chuckled despite myself. “Mrs. C, I think you’re thinking slasher fiction. Maybe. I’m honestly not sure. Anyway, slash fiction means two guys. You know, homosexual? Gay?” Me?
“Oh!” Blinking owlishly behind her spectacles, Mrs. Cameron turned back to the book, pursing her frog-like lips. “Oh. Well, of course then, dear. Now where did that slang come from? Kids these days.” I smiled, extricating myself from her, but not before catching her muttering to herself, “They really publish that stuff these days? Who buys it?”
That’s what I’m hoping to find out, Mrs. C, I thought wryly. I didn’t get two steps, though, before being captured by Wynn Smith, an old classmate of mine, whom I had invited for the sole purpose of guilting her into reviewing my book after its official release, tomorrow. “Dan!”
“Hey, Wynn! How are you?”
“Fine — happy birthday!” She was all smiles for another thirty seconds before her expression reverted to the sneering smirk I remembered from college, the one that had made her so famous in the newspaper-and-blog world. “Listen, Dan, the appetizers are great, but do you have anything harder than coffee? I’m absolutely craving some bubbly, and I know you’re probably holding out for the toast, but I would be so grateful if you could snag me a glass …”
I cringed. “Yeah, I’m sure …” How long did it take to drive out from Walnut Avenue, anyway?
As if on cue, I heard the doorbell ring. Excusing myself from Wynn, I hurried to the door, hoping beyond hope it wasn’t just another party guest.
My prayers were, for once, answered. Standing on the front step, a muscular man with spiked brown hair and cheerful chestnut eyes waited with a black crate propped against his hip. He brightened when he saw me, and I opened my mouth to ask him to bring the box in the kitchen door where the guests wouldn’t see him, but then I caught sight of his dimples and my voice stopped working.
Cocoa skin and chocolate eyes and a smile that said sin and salvation simultaneously, he was the protagonist of one of my novels brought to life.
Thanks again very much for being here today, Jennifer! I hope you’ll come back and visit again soon!
Okay, how would you like a chance to win some FREE books from Jennifer Cierra?! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you’ll be automatically entered. The first place winner will receive a copy of Jennifer’s newest release, Champagne Bubbles, and the second place winner will receive a copy of Melting Wax and Burning Feathers. Be sure to leave your email address in your comment, as well, so we know how to contact you. Good luck!
**Deadline for entry is 11:59pm Pacific Time (2:59am Easter) on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012.**