#authorcorner Jaye McKenna Interview!

I’ve had over the past few months the wonderful opportunity to get to know Jaye. We’ve been communicating back and forth via email after meeting on Goodreads in one of the groups. We can’t stop the conversations as they just continue to unwind. We originally met because I put out a call for LGBT authors and/or authors who write LGBT. She answered requesting to do an interview. This is the fruit of it. I hope you enjoy it and check out her books!

Hi there, Jaye. Just to start out, let’s make it easy. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Britain and dragged across the Pond before I was old enough to really make a case for staying there. I’ve been telling stories since I was four, writing them down since I was nine, and dreaming them forever.LGBT Giveaway

What is one thing not in your author bio that you want to share with us? Something totally random that only a few people know.

I spin my own yarn on both a drop spindle and a spinning wheel. When the apocalypse comes, I’ll be ready…

Haha, well, let’s hope we’re in the same vicinity when that happens! But getting back to writing and away from the apocalypse, although sometimes the two go hand in hand. What made you decide to write? If it even was a decision. And what kept you at it?

I don’t think it was a decision but a need. It’s something I’ve always done and something I miss if I don’t do. It’s part of what keeps me sane and whole. I have all these ideas, all these characters, screaming at me to tell their stories. And I’ve come up against an awful lot of obstacles to writing over the years, but what always kept me at it was the need to do it.

As an engineering major in college, the writer rarely won the fight for time, and when there was time, there wasn’t always any energy or inspiration. When I left the workforce to raise my kids, I thought I’d finally have some time to write—except I didn’t really have a clue how exhausting being at home with two toddlers actually was. So again, writing was pushed into the corners and only done when I had the time or the energy. When the kids were finally old enough to be in school all day, I got hit with a bipolar diagnosis, which meant medications that made it impossible to write. It took me two years to get off the meds and four more years before I could write again.

HFHS_200x300_HiWow. It sounds like you’ve had to really fight to let that need be heard and come through. Throughout all of that, I’m sure you have some inspirations. So who has been your biggest inspiration and support in writing and in publishing? Doesn’t have to be an author or anything, and yes, it can be your mom or dad.

Definitely my husband. He’s always been supportive, and since he’s an artist, he gets that whole creative thing. He understands that if I’m on a hot streak, we might be having Nutella sandwiches for dinner, and that if I’m working my way through a rough spot in the writing, I’m going to be distracted and edgy. And he doesn’t take it personally.

That’s a great thing! Also, Nutella sandwiches for dinner is a fantastic idea! Before we get anymore distracted, your blog is called “The Swamp”, any particular meaning to that?

My creative alter-ego is the Swamprat, so it kind of made sense to call the blog The Swamp.

Where the Swamprat lives…totally makes sense. So why is it that you are an independent author? What prompted the decision to publish on your own, and how has that experience been?

I sort of fell into the self-publishing thing. When I got back into writing after my Bipolar Adventure, I knew the publishing landscape was changing and all these epublishers were springing up. I decided I’d take a year or two to re-hone my rusty skills, study the growing M/M market, and then try submitting some stuff. Last spring I had just wrapped up the first draft of the entire five-book sci-fi series, Guardians of the Pattern, when I learned about the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s writing event, Love Has No Boundaries. I took part in this event, and my story Human Frailties was very well received. People kept asking me if there was a sequel. There was—I had written it right after I’d submitted the original story—and it didn’t take long for me to realize that the only way I was going to get the sequel into the hands of the people who wanted to read it was to self-pub it.

The whole self-publishing experience was a lot less scary than I’d imagined it would be. Through the Love Has No Boundaries event, I’d gotten to know people who were willing to work with me on beta reading, editing, and formatting, and my husband was willing to do the cover art for me. I liked the whole process (and the level of control I had) so much that I decided to have a go at self-publishing the science fiction series, Guardians of the Pattern.

Seems you like have a lot of work to share and have found just the way to share it. I know you still have writing that is coming out and that you are producing still, but you do currently have quite a few works out. Facing the Mirror is one that caught my attention. What is it about?

Facing the Mirror is a science fiction novella that covers a pivotal moment in the life of undercover agent Cameron Asada. When Cameron meets Miko, a psychic slave owned by the drug lord Cameron is investigating, he starts to question his mission priorities. Eventually, Cameron is faced with a moral dilemma: complete the mission that he’s devoted four years of his life to and maybe take down the drug lord’s organization or help Miko.

Facing the Mirror serves as an introduction to my M/M science fiction series, Guardians of the Pattern. It takes place about three years before Psi Hunter, which is Book 1 in the series (and I’m planning to release it in March of this year).

Yay! for a March release! And what about Human Frailties? You mentioned before that this started as a shorter story and it turned into a novel, so how was that process? Did everything work out how you had hoped?

FacingTheMirror_200x300Although Human Frailties was a complete story with a reasonably satisfying ending, not everything was resolved at the end of it, and it really was crying for a sequel. The main characters had come to a resolution regarding their relationship, but during the course of the story, they’d unleashed something rather nasty into the world, and that still needed to be dealt with. I started working on the sequel, Human Strengths, as soon as Human Frailties was submitted. Once I’d finished Human Strengths, it was clear to me that the two stories really needed to be one. It made sense to me at that point to rewrite the whole thing as a novel. To that end, I wrote a new first chapter for Human Frailties and reworked the ending to allow for a smoother transition into the Human Strengths part of the story. Rewriting the whole thing also allowed me to add new material here and there and fix a few things that I wasn’t happy with in the original version of Human Frailties. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. I was happy with Human Frailties, but I’m even happier with Human Frailties, Human Strengths.

It’s always good to be happy with a story. I was wondering, do you think there was an advantage in having the shorter story out before the novel because Human Frailties turned into Human Frailties, Human Strengths?

Yes, but I think most of that advantage came from the fact that Human Frailties was part of the Love Has No Boundaries Event. As a part of that event, the story got more attention and a wider audience than it would have if I had just released it into the wild by myself. By the time the novel came out, there were plenty of people who had read Human Frailties and were waiting for the novel so they could find out what happened next.

That’s always an advantage. Speaking of Human Frailties, Human Strengths, in the giveaway that you so graciously donated to, entrants can win a copy of the novel. Would you mind telling us a bit about it, without spoilers of course?

Human Frailties, Human Strengths is an M/M fantasy romance. It’s about Tor, a misfit human who, through a strange encounter with an old woman and a magical book, is transported to another world. When Tor is dumped at the feet of Ash, an arrogant god-in-exile, it’s irritation-at-first-sight. Magically bonded to Ash by a goddess who intends to teach Ash a lesson in humanity—and humility—Tor has no choice but to follow Ash as he seeks a way to break his exile. Along the way, they find adventure and love, and Ash learns what it means to be human.

Wow, sounds interesting and romantic tension ridden. If you could meet one character in real life from Human Frailties, Human Strengths—and yes, I know this is a hard question—who would it be and why?

Definitely Tor. The poor boy seriously needs a hug!

LOL! Aside from giving Tor a hug, what made you fall in love with either the plot or the characters?

I think it was Ash’s journey—his gradual realization that he had feelings for Tor, and what those feelings taught him about humanity. I loved the idea of this arrogant jerk of a god suddenly being stripped of all his power and having to learn live as one of the humans he’d spent most of his life manipulating for his own pleasure. And then suddenly finding himself stuck with one of them as a traveling companion. He’s used to being worshipped—and here’s this human refusing to do as he’s told, questioning every order, and giving him backtalk instead of the blind obedience he expects. I enjoyed the challenge of constructing a journey that would change Ash from an arrogant ass who cared for no one into someone who was willing to sacrifice something important to him in order to save the humans that his own selfish actions had endangered.

Sounds like a complicated relationship in the making! But here’s a question we all want to know. What is your writing process, and what do you do when you get—that scary, scary word—stuck?

My stories always start with a character in conflict rather than a big-picture plot. A guy with a problem. The plot grows out of trying to understand what the problem is, how it came about, and what the character is going to have to do to work his way out of it. I do work from an outline, but it starts out as a vague collection of ideas with lots of wiggle room. I don’t like to be tied down because one of my favorite parts of writing is those WTF moments when the characters decide to do something you never thought of and taking the story in a whole new direction.

What I do when I’m “stuck” depends on what kind of “stuck” it is. If it’s the sort of “stuck” where I have no ideas and no inspiration, that’s a sign that I’ve been working too hard and I need to take a break and fill the creative well again. Read books, watch some movies, go for walks, just get away from the keyboard for a while. If it’s the sort of “stuck” where I’m not sure what comes next in a story, then it’s time to brainstorm, shift the point of view I’m writing from, or maybe get deep into a character’s head and figure out why things aren’t working right. Or work on something else for a while. My subconscious has a way of chewing over story problems even when I’m not actively working on them… and solutions to story problems often come to me when I’m not writing. (The shower is my best place for inspiration!)

The shower really is the best place for inspiration AND for working out all the tangles and webs that characters create. I do have a series question, would you mind sharing some of your ups and some of your downs about writing and about publishing? Any advice to new and upcoming authors?

The biggest “up” is that I’m doing what I love… and I think the biggest “down” is that it isn’t just about writing that first draft anymore. Once I’ve had that initial fun of being immersed in a story for a couple of months, the hard work begins—wrestling the thing into the story it wants to be and getting it fit for human consumption. Turns out the writing that initial draft is actually the least time-consuming part of the whole process! Who knew?

I think the best advice I have for new authors is to tell the story you want to tell. Don’t write something you’re not passionate about just because it’s selling because that’s going to show in your writing. Write what’s in your heart because that’s where you’re going to shine.

What attracted you to the sci-fi and fantasy genres? Would you ever consider writing something completely out of your comfort zone and in a completely different genre?

As a child, fairy tales were always my favorite stories, so I think my love affair with fantasy goes all the way back to that. I discovered science fiction in grade school and devoured everything I could get my hands on. What I like about these genres is creating my own world with its own rules really appeals to me (there’s that control thing again!), and if I’m working in my own world, the stories I can tell are limited only by my imagination.

Since my story ideas usually begin with character in conflict, it’s very possible that I’ll do something in a different genre at some point. It probably won’t be soon though—I’ve got ideas for at least two more novels and half a dozen shorts in the Guardians of the Pattern series, and once that’s finished, I have a M/M fantasy series that’s mostly outlined and about half written. After that, though, who knows what will tickle my muse.

Speaking of M/M fantasy series, what’s it like to write M/M as a female? Have you run into any problems or pushback from readers? Did you anticipate any when you decided to publish?

Well, to me it seems pretty natural. I’ve always identified better with males than females, preferred to read about male characters, and preferred to write about male characters. I don’t write women well, because despite being one, I don’t understand them.

The only problem I anticipated when I decided to publish was telling my dad what I was writing. He’s a conservative, old-school, British gentleman, and I figured there would be… issues. In fact, there were not. He told me he was proud of me, and then asked if it would be okay if he didn’t read it. What a guy!

LOL! I’m glad he was so supportive even without reading it. Here’s a more serious question. What is it like to write in the LGBT realm of craziness that we all support? What’s it like to dip the toe into the rainbow through writing and publishing?

I don’t know that writing LGBT stuff is a whole lot different than writing mainstream stuff… we’re all human, after all. Regardless of what we look like on the outside and who we love, we all experience the same array of emotions. As with any kind of writing, if something you want to write about is outside your own realm of experience, you research it. And although I’m married to a wonderful guy right now, gender has never been a barrier for me in relationships, so I’ve got a bit more than just a toe in the rainbow!

And lastly, what is your best memory from the whole writing and publishing process?

Participating in the Love Has No Boundaries event is probably the best memory I’ve got so far. The event was a lot of fun, and I learned an awful lot in very short time. Human Frailties was the first thing I’d ever put out there, and I was really stunned at how many people liked it and wanted to read more about the characters.

QUICKIES!

1. Dog or Cat?  Dog.LGBT Giveaway
2. Favorite color? Black.
3. Favorite junk food? Chocolate. The darker, the better.
4. Favorite musician? Changes on a daily basis.
5. Favorite curse word? Shit. (It has a such a nice ring to it!)
6. Favorite quote? “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” –Anna Quindlen
7. Rolaids or Tums? Tums. Smoothies only, please.
8. Short or Tall? Er, hang on, let me grab a box to stand on…
9. Favorite body part? All the ones I don’t have!
10. Favorite holiday? Winter Solstice

Books

If you’re interested in either Facing the Mirror or Human Frailties, Human Strengths, here are the blurbs and book covers.

Facing the Mirror (A Novella in the Guardians of the Pattern Universe)

FacingTheMirror_200x300Special Agent Cameron Asada has spent four years deep undercover in an attempt to deal a death blow to the Sapphire Guild, the largest drug cartel on Alpha. The things he’s done in the name of his mission weigh heavily on his soul, and Cam is reaching the point where he’s not sure he recognizes the man he sees in the mirror anymore.

Things come to a head when Cam finally gets the break he’s been waiting for: an invitation to work for the boss himself as a psionic interrogator. While working at the boss’s estate, Cam meets Miko, a powerful psion trapped behind a wall of silence. It doesn’t take long for Cam to realize that Miko is a slave, handed around to the boss’s associates as a reward for a job well done.

Miko’s plight tugs at Cam’s heartstrings, forcing Cam to examine just how many lines he’s willing to cross in the name of serving the greater good. Will Cam risk his life and his career to help Miko? Or is the trail of broken minds and bodies he’s left in his wake worth the possibility of victory over the Guild?

Human Frailties, Human Strengths

Ashnavayarian is a god-like entity who lives in the leythe, the fluid confluence of space, time, and energy that permeates the HFHS_200x300_Hiuniverse and binds the worlds together. Ash has always considered the human worlds his playground, and has spent many human lifetimes manipulating the creatures for his own amusement. When his meddling leads to a terrible war, the echoes of which disturb the matrix of the leythe itself, the goddess Jhara sentences him to live as a human in the war-torn world that Ash’s manipulations may yet destroy. There he will stay until he learns compassion for the human creatures he so casually toys with.

But cold, self-centered Ash is far more interested in escape than redemption. Furious at the way he has been trapped, he vows to break his exile by whatever means he can. The only problem is that Jhara has crippled his power over the leythe, leaving him only two choices: bow to her demands or find some other way to raise the power he needs to break his exile.

Tor MacAran has been alone all his life. He’s never belonged and he’s never been able to shake the feeling that something is missing. There’s a darkness in his soul, an emptiness that has haunted him for as long as he can remember. When an encounter with an old woman and an ancient book pulls him through the Void Between Worlds and dumps him at Ash’s feet, Tor thinks he’s found the answer to all his problems. Because not only is Ash the embodiment of every fantasy Tor has ever had, but when the man touches him, the dark empty places inside him are filled with light, and for the first time in his life, Tor feels complete.

But all Ash sees in Tor is the answer to his own problem, for a hidden power slumbering deep within Tor may well be the catalyst Ash requires to effect his escape. But Ash risks far more than Jhara’s wrath in his bid for freedom—for both Tor’s life and the future of the world are endangered by his plans.

Acceptable losses, as far as Ash is concerned.

Or are they?

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Crazy Maths for WIPpet Wednesday! January 15, 2014 | Adrian J Smith

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