Alison Grey: First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Jae: You’re very welcome.
Jae: I’ve been writing now for twenty-three years. I wrote my first story at the age of eleven. I remember I read an adventure novel about a Native American teenager, and I started writing a short story about the main character.
Alison Grey: Why do you write? What does it mean to you?
Jae: You might as well ask me why I’m breathing. Writing is an integral part of my life and something would be missing if I stopped writing. I write for myself first and foremost, but of course I also write for my readers to provide them with a few hours of entertainment.
Alison Grey: What puts you in a bad mood?
Jae: I’m usually very even-tempered, but too much stress and delays of the German railway can put me in a bad mood for a while.
Alison Grey: How long does it take you to write a novel?
Jae: First I usually do a few weeks or even a few months of research and plotting. Then it takes me four to six months to complete the first draft. I then put the manuscript aside for a month before I start revising, including working with beta readers and content editors. That stage takes at least as long as writing the first draft. After that comes the copy-editing and the proofreading. So all in all, I would say it takes about a year to write a longer novel.
Alison Grey: How much time per week do you spend writing?
Jae: I’ll have to give you the typical psychologist’s answer: It depends. [laughs]
In the past I tried to write every day. This year I started keeping track of my writing hours. So far I had a month in which I wrote only five hours and a month when I wrote fifty-one hours. It depends on how much free time I have and on how much beta reading I do.
Alison Grey: I know you’re a sought-after beta reader. You spend many hours helping other writers with their stories. Why?
Jae: It’s my way to give back to the community of writers. When I first started to get more serious about writing and especially when I published my first book, I would have wished for a mentor and beta reader who could help me to improve my writing. I know from personal experience how hard it is to find a beta reader who knows what she is doing. So I’m trying to give the kind of guidance and help that I would have wished for.
Alison Grey: Coffee or tea?
Jae: Tea. I drink coffee only when I add enough milk and sugar so that it stops tasting like coffee.
Alison Grey: When and where do you write the most?
Jae: I can write anytime and anywhere, but the most productive place I found so far is on the train, where I’m not distracted by the phone or the Internet. So I’m lucky that I take the train to work on most days, so that gives me almost two hours of uninterrupted writing time each day.
I heard some writers prefer writing in public places such as cafés, and I want to try that in the future.
Alison Grey: How would you describe yourself?
Jae: I would say I’m a person full of contradictions. On the one hand I like people and I’m close to my family and friends. On the other hand, I’m an introvert and I go crazy if I don’t get enough time for myself. I’m a born diplomat and can easily see different perspectives, but I can also be very stubborn. I’m a very methodical and systematic person, and it shows in my writing too. I’m a list maker, and I have character charts and detailed notes on events in the story.
Alison Grey: How much of yourself is in your characters?
Jae: For the most part I don’t consciously base my characters on myself (or any other people I know), but I think as writers we can’t help putting at least a little of ourselves into our characters.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine, who thinks Luke from Backwards to Oregon is the character that resembles me the most. Like Luke, I grew up without a father, and I had to learn how to rely on other people for emotional support.
The two main characters from my newest novel Something in the Wine both have an interesting mix of my own character traits. Like Drew, I’m easy-going, open, and patient, but I’m also reliable and an information junkie like Annie.
Alison Grey: What do you find the most challenging part of writing?
Jae: The most challenging part is finding the time to write. [laughs]
Most authors hate the revising and editing part of writing. I’m one of very few authors I know who actually loves that part.
One of the most challenging things for me can be fixing plot problems. Sometimes beta readers point out a scene or a turning point that doesn’t work. If the whole plot is built on that event, it can mean scrapping half of the manuscript and starting anew. I think most writers know the feeling—it feels like ripping your heart out.
Sex scenes can also be hard to write, especially if you approach writing in a more cognitive way, as I do.
Alison Grey: What are you reading right now?
Jae: Who has time to read? [Laughs].
Right now, I use my free time to write, but I have Something So Grand by Lynn Galli lying on my bedside table, waiting for me.
Alison Grey: What do you think makes a good romance novel?
Jae: A good romance novel is a book about two likable, three-dimensional characters who are kept apart by a realistic conflict between them. Too often I read romances in which the characters fall in love on page two and the obstacles that keep them from having their happy end are flimsy at best.
Alison Grey: What advice would you give new authors?
Jae: The most important trait to have as an author is patience. As the old saying goes: Writing is rewriting. Get as much feedback as possible from one or two trusted beta readers or editors and then roll up your sleeves and start revising. Always hand in the cleanest manuscript you possibly can.
Also make sure you know the “technical” aspects of writing such as point of view and “show, don’t tell.”
Alison Grey: I’m pretty sure Jae is not your real first name. How did you come up with that pen name?
Jae: Yes, that’s right. Jae is a pen name. Two of the first lesbian romances I read were Silent Legacy by Ciaran Llachlan Leavitt, in which one of the main characters is named Jae, and None So Blind by LJ Maas. I chose my pen name to honor the writers who came before me.
Alison Grey: Does your profession as a psychologist influence your writing?
Jae: Yes, of course. I think my professional experience makes it easier to see how a person’s life experiences and personality traits motivate their behavior and lead to conflicts. I use that professional knowledge to create characters who are initially in conflict with each other, help each other grow, and can find a happy ending together.
Alison Grey: What are you working on right now?
Jae: Right now I’m working on a short story for a Christmas anthology. It’s a mini sequel of my previously published short story “The Christmas Grump.” It shows the characters one year later.
Alison Grey: What future writing projects can we look forward to?
Jae: My new novel, Something in the Wine, will be published within the next few days.
We’re planning on publishing a Christmas anthology and a Valentine’s Day anthology. Both anthologies will have stories from me.
In 2013, I will bring out True Nature, a paranormal romance with a strong action/ adventure subplot. It’s a spin-off to Second Nature, but with new main characters.
Another future project that might happen in 2013 or 2014 is a cooperation with another author. I’ve never co-authored a book, so that might be an interesting experience.
Alison Grey: It was a pleasure talking to you. Again, thank you very much.