Many readers of Jae’s Hollywood Series novels were super excited about the release last month of her latest novel, Just Physical, which stars actress Jill Corrigan, a supporting character in Jae’s previous novel in the series, Damage Control.
This book was a wish come true for the many fans of Damage Control who wrote Jae asking her to tell Jill’s story. In our Spotlight Interview, Jae talks about why she decided to write about a protagonist with multiple sclerosis and about the research she did for the novel, as well as why she likes to write series.
- How would you describe Just Physical? What is it about?
Just Physical is a contemporary romance set in the world of Hollywood. The main character, Jill Corrigan, is an actress who struggles to make it in Hollywood, especially since she has multiple sclerosis, so casting directors have very specific ideas about the roles she can play. When she lands a role in a historical drama set during the great earthquake and fires of 1906, she meets Kristine “Crash” Patterson, the stuntwoman doubling for her. The attraction is immediate, but Jill is determined never to have a relationship again since she doesn’t want to end up a burden to her partner.
- Just Physical is your twelfth novel. How does it compare to your other romances?
It’s different from the others, yet it still has some of the typical elements of a “Jae” romance. One thing that is different is that they don’t get to know each other, fall in love in the process, and then, eventually, make love at the end of the book. Instead, they start out having a strictly sexual fling—or at least that’s what they tell each other and themselves—and then have to figure out if it’s possible for them to have more than that.
What’s similar to my other novels is that at 116,000 words, it’s not a short novel. Readers will spend enough time with both main characters to really get to know them and see them interact and grow together.
- What inspired you to write a novel about a character with multiple sclerosis?
For one thing, my readers. Jill Corrigan was introduced as the best friend of famous actress Grace Durand in my novel Damage Control. I got a lot of e-mails from readers asking me to tell Jill’s story in a novel of her own. So that’s what I did.
Also, I think it’s important to not just have main characters who are perfect—perfect looks, perfect health, perfect everything. That’s just not realistic. I wanted to have a main character who has serious health issues and who struggles with what it means for her job, her friendships, and any potential relationships. Having three-dimensional characters is always important to me—story people who have strengths as well as flaws, may they be psychological or physical.
- How did you come up with the title?
The title has a double meaning. At the beginning of the book, Jill and Crash agree to keep their relationship “just physical,” because that’s all Jill thinks she can have—a strictly sexual fling with no commitment. “Just Physical” also refers to Jill’s neurological disease. Throughout the book, she learns that multiple sclerosis doesn’t define her and that she still has a lot to offer to a partner.
- What prompted you to make Crash, the second main character, a stuntwoman?
I wanted a love interest that is as different from Jill as possible, at least on the surface. As a stuntwoman, Crash leads a very active, physical life. Jill envies her a little because Crash can get her body to do whatever she asks it to do while Jill struggles with numbness, balance problems, and an occasional lack of fine motor skills. But beneath the surface, Crash isn’t the fearless daredevil that Jill expected her to be. She has her own fears and insecurities to overcome.
- What kind of research did you do for Just Physical?
Since I wrote two other books set in the world of movie-making—Damage Control and Departure from the Script—I didn’t have to do much research into that anymore. I did a lot of research into the job of a stuntwoman and how the specific stunts described in the book work. But most of all, I researched multiple sclerosis and how it can affect people. I read a lot of books, some written by physicians and experts, others written by people with MS. I also watched hours of documentaries and video diaries describing everyday life with MS, and I had beta readers suffering from multiple sclerosis who read the manuscript and confirmed that I had portrayed the experience of living with MS in a realistic way.
- How long did it take you to write Just Physical?
From the very first research to the very last proofreading pass, it took about eight months. I spent a total of 222 hours writing the first draft and then almost the same amount of time rewriting and revising after I got feedback from my editor. I practically rewrote the entire novel, cutting and adding entire chapters. It was a lot of work, but in the end, it was worth it, and I ended up with a much stronger novel.
- Many of your books are part of a series. Just Physical is the third book in your Hollywood series, and you also have a shape-shifter series, a romantic suspense series, and a historical romance series. What’s the appeal of writing a series for you?
Series enable me—and my readers—to follow my characters over a longer period of time. That gives me the chance to explore their past and also to show how their relationship develops and how they face problems together, as a couple.
Romance series present a unique problem, though: once the happy couple gets together, the main conflict is resolved and the suspense of the “will they, or won’t they?” is gone. So to keep things interesting, I often introduce different main characters in each book of a series, while the main characters of a previous book make an appearance as supporting characters. For example, Just Physical is the story of Jill, who was introduced in Damage Control, but we also get to see Grace and Lauren from Damage Control and see how life has treated them since the end of their book.
That way, my series are usually series of interconnected books that don’t always have to be read in order. You’ll still be able to read and enjoy Just Physical even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series.
- Are you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next from you?
Right now, I’m doing research for a historical romance titled Shaken to the Core. If you read Just Physical, you will realize that it’s the title of the movie Jill and Crash are shooting—and that’s not a coincidence. The story is set in San Francisco in 1906, during the great earthquake and fires. One of the important characters will be Lucy Sharpe Hamilton, the granddaughter of Luke and Nora from my Oregon series.
The next project after that will probably be a medical romance with a slightly paranormal twist.
- How can your readers stay in touch with you?