Welcome, Jessica West.
Thanks for having me.
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born and have lived in Louisiana my whole life. I’ve always lived in small towns, living first in West Feliciana Parish, then in Avoyelles Parish, and now I live in Evangeline Parish. Regardless of the fact that Louisiana is a small state, each time I moved to a different parish, the people of that parish had never heard of the town I used to live in. Louisiana has a lot of really small towns like that, though, towns that hardly anybody outside a 20-mile radius have ever heard of. The town I live in is, technically, a village.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. My writing. Hmmm… Might be easier for me to tell you what I don’t write. 😉 My favorite genres are Fantasy and Horror, but I like a little romance/erotica thrown in anywhere. I tend to write viscerally, regardless of genre. I like bold splashes of color in my stories, and stark, high-contrast settings. If I were to make a movie, I imagine it would look something like Sin City or maybe even something by Tim Burton. Wow, I got a little sidetracked there. I tend to think my work is much darker than it really is. I’m stretching my wings, though, and really pushing the envelope with a series I’m co-writing with an incredibly talented and daring author buddy. So, lately, my writing has been adventurous. Yeah, let’s go with adventurous. 😉
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere! Seriously, sometimes an idea will come to me while I’m driving or in the shower. Many of the structural techniques I use I’ve learned from having Disney or Monster High films on in the background pretty much all day. My excuse is that I have a young daughter who loves to watch them, but honestly she doesn’t watch them all that much. I need the background noise, though. I’ve recently tried writing while listening to music, and according to the feedback I got, it turned out well. I don’t know if the music was my inspiration in that case, but sometimes a song will put me in a certain kind of mood and I’ll write something because of that. I’ve written to many photo and/or theme prompts. I’m a big fan of flash fiction and other short forms, so I pay attention to various blog contests out there. I don’t always participate, but sometimes I’ll find inspiration there as well.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? My own favorite character or a fictional character created by someone else? For my own, I’d have to say one of my newest characters in A Strange Alliance (available February 19, 2015). His name is Hastiin. He smells really good. No, really. He does. If it’s someone else’s character … this one’s harder to answer. I’ve been reading mostly indie books from authors who I’m acquainted with, so those are the characters stuck in my head at the moment. I tend to like characters who do what they feel is right, regardless of what anyone else would think of them or what’s strictly legal.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Again, if we’re talking about my characters, I’d still go with Hastiin. He’s so cocky. As I wrote Alliance, he evolved, so I didn’t have a strict handle on him from the beginning. I did have a pretty good idea how things were gonna go. Even so, I didn’t realize what a dick he was until about half-way through.
Are your characters based on real people? No. Each of my characters come with the territory, so to speak. I visualize my mind as being similar to a doctor’s office. A very crowded, slowly clearing doctor’s office. One that gets more new patients in daily than they clear out. But I can only work on so many stories at one time, so everyone else has to wait. Some of them come in pairs, some bring the whole family and all their friends along with them. And, of course, I have to interview the antagonist of each story, too. I’m sure my life experiences and all the people I’ve known influence how my characters are drawn, but I don’t base characters on people I know. I will sometimes get a picture of a celebrity as I’m writing so I remember what a character looks like. Helps for consistency. 🙂
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Ha! No, I haven’t, but I can’t wait until the day comes when someone pisses me off so badly I can turn around and tell them, “I’m going to eviscerate you in fiction!” Just to see the look on their faces. I probably still wouldn’t do it, cuz ain’t nobody got time for no lawsuit.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Most of the time there’s a great deal of research behind everything I write. The internet is my best friend. I find that I have to save it for after writing the first draft and fill in the blanks, or I have to do the research first and then write. I can’t do both, I’d never get anything done.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. I don’t like forced messages. It’s like reading a novel that could have been a novelette. If you have to bend your character’s story to suit your own purposes then you’re not telling the story true. Tell the story. That’s it. I don’t feel that every book has to have a message, no.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Great characters. The rest can be fixed with editing. You can not fix a character a reader simply can not relate to. Having said that, you can get to know that character with design documents that don’t go into the book, but not everyone is willing to devote that much time to a character. If I don’t have a good handle on a character, I don’t write them. I have to have a good (if not totally complete) understanding of them before I can even begin to listen to them. If I can’t hear their voice clearly, I’ll struggle to transcribe their story accurately. And the whole thing will fall flat because I won’t understand the why, the force that drives the character and the story. It’s not like that for everyone, but for me personally, the character makes or breaks the story. Everything else can be worked in in layers, if need be.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? I currently only have short form works in ebook format. What started out as a single novelette, however, is now turning into something bigger. Red River Rangers was the first of my weird west tales, and A Strange Alliance is the second. I see another one on the horizon, but it isn’t in clear focus just yet. Another new character introduced in Alliance has my interest, though, and I don’t imagine I’ll be able to put her off much longer. She’s strong, someone I want to get to know. And there’s only one way for me to do that. When we’re both ready, I’ll write her story next. When I do, I’ll make all three books available for print together. Since they’re short, I can’t see charging the price of a paperback for each one. But all three together would be worth the cost, in my opinion. I’ll probably release the single and the paperback at the same time, in May. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, that is.
Can you tell us a silly fact about yourself? I like socks. Like, a lot. Fluffy, brightly-colored, patterned socks. And my birthday is February 21st. 😉
Where do you think the lines are drawn between romance, erotica and porn? I think Romance can have erotic elements, but doesn’t necessarily have to include them. Erotica is expected to be steamy, it just all depends on how far you want to go. The difference between Erotica and Porn is, in my opinion, how much effort is put into the story. In Erotica, the author turns up the heat but still makes the characters work for that climax. In porn, you’re there for the good stuff. Period. And in Erotica, you may or may not get overly detailed with the physical descriptions but in Porn, I would think that’s pretty much expected. When I write this type of story, I toe the line between erotica and porn. That’s indicative of my style, though. I tend to rush, to layout stories at a fast pace, no matter what type of action is going on. If my character is trying to save the world, I rush to find the solution to the problem so they can get it done already. If my character is trying to get a piece of ass, well, same thing.
Thanks again for having me today.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Jessica West is a Freelance Writer and Editor, an Independent Author, and Editor-in-Chief at Prose Before Ho Hos, an irreverent humor blog. She maintains a writing blog and her personal site as well.
Jess lives in Central Louisiana with three daughters still young enough to think she’s cool and a husband who knows better but likes her anyway.
She leaves a trail of blood or pixie dust in her wake, but such is the life of a Horror and Fantasy Writer. Though she prefers those genres, Romance and Erotica are her guilty pleasures. Many authors – including Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Goodkind, and Ayn Rand – have contributed to the delinquency of this intermediate writer, and now she’s just whistling her own version of Dixie.
Contact: jpwest6 at gmail dot com