Jessica Cale: Music beats writer’s block (WIP interview)

Jessica Cale

I’m quite busy promoting Fate Accompli, and writing Fate Captured, so I have stopped actively seeking out authors for the WIP column. But when I saw the cover of Jessica’s debut novel, I just wanted it on my blog!

Jessica Cale is a journalist and author currently based in North Carolina.  She is the author of Tyburn, her first novel for Liquid Silver Books. Tyburn is a dark historical romance set in Restoration London and is the first book in her new series, The Southwark Saga.

Jessica , welcome to MM Jaye writes. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself? 

I’m originally from Minnesota, but I lived in Wales for seven years and earned a BA in Medieval History and an MFA in Creative Writing at Swansea University. My husband and I both studied history in Swansea and we met when I crashed a beach party there back in 2005. Now we live in North Carolina with our Welsh rescue cats and life is good. I have a full-time day job as well as writing, but it’s for a great non-profit organization and I work with a lot of lovely, supportive people, so I’m very lucky in that respect. I collect tea cups, history books, and I bake macarons on the weekends. I’m always trying to come up with new flavors!

*Ignoring the saliva influx in my mouth*Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.

Lady Jane Ramsey is ruined.

Valiantly rescued from her kidnapping by a gorgeous highwayman, she thanked him as enthusiastically as her imagination allowed, only to find her marriage prospects greatly reduced when she returned home. She doesn’t mind. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

As the daughter of an earl and one of the wealthiest heiresses in England, she is expected to make the best match possible before her reputation is damaged beyond repair. Her father accepts an offer from the repulsive Lord Lewes and expects Jane to comply.

Jane has other plans.

tyburn (2)

Intriguing! And isn’t that cover a study in perfection? Compelling! What are you working on right now?

I am working on the second book in The Southwark Saga, which picks up immediately where Tyburn leaves off. This book follows Lady Jane Ramsey, a supporting character in Tyburn. It’s nice to work on something so close to Tyburn because I’m still so immersed in that world, and I can spend more time with the characters. It’s great to be able to check in on Nick and Sally, too.

I know exactly what you mean. The best part about writing a series is that you can interact with all the characters you’ve nurtured in every book. Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

I’d like more time to write. I work full-time, but I start unbelievably early in the morning (you don’t want to know) so I have more time to write when I get home. I usually work on writing, editing, research, or promotional things until I have to go to sleep for the next day. I don’t get time off, and I don’t get a lot of sleep. It’s still worth it, and my husband and friends are very supportive. On a good writing day, I’m happy with anything over 1,000 words. On my best writing day, I made it to 9,000. That was a long day. I ended after midnight and went downstairs to find my husband and friends having a party. I hadn’t even noticed it was going on. I was still pretty energized, so I made everyone crepes!

IMG_20140309_003955

And we have the picture to prove it! Plotter, pantser or both?

I plot the absolute heck out of everything. I have a notebook for ideas, and about a thousand post-its stuffed into it from when I thought of something away from the house! It’s difficult to plot on demand, though, so the books evolve slowly over time in pieces. They usually start with a scene or two, and I try to fill in everything else from there.

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Time and work. I get so into it that I don’t want to stop, but of course I have to. The ideas keep coming, though, and that’s where the Post-Its come in…

Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself? 

Definitely. When I was doing more journalism in the UK, I went for a few years without writing any fiction, just because I didn’t have time between the journalism and working in the day. I was doing mostly music journalism then, so I’d work all day and then have shows to review at night. It was crazy. I didn’t want to give it up, but it was either that or fiction, and fiction is what I’ve always wanted to do. It was a little tricky getting back into fiction after the break, but music helped. Music continues to be a great way to beat writer’s block for me. When I’m thinking of ideas for a book, I imagine the whole thing in vivid scenes like watching a movie, I cast the characters, and the songs are the soundtrack. it’s not the lyrics themselves, but the mood. There’s something about music that taps into that creative part of my brain and makes everything work a little bit better. If I’m really having trouble or a project just isn’t working, I’ll write something completely different, like horror or satire, just to switch things up a bit. That usually works, too.

That usually does the trick, yes. Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

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One of your Welsh rescues I presume? Now your workspace pic is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Pinterest Board. Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?

I actually really like using Pinterest as a sort of idea board. I have secret boards of photos and pieces of research for future stories, plus fun public boards for possible characters, locations, and costumes to help readers to picture the Restoration world. This is a work in progress, but it’s a lot of fun. I also use Google Sheets to organize my characters, chronology, research, and outside commitments and obligations. I color code everything, because things are less intimidating when they’re in pastel.

Google Sheets as an organizing tool is definitely something I’ll have to look into. How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

I probably won’t. By the time I finished Tyburn, I was already halfway through Jane’s book (the result of a lot creative exercises to beat writer’s block — they are worth doing!), and then I was worried about editing and pitching it right away. I edit everything I write several times before I’ll show it to anyone, so I never really feel like I’m done. I did celebrate signing the contract by going out to dinner with my husband, his parents, and our friends, and that was great. There’s just so much to do and it’s such a continuous cycle of work that it’s hard to pick one time to stop and celebrate anything. I’m usually too busy! The first draft of Jane’s book is done, but now I’m working on rewrites. Maybe I’ll celebrate when that one gets published!

Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?

I’m very lucky to have a fantastic publisher and they help so much with the editing, layout, cover, and marketing. Apart from that, I undertake a huge proportion of the promotional duties myself. I’m doing the line edits and layout for the print version myself, and if I could physically print and assemble the books myself, I probably would. I would be a lot happier if I outsourced more, but I come from a very DIY background (I published an independent zine for ten years), so I tend to just do things myself if I know how, and if I don’t, I figure it out. I would get a lot more sleep if I could learn to outsource!

Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?

I’m very new to the whole marketing side of things, so I’m still learning. From my very limited experience, I would recommend befriending other authors (of any genre/subgenre) and learning from them as much as you can. Be nice to each other — you’re all in the same boat! — and thank people for their time and help. Be grateful, and be mindful of others: when someone helps you, return the favor. Also, be on the lookout for new opportunities. The Marketing For Romance Writers Yahoo group is a fantastic source of continuous opportunities for networking and promotion. I would definitely recommend checking it out.

I’ll second that. MFRW has taught me so much in such a little time. That’s how we got in touch! Is dark fantasy the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

Tyburn is very dark, but Jane’s story has a completely different tone — it’s almost a comedy! The third one will have more of a mystery element to it, but the whole series will still be historical romance. Someday I’d like to branch out to try some other things, but for now, I’m very much rooted in the seventeenth century.

Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.

  • Flavored sorbet or chocolate ice cream? Chocolate ice cream! My favorite is So Delicious chocolate ice cream made with soy milk.
  • Pizza or sushi? Pizza with anchovies, olives, and capers. Yum!
  • Twilight or The Hunger Games? The Hunger Games.
  • Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumberbatch? Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Trek in the Andes or snorkeling in Tahiti? Trek in the Andes. I love a great view.
  • Ugg boots or red-soled designer stilettos? I have a pair of black Converse ballet flats I wear everywhere. They go with anything! (I’ll have to Google these!)
  • Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? Wuthering Heights
  • London or Paris? London
  • Beatles or the Rolling Stones? The Rolling Stones!

Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.

My website is http://www.authorjessicacale.com

You can find Tyburn as http://www.lsbooks.com and http://www.amazon.com/Tyburn-Southwark-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00PQV6H9Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416519139&sr=1-1&keywords=tyburn+jessica+cale

You can also find me here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjessicacale

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaCale @JessicaCale

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JessicaCaleWrites

Tumblr: http://authorjessicacale.tumblr.com/

Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/rainbowcarnage

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cale/e/B00PVDV9EW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Thank you, Jessica, and best of luck with your future projects!

_________________

Fate Accompli is now out on Amazon in two heat versions. The links below will take you directly to your Amazon store.

Fait Accompli - Spicy version

Fate Accompli Spicy: getBook.at/FateSpicy

Fate Accompli Clean: getBook.at/FateClean

If you’d like to read the first chapters of Fate Accompli, they’re available on Wattpad. (3,000 views and counting…)

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