Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Jessica Coulter Smith

Welcome to another edition of Writers' Wednesday! Remember, every comment on an author feature this month enters you into a drawing to win a great prize: a collection of books from some fabulous authors. So chime in and give Jessica Coulter Smith a warm welcome today!

Jessica, when did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I began writing in high school. I had an amazing English teacher, Mrs. Robinette, who asked us to write a short story. It could be about anything we wanted. I hate to admit that I don't remember what I wrote about, but I've been writing ever since. In the mid-1990's I had 3 poems published, then in the early 2000's I had another 2 poems published (all in anthologies). Whispering Lake, my new release, is the first novel I've completed. Somewhere in my many boxes there is a floppy disk (showing my age!) that has a teen story saved on it. I began that story in eleventh grade and have never finished it. I keep telling myself I'm going to unearth it one of these days, but that day hasn't arrived just yet.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

Whispering Lake was picked up by Hearts on Fire Books and published first as an e-book in August 2008 and later as a large paperback in November 2008. It's about a young woman with a special gift who's had a bit of trouble in the romance department. She ends up being torn between a ghost and a guy she thinks is your "average" guy. What she doesn't know is that her "average" guy is really a werewolf. I won't spoil the story and tell you who she chooses!
Currently, I'm writing a werewolf series called the Ashton Grove Werewolves. The first book, Moonlight Protector, is almost finished. It should be released in early 2009, with 5 other books to follow.

5 other books - wow! What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Don't give up! If you have any doubts or concerns over the story you have written, read it over - read it over a hundred times if you need to, but in the end you're going to have to send it out. If you don't submit because "you just aren't ready" or you "can't handle a rejection letter," then take a breath and hit send anyways. You're going to get a rejection letter - or a hundred. I won't lie, no matter how prepared you think you are, you're still going to be bummed when you receive it. However, if you're lucky, they may have something constructive to say. Most don't ... either way, you will eventually receive an acceptance or you'll go back and look over your story one more time and maybe tweak a few things. In the end, it will be worth every single rejection when you finally find your publishing home.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I like to read romances mostly, but I also enjoy a good horror or mystery book every now and then. Some of my favorite authors are Charlaine Harris, Katie MacAlister, Terri Garey, Angie Fox, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Saul (in no particular order).

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes I do! Depending on how bad the "block" is, I either sit down and start writing nonsense until something actually comes out that's useful, or I will re-read what I've already written. Sometimes a bit of editing goes a long way! Even changing the structure of a few sentences will sometimes help me start writing again. Or by reading what I've accomplished so far I may be inspired to write another chapter or two. If all else fails, I take a week off to read and relax my brain and then I get back to it and work twice as hard as I did before.

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I actually don't use just one method. I predominantly compose my books on my laptop, but I also keep a black steno book with me at all times. If I last wrote something on the laptop, then I'll pull out the steno book and jot down the last few lines in case inspiration strikes when I'm away from the computer. I don't have a particular space in which I write though. Most of the time you'll find me on the couch with the TV on as background noise, but occasionally I'll feel like avoiding human contact all together and I'll grab the laptop and head to the bedroom.

You've shared some great insights with blog readers here today. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

I would just like to say that finding the right publisher is paramount! Decide what you want to get out of the experience and then start your search. I had a list of probably fifteen publishers (or more) and whittled it down to about five or six after doing a little research on each. I actually decided to go with Hearts on Fire Books because they were small and fairly new. I knew that I would get more one on one attention from them than I would a larger company with hundreds, possibly thousands, of other authors.

E-book verses paperback is another consideration. I was lucky enough that my publisher did both. Just because you're offered a contract, doesn't mean you have to sign it (no matter how exciting it may be!). Make sure that your needs are being met by the publisher before signing anything. If it doesn't feel right, then either take some time to think about it or move on to the next place on your list.

Readers, want to know more about Jessica and her works? You can visit her website right here.


Sarita Leone said...

Great interview. Interesting to hear how you chose your publisher. The series sounds intriguing.

Diane Craver said...

Hi Jessica,
Great interview!

I like what you said about reading the contract before signing it. Good advice. I turned down one because decided it wasn't the right publisher for my book.

Jessi said...

Thank you for having me Allie!

And thank you to Sarita and Diane for the comments. :)

I just wanted to add that Moonlight Protector, the first book of the Ashton Grove Werewolves, is now available in trade paperback and e-book.

Mary Ricksen said...

Great advise to new writers. Never sign anything without reading it.
Now unless the ghost can materialize, (which might affect my decision), I'd go with the wolf, it might be a lot of fun when he bit me and then we went racing through the woods.
Now I'll have to read it to find out!