Good morning, everyone. Today it’s my pleasure to have as my guest Joleene Naylor, Vampire Mistress of the Night. For those of you not familiar with Joleene she’s normally going to bed about the time most of us rise. We expect any day to find she’s stepped out into the sunshine only to go up in smoke.
LP: Good morning, Joleene. Thank you for being here with us today.
JN: Thank you for having me, Linda.
LP: Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live now, and where you grew up?
JN: I live in southern Missouri with my hubby and my zoo of pets, though I grew up in good ol’ rural South West Iowa. When I say rural, I mean rural. Our school was made up of five towns and the average class size was still 12.
LP: That sounds pretty rural to me. I grew up on the farm, but we weren’t quite that small. Do you feel that the environment you were raised in has any effect on your choice of genre?
JN: I don’t know if it influences my genre choices, but I know that it’s had a big influence on my settings. There’s nothing creepier, to me, than a dark cornfield at night, or a snowy, windswept field out in the middle of nowhere. There is a silence in a rural winter that can be so thick it’s suffocating. So, I use those for scenes in my vampire novels a lot.
LP: Makes me shiver just to think about it. First thing that comes to mind is Children of The Corn. When and why did you begin writing?
JN: I used to write “books” – complete with illustrations – when I was a kid. My brother and I did it as a game. I wrote my first novel at 12, though I threw it away because it had an attempt at sex in it *gasp* I’m sure it was terrible, but I still regret that every now and then.
LP: Wow, that truly would be a treasure. So, what inspired your first book?
JN: I’m going to answer this about the first book I typed rather than wrote in notebooks. That was Wednesday’s Child, which I have no intention of publishing seriously. It’s a gritty, miserable story about a girl who runs away from home with a hot guy and gets caught up in drugs and gangs and such. I wrote it when I was 17 and it was based off of people I knew at the time and was mainly a therapeutic thing for me because of a lot of stuff going on. Some of the events in the story are real stuff that I just rearranged a little. It’s on my MySpace as a free read, but it’s pretty different from the stuff I write now.
LP: Just hearing the a little about the story explains the title – Wednesday’s Child. So how do you come up with your titles?
JN: Randomly. I thought of Shades of Gray when I was working on a query pitch because I had a cool sentence to end the pitch with about how nothing was black and white, and it just worked well with it. For Legacy of Ghosts I wrote down a list of “good words” and weeded through it. Ties of Blood, which I am writing now, my hubby named. What took me the longest to find was the series title. It went through a lot of different ones before I found Amaranthine on thesaurus.com under the entry for eternal.
LP: Is there a specific message in your novels that you’d like the reader to grasp?
JN: I sneak in opinions here and there, like in Ties of Blood Jorick comments on the ridiculous amounts of trash we generate. If there was an overall theme, though, I guess it would be that everything is relative. In Shades of Gray Claudius is the bad guy because the story is from Katelina’s point of view and he’s hunting her and Jorick. But, if you flip that and tell the story from Claudius’s point of view, Jorick helped kidnap his mate, so now who’s the bad guy? In the end no one is really completely good or bad.
LP: Wow, Joleene, I love that concept. And having watched many vampire movies in my life I have an affinity for many of them that I’ve never understood until now. Many people have asked about some of the darkness of my writing. I realized a long time ago that we all have a light and dark side. It doesn’t make us good or bad–the actions we take make us good or bad. So, how much of your book is realistic or based on real life issues?
JN: It might sound stupid since I prefer speculative fiction genres, but realism is important to me. I hate books where the characters react unrealistically. Like where the girl meets a vampire and automatically accepts it. No one would do that. They’d think the vampire was lying. Anyone can get pointy teeth, after all. Or stories where the human automatically turns into a vampire fighting machine. It would take you a long time to do that. There are no instant transformations. So that kind of thing is really important to me.
LP: Oddly enough I love Blade and I think I’ve pretty much seen every one of his movies. A little gory, and more blood than I like, but the underlying story has always fascinated me. So basically you’ve been writing since you were twelve. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
JN: It’s been off and on over the years because I bounce back and forth between visual art and writing. My junior year of high school was when I really started considering that I could have a career in it someday, though, thanks to this wonderful teacher I had, Karen Smith. She would write on my papers, “I hope to read a book by you one day!”. She was so sweet.
LP: One of the things I love about being an Indie, and that I’ve seen in other Indie authors is the diverse and unique writing styles. Do you have a specific writing style?
JN: I think I’m pretty recognizable. Everyone rolls their eyes a lot, for one thing *hee-hee*. I have to go back and take all the eye rolls out because I get carried away with them. I also use a lot of fragments and some bizarre paragraphs, sometimes.
LP: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
JN: This is a toughie. While I believe in the value of learning the craft from others, I don’t think it really “sticks” until you discover things for yourself. Just because you’ve been taught do’s and don’ts doesn’t mean you really understand WHY you should or shouldn’t do something. You have to have that epiphany moment where you go “Oh! I get it now!” Then, you remember it and it’s much easier to apply.
LP: What book are you reading now?
JN: just finished Substitute Bride by Kate Page and have started The Gift of Joy by Valerie Maarten. I recommend both, highly!
LP: Valerie is on my TBR list, as are many other Indie’s I’ve had the pleasure to discover lately. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
JN: Tons. Linda Prather, Edie Ramer, Jodi Langston, Elizabeth Reyes, Samantha Fury, K.A. Jordan, TE Dora, Bob Fray, LC Cooper, Darcee Tana, McCarty Griffin, Lowell Forte, Sam Havens, Jonathan Harvey (aka Jissilly) – I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there and just say that between author networking and doing book covers and formatting for other authors I have found a lot of good books! I just need the time to read them all!
LP: “Ha, ha” (whisper–we won’t tell them how much I paid you to put my name first there). Another great thing I’ve found about being an Indie is the total freedom to redo what I’ve done–especially if I can make it better. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?
JN: I would always tweak sentences forever if given the option, but as far as really making changes, no. Thanks to my fantastic editor I think that book was about all it could be without being too long. Like any first book in a series, it had to do a lot of setting up.
LP: Are you currently working on a new book, and if so, can you share some of it with us?’
JN: I’m currently working on Ties of Blood, the third book in the Amarathine series. The second book was really about cementing Katelina and Jorick’s relationship and establishing how they relate to one another in it. So, now that that’s done she comes up with the crazy idea of taking him to meet her mother. Of course, things can’t ever be simple and there’s some unexpected aftermath from the book before. The thing I’m most excited about, though, is the introduction of a new character named Verchiel. Jorick is very grim and sarcastic in a kind of dry, negative way, and Verchiel is the polar opposite of that. He’s really cheerful and flip and funny. I don’t know which one of them I like better.
LP: As a reader I found myself captivated by certain characters I’d read. As a writer I sometimes find myself controlled by the characters I’m writing. What is the most challenging part of writing your current work in progress?
JN: The rough draft of the book was actually written a couple years ago. But, between changing major plot points in the first two books and the fact that I’ve gotten a lot better, it’s a line by line rewrite. It’s a lot harder to try to rephrase things in given parameters than it is to just write with no limitations of where someone has to end up, or what they have to be doing on the next page or paragraph.
LP: Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
JN: VC Andrews (the real one, not the replacement(s) ). It’s because she had such a striking contrast between things. One that sticks out is in My Sweet Audrina . In the bedroom that belonged to the first Audrina are teddy bears on shelves and, though they should be cute and cuddly, they’re creepy, instead. Even the characters playing in the sunlight on a warm summer day turns spooky. The whole book has this bizarre, creepy undertone to it that I wish I could duplicate.
LP: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
JN: Nope. I’m a happy hermit.
LP: Do you design your own covers?
JN: Yes and I do the artwork for them, too. Though sometimes I wish I hadn’t locked myself into the style I have because I want to make some really cool, creepy vampire covers, but no one seems to hire me for any! Really, I like the covers I have, though they get mixed reviews because they’re a little different. But, that was my goal, so it worked, I guess.
LP: I love different. And truthfully, for me at least, I’ll pick up a book with a different cover just to check it out. So, what was the hardest part of writing your book?
JN: Lately it’s been finding time. But that’s Karma because I wrote the first draft of Ties of Blood and Sins of the Father (book 4) in a month and so I got a bit swelled head with “See? I can write TWO books in thirty days! Ha! Take that!” so now I have so much other stuff to do that I never have the time for it.
LP: I always find that somewhere in the work I’m doing I learn something. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
JN: Besides that I roll my eyes a lot? (lol!) I had to look a lot of stuff up for aspects of some of the vampire’s history. I did a lot of research on Lilith, which will pay off in the future, and I spent one entire night researching Japanese swords. Some other interesting facts: there were indeed postmarks in the 1800’s, Linoleum was around in the early 1900’s, but it was very expensive (it was on the Titanic, in fact!), the first metal moveable type printing press was Korean, and the Netherlands didn’t have surnames until very late in the game, and many of the people didn’t want them, so they made up ridiculous stuff, which people are still stuck with to this day.
LP: Do you have any advice for other writers?
JN: Everything is relative, and that includes writing. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Just because someone doesn’t like your book, does not make it worthless. This idea that a book “should not be published” because an agent or a house rejected it bugs me. Just because they don’t like it – or because it doesn’t fit current marketing trends – doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. The point of writing, or creating anything, is to share it, and if you’re not sharing it then why are you creating it in the first place? That said, please, please, please edit your work! Check it for typos and grammar. If we all put out that extra effort, maybe we can get rid of that self publishing stigma together!
LP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
JN: Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and read my meanderings. Without readers a book is useless, so I appreciate anyone who drops into my little world for a visit.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, from our own Vampire Mistress of The Night (that’s my name for Joleene). The next time you’re travelling through a rural area and pass a cornfield let your imagination run wild–and your foot push down that gas pedal. Check out a sample, or buy now.