Welcome to the three hundred and seventy-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author and romance novelist Jackie (J.M.) Anton. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jackie. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jackie: Thank you for this interview opportunity. My writing began as a civics assignment in junior high, what is now called middle school. That was one of the most frightening events in my life. Shaking like a leaf in a windstorm, I gripped the lectern to keep from falling over. Following that trauma, my writing became a very private past time for many years. Ohio has been my home for most of my life.
Morgen: I’m pleased your nerves didn’t put you off when it could easily have done. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Jackie: Most of my works that will be published are family-friendly chapter books. The Backyard Horse Tales series was intended for readers ages 8 to 12. However, after meeting adult fans ranging in age to 93 at a recent book-signing event, I now promote the series as reading level 8 to adult. A change of pace and genre are the adult romance novels.
Morgen: Both very popular genres. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Jackie: Backyard Horse Tales / Sox 2nd edition was released March 2012. Sox’s story like the entire series is narrated from the horse’s point of view. The first four chapters of the third book in the series was published on Feb.6, 2012 in response to fans asking for Love’s tale. “Don’t Call Me Love” can be purchased or sampled at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jackieanton. I do write the adult novels under the pen name J.M. Anton.
Morgen: I love it when fans ask for things (like asking for short stories to keep going). 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jackie: I guess anyone who writes has had rejections. My first one was in 2005. It was the catalyst for my returning to college, after a nearly thirty-year absence, to bone up on English composition and creative writing classes.
Morgen: That’s dedication for you. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Jackie: Not yet, but my editor has urged me to enter several. Sox’s tale has been gathering some great early reviews, so I think that I will enter a few this year.
Morgen: Oh great, do let me know how you get on – we can put an update at the end. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jackie: No I don’t have one, though I have interviewed several. Agents are probably very useful for approaching traditional publishers.
Morgen: I would say so but it’s more difficult to get an agent than a publisher, certainly in the UK, so a lot of people are going their own way, like eBooking. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jackie: I think in today’s market you have to have an e-book offering as well as a print version your books. I purchased my first e-reading device last November, mostly to see what books looked like in that medium. I have read and reviewed several e-books, but I love the feel of a real book. I am much more comfortable with the good old page-turners, and it is much easier to turn back a page or even to a previous chapter with physical books.
Morgen: Most people have said that. Only a handful have said they prefer an ereader or would never try eBooks. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jackie: I market as much as possible, and still continue to write.
Morgen: A balancing act, I’m sure. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jackie: Sox tale would probably make a wonderful animated film.
Morgen: I can just imagine the horse on your cover coming to life. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Jackie: Yes I do have the final say in both the title and the covers. That is the biggest drawback to traditional publishing, not having a say in what happens to your work.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jackie: The 2011 NaNoWriMo winning entry, “The Universal Search for Mr. Right ” is in final edit. It will be an e-book in late April, and print by July of 2012.
Expect “Backyard Horse Tale 2 Frosty and the Nightstalker” in the fall, and the completed version of “Don’t Call Me Love” in time for the Christmas season. Excerpts of my pending works as well as release dates may be found on my blog http://jackieanton.com.
Morgen: You certainly sound very busy. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jackie: I try to write a minimum of 500 words a day. If I hit a snag on something, I just work on one of my other projects, edit, or go ride my horse and forget about it for a while.
Morgen: Good plan. I’d only just realised recently that 300 words a day is a 100,000 word novel which is astounding when you come to think of it. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jackie: A little of both, I guess. When I get an idea I jot it down then develop the characters. I may work out the plot and a time line ahead or during my edit and revision process while I am developing the story. It really depends on the storyline and genre.
Morgen: You mention characters, do you have a method for creating your characters?
Jackie: Most of my characters are based on composites of family, friends, strange experiences and events.
Morgen: So they’d have to be nice to you. 🙂 Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Jackie: Horse club newsletters, coming events fall under non-fiction. There are a few short stories waiting to see the light of day.
Morgen: I love short stories and I think it’s great practice to write different lengths; it makes you think about de-waffling novels (as I’ve had to do). I can better tell where I’m going wrong these days so I can chop before I start going off somewhere where I know is only going to be chopped later. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jackie: The more writing I do the less revision and self-editing is required, before sending the work off to an editor.
Morgen: Exactly. It’s just practice, isn’t it. Do you have to do much research?
Jackie: I do a lot of research. Works with historical content take considerably more time than modern time lines that I either have personal experience with, or can research quickly online.
Morgen: Aren’t we lucky, being writers today with all this information to hand. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Jackie: I use first person for Backyard Horse Tales, but mostly third person on other works.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jackie: Notebooks full of them!
Morgen: Oh dear. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jackie: It is fun developing stories, and seeing characters develop. Time away from family and friends has to be the downside to my writing endeavour.
Morgen: It’s the same for me; the creating is definitely the best bit. Time, though not from family and friends (because the latter are mostly writers too) is definitely my bugbear. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jackie: Keep at it.
Morgen: Absolutely, a successful writer is one who didn’t give up. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jackie: My husband and I ride our horses on most days. I still draw and paint some, work in the vegetable or flower garden. Visit with our grandchildren.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Jackie: One of the most helpful links for aspiring authors is http://www.livewritethrive.com. I’ve subscribed to this site and find it very helpful in keeping me focused.
Morgen: I don’t know that one, thank you. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jackie: I have spent a lot of time on getting acquainted with the LibraryThing, and recently participated in their review give away in exchange for member readers reviews. It was well worth doing.
http://www.librarything.com/profile/BackyardHorse My facebook page has been very helpful in reaching other equine enthusiasts. http://www.facebook.com/jackie.anton2 Linkedin writing, and equine groups have been very helpful. I love the National Novel Writing Month group, and the New Authors Need Marketing Ideas group. The list of groups is available at this link.
Morgen: LibraryThing is another new one to me. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jackie: That is a tough question. I think e-books are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. However, my grandchildren ages 10 and 12 still read books, they put them on their birthday and Christmas lists every year. They have even purchased books at the local bookstore using their own money! When they visited us at Thanksgiving, after traveling two days from Houston, Texas, they arrived with iPads! There wasn’t enough space in the family vehicle for the number of books that were crammed into that e-reader.
Morgen: That’s why I love them both, knowing I have hundreds of books if I go anywhere, and now I have a Kindle Touch it reads it to me (whilst I’m checking emails). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Jackie: Backyard Horse Tales / Sox 2nd edition can be purchased from the book website www.backyardhorsetales.com or from amazon.com, and other online retailers.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Jackie: Sox’s second edition will officially kick off at a well-attended local event. I will be signing books, and participating in door prizes at the Annual Valley Tack Shop Midnight Sale, in Valley City, Ohio, and will be my second year participating in this event. I’ll update you on the results, and other scheduled events still in the planning stages.
Morgen: Oh yes, please do. Thank you, Jackie.
I then invited Jackie to include an excerpt of her writing and this is from Frosty and the Nightstalker…
One more night would be spent in these mountains before we could return to our home in the lush Wallowa Valley. Nights were already cold up here, and we had tracked through an early snowfall during the day’s hunt. Back at our camp we added several mountain sheep to our hunter’s growing tally. Travois and pack animals would be overloaded with dear, elk, a couple of moose, and a brown bear that decided to help himself to a deer that was hung from a tree to drain. Like us the bear was preparing for a long winter. Eating as much as he could before hibernating, he had the misfortune to try stealing the hunter’s deer. Now, instead of hibernating in a cave that brown bear would help fill the larder of the Nimi’ipuu. Nimi’ipuu is the people’s name for themselves. In English they are called the Nez Perce. Most of the people live in small bands that are usually extended family units. Our band lives near the Snake River.
Guards were assigned to keep watch over us, and protect our precious winter stores. Old or injured predators unable to catch their own game sometimes would try to sneak up close to camp looking for the right opportunity. Mountain lions, bears, and, occasionally, wolves would follow the hunting parties.
An accomplished equestrian, with a life time of experience: as trainer, exhibitor, 4-H and youth club coach, as well as a horse show judge, the author brings many years of experience working with horses and young riders to her “Backyard Horse Tales.” Sox the second edition expands the story of the mutual love between Sox and Emma. You will love the new ending just make sure you have a box of tissues handy.
Update May 2012: Since I interviewed Jackie she emailed me with this update… “Backyard Horse Tales: Sox 2nd Edition” is entered in two award competitions. Finalists will be listed July 1, and winners announced September 1. This week Readers Favorite Awards & Reviews sent me two five star reviews for Sox’s Tale. I’ve also been given a five star review from my blog host of May 15th and her eight year old daughter. She is the youngest reader to participate in a review to date. For the run of this tour which ends May 23rd, the first five people who buy Sox 2nd edition will get a free copy of BYHT 2 “Frosty and the Nightstalker” when it is available this fall. Print purchasers will be mailed a print copy. E-book purchases will receive a free e-book of BYHT 2. My e-mail address and other contacts ore listed on the book’s web site www.backyardhorsetales.com where your followers can purchase the print version. Amazon, B&N, and Apple are a few of the sites that have the e-book.
Update November 2012: In June “Backyard Horse Tales: Sox 2nd Edition” was awarded the Mom’s Choice Award of Excellence for Family-Friendly Media.
I did a three day event at a yearend championship show where I sold additional copies of Sox’s tale and signed books that folks had already purchased.
That event was also the kick off for my print version of “Fateful Waters.”
Fateful Waters is the published title for the NaNoWriMo winning novel that was then titled “The Universal Search for Mr. Right”. This Adult Romance which is available as and e-book as well as in print.
October also saw the release of “Backyard Horse Tales 2: Frosty and the Nightstalker” as an e-book. The projected release date for the fully illustrated print book is March of 2013.
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