Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author JM Powers. 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, JM. Please tell us something about yourself.
JM: Hi there! Though not my intention when I picked a pen name, everyone calls me JM. At first I found it weird, but it’s grown on me. (Call me Jeannie if you want to use my real name.) I’m based in Upstate New York near Niagara Falls, USA. Might I add I live on an island? Cool, huh?
Morgen: Me too (Britain), but probably a bit bigger than yours. 🙂 How did you come to be a writer?
JM: I came to be a writer more out of a need than a choice really. My father was in the Air Force, therefore, we moved every couple of years. I wrote stories while sitting in the back seat of our old station wagon to entertain myself on the long rides from one air base to the next. (I read them out loud to my siblings, but the only one that took an interest was my baby sister.) As I grew older, writing became an integral part of me—I suppose it always was, but as a child, I didn’t realize it. I thought my siblings were the weird ones. I couldn’t imagine why they would let a day go by without creating a new character or scene. Yeah, now I know I was the odd man (er…girl) out.
Morgen: What a lovely story. 🙂 I came to writing fiction in my late 30s and now feel a bit like you; that everyone should be writing so they can see how wonderful it is. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
JM: I’m a genre junkie. Though my first love is historical romance (excuse the pun), I delve into fantasy, sweet romance, erotic romance, women’s fiction, and even non-fiction. I’m constantly learning something new in the writing world. There is no such thing as polishing a craft too much.
Morgen: Absolutely. I often hear established writers saying they’re still learning. That’s life for you; always something new. What have you had published to-date? Do you always write as JM?
JM: Currently I have six books published under two pseudonyms: Summer Falls and J.M. Powers
Stellar Surprise (my first publication in 2009) I entered an international contest. When I received an email from the publisher, my husband had to pry the laptop from my hands to see why I was hyperventilating. A book contract became reality and I haven’t stopped since. Here is my current list:
- Stellar Surprise (Summer Falls, Breathless Press 2009) http://www.breathlesspress.com/stellar-surprise
- Basket of Hope (Summer Falls, Breathless Press 2010) http://www.breathlesspress.com/basket-hope
Magic Stone Series (Beautiful Trouble 2012)
- For All Time
- Timeless Valentine
- Margery’s Time
- Jewel of Ramstone (https://beautifultroublepublishing.com/xcart/Jewel-of-Ramstone-EBOOK.html)
(All books also available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon)
Jewel of Ramstone, a medieval romance will be released this summer. (Updates @ http://JMPowersRomance.blogspot.com)
Morgen: Congratulations. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
JM: All of my books are available as eBooks. Jewel of Ramstone is available in both eBook and print.
I don’t really have a preference when it comes to book formats. My sister gave me an e-reader for Christmas. To be honest, I thought I would find it odd to read electronic format, but I love the ease of carrying a whole library with me. I’m a voracious reader, and once I finish a book I want to begin another. I still love print books, but eBooks are so much easier to tote around. Then again, there is nothing like signing a print book is there? Both formats have advantages.
Morgen: They do and almost everyone I’ve spoken to says they prefer holding a proper book, but it’s great having a choice, and for me knowing I have 400+ stories whenever I go away. 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?
JM: Every author has their “baby”, and Jewel of Ramstone is mine. I spent years on it. The research, plotting, layering and character development was extensive—so much that the characters, Ruby and Galeron, became real. That doesn’t make me crazy… it just makes me a writer. Hm. Come to think of it, most writers have a little something different going on in their heads. Okay, I take it back. I’m crazy.
If Jewel of Ramstone was made into a movie, an upcoming and inventive actress would play the main character, Ruby. She is like no other. As far as the brooding knight, Galeron? Oh my…I’d have to personally interview the men for that casting call.
Morgen: Characters should feel real – even JK Rowling’s quoted as saying she wanted to kill off a particular character but he/she wouldn’t let her so she killed off another (I bet he was grateful!). Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
JM: Actually, I’ve been very lucky with my publishers and cover artists. My input was encouraged with the cover art of each book. The titles were my creations, and the publishers never asked to change any of them. If they had, I’m sure we could’ve worked something out. That’s part of the publishing world—working together to create the best product.
Morgen: I like to think that if a publisher wants to change a title (or cover) that they know best but if must be hard for any author who gets overruled and really doesn’t like the end result. What are you working on at the moment / next?
JM: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I have many works in progress. The sequel to Jewel of Ramstone, more Magic Stone Series books, two other untitled works of women’s fiction, a co-authored book with C.E. Hart, as well as a non-fiction book about the journey through Autism with my son. Whew. I think I need another pot of coffee. And a new laptop. The letters are worn off the keys on mine. I’m not kidding.
Morgen: 🙂 I use a Bluetooth keyboard (and mouse – I have a Mac) so if they wore off (they’re surprisingly durable) it would be easier to replace. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
JM: I did mention the letters are worn out on my keyboard, right? (Okay, I’ll stop answering a question with a question.) I write every single day, even if it’s a paragraph or two. I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying this, but I never suffered from writer’s block. I’m on the other end of that spectrum—like writer’s sore fingers, stiff legs, crick in my neck—from sitting at my laptop for hours at a time. When I’m busy listening to the characters in my head you might as well “write me off” for a while, because I’m so deep into my story. That’s why I try to write after my family has gone to bed.
Morgen: I say I don’t suffer from writer’s block but I think we all get stuck on a story at some stage. It’s just our brain saying we need to go off to something else and come back to it with fresh eyes, then we usually figure it out. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
JM: Both. While co-authoring, I plot the story. On my own, I tend to be a pantser. A smidgen of an idea develops into a novella or full-length book every single time.
Morgen: Me too. My latest novel (my sixth) started as a 328-word flash fiction which was prompted by the word ‘legs’. 🙂 Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
JM: I’m always myself these questions while I write:
- What would a character realistically do in a certain situation? (If it’s not believable to me, it certainly won’t be to my readers.)
- What expressions, body language would the character have? (This makes the characters real.)
- What senses should I incorporate into a scene? (Smell, touch, sounds, etc.)
- Does this scene keep the story moving along? (If not, tweak it or edit it out.)
So if you call that a method, I guess that’d be mine. It’s imperative to research the origins of names when writing historical fiction. I assure names were used in the era / location. However, in other books, the name just comes to me because it “fits” the character. I also assure I don’t use names that rhyme or start with the same letter. For example: Sally brings her boyfriend, Sully, to Sheldon’s Coffee Shop. Unfortunately, Shelly, the barista, flirts with Sully, which leads Sally to complain to the owner, Steve. Okay, so I exaggerated a bit, but do you get my point?
Morgen: I do. I’ve read a story where the names were purposely similar and I struggled. I have an A-Z strip on the base of my monitor so I can choose different letters. Of course I have all the letters on my keyboard (and in my brain) but having them in order keeps them clear, plus my hands are in the way because I’m typing! Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
JM: As time goes on I incorporate what I’ve learned through edits into my next book. My method is to polish, and polish again—after completing my first draft. This is the point I edit, cut, re-write and polish each sentence. Then I go through again… and again. I want perfection before I submit the work, and because of this I edit stuff to death. My author / sister had to literally tear my hands from the keyboard and tell me “STOP EDITING AND SUBMIT IT!” She was loud, but correct. None of my books would be published if I didn’t stop my incessant editing. Every publisher wants more edits no matter what. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit shoddy work, but know when to let it go. I’m still struggling to find a happy medium.
Morgen: Absolutely. I interviewed editor / writer Hayley Sherman (https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/daily-interview-no-570-with-writer-and-editor-hayley-sherman) a few days ago who said, “Writers who send a first draft and expect it to come back as a best-seller are not generally welcome.” It’s amazing to think that anyone would but I guess if they have no-one else to turn to but it would be a waste of their money and the editor’s time. I’ve set up a free-swap https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/feedback page where I list authors / readers willing to give feedback and authors looking for it. It’s less than a month old but becoming quite popular. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
JM: Good gosh yes. I’m tired just thinking about research. But if I want my books to be accurate, I must do the footwork. Jewel of Ramstone took extensive research. Though it’s fiction, the weaponry, clothing, customs, foods and such have to be accurate. Basket of Hope was set in the same era, so the footwork was done, but I let my imagination fly with the magic in this story. Even my Magic Stone time-travel required research. For All Time actually takes place in a nature preserve nearby, so I took a walk through it to “feel the setting” for my character. Timeless Valentine takes place in a bank, and being a teller, I had inside information for that book. However, Margery’s Time takes place in an airplane hangar at the Atlanta airport. I actually interviewed an airline mechanic from that airport to assure the information was accurate. Even fantasy romances needs research.
Morgen: Research is part of the reason why I don’t write non-fiction other writing about writing. For me the joy of fiction is the escapism, the unknown, although I still make sure everything’s feasible / my facts are right because there’ll always be someone out there to trip me (a writer) up. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
JM: I like third person, but the book I’m co-authoring with C.E. Hart, is first person. I’m loving it. I’ve never written in second person…yet.
Morgen: Yet, I like it. Do have a go. It’s not to everyone’s taste but some of us (mad writers) love it. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
JM: All three. I started creating poems as a young child. I read them to my cat, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. No, I’m not kidding. I actually named my pet with a poet’s name. I just called him Henry in front of anyone though.
I’m currently writing a non-fiction book, and short stories are always fun to write. However, novellas and full-length novels are my real love.
Morgen: I started off with short stories, which are still my first love, but I’ve just written the first half(ish) of my sixth novel and really enjoy being able to explore depths with those. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
JM: Oh …you found those spiral notebooks from high school didn’t you?
Morgen: Just a lucky guess. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
JM: Early on, I received rejections from several agents. I hung each one by my desk. Now, I look at them and say: “Each one of were are a step to publication.” Yes, I speak to inanimate objects. My husband caught me talking to the rejections one day. He didn’t even shake his head or roll his eyes.
Morgen: My dog’s the same; he doesn’t even blink when I throw my arms around replicating whatever my character’s doing. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
JM: I’m currently trying to understand the aspects of what branding entails, and marketing is a huge part of it. I have an author website and blog. I created author pages on Goodreads, Manic Readers and Amazon.com. In addition, I have Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of Manic Readers (http://www.manicreaders.com) but I like the sound of it. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
JM: Learn all you can about your craft. I can’t stress that enough. Sharpen your skills by joining writers / critique groups. Always submit polished work. Editors help polish a story, but don’t expect them to fix your spelling and sentence structure. That reflects you don’t care about your work—so why should they?
I’d like to impart one more thing. Never forget how special you are. You, as a writer, have a gift to share. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too. Keep your writer’s voice, do not allow anyone take that from you.
Morgen: Absolutely. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
JM: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” ~ Rose Tremain
“I breathe because I must, but I write to take your breath away.” ~ J.M. Powers
Morgen: I love those, especially yours. It reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s “I write for the same reason I breathe … because if I didn’t, I would die.” Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
JM: I create book trailers for my books, as well as motivational speakers, publishers and fellow authors. All can be viewed on my Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/JMPowersAuthor.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
JM: Here are my links. I’d love it if others followed my blog. I always return the favor.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.jmpowers
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JMPowersAuthor
- Blog: http://jmpowersromance.blogspot.com
- Website: http://authorjmpowers.zxq.net
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
JM: No questions, but I would like to thank you for having me here on your site.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. Thank you for joining me today, Jeannie. 🙂
I then invited JM to include an extract of her writing and this is from ‘Jewel of Ramstone’…
She winced at the sunlight and rolled to her side, the blanket tangled between her legs. Still thick with sleep, she noted a dagger lying atop a cracked leather pack, vaguely wondering when she left it there. With a gasp, she sat up, blinking to clear her vision. A cry escaped her throat, as she looked from the dagger to the smouldering ashes of a fire, then to where she lay atop a bed of leaves.
“Where am I?”
A breeze whispered through the clearing. Stately pines and white ash answered with a rustle of needles and leaves. Sunlit dappled foliage bristled from a wisp of air scented with sweet maple. Even a squirrel chattered from a distance, as if telling her to stop interfering in its peaceful existence.
Despite the beauty, she couldn’t help but wonder about this place…and how she awoke in the midst of it. As daunting as that bit of information was, the realization that she didn’t know who she was terrified her.
The crack of a branch made her jump. Prickles raised the hair at the nape of her neck, and she stumbled toward the dagger. “Make thyself known,” she tried to say. Instead, a pitiful whisper passed her lips.
A black stallion, resplendent with rippling muscles and hammered armor, broke into the clearing. Glancing her way, the rider frowned and dismounted. She tried to decide what startled her more: the man’s immense bulk, or the fact that he didn’t acknowledge her dagger pointed at him.
Wisps of ebony hair brushed his broad shoulders and fell into his face, briefly obscuring the clear blue of the unfriendly eyes. With a slight shake of his head, he cleared it from his brow and turned his sun-bronzed face her way. A shadow of a beard lined his angular jaw, and dipped into the cleft on his chin, somewhat softening his surly expression. Each muscle nearly pulsated with strength when he placed his hands on his narrow hips, as if waiting for her to cower.
“I am not a foe,” he growled. “Sheath it.”
She gripped the dagger tighter and held it a few inches higher.
And a synopsis from the same book…
While on a journey to collect his betrothed, Galeron comes upon a young maiden in the forest. She has no memory of who she is or why she’s there. The gash on her cheek says she’s suffered terrible abuse. He’s instantly smitten and dubs her Ruby of the Forest. However, names do not matter as they discover magical passion beneath the forest canopy.
Ruby accepts his offer of a safe journey to his home, all the while wishing he could offer what she wants most–his heart. At Ramstone, Galeron and Ruby’s passions grow day by day. Tidbits of her memory return a little at a time, and she realizes her life intersects with his–and not in a good way.
Will Ruby discover her past? Or will her past discover her when she least expects it?
“I breathe because I must, but I write to take my reader’s breath away.” J. M. Powers created this quote. She strives to write stories which make her readers bust out laughing, wipe a tear, sigh, hate and love right along with her characters— then wish the book didn’t have to end.
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