Author Interview with Jennifer Julie Miller

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Jennifer, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Wow, let me see. I have a boy job by day. I’m a Brazer at a local factory and I have done that for 18 years now. I have only been writing since 2015, and I am the proud author of four books. I have two grown kids and now I have both of their better half’s also. I have a very rotten granddaughter who reminds me to play, with very supportive parents, aunts, sister, and friends. I have been blessed with my very own Happy Ever After. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who makes me smile every day, and after all these years I still miss him when he isn’t around. Rick is my very best friend in the world and I’m lucky enough to be married to him.

I began writing in 2015, after my husband had a dream about a girl and her magical Water Skippers…. He got up one morning and said, “Come on, we need to go buy a few things.” He took me to a local office max. I honestly, had that deer in the headlight look. I had no idea why we were there, anyway, he says. “Pick out a nice notebook and a pen I have something I want you to write.”  We came home and he told me all about this dream. This is what my very first book Water Skippers is all about… A dream my husband had.

The underlying theme is Love, Love…. Our lives are so much more than sex and arguing. There is no greater gift than to love or to be loved and my books hit that hard.

That is so fascinating–an entire series born out of your husband’s dream! I love too how supportive he is of your work. I have that too, but so many women writers I know struggle to find support among their families for what they do. 

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

A little town in southern Ohio, called Ironton.

I’m a small town girl myself! There’s a lot to be said for growing up and raising a family in a small community.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in my forties… so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…

Hah! I know what you mean! I think a lot of writers try out different professions and hobbies until they realize it was all just prep for writing. What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?

I only like to read things that aren’t real.. life is real enough, so of course I want to escape into my writing the same way.

Have you written in other genres?

No.

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

I am all country girl, but I can play dress up also.

I know what you mean! I wear practical clothes but love pretty lingerie and having my nails done. 🙂

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think things that are experienced are easier to write.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it! Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I have to have the ending in my head, but other than that. I write as I go.

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

1000 miles from nowhere, with room service.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

Ragon my pet dragonfly is my favorite.  He represents all the good we have in all of us.

Oh, that’s nice! Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Water Skippers. It’s the first book in my series and they are the magical creatures in all of my books. They are my little heroes, and they always help the guy get the girl.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

My husband, family, and books…. I need more than three hahahah.

If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?

I want to be a dragon.

Nice! Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I would love to write full time, just can’t afford to.

I hear you on that one. I’d love to be a full time author myself. What advice would you give to someone starting out as an author? What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?

Have very thick skin.. This is a crazy rollercoaster ride. Don’t stop; write until your fingers fall off, because when someone tells you they love it… It’s all worth it. 

Remember the little things, like the first time you held a guys hand, or that amazing awkward first kiss. Take the time to look up at the stars, and take the time to play in the rain. It’s the little moments in life you will always cherish. 

You are so right there! How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

There is a lot of my own life, and especially the way I feel about things in all of my books. All of my books are me. My mom says it’s like being inside of my head…. So many of the stories in my books, have really happened in my own life. 

Research: love it or hate it?

I don’t do it… this is fiction, just go with it.

Editing: love it or hate it?

Ohhh the misery, but I like to learn new things.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It means everything.

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Ohh yea, I have cried like a baby.

I think we’ve all had that experience. I recently wrote a blog post about handling bad reviews as a reminder to myself and others how to deal with the stinger you get sometimes.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

Yes,  it helps tune out all the background of the world around me.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

When I finished my last set I cried. It was like I had lost a member of the family.

What are your writing goals for 2017? Your personal goals?

I honestly don’t know.. my set will be put in a box set for Christmas, but other than that I’m open.

Where can your readers find you and your stories online?

Http://Amazon.com/author/jjm5325903.  I am also on Twitter www. Jenniferrick@twitter.com…. Also I love to talk so email me at Jenniferjuliemiller@gmail.com…. And I have a website https://jenniferjuliemille.wixsite.com/mysite..

Book One: Water Skippers

Book Two: A Dragonfly’s Whisper

Book Three: Earth Shadow

Book Four: Shadow Reborn

Seven Shifters I’ve Known and Loved

Today I have Liza Street, author of the Corona Pride series, sharing with us her favorite heroes from shifter romances. I’m delighted to hear what she has to say, as some of these delicious shifters are new to me! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already added to my TBR pile based on this list.

Don’t you just love this cover? Be sure to check out Liza’s links at the end of the post to find out how you can get a free story!

So tell us, Liza! List your favorite shifter heroes and why you find them so amazing!

 

 

  1. Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Clay was my first shifter heartthrob, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the violent acts he does to ensure the safety of his pack and his questionable behavior toward Elena in the early stages of their relationship (which I won’t spoil just in case there are one or two PNR fans who haven’t yet read this book), I fell hard for his southern accent and his absolute devotion to his mate. In my head, he’s even hotter than the guy who plays him in the television series. Is he flawed? Very much so. But since he’s my first, I go easier on him.

  1. Matt Barns from Gray Back Bad Bear by T.S. Joyce

It’s impossible for me to talk about how much I love Matt without saying how much I love his mate, Willa. These two were absolutely perfect together, at turns vulnerable and hilarious. Willa, especially, brought some geeky levity to their relationship, and while I adore Matt on his own, I love him even more with Willa.

  1. Arik from When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais

So this guy is completely vain, especially about his hair (that is, his “mane”), but…I sort of loved him for it. Sure, I also wanted to throttle him, but I liked that even though he thought so highly of himself and his mane, he was still vulnerable with his friends. His vanity was great for laughs.

  1. Alcide Herveaux from Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Alcide…sigh. I really couldn’t care less about Bill or Eric. I wanted Sookie to end up with Alcide. Of course, a whole lot of random complications kept them apart throughout the series, but for a while there, I was Team Alcide.

  1. Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Okay, I’ll be honest. I read Slave to Sensation a long time ago and I can’t remember any details about Lucas except that he was totally hot and there was tons of sexual tension. Hmm, might be due for a re-read….

  1. Derren Hudson from Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright

If you love a good alphahole, you will love Derren. He starts off the story with all kinds of prejudice against Seers, and of course the heroine just happens to be a Seer. He’s controlling and derisive and super controlling. Something about Ally has him rethinking his prejudices, and you know what happens to a controlling man whose worldview is challenged? He’s cranky. So yes, Derren’s an alphahole. If you don’t like violent sex, this book might not be for you. (Not violent as in non-consensual or rapey, if I’m remembering correctly. Just…violent. Explosive. Demanding.)

  1. Adam Hauptman from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Hello, Hot Neighbor! This dude is just solid. Solidly built, and solid at heart. I don’t want to say too much and spoil later events in the series, so I’ll just say that I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with Mercedes in Moon Called, and the way she teases him by leaving an eyesore junker car in sight of his house. Sa-woon. I love those two.

About Liza Street:

Liza likes her heroes packing muscles and her heroines packing agency. She got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. It wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.

FREE BOOKS–Join Liza’s mailing list and get Fierce Heartbreaker, FREE, as well as an exclusive Sierra Pride prequel story and other goodies! Visit Liza’s Free Book page to get started. 

Liza’s Amazon page and her website.

Make Your Hero Someone Worth Idolizing

As a writer, I’m frequently asked to pen a few words about the most influential book I’ve ever read. There’s no question which book it would be: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve been a lifelong fan of murder mysteries, particularly the British cozy, in which the body is discovered in the library and the protagonists sit around and discuss this development with wit and erudition. I still regularly re-read the classics of the Golden Age of Mystery: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allinghmam, Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, you name it.

Gaudy Night remains my favorite book of all time, the one novel I’d want with me if marooned on a deserted island.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.

By the time you get to Gaudy Night in the series, Lord Peter Wimsey, the dapper aristocratic peer with detective tendencies, has been seeing Harriet Vane for several years. Harriet, the somewhat cynical mystery writer, is looking to piece together the remains of her life after having been acquitted of murdering her former lover in a time when murder was a capital offense in Great Britain. Harriet is intelligent and strong-willed, determined to make her way in an unforgiving world without compromising her beliefs—the tenant of which caused the break between her and her deceased lover. Peter Boyle had first refused to marry Harriet on principle; when ‘living in sin’ was almost as much a crime as committing murder. Boyle does a turnaround and decides to ‘make an honest woman’ out of Vane, condescending to make things right with society and her family after first forcing a split with both. Harriet refuses to marry, and instead breaks up with Boyle.

When Lord Peter first meets Harriet in Strong Poison, she is a prisoner in the dock for Boyle’s murder, and Lord Peter has very little time to prove that Harriet is innocent. He also falls in love with her at first sight, and subsequent meetings shows the two of them are mentally and emotionally compatible—for Lord Peter is not a slave to his emotions. Though he would have done everything in his power to prove Harriet’s innocence, he would not have proposed marriage to someone he didn’t think he could make happy.

But Harriet, bruised by life’s circumstances and emerging out of prison bloody, but unbowed, will have none of men offering marriage. The next few books in the series continue in the usual Sayers vein: an interesting and clever murder with Lord Peter being witty and brilliant in the course of deduction and solution. Harriet is not always a presence in every story. I confess, I prefer the novels in which she is there. The interaction between her and Lord Peter take the stories beyond the simple murder mystery formula. At one point in Have His Carcass, Lord Peter and Harriet have a very telling conversation about the fictional characters in Harriet’s latest novel. Lord Peter suggests a fix for the story that would require Harriet to rewrite her story in order to make the characters three-dimensional, more real. Harriet protests that this would be a painful process, whereupon Lord Peter gets to the heart of the matter, asking her what difference would that make if doing so gave her a better story in the end?

This is a critical turning point in many ways. My hero, Lord Peter, sets a precedent for doing whatever is best for the story, no matter the personal cost to the author. I frequently say, “Everything is grist for the mill” and it is true: no matter what the trauma I might be experiencing, at the same time there is this Critical Observer taking notes. I know at some point that experience will be transmuted and used in a story. I like to think that Lord Peter guided me to this choice.

In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers takes this concept further. For most of the series, the Lord Peter we see in the stories is the same face he presents to society: fatuous, superficially shallow, yet clever enough to solve ‘little difficulties’. He solves mysteries while never failing to produce the most appropriate quote. He’s entertaining at parties. He collects rare books, loves music, and is a peer of the realm. It’s easy to see why he is frequently underestimated by his adversaries. However when we meet him in Gaudy Night, it is a Peter who has come back from a series of harrowing adventures—and Dorothy Sayers lets this show. This Peter Wimsey is older than the one we met at the beginning. He loves Harriet, but he’s also tired of the song and dance. He tells Harriet that the next time he asks her to marry him will be the last. Sayers makes good on that earlier suggestion that an author should do whatever is best for the story.

Gaudy Night isn’t just a story about Harriet deciding whether or not she’ll marry Wimsey. She’s deciding what path to take for the rest of her life. She’s having to choose between the life of academia and quiet study, where everything seems clean, ordered, and black and white—and the messy disorder of a life more passionate, with the man who loves her, writing stories to entertain instead of enlighten. Yes, there is a mystery, but it is the catalyst within the crucible rather than the main story. In Gaudy Night, for the first time in their relationship, Harriet views Peter as a man rather than as an appendage, and that scene in which she becomes conscious of him as a sexual being is one of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read. No, seriously. One of the steamiest, most sensual scenes I have ever read. Even though there is no sex involved.

There comes a point in Gaudy Night in which Harriet’s life is threatened—and Peter does her the honor of letting her take the risk. He doesn’t swoop in and forbid her to risk her life. He warns her of the risks of kicking over the ant hill—he acknowledges she can choose to say nothing and walk the cloistered halls of her university for the rest of her life—without him. He is also prepared to be there to pick up the pieces afterward if things go badly. It is one of the most perfect examples of an adult relationship that I’ve ever seen. When at the end of Gaudy Night, Peter proposes and Harriet says ‘yes’, your heart is singing with hers because you know this is the right answer for both of them. Sayers makes Peter an honest, three-dimensional human being in Gaudy Night, putting her money where her mouth is as an author. Not only has this book influenced me in my own personal relationships, but it has definitely influenced me as a writer, too.

I fell in love with Lord Peter when I was thirteen. I named a horse after him. I feel badly for all those young girls who are looking at Edward Cullen and thinking that’s what the perfect man is like. Because Lord Peter is a gentleman who will treat me as a lady—and an equal.

It’s what I strive for as an author, even though I write in a completely different genre. Someday, I want someone pointing to one of my heroes and saying, “This. This is what I want from a relationship. To be treated with honor and dignity. To be treated as an equal and an adult.”

Because let me tell you, baby. There’s nothing hotter than that.

The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1)

I am so pleased to announce that The Panther’s Lost Princess, Redclaw Security Book 1, is now available on Amazon and KU!

If you love shifter romances, this one’s got a little of everything for you: fated mates, a princess in disguise, lovers on the run, and a heroine learning to come into–and accept–her power.

Blurb:

Ellie West has always known there was more to her story than being abandoned at birth. A child of the foster-care system, she didn’t get many breaks, but the one thing she can do is sing. It’s her only ticket out of poverty and obscurity. Nothing else matters, not even the nagging sense that she’s different. She’s headed for great things. She only needs a chance.

Jack Ferris couldn’t agree more. His firm, the elite paranormal agency Redclaw Security, has been hired to find a missing princess and return her to her family. Discovering that Ellie, a waitress in a hole-in-the-wall diner, is both the princess and his fated mate is like being hit with a sledgehammer. Ellie West can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

The sooner Jack completes this job, the better, only Ellie has no intention of throwing her dreams away for a kingdom she’s never known. With hired assassins on their trail, Ellie might not have a choice. They must do whatever it takes to stay alive.

 

Excerpt:

She closed the distance between them with grace and determination. When she stood a mere breath away, she looked up at him from underneath her bangs. At some point when he’d been upstairs, she’d taken out those horrible fake blue contact lenses. Now she gazed at him with eyes that glowed gold in the firelight. With her index finger, she lightly traced down his arm, hesitating as she neared his wound.

“Does it hurt much?” Her voice, velvety-soft, connected with something inside of him and pulled him a step closer.

The words dried up in his mouth, and he had to swallow hard before he could speak. “Ellie.” He wasn’t sure where he was going with that, only that he had to try to make her understand why he couldn’t accept her invitation.

“Jack.” The way she said his name, with such amusement at his futile attempt to resist, battered at his remaining intentions.

“We can’t… I can’t. It would be wrong. I’d be taking advantage of you. Surely you can see that, right?”

“What if I want to be taken advantage of? What if I choose you?”

Her words pulled a groan out of him. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I know what I want. Better than anything I’ve ever known as long as I can remember. I want you, Jack Ferris.”

Take her. Mark her. Make her our own.

Book 1 in the Redclaw Security series is waiting for you–pick up a copy today!

Why Paranormal Romance?

Of all the genres out there, paranormal romance is its own little niche. There are people who won’t touch it–I frequently see open calls for stories (no paranormal) or invitations for group events (no paranormals). I get it. It’s different. It’s not for everyone.

So why do I write it, when obviously the big money is on contemporary romance or even romantic suspense? Heck, historical romances are still going strong, centuries after Jane Austen gave us Pride and Prejudice. And I like these genres too–I won’t say I’d never write a contemporary romance because I probably will some day. But the real draw for me right now is paranormals and urban fantasy.

The why is simple: as someone who has felt like an outside most of her life, I’m drawn to characters who, for one reason or another fall outside the norm. Paranormal romances, and in particular shifter stories, allow me to explore what its like to be ‘other’ in a world that demands normality, while at the same time allowing me free reign to play in my imagination. I’m a huge sci-fi and mystery fan–writing paranormal romances lets me draw on that background while giving me the romance I crave.

Urban fantasy delights my imagination because I love the juxtaposition of the every day with the supernatural. J.K. Rowling gave us the magical world hidden from the world of Muggles. Harry Potter receives a letter on his eleventh birthday and discovers that he’s he’s a wizard in the making–and we go on that journey with him, learning about Hogwarts and Quidditch and Voldemort as he does. It’s brilliant storytelling. Harry is both the outsider (raised in ignorance of his heritage) and the hero–displaying abilities far beyond what would be expected of an eleven-year-old boy. Rowling’s universe is captivating, in part because it could exist side-by-side with ours and we’d never know it. And deep inside each of us is a child who wishes we’d received a letter to Hogwarts. In fact, most of us are convinced it went astray somehow. I know mine did.

Another author who uses this outsider-more-powerful-than-expected theme to great advantage is Margarita Gakis. Her Covencraft series has some of the same elements: in Trial By Fire, Jade, a naive heroine (though much older than Harry), develops the ability to spontaneously start fires with her mind. This brings her to the attention of the local coven–and she is given an ultimatum: join or be forcibly stripped of her powers. Jade is not the sort of person you force to do anything–and she’s more powerful than anyone suspects. Some things come very easily to her–dark spells that most people take a lifetime to master. I adore this series. I read Trial By Fire in a single afternoon, unable to put it down. I love that Jade is an outsider in so many ways, even to herself at times as she battles her inner demons and the very real ones living in her closet. I love too that the author explores some dark themes about control and the right to one’s self and abilities.

In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about the genre. Paranormal stories allow such wonderful scope for exploring important, uncomfortable themes on a metaphorical basis. In my upcoming Redclaw Security series, one of the themes I’ll be developing is the fear ‘normals’ have for shifters, and how even though they are more powerful than humans in many ways, this has lead shifters to hide their true natures. A new President wants to institute shifter registration–possibly even internment camps. The possible storylines this could generate are endless. *rubs hands together with evil glee*

And in my sister series, Bishop and Knight, our ‘normals’ are charged with investigating the sudden onslaught of paranormal activity at the end of WW2. The reader will go on the journey with them as they discover the real reason for the creation of shifters in a world changing faster than anyone ever expected.

Writing in this genre lets me poke fun at tropes, take my fancy on soaring flights of imagination, expand upon political and social themes, all while spinning a tale about two people falling in love.

Who wouldn’t want to write that?

Yes, he’s my Hero, but does he have to be an A*hole?

New Cowboy Boots–freeimage.com

I confess, I’ve been a little worried about the hero in my debut novel (release date hopefully sometime in August). See, the thing is: he isn’t a jerk.

Now, put that way, it sounds kind of odd, like that might be a good thing. And normally, I’d agree. But we’re talking romance novels here, and tropes exist for a reason. Readers have come to depend on their tropes. They love them and don’t want a story that disappoints them in any way.

I get that. I do. But one of the reasons for the longest time I avoided writing stories featuring women is because I grew up reading stories in which the heroines were defined by the tropes of the time. No sex without marriage and every epilogue had a baby on the way. Or if there was sex, it was only because the heroine was a) forced/seduced against her will by pirates/sheikhs/bosses/rival clan chiefs/marriage of convenience husband or other types of men who had complete domination over her or b) she was a widow. In fact, if a historical romance described the heroine as a widow in the blurb, I knew that as code for ‘there will be sex in this book.”

I didn’t recognize myself in any of these heroines.

Codes and tropes are all very well and good because they help readers identify those stories they want to read. Likewise certain genres have certain kinds of book covers, the better to help the reader spot their particular form of catnip and not waste time wading through tons of material they aren’t interested in reading. That may be even more important today, as readers have so many choices. But those older tropes were largely the ones that made me lose interest in most romances growing up, and it is only recently that I’ve come back to the genre.

I’ve been reading a lot of romances lately, in part because I desperately need that HEA, but also because I want to know what the new tropes are and how to use them. Part of that use means knowing when to turn them on their head or not use them at all. But that’s where the concern for my hero comes in.

Because he’s not a jerk. He’s not an “Alpha” male, which has always been sort of synonymous with ‘asshole’ for me. He’s not a Navy Seal, former Special Ops agent, billionaire playboy, cowboy, or arrogant anybody. Okay, so he’s a panther-shifter (that’s cool, right?) and he’s charged with protecting my heroine against unknown assassins, so he’s not a pushover, but just the same, he’s a pretty nice guy.

And I worry that will doom him with my readers.

I love opposites attract as much as the next person. That’s MY catnip: the witty repartee, the snarky banter. Give me snappy dialog and chemistry between the characters and I’ll forgive you plot holes you could drive a Mac Truck through.

One of the reasons the first couple of seasons of Castle worked so well for me was just that: the snark and banter between the lead characters. And even though practically speaking, opposites attract seldom works out as well in reality as it does in fiction, I love it just the same. I recognize it’s a trope, and it’s one I will read and write anyway.

Still, I worry my hero isn’t heroic enough. That readers will think he’s not not manly enough because he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t berate or belittle her. He is cognizant of her feelings and tries to include her in the decision-making when things get dangerously out of hand. He wants what’s best for the heroine–even if that isn’t what is best for him.

I can almost hear the reviews now:

What a wimp! You call that a hero?

I don’t know what she saw in him.

BOR-ING.

They had absolutely no chemistry together at all.

Because somehow, chemistry means slamming doors and broken whiskey bottles. Apparently it means hiding your attraction to someone by being rude and unpleasant. I recently DNF a romance 4% into the novel because both main characters were so unlikable I had absolutely no desire to see them work their differences out.

But here’s the interesting thing… today I saw someone on Twitter say they were incapable of reading any romances with military heroes at the moment because of the behavior of so many real-life military-types on Twitter. And I noted I couldn’t read billionaire romances because while it’s fun to read Cinderella stories where the billionaire saves the broke heroine from her wretched existence (wouldn’t we all like to be rescued like that?), I can’t help but think about how the billionaire became so rich–and what his politics are like. And I hate to break it to you, but I grew up around a lot of cowboys and wanna-be cowboys, and let me tell you, they are the reason I remained single as long as I did.

Does that mean these tropes are wrong or bad or passe? Not at all. It means that I can’t read certain kinds of stories at the moment. That doesn’t mean you should stop reading them (or writing them for that matter). I love marriages of convenience stories, no matter how unrealistic they are, and coming-home-for-the-holiday stories, and stories where two people who are truly different find common ground. I love Regencies, and space opera, and cozy mysteries where everyone is trapped on an island or at a house party in the snow. Sometimes I want my sex on-page, in-your-face, thrust-up-against-the-wall sex, the kind that makes you fan yourself and press a cold beverage to your forehead. Other times I want my sex implied–a saucy closing of the bedroom door or a gentle fade-to-black. My cup of tea might not be yours. That’s okay because these days, with the advent of self-publishing in particular, there are fewer limitations on storytelling. In part because men in publishing houses aren’t making all the decisions about what women can–and should–read.

If anything, it means there may be room for my kind of hero after all.

 

Leopard silhouette.