PO Box 7634
Clearwater, FL 33758
Jess gets asked a lot of questions about various subjects. Below are some of the most common. Don't see the answer here? Contact her!
Oh, you know, just the typical internet-trolling writerly weirdo.
I’m a quiet one. You’ve got to watch out for me. Behind this innocent façade lurks a dirty, devious mind.
Really—I’m just this gal, you know? In person, I’m usually quiet and fairly shy with strangers.With friends, I change gears – you’ll get a lot of obscure Hitchhiker’s Guide and Holy Grail jokes instead of awkward silence. The Sunday Night Movie Madness crowd gets together every weekend to watch movies. If they’re really special movies, we MST them.
Let's see, what else... I'm a workaholic who loves coffee and chocolate and can't survive without books. I'm originally from New York, but I'm currently living in Los Angeles because it is suitably weird enough for the time being. I enjoy karaoke and bad movies, and have a menagerie of animals to keep me company when I'm not writing. (Seriously, when I'm an old fart, I'll be known as the crazy bird/cat/fish/snake/lizard lady.)
As for my background, I've worked office jobs from the bottom to the top of the corporate food chain. I've spent far too much time in the field of law. Currently my day job involves technical writing. That pays the bills, while writing fiction keeps me (relatively) sane. I'm proud to call myself a gamer geek, and probably would have wormed myself into that industry eventually if I hadn't turned myself into a Real Life™ Author.
I first decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school.
So I wrote… and wrote… and wrote. Why haven’t you heard of me before now, you ask?
Err. I had a bit of a bad experience in college, and as a result, didn’t want to show anyone my work for a number of years. Never thought I’d make it, to be honest.
A couple years ago, my friend Binah happened to read some of my stuff and pushed me to write more. In fact, she bugged the crap out of me every day to bring her a new chapter of HUNTED, all the way until it was finished. Then she bugged me to get it published. She’s really the one to thank for pushing me into dipping my toe into the publishing pool! If not for her, I wouldn’t have persevered and done what it took to land an agent and get a book deal.
Shiarra as a character has been kicking around in my head for a long time. The setting for HUNTED BY THE OTHERS and the rest of the H&W Investigations series came much later.
I’m a pantser. All pants, all the time. Much to the occasional dismay of my editor…
In 2001, I started writing a super serious high fantasy novel. Skip ahead to late 2007, and I was still writing that same book. However! I had an epiphany, and decided that I was so sucked in to making a deep and somber doorstop that I’d lost sight of the fun side of writing. I wrapped up the first draft of the fantasy novel and got rolling on HUNTED BY THE OTHERS in early 2008. Within a few months, I had a finished manuscript and started on my agent hunt while concurrently editing the first book and starting the second. The rest of the series just came to me—and hopefully you’ll get quite a few more H&W novels out of me!
Oh, I see how it is.
Many moons ago, I used to roleplay on AOL (“Gasp!” I hear you say. “The horror! Say it ain’t so!”). In the late 90’s, I went to the movies and sat down to watch something involving lots of violence. A preview for Blade hit the screen—and I knew I had to have a vampire hunter character of my very own! I would love her and hug her and squeeze her and call her… Shiarra Waynest.
Shiarra is pronounced "Shee-arr-ah" and Shia is "Shee-ah". The Shia of today and the Shia of yesteryear are very different in terms of personality. She may be different than her original incarnation, but I kept her name, her kickass belt, and a few other odds and ends...
That's the thing. We've already got a sea of not-quite-human urban fantasy heroines out there--Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake, Rachel Morgan, Mercy Thompson--just to name a few of the big shots.
Most urban fantasy novels are centered around a protagonist who is not fully human, or does not remain so for long. Not so with my heroine. I thought it would be interesting to come at it from a different angle. What about someone who doesn't have the extra edge of mindreading, raising zombies, using magic, or shape-shifting?
Shiarra Waynest doesn’t have a magical bone in her body, nor is she enamored with all things Other (aka, supernatural). When she does something extraordinary, it’s usually because someone like Arnold, a mage who helps her out from time to time, gave her a boost. She has to solve all of her own problems using her connections, her skills, and her wits.
Granted, she’s not always the brightest crayon, but I like to keep things realistic. Just doing my part to spice up the urban fantasy selection out there!
My vampires aren’t the sparkly, cuddly type. While they retain their memories and personality when they are turned, they have new needs, new powers, and new demands thrust on them that make their unlife difficult. Older vampires are more likely to be cold, ruthless, and keep to themselves simply because that is the only way they could survive. They’re relatively newly introduced to our society, so there are still some “growing pains” associated with having them around. However, some—like Alec Royce, New York’s master vampire—push for acceptance, and boldly stepped into the public eye, thereby attaining a form of instant celebrity.
New laws were enacted requiring any human who wants to become “intimate” to sign a contract that negates any rights for them or their loved ones to seek recriminations for damages or death caused by the Other. No nookie or hanky-panky is to take place, nor chowing down, until one of those contracts is signed, notarized, and filed with their friendly neighborhood clerk of the court.
Can you tell I’ve been working in the field of law too long?
Since most of the vampires are striving very hard to achieve equal rights and become mainstream, they police their own, and come down hard on anyone who gets too violent with or kills too many of their contracted donors. Their desire to fit in doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Behind the glamor and the publicity, they are predators.
Not to mention the protesters and hunters who think the vamps shouldn’t be allowed to live and prey upon humankind. Being a donor to a vampire doesn’t just put you in danger of losing life and limb to your host—you might find yourself lumped in with the Others when the hunters come calling.
When I reached the point of deciding how it was these supernatural critters announced themselves to the world, there only seemed one logical answer. With all the technological advances we’ve had over the last few decades, how long could critters like vampires or werewolves really hide among us? Why not jump on an opportunity to be seen as something more than monsters out of fairytales instead of being forcibly ousted by technology at an inopportune moment?
Part of how I figured it is that people don’t often stop to consider who (or what) might be working alongside them. The Intern had an interesting blog post on this very thing– err, okay, not exactly on this very thing, but the last paragraph is really what I was getting at. Granted, HUNTED BY THE OTHERS approaches this on a far grander scale, but the same concept applies. They decided it was their time to be noticed.
Hey, it made sense at the time.
As for the other side of that coin – why the fall of the Twin Towers, specifically – this may sound a bit silly and perhaps even insouciant, but I consider it my tribute to what happened that day. I was a volunteer on site at Ground Zero as soon as I could get there. The things that I saw and did at the time have always stuck with me. It’s not meant to make light of those events in any way, just seemed appropriate to pay my own (admittedly weird) brand of homage to them.
I love them all for different reasons. It’s hard to choose a favorite because they all have behind-the-scenes significances and histories—not to mention strengths and flaws—that the readers haven’t seen and color my perspective.
If forced to choose, I’d say it’s a toss-up between Royce and Arnold. Royce is such a delightfully devious bastard, and so much fun to write, that it’s hard not to love the vampire. Wouldn’t want to be in Shia’s shoes if I was faced with him, though!
On the other hand, there’s Arnold. He’s got a huge “look out for number one” mentality, but he’s also a nerd with glasses and (channeling a bit of Genie here) phenomenal cosmic powers at his fingertips. C’mon, you know that’s hot.
Ohh, wouldn't it be fun to see this on the silver screen? Here's my dream cast for the entirely theoretical movie:
Shiarra Waynest Dina Meyer, Alicia Witt, or Evan Rachel Wood
Sara Halloway Katee Sackhoff
Alec Royce Paul Rudd or Robert Downey, Jr.
Chaz Chad Michael Murray
Arnold Charlie Korsmo or Alan Tudyk
Jack the White Hat Tyson Ritter, James Marsters, or Willem Dafoe
Tiny the White Hat Michael Clarke Duncan
Veronica Wright Grace Park (alt: Parker Posey or Lena Headey)
Anastasia Alderov Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Allison Darling Nikki Reed
David Borowsky Shia Lebeouf
Rohrik Donovan Gerard Butler or Viggo Mortensen
Bruno the Bouncer Brock Lesnar
(If you're wondering why it's entirely theoretical, someone has to buy the movie rights before you'll see the H&W Team on the big screen.)
Coffee. Chocolate. A dictionary.
Oh, and a computer. I can't hand-write anything to save my life, and always lose my notes if they aren't saved in electronic format.
My reading tastes are very catholic. I’ll read almost anything. Above other genres, I enjoy fantasy, science fiction, romance, and horror, but I also occasionally like to read non-fiction, books on philosophy, books on certain types of animals (mostly birds, reptiles, and killer whales), and study about faraway lands I intend to visit some day. When I get an idea involving a character who is supposed to be an expert or have something to do with a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll happily devour every text in sight that has to do with what I’m studying.
I LOVE the staples of my genre – Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Kim Harrison (The Hollows), Laurell K. Hamilton (the Anita Blake series) – along with some of the newer and less well known voices in the genre, like Nicole Peeler, Thea Harrison, Mark Henry, etc.
I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, whose work encouraged me to think outside societal norms. Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) taught me that imagination coupled with humor knows no bounds. Janet Evanovich taught me that sometimes the hero doesn’t start out special or strong or talented, but becomes that way over time. Laurrell K. Hamilton introduced me to urban fantasy and first planted the idea that I could get something published in the genre, too. Jim Butcher, and Kim Harrison taught me that a sense of humor in fantasy was not only okay, but something to strive for. Lastly, but certainly not least, Greg Costikyan taught me that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in fantasy to create a worthwhile and engaging story.
Though this is a far from complete list, some of my favorite books are:
-Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series
-Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series
-Kim Harrison’s Hollows series
-The Coldifre Trilogy by C.S. Friedman
-Many of the DragonLance novels
-ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DUNGEON and its sequel, ONE QUEST, HOLD THE DRAGONS by Greg Costikyan
-Mark Henry’s Amanda Feral series
-Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series
-Laurrell K. Hamilton’s early Anita Blake novels
-Robin Hobb’s Liveship series
-Mary Janice Davidson’s Queen Betsy series
-THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan (yes, this is part of a series, but it’s really the only one I truly enjoyed—the series got too political for my tastes)
-THE ELVENBANE by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey
-JOHN DIES AT THE END by David Wong
-NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King
-THE TOMMYKNOCKERS by Stephen King
-1984 by George Orwell
-ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
-BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
-HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA by Marta Acosta (I know there are more books in this series, but I only just read the first one and it became an instant favorite!)
-RAPTOR RED by Robert T. Bakker
-JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
-THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE by Avi
-SPLIT HEIRS by Lawrence Watt-Evans and Esther Friesner
-STEAL THE DRAGON by Patricia Briggs
-UNDER THE FANG (an anthology of vampire short stories, not for the faint of heart/weak of stomach)
And, of course, any Calvin & Hobbes titles.
For recent book recommendations, check out the book reviews I do on my blog.
I’m a huge fan of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood. Most of the time you’ll find me watching cheesy horror movies, cheesy action movies, cheesy romance movies, etc.
As for music, I have very eclectic tastes. I listen to just about everything save for gritty rap and really whiny country music. One of my favorite songs is All The Same by Sick Puppies. You might recognize it as the background music to the Free Hugs video. My tastes range from Lady Gaga to Metallica to Evanescence to Enya to Bach to Shania Twain. Really, I’ll listen to almost anything.
I find inspiration in everything. Movies, music, TV, books, people around me, friends, family--you name it.
When I’m not working or hanging out with my friends, my nose is always stuck in a book, I’m cooking something in the kitchen, watching cheesy movies, or sailing the cyber seas. I used to play MMORPGs like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, and tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: the Masquerade, but haven’t had much time for that sort of thing lately.
It's a secret...
Absolutely. Writing: Do not attempt without coffee and/or chocolate.
In all seriousness, yes, I do have some advice:
Read. A lot. Write. A lot.
Don't take rejection personally.
Not everyone in the publishing business is out to scam you, and not everyone in publishing is out to help you. There are tons of websites out there with crappy advice, but there are plenty more with good advice, and it takes time and dedication to educate yourself about this industry. There are no shortcuts, there are no Get Rich Quick ways to get a book on the shelves in stores fast, and--most of all--keep in mind that publishing is a business.
If you think that writing a book is your ticket to the fast lane or that every author gets a six figure advance and a movie deal starting out of the gate—think again. The percentage of authors with Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Stephanie Meyer-level success are infinitesimally small. They didn’t get where they are overnight. No author does. It takes hard work and dedication—but don’t give up! Just because the odds are against you doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
For more in depth advice on specific topics, I've written a number of guest blog posts and articles. Check the links on my home page for basic information like how to write a query letter, how I found my agent, editing a novel prior to submission, and more.
Don't see the answer to your questions about publishing or writing on my website? Check my blog, too.
Still don't see the answer to your question? Contact me.
My agent is Ellen Pepus of Signature Literary Agency. She can be contacted regarding overseas / media rights for my work.
If you are an aspiring writer, feel free to query her (if her website states she's currently open to submissions), but please don't tell her I sent you unless I send you an email, text, letter, carrier pigeon, whatever, that I am referring you. I only refer people whose material I have read, and then personally alert her to expect a query.
My publicist is Vida Engstrand at Kensington Publishing. You can contact her via email to request review copies or to schedule me for a live / in-person appearance for conventions, signings, interviews, etc.
If you're looking for information about covers, back cover copy, blurbs, release dates, or upcoming books, please check the individual pages on this website for the book you're interested in.
To stay on top of the latest news, visit the blog or join the mailing list!
PO Box 7634
Clearwater, FL 33758