Jessica: I wouldn’t say I have any particular rituals when writing, but there is one thing I rely on above all else: tea, and copious amounts of it! I also try and get all of the ‘internet’ things I need to do out of the way before sitting down for a writing session: get up to date with emails, and the same with my author Facebook page and twitter profile, so I can concentrate on just the writing.
Paul: What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Jessica: I think, like any writer, I read a wide variety of books and have far too many favorite authors to list all of them, but these are some of my inspirations: Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Jostein Gaarder, Tana French, Jonathan Safran Foer, Suzanne Collins, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Edgar Allan Poe… the list goes on. I’m a big fan of horror, as well as crime thrillers, but my favorite books are ones where there’s a little bit of humor thrown in as well. You also can’t ignore the classics like Dickens and Shakespeare!
Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Jessica: To be honest, it would probably be a bit of a mess! I have so many ideas flying around all of the time (for my current work in progress as well as for future projects), that it can get a bit confusing. There’d probably be a lot of quotes and images flying around, as I find inspiration in a lot of different things, and although I like to think I’m generally quite an organised person, my ‘creative mind’ definitely wouldn’t be.
Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Jessica: This is a hard question, as there is a group of friends in my Little Forest series, all of whom have very different personality traits, and I like them all. I think perhaps Veronica Summers (sister of the main character, Beth Powers), is my favorite as I think she’s how I’d like to be: she’s outgoing, says things how they are, doesn’t put up with any crap, and just does her own thing without caring too much about what everyone else thinks.
Paul: How do you find the time to write?
Jessica: I think this is always a dilemma, especially with self-published writers, as you need to split your time effectively between writing new material and promoting what you’ve already published. Any kind of promotion takes up an insane amount of time, and while it may not seem so important when you’re trying to get your next novel finished, you’re relying on people buying and liking your existing work so that they’ll buy your new book. I think finding the balance can be very hard, but I try and split my time more or less equally between writing and promoting.
Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Jessica: I have a pretty bad habit of procrastinating, something which I think was ingrained in my mind at school when I was putting off doing boring essays about subjects I had absolutely no interest in (and which I can’t remember now, anyway)! This generally happens when I have a blank word document in front of me; all of those old habits from school just come flowing back. Once I start planning or writing, though, (once I have something on the page), it’s usually not too bad.
Jessica: When I was writing my first novel (The Former World), I did a lot of reading and research about the traditional publishing industry and the reality of getting your work published and how long it would take (if it ever did happen for you). I’m sure any author will agree that the statistics are really, really depressing, and you could be sending off your work for years and years before you even start to get anywhere. Because I wanted to get my work out there, and because I wanted to keep creative control over every aspect of my books, I chose to self-publish. It’s so much easier to do now than it was even just 5 years ago, and although it’s a hell of a lot of work, I think that for me, the pros outweigh the cons.
Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jessica: For my novels, I have to plot them meticulously, especially as I’m writing a series with overarching storylines that I have to introduce in each book and make sure I keep tabs on. When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t know what I was doing, and even though I vaguely planned it, the story and the characters changed so much that it took forever to write. Now, I make sure I write a full plan (usually around the 20,000 word mark) of exactly what is going to happen in the novel, scene by scene. This makes the writing process so much easier and quicker, and the idea of writing a 90,000 – 100,000 word novel a lot less daunting.
Paul: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jessica: I do quite a lot of editing, but much less now that I plan my stories in so much detail. My friend Vicki of REDediting then edits my finished manuscript, making sure I keep to the same writing conventions and generally checking the storylines for plot holes and things that need further explanation. She’s edited each of the novels in my series and therefore can pick up on, say, a line of dialogue that doesn’t sound right for that particular character or a situation that is out of place in that particular book. It’s incredibly useful to see someone else’s perspectives on your work.
Paul: What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Jessica: My most recent book is Grown By The Wicked Moon, my first short story collection. As I usually write novels, it was something a bit different to do, and I like the idea of being able to try out different styles, characters and settings in just a few thousand words. I’ve always been a big fan of Stephen King’s short story collections, so I used him as inspiration for my weird and wonderful tales. Grown By The Wicked Moon contains 14 short stories of varying levels of spookiness, with a bit of fantasy and a bit of humor thrown in as well.
Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Jessica: At the moment I’m trying to write one or two short stories a month (as well as whatever my work in progress is). It’s a great way of practicing new styles etc, and it means that by the end of each year, I’ll have enough stories to bring out a new collection. I haven’t done any non-fiction yet, but after I’ve written my next Little Forest novel, I’ll be writing The Darker Times of Travelling, which I’ve already planned out. It will be a (hopefully!) humorous look at the strange and bizarre experiences I’ve had while travelling around Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, plus some more local trips as well. I’m really looking forward to writing it and reliving all of my crazy travelling moments.
Paul: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Jessica: I’ve entered a few short story competitions in the past (Cazart is good as you can write about anything), but now I’m saving my work for my own self-published collections. Another reason I’ve stopped entering these types of competitions is because I now run my own short story, poetry and flash fiction competitions at Darker Times Fiction (www.darkertimes.co.uk). These run every month and have no rules (apart from the word limits) other than that the writer must somehow involve the theme of ‘darker times’. It’s really fun to run and it gives new writers a chance to be published online and in a Darker Times Anthology.
Paul: What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jessica: The favorite part of being a writer is getting feedback from readers (as long as it’s positive!) I don’t think there’s anything worse than putting yourself out there and not hearing back from people, so I really appreciate reviews on Amazon, nice emails, kind words on twitter and Facebook etc. The least favorite aspect is just the constant challenge of trying to get your name out there, trying to get known and trying to get people to buy your books. It involves a lot of time and energy, which is sometimes quite hard when you’re also trying to write your next book at the same time.
Paul: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Jessica: Apart from reading, I run a couple of websites that still link into my writing but in different ways. My online music zine site, Rock Pulse (www.rockpulse.co.uk), has been going for about ten years and gives me a chance to review and interview some of my favorite bands and artists. I also run Darker Times Fiction (www.darkertimes.co.uk) which, as I’ve mentioned, is host to several monthly writing competitions. This takes up a lot of time but it’s worth it to read work from new and upcoming writers from all over the world, and I’ve ‘met’ (online!) a lot of great people through the site.
Paul: Thanks Jessica. I wish you all the best for the future.
She has so far self-published three books in the Little Forest series, ‘The Former World’, ‘Memento Mori’ and ‘The Exalted’, as well as her first short story collection, ‘Grown By The Wicked Moon’.
She studied Film Studies and American Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton, and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for a year as part of her course. A big fan of travelling, she has road tripped around North America and backpacked across China, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Jessica also runs a monthly short-story competition, Darker Times Fiction, which focuses on finding new and exciting horror writers. Compilations of these works are available as Darker Times Anthologies.
Jessica's Blog: Jessica Grace Coleman
Jessica on Twitter: @jessformerworld
Jessica on Facebook: Jessica Grace Coleman
Jessica's latest book: The Former World (Amazon)