An Interview with Josie Jaffrey, author of the Solis Invicti series, and promoting here her latest novel The Gilded King!
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
My favourite tends to be my latest work, because I like to think that I’m constantly improving as a writer (my latest book is my sixth). But if I had to pick a favourite out of my published novels, it would probably be the third book in theSolis Invicti series (a four-book paranormal romance series), The Silver Bullet. It has a really annoying cliffhanger of an ending, and it’s the book in which the emotional conflict of the series is finally fully revealed.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
I’ve fully abandoned it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Like many novelists, I started out writing as a teenager, thinking that I would write a serious and melodramatic piece of literary fiction that said very important things about how I saw the world. As I got older, I realised (thankfully) that it’s much easier to communicate meaningfully when you ditch the pretentiousness and concentrate on entertaining the reader, so now I write fantasy with vampires and zombies, although I’m increasingly moving towards historical fiction.
My first abandoned novels were great training, and I don’t regret the time I put into them, but writing is definitely more fun now I’m not trying so hard to be important.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I’m a mixture of the two. I happily pump out two or three novels a year, but the ideas for those novels have been busy percolating for years while I write other things. I’m plotting twelve books at the moment while working on my latest draft, and I already know what the next seven books I write will be. It’s just a matter of finding the time to get them written!
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I’m definitely a digital girl. I like to write on a laptop, or on my iPad mini with a little keyboard, but I can write anywhere. My preferred place is somewhere quiet, ideally on my sofa with my cats, but I’ve written entire short stories on transatlantic flights before. The key for me is a calm environment in a safe corner so I can forget my surroundings and lose myself in my imagination.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
When I wrote my first novel, my family were among my beta readers, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t a great idea. Family relationships are often a bit fraught, and they’re not the people you want to ask to criticise your work. Parents in particular can rarely read with an unbiased and directed eye – they tend to focus on strange parts of the story because it’s written by their child, and that’s always at the front of their minds.
These days, I have a few book-loving friends who beta read for me, as well as a fellow writer and a bookshop-owning friend, who’s very good at story editing. My husband does a thorough proof read for me as well.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I actually like both physical and electronic books. Day-to-day I prefer paperbacks, particularly because I can support my favourite bookshop by buying them there (Wallingford Bookshop in Oxfordshire – it’s excellent), but also because I like the feel of a book in my hands. I like to be able to feel how far through a book I am, and get an idea of its length just from the spine width and type size. I find that difficult with ebooks, but I do still love my Kindle for holiday reading because it holds so many books. I get most of my ebooks from Netgalley, but I’ll also get them direct from Amazon onto my Kindle if I’m reading an exciting series and can’t wait to pick up a paperback of the next instalment. That’s something I do fairly frequently – I’m a sucker for a cliffhanger ending!
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?
I tend to read more fantasy and sci-fi than anything else at the moment, and a particular favourite is dystopian fiction, but I read quite widely in fiction and non-fiction.
When I was a kid, I read whatever was on my parents’ bookshelves, so my childhood was filled with Arthur Ransome and PG Wodehouse.
When I was a young teenager, my mum started reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and then the entire family was hooked. I remember the frustration of having to wait for my dad to finish reading before I could have my turn! That series and Tom Holt dominated my young adult years (together with all the latest commercial fiction releases, which my mum always lent to me) before my reading life became inundated by the truckload of Roman and Ancient Greek Literature that I was reading for school and University (I have a degree in Classics from Oxford).
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I got into Terry Pratchett, and he quickly established himself as one of my favourite authors. I also started reading a lot of paranormal romance (Charlaine Harris, Kerrelyn Sparks) and I found my way to the classic sci-fi and horror of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft, respectively. That took me on to Michael Marshall Smith, another favourite.
So, I’ve got a lot of favourites!
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. How do you cope?
I use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. On the first three, I try to post something every day (and frequently fail), and I post a few videos a month to YouTube. My following isn’t impressive on any of the platforms, because I just don’t devote enough time to it. Honestly, I’d rather be writing!
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
I don’t recycle answers, but if two people ask me the same question then they often get very similar responses! Interviewers are usually good about coming up with original questions, which make participating in interviews much more interesting for everyone. Thankfully, it also means the majority of the answers they receive contain something new from authors.