Here is a text transcript of DBSA 78.An Interview with Jill Myles, Jessica Sims and Jessica Clare, Part 1. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on!
This podcast transcript was hand-crafted of artisanal excellence by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
Here are the books we discuss:
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast! I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me is Jane Litte from Dear Author. I am attempting to record this with one of my cats who is intent on sitting on the laptop, so if this sounds really extra messed up, I’m going to blame her, and she’s 16; she can take it.
This week, we have a really fun interview that we’re going to do in two parts with Jill Myles and Jessica Clare. Fortunately, these are all the same individual, so otherwise you would have a lot of voices to keep track of. The first part of the interview is all about her publishing story, the books that she’s written most recently, and a little bit about the things that she likes to read. Next week, we’ll have the second half of the interview, which is a little bit more talking about self publishing and lizards, because you know you really can’t get enough lizards. I know you can’t – don’t lie!
This podcast is brought to you by Berkley, publisher of the #1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks’s all new Surrender trilogy, starting with the explosive Letting Go.
And yes! The music was provided by Sassy Outwater. I’ll have more information at the end of the podcast.
I should warn you, this conversation is not always safe for work or children in the backseat. And now, on with the podcast!
Jane: Did you know that there was some guy author on Facebook sending, like, chest and dick pics in exchange for reviews?
Sarah: How are we not offered this? I’m left out!
Jane: I don’t know. Jess, do you want to send naked pictures of yourself in exchange for reviews?
Jess: No, no, I don’t think so. I think they would be bad reviews, so…
Sarah: I feel so left out that I have not received any dick or groin or chest pics in response to a request for a review. Oh, man!
Jane: I don’t know who the author is, but I think that it might be this one author who is pretending to be this Dom, and he’s got a book about, he’s being interviewed about his Dom escapades, and one of the reviews says something like, I was honored to be asked to review the first third of this book. Five stars!
Sarah: The first third?
Jess: Oh, this isn’t like the guy that divorced his wife and then wrote that horrible book about her? Do you remember that, Jane?
Sarah: No, wait, when was this?
Jess: Oh, God! It was, like, about her turning into, like, the devil or something.
Sarah: Oh, my God!
Jane: Oh, oh, oh, I do remember that! That was, like –
Jane: – at the beginning of the explosion –
Jess: That was crazy!
Jane: It was the beginning of the explosion of self-published books, and we were just starting to kind of get self-published authors to submit to us, and this was a book about – [Laughs] It had this horrible cover. One half of the woman was in a, was in a wedding gown –
Jane: – and the other half was her, like, in a, like, lingerie or a stripper outfit, and I don’t remember –
Jess: And she was, like, whoring for money, or drugs or something.
Jane: Yes! But he was, like, desperately in love with her. I mean, it was really, like, I kept reading it ‘cause it was so – [Laughs] I shouldn’t be laughing. Oh, my gosh!
Jess: No, it was funny – [Giggles]
Sarah: There has to be a name for that, too –
Jess: – You can laugh.
Sarah: – when you’re reading something, and it’s so horrible you can’t believe that this is what your eyes are actually doing right now with your body and your energy, but you can’t stop reading because surely this isn’t real.
Jess: Yeah, it’s called a keeper.
Jess: I have a shelf full of them.
Jess: I have favorite authors.
Sarah: That’s a very specific kind of keeper. That’s like a “Dude, you’re not going to believe this” keeper. [Laughs]
Jess: But, you know, there’s something fun about reading a book that’s just so bad you don’t know where the hell it’s going to go, so…
Sarah: Oh, crazysauce is the best!
Jane: The book from Ravenous Romance that I remember was super, it was so tremendously bad that is was hilarious was that Ryan Lewis American Idol fanfic, ‘cause it, he – I have to Google this so I can read the lines from the book, but one of them talks about, like, how he unspools his dick like a Bounty paper roll.
Jess: Oookay. The only one I remember –
Jane: Jess, were you the one that was worried that we couldn’t swear? [Laughs]
Jess: Yeah, well, you know –
Sarah: You can swear, trust me.
Jess: I listen to the podcasts and then I totally forget if you guys swear or not, and I was like, well, damn! ‘Cause I have a salty mouth, so… I do!
Jane: It’s American Star by Ryan Field, and here’s some description:
Then he spread his legs and slowly lowered his zipper. It fell from his jeans like a roll of paper towels unraveling across the kitchen floor.
Sarah: [Laughs] Well, you know, that’s clearly a missed opportunity in Super Bowl advertising imagery.
Jess: It reminds of those, those fruit rollup, the Fruit by the Foot commercials. Remember what we used to just, like, roll out?
Sarah: And you know what? I give my kids Fruit by the Foot semi-regularly. Those things are really frigging long. It’s not a lie.
Jess: You’re welcome.
Jess: Try taking a bath next time.
Jane: He wanted to stay here on his knees and stare at it for the rest of the day. He could have put it over his shoulder and burped it.
Sarah: Oh, gracious.
Jane: And then, this is my favorite. He has a lot of smells, he’s, what’s the word for smell –
Jane: No, um –
Sarah: You mean –
Someone: There it is.
Jane: Yes, olfactory. He has sex with several different men, and Terrence has, has balls that taste sweet and smell like baby powder.
Jane: And another one’s tasted salty and smelled like apple vinegar, and another one tasted salty and smelled like onions.
Sarah: Oh, God! Oh, God! I, I had to stop reading a male/male romance because the character who was narrating the sex scene was all about the smells that he was encountering behind the other guy’s balls, and I, and I am so smell sensitive, I could not read it. It was making me nauseous. I could not get through it.
Jane: Okay, here’s, here’s one other line:
His underarms smelled like raw onions and meat.
Sarah: [Laughs] Oh, God!
Jess: Is this the hero?
Jane: No, I think it –
Sarah: I’m going to get ill now!
Jane: So, maybe this is a thing with men, like they’re very sensitive in their noses?
Jess: Or hungry, one or the other.
Sarah: Or really like onions.
Jane: Your husband’s near you, Jess, right? Can you ask him?
Jess: No, he’s asleep, he’s asleep, so… He told me was going to heckle me, but I’m lucky, he’s asleep, so…
Jane: Well –
Jess: But, yeah, no, he doesn’t smell like, you know, hamburger and onions under his arms, so… He smells like Old Spice.
Jane: [Laughs] Your husband’s Canadian. Can I say that?
Jess: He is, yes.
Jane: Okay, so, during the Olympics, who do you cheer for?
Jess: [Sigh] Canadians. Yeah, he woke up the other day, he was like, Ooh, we got another medal! And I was like, Americans? He’s like, ppffbbt, no.
Jess: It’s Canadians, clearly. I’m like, I’m, I’m not Canadian. But he likes curling and he likes hockey, and the rest is just crap, so… That’s all right, though.
Jane: – book about a former Olympic skater.
Jess: Who, me?
Jane: Yeah, no, Sarah. Sarah’s writing a book about former Olympic skaters. [Laughs]
Jess: It cut out, sorry.
Sarah: Yeah, all we heard was “book about former Olympic skaters.” Like, okay!
Jess: – Olympic skaters, yes. Yeah, I did! It’s called Ice Games, and the heroine, Zara, is an Olympic skater, and I always – Okay, once upon a time, when I first wrote my first book, I wanted to have a book about an Olympic skater who totally lost her shit. You know, ‘cause they’re always so composed, even when they fall on their asses and just make a total fool of themselves, and I was like, why doesn’t somebody just, like, get up midstream, say fuck all of you, and you know, just stomp off the ice? And nobody ever does! I’m like, ‘cause that’s what I would do, you know –
Jess: – if I totally blew it at the Olympics. I would just lose it and just quit. But they never do, they just, you know, they keep skating, and then they smile, and then they go leave. And I was like, that’s just not a normal person reaction, so my first book that I ever wrote was, like, total Mary Sue fiction about a girl who’s an Olympic skater, and it never saw the light of day ‘cause it was horrific, but I liked the idea of having a heroine that was an Olympic skater, so that’s kind of how the heroine in Ice Games came about. And so I figured she would be, you know, desperate for a job, and she decides to go on, like, ice dancing for the stars, and she gets stuck with the hero, and the way most of the Games books work is that, you know, these two people get stuck together, and they always hate each other in the beginning, and then, of course, they fall in love and, you know, shenanigans.
Sarah: Is that, is that book in print?
Jess: It is! Yeah.
Jane: Well, no, it’s an eBook.
Sarah: Right, obviously.
Jess: It is, but there’s a print version of it, yes.
Jane: Well, here’s the thing about Jess’s Games things, ‘cause I remember she told me she was writing it, I think her first one is based, is loosely based on The Amazing Race, and –
Jess: No, well, Wicked Games is the first one, and it’s based off of Survivor.
Jane: Okay, so I just remember I was like, well, first, I don’t even watch Survivor, and second, I hate reality TV games, and worse, I can’t even imagine reading one about a reality TV game show.
Jane: So, she had sent me the book, and I don’t remember when I started reading, but I know I didn’t read it right away, and I opened it and I started reading, and I finished it that night, and I emailed her, and I’m like, holy shit! I really enjoyed this book! I didn’t think I would!
Jess: I get that a lot.
Jane: So, if you go to the Wicked Games on Amazon, that is like the first sentence of everybody’s review.
Jane: I didn’t think I’d like this book, but I do. [Laughs]
Jess: I know! And I love, like, Survivor. I’ve been a Survivor junkie ever since it came on. Like, it first came on in, I want to say, 2000? And I watched the very first episode, and I pretty much saw every single episode except for when I got married, I missed one episode. Like, I was a total nerd. I read the books, I had everything, I actually paid to have tapes of it that I bought from eBay, because they didn’t have it on DVD once upon a time, and I would watch the tapes over and over again.
Jess: That’s how dorky I was about Survivor. I knew everybody’s, like, luxury item from the first season and I knew all of the –
Sarah: Didn’t somebody bring, like, mascara or something?
Jess: I don’t know. I remember one girl brought a camera, and another girl brought, like, a bullet on a necklace, and –
Sarah: Yes, that’s useful.
Jess: Yeah, exactly. They had all kinds of weird stuff, but, like, the very first season, they didn’t really know what the hell they were doing, so they just let them bring whatever. Well, the girl that brought the camera was a lawyer. And so that didn’t turn out so well. So, I don’t think she was ever allowed to do anything with that, ‘cause then she ended up suing them because she said it was rigged, and it’s like, of course it’s rigged! It’s TV!
I was really, really into it, and I’m always writing something new, and I wanted to write a book about reality TV, ‘cause I just think it’s really interesting, and I think it’s a great setup. And so, I wrote the book, and I told my agent, I was like, hey! I just wrote a contemporary romance about reality TV. She was like, [buzz], no, bad idea.
Jess: She’s like, nobody’s interested in that. And this was years ago, and so I was like, okay, so I put it on my hard drive and left it there, and when I started self publishing, I was going through all the things that I’ve written that never went anywhere – and I have way too many – and that was one of the ones that stuck out to me, and I was like, you know, I love this book! And I put it up, and it didn’t sell, and I don’t know if it was ‘cause the cover – the cover has been like –
Jane: It’s not the cover; it’s the reality TV show hook.
Jess: Well, when I first started self publishing, my covers really sucked. Like, they were skanky and the fonts were kind of hideous, but I didn’t know, you know, the first thing about self publishing. This was, like, four years ago or something like that. So, I put it up there, and it didn’t sell, it didn’t sell, it didn’t sell, and then I was like, okay, so I changed the cover, like, five times, which if you go on Goodreads, you’ll see there’s like five different covers, like, and they start, like, ultra-skank and they slowly move towards, like, less skanky, less skanky, to decent, to like, hey! That looks like a real cover!
Jess: So, it didn’t sell, and I was like, well, you know, I really like this book, and so I set it to free, and all of a sudden everybody was like, well, holy shit! This is a cool book!
Jess: I didn’t want to read it because it was about reality TV, and apparently everybody hates reality TV but me, and –
Sarah: No, I think everyone likes to say they hate reality TV because they’re terrified if they’re the one person who says oh, my God, I love reality TV!
Jess: I love it!
Sarah: Everyone’s going to be like, okay, you have to leave the Earth now.
Jane: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s full of assholes that are, like, fighting against each other, and everybody’s a jerk, and they’re fake, and it’s just, it’s an awesome setup, because they’re all out to get each other. So, I’m like, you know, the last thing you want to do is fall in love with somebody. You’re stinky, you’re fighting this person for a million dollars, you have sand up your ass, you know. I just think that’s, that’s such a fun setting to have, like, romantic entanglements. So, yeah, I set it for free, and I left it free for, like, a really long time, and all of a sudden everybody was like, well, holy crap! This is an awesome book! You should write one about The Amazing Race! And I was like, ppfftt, no, I don’t want to write about The Amazing Race, but then I watched another season of The Amazing Race, which is another favorite show, and I wrote a book about that, and then I just kind of spun off into several different books, and now everybody constantly emails me and asks for more Games books.
Sarah: That’s awesome!
Jess: Yeah! They do ask for a Biggest Loser book, but I don’t, I don’t think I’m going to do that, ‘cause I don’t find it sexy.
Jane: I would like you to do a Top Chef one, because that’s my favorite reality TV show, but you don’t watch that show.
Jess: I don’t. There’s just nothing aggressive enough about the cooking. I watch Survivor, I watch The Amazing Race. I did watch The Biggest Loser, but it really kind of beat me down with, like, how happy everyone was and – I like it when they’re kind of cutthroat. I do have plans to do a Bachelor-type one, I want to say in December, and the next one, they’re going to go back to a Survivor setting. I call it Endurance Island, and that one’s going to be coming out in a couple of months, and it’s going to be kind of like Survivor crossed with Naked and Afraid, so everybody that’s participating on the island is going to be naked!
Sarah: And afraid.
Jess: Yes. [Laughs]
Sarah: Survivor: Naked and Afraid.
Jane: I’ve never seen, I’ve never even heard of Naked and Afraid. What is that?
Sarah: Yeah, this is the first time hearing of this magical thing. Please tell me more.
Jess: So, it’s this show on cable, and I don’t remember what channel it is, because we just TiVo everything, but basically they take two strangers that want to be on TV for some God knows whatever reason, and they set them out in the wild, and they don’t know each other, and they’re naked, and they’re supposed to survive for a couple of weeks. And it’s just very bizarre. There’s not like, I don’t think that there’s a prize involved. The prize is, like, you know, being on TV. Yeah!
Sarah: So you do it for free for exposure like its Huffington Post.
Jess: Exposure. Wah-wah! Yes.
Jane: The problem is, is I always wonder, like, what kind of people go on this show? Like, what, how are you going to make the man and woman that are on this Naked and Afraid show, like, what are their motivations?
Jess: It’s easier, I guess, to make the heroine going out there for a money-related reason, ‘cause, like, anybody can see, like, you’ve seen people on Fear Factor that will eat, like, a bull’s dick or, you know, bull scrotum or pig anus or whatever, but they’ll eat it because there’s like a, there’s like a $50,000 prize, and somebody’s always like, I really need that money, and I’m like, ain’t nobody needs $50,000 that bad. But apparently someone does. So –
Jess: They’ll do these horrible things for the chance at $50,000. Well, it’s like, what would you do for $1,000,000? I’d go starve an island for a month for $1,000,000, you know. So it’s a lot easier to make it money involved for the heroine’s part, and I think for the hero, I can see guys doing it because they’re ultra-competitive. Or a lot of the time, I like to also throw in, like, the hero in this Amazing Race book, Playing Games, was a rock star, and he didn’t want to be there, but he had to because his label wanted the publicity, so… And in Ice Games, the hero didn’t want to be there again, okay, so maybe it’s not, maybe this is my pattern. He didn’t want to be there, but he had to because of PR. Because he’d bitten off somebody’s nose in the ring, and he was trying to repair his image, so they stuck him on this ice dancing show.
Sarah: Like you do.
Jess: Yes, as you do. Yeah, its, I mean, there’s different reasons, but it’s never like, I don’t know, okay, the guy in the fourth book, which is Bedroom Games, which is based off of Big Brother, he definitely wanted to do it for the money. He was in a, a prior book, and he was a real asshole and screwed over his sister, and as soon as I wrote him, everybody was like, oh, he’s got to be the hero of another book, and I was like, really! Because he just seemed like such a jerk. But people love a jerk, so I put him as the hero of the fourth book, and everybody loved it, so…
Sarah: Now, does anyone in your series say I’m not here to make friends? There’s always that one person who’s like, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to humiliate everyone.
Sarah: Is that, is that token player a necessary element of reality television, do you think?
Jane: It’s usually the hero in her books.
Jess: Yeah. The hero’s usually going out there with, you know, I’m not here to make friends, I’ll flirt with the ladies if I need to, you know, I’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead, and in the fourth book, Bedroom Games, the heroine goes in saying okay, I need the money. I’m going to do whatever I have to to get ahead. And so she goes in with the idea that she’s going to screw everyone over, and she finds it a little harder than she anticipated because she gets paired with the screw-over guy, they’re both kind of like the villains working together, and so she has to decide, you know, is he playing me or is this, you know, something for real between us? So, it was, it was fun to write, so…
Sarah: Do you have an Omarosa-style character? I, I, she fascinates me for so many reasons, because –
Jess: No, she scares me.
Sarah: She fascinates me, because I’ve seen interviews with her where, for just a moment, she’ll let you in on the fact that her awfulness is entirely a character.
Jess: Really! No!
Sarah: Yeah, like, all of her absolute awfulness is – Like, I am fascinated by her because she is so consistently awful every time she shows up.
Jess: No, I haven’t really delved into that. Most of my books are based off of, like, the Survivor and The Amazing Race culture which, there’s this whole fandom online, like if you ever go to the board called Survivor Sucks, which I love – I never post because they scare me too – but there’s this whole culture of dissecting the types of people that go on these shows, and there are mactors, which are model-actors. There are, you know, washed-up stars who want another 15 minutes. There are specific types that the directors like, like they like the cute southern blonde, so… I tend to kind of go with more those stereotypes, just because it’s what I’m familiar with as what they cast on these shows, so… There’s not a lot of Omarosa types, although that’s not a bad idea to include for the future; I might have to steal that, so, yes.
Sarah: Now, I remember when I first met you was at RWA in D.C.
Sarah: And I remember you telling me that you had placed a book with a particular publisher who hadn’t published it for, like, two years.
Sarah: And you were like, this sucks.
Jess: It did! It was, it was, it was a very long period of time. So, I have been doing the traditional publishing thing for, like, forever and a day. I think I first started writing for novels in, I want to say, 2000? 2002? Something like that? And I wrote about, I want to say, five books before I started hunting for an agent, and it took me a year to find an agent. I found an agent, and it took him a year to sell my first book. And it got bought, and I want to say I signed the contracts in 2007, and they’re like, yeah, the book will come out in 2008! I was like, cool! Then 2008 rolled around, and they’re like, no, not yet. And then eventually, I think it came out on, I want to say, December 29, 2009. So, from the time that I got the acceptance and signed the contract to the time the book actually came out, I want to say it was like 33 months.
Sarah: Yes, ‘cause RWA in D.C. was in 2009, and, and –
Sarah: – you were like, I think I’m going to be published this year? But I don’t know!
Jess: It was, it was a real interesting lesson in how the business works, because I write all the time, and if I’m not working on something, it makes me antsy, so by the time that first book came out, I want to say I’d written like 17 books at that point –
Sarah: Like you do.
Jess: – and – yes, as you do – and it was, it was, like, book number five that I wrote. I felt like I had gone ahead a million years, and to feel that first book still coming out, it was very weird for me, but it was interesting because I learned a lot about the business in the meantime, and I want to say I switched agents twice before the book even came out, so by the time it hit, I was on agent number three, and I had written, like, 17 books, and I knew way more about the bad side of the business than the good side. But the good news was that, you know, it came out, and I’m still publishing with that publisher, under a different name. I now have contracts with another publisher under a third name, so, you know, I feel like everything’s worked out.
Sarah: How many names do you have now?
Jess: I have three. So I started out as Jill Myles, and Jill Myles was first published by Pocket. Then I published three books in that series, and they did okay, but print sales were really not good. Like, they printed, I want to say, like 130,000, ‘cause they got a big order, and like 90,000 of them came back! So that was bad!
Sarah: Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Dude!
Jess: [Laughs] It, it was, it was an eye-opener! So –
Jess: – when they came back, and they said we like you! But we can’t do anything with this name anymore. Do you want to do something else under a different name? And I was like, I don’t care what you call me, just keep publishing me.
Jess: So, I became Jessica Sims, and Jessica Sims was shiny, bright, and new, and I wrote another paranormal series, and it was Midnight Liaisons, which is a shifter dating agency, and they cater to everything paranormal, and so I write under that series right now, and then I met Cindy Hwang at, who is executive, I want to say executive editor at Berkley. She’s, she’s, she’s a big cheese at Berkley. I love Cindy. I thought she was awesome, and then we met and we, like, connected at, like, some higher level. At least I thought so. Maybe she doesn’t think so.
Jess: And I was like, Cindy, I would love to, to write something for you. She was like, well, send me something! So, I thought, you know, I’ll write contemporary! ‘Cause I like contemporary, and I don’t have to do any paranormal shit for that. I wrote some contemporaries, and I sent them to Cindy, and she bought them, and she was like, but we need to call you something else –
Jess: – and I was like, once again, call me whatever you like! Then I became Jessica Clare, and Jessica Clare has actually been my most successful name. I am now a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author!
Sarah: I was just going to say, you hit the Times and the –
Sarah: – and the U, and the, I call it the USAT. You hit the Times and the USAT with that.
Jess: Yes. Yes, I did! I was really surprised.
Sarah: That’s awesome.
Jess: Thank you!
Sarah: Now, I have a question for you.
Jess: All right.
Sarah: And it’s really hard to ask these questions without sounding like an asshole, so –
Sarah: – I’m, I’m not trying to sound like an, like a dick here –
Jess: Asshole away.
Sarah: – but one of the things that caught my attention about all of the different books that you’ve published is how different they look, depending on what name you have.
Sarah: To what do you attribute the success of the Jessica Clare books? Is it the, the marketing of Penguin plus the incredibly opulent, gorgeous covers? I mean, those covers are really, really rich. They’re beautiful!
Jess: You know, I –
Sarah: And they’re the only ones that don’t have people on them, and I’m trying to think –
Sarah: – what was, what was it about this particular series that made people go, oh, my God, I want to read right now! Because, I mean, even –
Jane: It’s the word billionaire.
Sarah: There is that! There is billionaire.
Jess: I think a lot of it is, so, I think billionaire books are less contemporary and more, like, another type of fantasy that just doesn’t happen to have, like, elves and dwarves and dragons and shit. So, I think a lot of it is a Cinderella-type story, more than, like, regular contemporary where, you know, you might fall in love with the plumber, and maybe he drives a beat-up car –
Jess: – so the billionaire has, like, the lifestyle, he has the clothes, he has the money, he has, you know, he can take you to expensive locations, so it’s just a different type of fantasy, and –
Sarah: And he has absolutely nothing to worry about, ‘cause he’s a billionaire.
Jess: Absolutely. You know, who doesn’t want to have to not worry about money for the rest of their lives? So I think the covers really helped with that. I, I, I don’t really give a lot of feedback on my covers. I’m like, you’re marketing, I’m not, do whatever you think will sell the books. They, Cindy said, well, you know, we really like these object covers, and I was like, that’s great! That’s fine! So when they showed them to me, I was like, oh, I really like them, and if you put an object on there, you know, I’ll write it into the story, I don’t care!
Sarah: [Laughs] Easy to get along with and so nice! Damn!
Jess: Sure! Sure! Well, you know, there’s always, there’s always a way to work something in, like, I think Once Upon a Billionaire, which is Billionaire number four, it’s coming out, and it has a crown on it, and I just thought that was the cutest thing, because that one is really a fairy tale type of story with, the hero is a, is a, is a viscount in a little European country. I do think that they symbolism a different type of story, but I also think that because it fit in with the genre, people were more willing to give my books a try, whereas a lot of the time, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t tend to take myself very seriously? So –
Sarah: No! You don’t say!
Jess: Yes. It’s true. So, I get lumped in with a lot of the light, fluffy, funny type of books, and I don’t think those sell very well right now. They’re typic – there’s a different type of book that’s selling right now. It’s, I like to think of it in musical terms. Adele is selling hot, and I’m more Katy Perry. So –
Jess: It’s hard.
Jane: Katy Perry’s selling!
Jess: I know!
Sarah: I was going to say, Katy Perry has like one, number one songs, and she totally pole dances on a broom!
Jess: Nobody comes out and says Katy Perry is my favorite. They all say, oh, you know what, I love Adele. So, I think it’s not cool to like Katy Perry, but I think that you, it’s kind of infectious and it’s just kind of fun. So that’s kind of what I go for in my writing voice, and I think it’s harder to market that in the current landscape where everybody loves, you know, tortured, emo, unhappy people, and so I think my covers fooled everyone into thinking that my billionaires were tortured, miserable assholes. My books are really more about, like, a really fun heroine meeting up with this guy and kind of, you know, changing his, changing his mind, I guess, about life and romance and things like that. So I think people were more willing to give my book a try when it wasn’t the typical cutesy couple on the cover, ‘cause a lot of the comments I get on the billionaire books are, I’m surprised by how much I like this book, and it’s about billionaires, ‘cause everybody’s tired of billionaires, or so they say, even though they keep reading them, so I don’t know. Yeah, so mine are not super dark, super angsty. There’s usually some humor. Nobody is like, you know, miserable 24/7, not that that’s bad, but it’s like, nobody’s being beaten with, beaten or spanked, you know, until they liked it, and, yeah, they’re just, you know, kind of happy stories about people that fall in love, and there you go!
Sarah: One of the things that I really liked in the review for Beauty and the Billionaire was that the heroine was not only unique, but she was, like, actually curvy. Not like the adjectives were applied to her but she wasn’t actually, she was actually a curvy person. I so appreciate that. Thank you!
Jess: Well, you know, I just don’t think, as a writer, I kind of wanted her to be, you know, you read all these typical heroines, and, you know, the writer heroine is practically sitting in a café, you know, sipping a latte and crossing her size 0 legs as she, you know, types 500 words on her computer and makes millions of dollars, and I’m like, that’s bullshit.
Jess: You know, that’s, that is Carrie from Sex and the City, so when I made Gretchen, I wanted her to be like the antithesis of what a normal writer heroine is that you’d read about. So she’s a writer and she fucking hates it. She hates writing these shitty, pulpy books that she can’t stand, and she knows they’re crap, but it’s a paycheck. And she’s never, like, super put together; she’s a slob. She wears yoga pants, she never fixes her hair, she never leaves her apartment. She is, she’s what I think a writer is, you know, and so I tried to make her as realistic as possible. She’s got the writer’s butt, you know –
Jess: – she’s not in great shape. She is –
Sarah: So, it’s, it’s got sort of like a chair-shaped flatness on one end.
Jess: Right! And she’s, she’s constantly –
Sarah: I know that butt; I have it right now.
Jess: She’s constantly freaking out about her next deadline. I actually, I think I gave my editor a bit of a complex because in all of her notes, as she was reading the book, it was like, Gretchen really needs to be working on her deadline right now! Gretchen needs to work on her deadline!
Jess: ‘Cause I just like giving her PTSD, because my character was so bad about hitting her deadlines, and everything was all, just two more weeks! Just two more weeks! So I tried to make her more of a real person than how I feel like you normally read the writer heroine, because I, I hate, and I’m not saying that all heroines are Barbies, but I hate it when I don’t feel like, when I read a story and I don’t feel like I relate to the person there, so…
Sarah: I know exactly what you mean.
Jess: Yeah. So I try to make them people I relate to.
Sarah: I also really struggle with writer heroines because when the romance is about a romance writer heroine, I feel like it is all of a sudden uncomfortable levels of meta, and there’s a lot of, like –
Sarah: There’s a, it’s a combination of in-jokes that aren’t that funny and a sort of sense of self awareness that is, it’s not a silly self awareness, and I like silly self awareness, I’m all for it! This is “I take myself very seriously; I need to portray myself as an artist” awareness, and that just does not work for me. And it also seems like much of, like, I remember in that one book you talked about, Jane, and I can’t remember the title, but there was the romance author who was being pursued by, like, an angry blogger or something?
Jane: It was the Lori Foster book. I remember that book because the author was supposed to be so rich that she could have been, one of the possible motivations for her kidnapping in Mexico was a ransom, and she was so rich that she had, in her apartment, not even a house, but her apartment, posters on the wall, and she’s very proud of that, and she splurged and she bought herself a Mazda Miata –
Jane: – so… [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s a regular thousandaire right there.
Jane: I just, I mean, though, the author was supposed to be so rich that, that, that she would be the target of a ransom kidnapping, but I don’t know, if you’re buying Mazda Miatas, who’s going to pay to have you kidnapped?
Sarah: [Laughs] But she was being stalked by a blogger, right? Am I remembering that part right?
Jane: Ultimately, yes. The person who paid to have her kidnapped was a reviewer who didn’t like her!
Sarah: Yes, because that is totally what a reviewer would be doing with their dollars.
Sarah: No, any, any actual reviewer, they’d be buying more books! ‘Cause that’s what they do.
Jess: That reminds me of, I don’t know if you guys ever watch NCIS, but I’ve watched it very rarely, but there was one episode where the one guy is a super famous author, and, who also works for the NCIS division, you know, as you do.
Sarah: Oh, yeah, what’s his face, the, the, the geeky guy. I used to watch the show all the time.
Jess: The little dorky guy.
Jess: Yes. So, in this one episode, they decide that to catch a criminal, I don’t know, they had to go to this club, and it was a super swanky club, and they were like, oh, we’re not going to be able to get in, and he’s like, wait here, I can handle this. And he goes in, and they’re all like, oh, Mr. So-and-so, I loved your last book! And I’m like, what? ‘Cause they all knew who he was, because he was a famous author, and I was like, Please!
Jess: It was like the most ridiculous Mary Sue fantasy, and he would go home and he would type on an old typewriter –
Sarah: Of course.
Jess: – you know, clickety-clack ones, you know, and I’m like, whatever, has anybody ever tried to do that, because when I was, like, 10, I decided I was going to write my first novel, and it took me, like, four hours to write one page on the clickety-clack typewriter, and after that, I was like, ppfftt, I’m done! This is way too much work! So I can’t imagine anybody doing that for real. Or can you imagine being the editor that gets that shitty pile of 400 typed pages? I mean, you would have to be fucking amazing for somebody to sit, to put up with that crap, so…
Sarah: And that’s all for this week’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jillessica. She’ll be back next week with us talking about additional things that are equally scandalous, quite entertaining, and definitely involving lizards.
This podcast is brought to you by Berkley, publisher of the #1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks’s all new Surrender trilogy. Josslyn found perfection once, and she knows she’ll never find it again. Now widowed, she seeks the one thing her beloved husband couldn’t give her: dominance. And Dash has lived in an untenable position for years: in love with his best friend’s wife, but unwilling to act on that attraction. When he finds her in a club devoted to the darker edges of desire, he’s furious because he thinks she has no idea what she’s getting into, until she explains in detail what she wants. You can find the new Surrender trilogy beginning with Letting Go in bookstores now.
This music is brought to you by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. This is Enter the Haggis, and this tune is called “Martha Stuart.” You can find them online at their website or on iTunes, and I’ll have links in the podcast entry so that you can do exactly that.
And if you like this episode and want to tell us things or ask us questions or make suggestions, you can email us at email@example.com, or you can call our Google voice number 1-201-371-DBSA. Please leave your name and where you’re calling from so we can include your message in an upcoming podcast, and I totally love when you both email or call or do both multiple times. Really, it’s not creepy, I promise!
We’ll be back next week with more from Jillessica, and future podcasts will involve more author interviews, which we’re setting up now, and interviews with some of the reviewers at Dear Author and Smart Bitches, ‘cause we thought you might like to get to know some of them too! In the meantime, Jane and I wish you the very best of reading, and thanks for listening!
[very cool music]