Author Interview - Jess Alexandria
Genre: Fantasy Romance (adult)
Jess Alexandria is half of the dynamic writing duo J.S. Alexandria, authors of Frost and Sunshine. Jess loves a good story with incredible characters, and a little spice (or a lot of spice) never hurt! She lives in New England with her husband and cat children, and when she's not writing, she can be found reading, playing video games, or enjoying some good food and a TV show.
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?
My most recent book is actually my debut novel! Frost and Sunshine by J.S. Alexandria. This one is coauthored with me and my best friend. It's an adult fantasy romance within a modern, contemporary setting. It follows our two main character Slate and Daniella where Slate finds himself a target of the fae and he's rescued from being kidnapped by Dani. Adventure and romance ensue. And it's more than just fae, which I know is super trendy right now, but this world includes traditional faerie lore, Asian magicks, vampires, witches, and other magical creatures. It's quite varied! Slate and Dani are supported by a diverse and fun cast of side characters—Slate's best friends Jian and Kari, and Dani's best friends Roger, Maddie, and Sellie the griffin.
Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?
Well Frost and Sunshine has been a labor of love for Sierra and I for over FIVE YEARS. But that's because we created the world, wrote Slate and Dani's story... then proceeded to write several more books within the world before we decided to go back and edit Slate and Dani. I would say that we draft a book within a year, usually, then another year for editing (which includes a round with our beta readers!). It's fun because it's the two of us. I will be embarking on some solo projects, and I can't say yet how long the process will take me. I'm definitely not an intense drafter and I don't see myself being able to put out more than a single book a year on my own. Sometimes the process takes time!
Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?
I LOVE a snarky male lead who also has a short temper. Bonus points for a little trauma baked in. Characters like Greed/Ling from Full Metal Alchemist, Zuko from ATLA, Inuyasha from, well, Inuyasha, Rhys and Cassian from ACOTAR... Slate (my male lead in FAS) is a little bit like this, and so is his best friend Jian. They are two peas in a pod, those two, though Slate has a little more temper while Jian has a little more... edge. And we really get to see Jian's character develop in rich ways over the course of the next few books. Bonus points - Sierra LOVES an angsty, stoic male. Roger is her favorite to write in FAS. Think like Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha, Itachi from Naruto... she loves a tragic stoic lead.
Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.
YES - the martial arts parts of Frost and Sunshine are absolutely mined right from my life. I'm a 3rd degree black belt in traditional Taekwondo, and my husband is a 6th degree. It's a family affair, hahaha. A lot of Slate's interactions with his male friends were based on observations watching my favorite men in my life talk to each other as well. I also have a new WIP that works on a martial arts ranking system as well. It's such a core element in my life... it's hard to not put a little taste of it into each of my books! Bonus - Sierra lived in Japan for five years and speaks the language fluently, so the very Japanese elements of our book are absolutely well-researched and thought-out... from lived experience!
Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?
How f-ing difficult the publishing process was... yet also how easy. I'm 33 years old... it didn't cross my mind until two years ago that Sierra and I could SELF-PUBLISH and skip all the misogynistic red tape of the traditional publishing sphere. Not that it's a bad path (great for some) but those of us that write Fantasy Romance have a harder time fitting into the trad-pub sphere because our work doesn't align tightly to a single niche. You can't take out the fantasy or the romance plot of Frost and Sunshine and still have it be a cohesive novel... so where does it live in the genre world? If I had known that self-publishing was as easy as a little research and a hell of a lot of ambition, I would've done it a lot sooner. I'm an Enneagram type 3... I love a good to-do list and I'm ambitious and I love to have control over everything. As stressful as it is, I have loved the self-publishing route because I get to control everything. I just wish I had known about it sooner!
Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again?
The beautiful thing about a well-balanced coauthorship is that if I'm in a rut, Sierra can take over and help. I can give her the barest bones of a raging dumpster fire scene and go: "FIX ME" and between the two of us, we can usually motivate each other! However... that doesn't always work, especially for my solo projects. One thing that usually works for me is driving with a music playlist. I pick a few songs that match my WIP vibe and I go out for a drive. I live in the country so the roads are winding and unpopulated and it's easy to loop around and connect the roads together, so I can just loop around in my car for an hour or two and ruminate. Other strategies include just... writing scenes and head-canons from my own works. Sometimes it flows easier than anything that happens in the story and gets me into the heads of the characters. For example, I wrote some scenes about Slate's father's backstory... does it go into the book? Absolutely not, but they are fun scenes and it keeps me sharp and motivated and in the mood. Some authors will tell you that words are 'wasted' because they don't make it into the story (especially if the author is a pantser) but I don't believe that's true. Any writing keeps you sharp and honed for your craft. Words are never ever wasted.
Q7: What is your favourite writing resource?
Reading!!! Seriously the best thing to do to keep your mind in story-mode. Read good books. Other than that - I've been getting into craft books lately on writing. I don't yet have any to recommend because I've only just started reading them. But I also love the Author Media podcast on Spotify. The podcast creator does come from a religious background and that bias sometimes creeps into his podcast, but not always and I've learned a lot from that podcast on marketing and writing strategies. Additionally... OTHER AUTHORS. Seriously, Sierra and I have been writing together in a silo for over 20 years... but the moment I branched out into social media and met other authors and participated in critique groups and received feedback from other people... incredible. My writing chops expanded. I did go to college for Education with a minor in English so I was accustomed to feedback and critique groups, but it's one thing when you are doing it for a grade and another thing to volunteer to do it to get better. Highly recommend people connecting with other writers and authors. The power of the collective cannot be understated.
Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
Demographic is 18+ due to the graphic nature of our books, but more than that, the characters are adults going through adult things. Dani owns her own house. Slate runs a business and cares for his elderly father. They go out drinking... these are adult activities that someone under 18 might not connect with. Beyond that -- if you are someone who loves the idea of fantasy but wants it to be approachable... or someone who loves romance and wants to dabble into fantasy romance... or someone who grew up reading the paranormal romance books of the early 2000s (the ones we all had to hide from our mothers)... someone who loves following incredible characters through an approachable and digestible plot... loves dialogue and banter... and you are someone who loves to go the distance with incredible characters... Frost and Sunshine is your next read, for sure.Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?
It's super cliche of me to say SJM, but I really do love the character dynamic of her books. They are the kind of characters you want to go the distance with, and I love their banter. BUT - I love JR Ward (the Black Dagger Brotherhood series), and I've been a lifelong fan of paranormal romance. Sierra too. Those types of "stand-alone in the series" books inspired us all our lives. We loved seeing a new couple in each book with an overarching plot and revisiting our fav couples from the past in new books. Some recent authors who have become staples in my life - VE Schwab, Katee Robert, AP Walston, Amy Daws... inspired by all of them in different ways. And of course, all my indie author friends just inspire me all the time with the tenacity and creativity: Lindsay Clement, TM Ledvina, Miranda Joy, and so many others.
Q10: What are you currently reading?
I just finished an ARC of These Wicked Truths by Miranda Joy! I'm about to read Of Blood, Bones, and Truth by TM Ledvina... but right now I'm more focused on my own writing and I'm actually doing another play-through of Zelda Breath of the Wild, which is its own inspiration!
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