Frequently Asked Questions
Yet another boring, longwinded Author’s Bio FAQ…maybe...or maybe you might find this interesting:
Q. What are some recent books you have read that you would recommend to others?
A. As of the start of April 2013, my recent book recommendations would include Mercedes Lackey's Collegium Chronicles, currently at four books and probably awaiting a fifth. The novels are: Foundation, Intrigues, Changes, and most recently Redoubt. I also read and can recommend The Hunger Games and its follow-up books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay...but read these books only if you're into dystopia where the governments are truly evil...and I'll just give everyone a warning that my character Ia and the crew of her ship, TUSPF Hellfire, would like to nuke that evil government from orbit, as "It's the only way to be sure." Other than that, it was a very engaging read.
Also, the novelization of the Girl Genius webcomic / graphic novel series, with the release of the second book, Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, which covers the events in Volumes 4-6 of the ongoing story. Phil and Kaja Foglio are not only fantastic artists & scriptwriters for their webcomic--plus being wonderful people in person--they have also proved they can handle straight narrative prose.
Speaking of webcomic artists/authors that put out novels, I just finished reading Digital Divide, an ebook novel by K. B. Spangler, renowned for her webcomic A Girl And Her Fed. The story follows one of the cyborg Agents, Rachel Peng, from her webcomic universe, but it is very much a book that can stand on its own, with lots of depth, action, and mystery. This book was filled with realistic characters, for even the cyborg-augmented heroine is still quite human at the end of the day...and that's on a day filled with muggings, beatings, murder, and worse, all while someone is trying to frame her and her fellow OACET Agents for crimes they did not commit.
Beyond that, most of my reading is research reading, or webcomics. For the former, I cannot praise enough Science News, which is both a paper and online magazine covering pretty much every possible branch of science out there in short, fairly easy to read articles. If you want to keep abreast of science in the news, read this one. Worth every penny. For the latter, some of my favorites are not only Girl Genius and A Girl And Her Fed, but Schlock Mercenary, Fried Chicken & Sushi, Two Lumps, Love & Capes, The Dreamland Chronicles, Erstwhile, Not A Villain, Savage Chickens, and many, many more. (I read a lot of webcomics online, so this is a very short list. Also, some have adult/mature themes and are above PG-13 in rating, so I shall refrain from mentioning them here. If you are adult/mature and of-age to handle reading such things, you can always email me privately to ask for what I'd recommend.)
Whatever webcomics I follow, I have a rule of thumb: They have to keep bringing me back. Whether they're mostly one-shots like Two Lumps and Savage Chickens with only a few running jokes, serial short- or medium-length stories like Erstwhile and Love & Capes, or grand epics vast in scale and scope like Girl Genius, Schlock Mercenary, and more, they have to be well-written. Some only update once a week, some update daily, and many update somewhere in between. So if I make a recommendation, it's usually because the writing is worthwhile, at least to me. (Honestly, I'd list many more, but I have so many that I had to separate them into folders marked by the days of the week for each day a webcomic updates, and an extra for Updated Randomly. It was taking me far too long to go through all of them each and every time just to find the ones that had updated that day.)
Q. Going from fantasy romance novels to military science fiction is quite a stretch. What made you think of writing in both genres?
A. I've always loved reading in three genres: science fiction, romance, and fantasy, in no particular order. As a result, I've always enjoyed writing in three genres: fantasy, science fiction, and romance--again, in no particular order. Except that when it comes to romance, I've discovered I suck at writing contemporary (real-world style) romances. I always wanted to slip in some sort of fantastical element, so I gave up on the idea of writing plain romances and focused on building my talents at writing fantasy romances, paranormal romances, science fiction romances, time-travel romances...anything with a not-normal twist. But I can and do write more than just romance, however non-contemporary and fantastical those stories may be.
I really do love writing stories which focus on fantasy and science fiction in all their fantastical, imaginative glory, above and beyond the stories which focus on romance. I have plenty of plot ideas waiting to be written in pure fantasy fiction and pure science fiction formats. I just happened to get the chance to be published in fantasy/paranormal romance first, that's all. With Ace Books picking up one of my science fiction series ideas--military science fiction--it's simply yet another family of plot-bunnies that has been hopping around in my head for years.
Q. How does a fantasy romance author make that giant leap to writing futuristic military science fiction? Or even decide to make that big of a jump?
A. Honestly? It's not really that big of a jump for me. I've always read a wide variety of stories within the fantasy / science fiction / romance triangle of interests. Military science fiction just happens to be one of them. Some women absolutely love football games; they go nuts when their team wins, they wear the jerseys, they attend the games, and that's just who they are. I'm not much into sports myself, but I can respect and understand how they feel. Myself, I really enjoy well-written stories of heroism, strategy, adventure, combat, and the psychology of what it takes to be a Big Damn Hero. And with a very large number of friends and family members who did or do serve in various branches of the military, I've had a lot of people to chat with about military life and military service, and the hows and whys of both.
Amusingly enough, based on samples of my military sci-fi writing, I have been accused of having served in the military. For the record: I have never served in any branch of the military. Not even as a civilian worker. I did strongly consider enlisting at more than one point in my life, but alas, even at my most fit (weight-lifting in high school, ice skating, etc)...while I had the strength, I didn't have the stamina. I literally couldn't run a mile in under ten minutes. I am also *cough* not the best shot in the world. I know how to use guns and other weapons (yay for hands-on research!) and can do so safely, but the targets they want you to be able to hit in the military are considerably smaller than the broadside of a barn.
So, since I cannot and do not serve personally, I have done my knowledge-junkie best to research everything that could end up in my military science fiction. It's the exact same diligence that I apply to researching the details that go into my fantasy romances. It's the same attention to those details I will put in to just about everything I write, because I am one big, huge, terminal geek, and I love doing research almost as much as I love telling a good story.
Q. Are you going to finish the Sons of Destiny series?
A. Technically, it's already finished. All eight books are available in trade paperback format from Berkley Sensations, as well as multiple ebook formats. If you're looking for the normal-sized mass market paperbacks so you can complete your collection in a way that fits uniformly on your bookshelves, Berkley is still squeezing the last few those onto its production schedule. Check the JeanJohnson.net homepage for updates on when those and other books become available. I do have ongoing plans to write more books in the Sons of Destiny universe, though.
Q. Are you published in any other languages besides English? Would you consider publishing your books in my native language?
The first two books of the Sons of Destiny series are published in German, via the branch of Random House in Germany. If you'd like to see the rest of that series also translated into German, please contact them, or send me an email via the Contact The Author page, and I'll forward it to my editor, who can forward it to the appropriate people...though to be honest, with the German translations you'd probably get a faster response by writing to Random House's German branch directly.
For all other languages, Berkley and Ace are in charge of farming out translation contracts for my stories through them. If you would like to make a request, feel free to email it to me, or mail a written request, citing the nation as well as the language in which you would like to see it published, and I will happily pass that to my editor. I cannot, however guarantee that it will get published in that language. It might help if you look for and contact a reputable publishing house in your native country to ask them if they'd be interested; books are translated via copyright law per individual nation. If you just want it in your country but don't need it translated, I can pass along those requests as well. Again, no guarantees, but Berkley and Ace are part of The Berkley Group, which is in turn part of Penguin-Putnam, so if they don't have your nation covered, it's not for lack of trying.
For the stories in the multiple-author anthologies, I'd have to go over those contracts line by line to see how the translation rights have been covered. Some of them may require the entire book (all authors' stories, with their written permission) be translated, and that is simply beyond my control. I can pass along written requests, but that's it, no guarantees.
Q. When are you going to have audio books done?
A. This is another one of those "it's entirely out of my control" questions, with an unsatisfactory--even for me--answer: I have no clue when I'll get my books done up as audio books. There have been any number of requests, ranging from readers who are blind or sight-impaired to those who prefer listening to books while commuting to work or whatever. I have very carefully passed along each and every one of the dozens of requests I have received. However, publishing houses look at the big numbers when making those decisions. I'd have to pass along a lot more, probably more like hundreds of requests, before they'd consider doing so.
Audio books take a very long time to read aloud, since it requires weeks' worth of time from a voice actor in a recording studio--there are only so many hours in a day you can talk before your voice goes rough; trust me on this--plus multiple passes of editing to weed out errors, slips of the tongue, pauses, and unwanted background noises, followed by approval of the final version, and manufacture of the necessary media formats, CDs, books-on-tape for the Library for the Blind (which my maternal grandmother used in her last decade of life; alas, she passed away before I had my first book published), and then of course sending it out to the bookstores to sell. It is a very expensive proposition, far more so than printing a book or formatting an ebook. The number of people who buy audio books is going to be smaller than those who buy regular books, and so they prefer to pick books they know will sell very well as audio books before taking that kind of financial risk.
In the meantime, there is a solution, albeit not a completely perfect one. A lot of the new ebook readers (Kindle 2, for example) have a text-to-audio feature, making them function as an audio book. It won't have the inflections or the drama of a live person reading it, but at least it's one way to get an audio version. All of my books through Berkley and Ace are currently available, or will be, in a variety of ebook formats. I'm not as sure about the multi-author anthologies; so far, I've heard nothing about audiobook formats for those.
Q. Are your books available as ebooks, and if so, what versions? What other ways can I get ahold of your books?
A. I know there are ebook versions of my novels through The Berkley Group for Kindle, Sony, and at least 2-4 other ebook readers. If you have checked all over but don't see the ebook version you want, please contact me with a written request (email or snailmail) and I will forward it to my editor, who will get it to the correct people. Alas, I cannot guarantee ebook versions of the multiple-author anthologies. Most of those are with smaller publishing houses which do not necessarily have the resources or the contacts to create ebook versions.
Be advised that The Berkley Group has a policy of sometimes waiting about one month between releasing the paper version and releasing the electronic version. If the book is brand-new, it might not be available in ebook format just yet; check back in a month, and if you don't see it, contact me and I'll forward your query.
If you see a .pdf or a .doc or a .txt or whatever version of my books, and it doesn't come from an accredited bookseller site, it might be an illegal scan, which is a violation of copyright law. It may not seem like much, but authors honestly don't make nearly as much money per book as you think, so every penny from every copy sold counts. If you aren't sure, contact me with the website information, and I'll look into it myself, or have Berkley look into it. If you're not sure what the fuss is, think of it like this: would you like people reaching into your paycheck and taking out a dollar here, a dollar there? No? That's what authors and musicians and other artists go through when people circumvent those pesky-seeming copyright laws. (This is my only source of income, so I'd kinda like to have all of that income coming in, ya know?)
On the flip side, I strongly encourage those who don't have the money to buy my books outright at this moment to instead head to their nearest public library. If my books aren't available at your local branch, you can either request that copies be purchased, or if you don't want to wait that long (depending on what their book-purchasing schedule looks like), ask your librarian about the Inter-Library Loan System. This is a beautiful thing: it connects all libraries to each other, and not just public libraries but college and university libraries as well. If you can find a book through the Inter-Liberary Loan, you can have it checked out and mailed to you. (Please remember to return it on time and in good condition!) It also works for other books, non-fiction as well as fiction.
Q. Who reads your books? Do men read the fantasy romances? Do women read the military science fiction?
A. My books are written for everyone. Or at least, I try. Not everyone will enjoy them, and I've heard from people who tried and didn't like them, but I've also heard from a surprisingly wide variety of people who thoroughly enjoyed my stories...some of them, once they braved their way past the rather target-specific covers, and some of them after they decided to skip the smutty bits and keep reading. Not everything will appeal to everyone, but so far I've managed to please a fair number of people.
By the start of 2011, I have heard directly from over forty men who have read my fantasy-romances, telling me how much loved the stories. Not always the covers, heh, but they loved the stories--responses to an anonymous survey posted a year or two ago revealed that 30% of men have read at least one romance novel, and enjoyed reading it. As for women reading military science fiction, I can safely say that there are plenty of us who do, and not just myself or my beta-ladies. For that matter, I know of one lady who normally only reads true crime novels and historical fiction--as in the kind of stuff Geoffrey Chaucer and Francis Bacon wrote--yet once she started reading them, she loved most of my books.
From the science fiction of Elizabeth Moon to the Honor Harrington series, from fantasy romances to contemporary romances, if the story is good, people will read it. I promise I'll do my best to make each and every one of my stories a good one. Not everyone will like what I write, not every single story every single time, but a surprisingly large number of people do. If you aren't sure if a friend would like my writing or not, lend them a copy and let them give it a try; they just might like it if they do.
Q. What does your family think of your writing? What was your childhood like?
A. They're proud of me. Immediate and extended, my family have proven to be very supportive. Admittedly my parents will probably never read one of my stories; my dad doesn't read fiction and my mother prefers mild contemporary romances. But they have supported my writing from the moment they realized just how serious I was about it, and how dedicated. They still support my efforts, as does my sister. And all of my honorary sisters and brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, acquaintances... It's quite humbling and heartening and warm-fuzzying when I think about it.
My childhood was reasonably typical, I guess. As children, my sister and I watched Star Trek before dinner with our dad, The Muppets before bedtime with both parents, read a lot, played a few video games (first an Atari, then much later an NES and a SNES); my sister and I took music lessons, both instrumental and vocal, then she got involved with the drama club and I got involved with the choir. I did a bit of ice skating for several years, though no real major competitions. Since we didn't have a lot of neighbors for several years, living in a small patch of rurality, I spend a lot of my time exercising my imagination via reading.
I graduated from Inglemoor High School in Washington State, then went on to attend classes for several years at Bellevue Community College...and then eventually wound up getting a Masters and a Ph.D. in Religions via correspondence school. (Don't worry, I don't proselytize; it's against my religion...it's the truth, but bonus points for those of you who get the joke!)
Q. Are you really related to Nunnally Johnson, the screenwriter / director / producer?
A. Yep. My father's father (paternal grandfather) was Cecil Patrick "Pat" Johnson, Nunnally Johnson's brother. They got along great, and whenever Nunnally knew a particular friend in the entertainment business would be in the Seattle area (where Grandpa Pat lived), he'd call up his brother and ask if Pat would host them for a dinner, or show them about town, et cetera--my father fondly remembers Helen Hayes, queen of the American stage, being a favorite visitor to their house whenever she was in town performing a play, and how much she enjoyed the quiet relaxation of a home-cooked meal over the bustle of a restaurant. The reason why Nunnally's brother (my grandfather) is almost never mentioned in his biography pages is the same one most siblings are never mentioned: if they lead quiet lives, aren't in the entertainment business, and aren't a direct descendant, they get forgotten and left on the wayside, along with any aunts, uncles, cousins, etc...unless they do something worthy of mention. Like also getting published.
...On a side note, my sister--who is awesome at researching this sort of thing, which is good as it's really not a skill of mine--has determined our Kevin Bacon number. This is also known as the Six Degrees To Kevin Bacon game, where you try to link various actors to each other until they connect to Kevin Bacon. Obviously Kevin himsef has a number of 0, and any actor or actress who has worked with him in a movie has a number of 1, anyone who worked with that person, but not Kevin directly, would have a 2, and you just add numbers the further out you go.
If you include family ties and screenwriter connections as well as acting jobs, our family's number is 4 (KB-4). My sister determined through simple (if lengthy) research on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) that Nunnally Johnson (KB-3) wrote the screenplay to "The Grapes of Wrath", which starred John Carradine. John Carradine (KB-2) starred in "Buried Alive" with Nia Long...and Nia Long (KB-1) starred on "Guiding Light" alongside Kevin Bacon (KB-0, obviously). It sounds simple, but it did take her a few hours of prolonged research, so kudos to her for figuring it out, lol.
Now, if anyone wants to know whether or not I inherited my great-uncle's long-proven, award-winning abilities at screenwriting...let's just say that I could definitely write a screenplay to save my life, but they'd still kneecap me, and probably take an arm and a leg. Screenwriting is a very specialized skill when it comes to writing. I can do prose and I can do poetry, and I can even do some dialogue, but writing a screenplay is its own creature. I'll leave that to the professional screenwriters. I do think I inherited some of his sense of humor, based on what I've read of his works, but most of it is my own quirky viewpoint of life.
Q. Are you going to write any more fantasy romances? Or the Sons of Destiny books? Or more military stuff? Or in any other genres?
A. Absolutely; not exactly; definitely; and you betcha. I have far too many plot-bunnies to stop writing, scattered across fantasy, science fiction, and genre-romance to not write more, more. And I do have more stories planned for the Sons of Destiny universe...though I will not be revisiting the romances of the Corvis brothers directly. I know, I know, but to be honest their stories have already been told. They might do cameo appearances, but there are so many other stories waiting to be told, I need to tell them, too. Plus there are stories in other fantasy universes, such as the Flame Sea universe from the short story "Birthright" in the anthology ELEMENTAL MAGIC. (Yes, it's a different universe from the Sons of Destiny, though it does share a few similarities.)
I will therefore definitely be writing more romances, more science fiction, and hopefully even some straight fantasy...though crossing genres can be a lot of fun. I might delve into steampunk, I might try my hand at historical (if I'm ever brave enough; I may love reading and researching history myself, but I have far too many history-nut friends who know where I live), or who knows what else. The one thing I won't do is quit writing altogether. Not while I still have a functional brain and a way to communicate my story ideas. Trust me, my plot-bunnies are strong, healthy, and they breed. Oh, boy, do they breed...
Q. Okay, I give up, what the heck is a plot-bunny?
A. Being the imaginative creatures so many of us are, a lot of us authors tend to personify our story ideas. Anthropomorphize them. It isn't a new idea, either: this habit goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks and their Muses for things like epic poetry, lyric poetry, history, comedy, astronomy... You get the idea.
For myself and a number of writers out there who grew up with Monty Python's Flying Circus influencing much of our geeky sides...a lot of us personify our story-ideas as plot-bunnies. Very much like the bunny in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", a plot-bunny seems sweet and gentle, something which you wish to cuddle and pet. Alas, all too often, it turns vicious and latches on with killer teeth, clamping down hard and not letting go--the personification of a story idea which so takes over a writer's imagination that he or she forgets mundane considerations such as making it to appointments on time, doing laundry, bathing, taking out the garbage on time, or even remembering the name of your spouse / roommate / whoever while in the grip of inspiration. Sometimes it's a plot-poodle. Or a plot-octopus (ploctopi?), or a plot-bulldog, or a plot-vine, creeping up and twining around our lives.
Others may claim that it's simply because bunnies (actual rabbits) look cute and cuddly, but they still have a wild streak at times. (They also make a lot more noise than most people realize.) Many of us claim both reasons, and I have referred to my stories by other means, plot-poodles and so forth, but plot-bunny remains in the lead as the popular choice. Either way, it's simply our imagination given a form which we can visualize. When you can visualize something, you can deal with it a little bit better. Or at least it feels that way.*sigh*
Q. What is the difference between trade paperback and mass market paperback versions?
A. The trade is the bigger one on the left, and the mass market is the smaller, normal-sized one on the right, the one with the little ribbon-thing at the bottom of the front cover.
Q. Why do you have a Fanfiction / Fanart Policy?
A. First, I actually got interested in being a writer because I didn't like the ending to a story, and sat down and wrote what I thought should have happened back when I was a young girl. This was long before "fanfic" became a word, let alone one that I knew. I've practiced writing in other author's universes in order to develop my abilities in different styles of writing, setting description, characterization and so forth, so to me, fanfics are an important source of practice material. By writing in different authors' styles, I was able to develop my own style. Second, I also got noticed for publication because of my current fanfics...so it would be doubly hypocritical of me to say, "No, you can't write fanfics in my universe!" I'd rather encourage it than discourage it. If someone else plays around in my universe, developing their own writing talents and polishing their skills, maybe they'll get noticed for publication, too. This isn't a competetive business, after all. Even if they don't get noticed through fanfics, at least they'll have practiced and hopefully polished their writing skills, so that if and when they submit a manuscript, it'll be in a better shape than it would have been before.
Third...it's going to happen, regardless. If I put out a list of reasonable rules for people to follow, most of them will respect that. They'll follow them, and they'll censure those that don't. I think the rules I came up with are reasonable enough, since they're mostly about legal matters--no descriptions of sex with underage characters, no trying to make money off fanfics set in my universe, common sense stuff like that. At least, if I were the one looking at these rules before writing a fanfic in these universes, I think I'd be able to follow them easily enough. (Alas, I cannot write fanfic in my own universes. If word got out, people would take what I'd written for canon, and if I were trying to spoof myself at the time--eek! Nope, big headachy mess, so I'll just stick to writing official canon stuff. *sigh*)
Click here to view my policy on Fanfiction and Fanart.
Q. Have you received negative reviews, or been flamed for your writing?
A. Of course! The Sword has already received some rather interesting, and in some cases mixed, reviews. I'm not afraid to speak the words of my detractors; I've had some people complain to me that no single female could possibly know about proper, safe gun use, AND know about bobbin-lace construction. I kindly refer them to my friend Arnora: she used to be a member of the Bothell, WA, City Police, and is currently practicing the fine art of lace-making in her spare time. (I like to tease her by calling it lace-bobbing, too, which is where that comes from.)
I myself have taken lessons in gun safety, martial arts, archery, sewing (which I do mostly by machine, as I personally loathe hand-sewing and embroidery), cooking, pottery, weaving, leatherworking, quarterstaff fighting, soap-making...a wide variety of subjects. But then again, I am a terminal student as well as a terminal romantic!
As Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) once said to a young Jack London, "Write what you know." ...I try my best to write what I know, and in order to know what I want to write about, I try to study everything. Some things I'm not good at, some things I don't like so much once I've tried 'em...but I'll give 'em a shot.
Q. No, seriously; what have been some actual complaints, and what were your responses?
A. Here are a few samples, and some of my responses to them -- please note that some of these responses are JUST my internal thoughts on the matter (the stuff in parentheses, much of which I just bit my tongue and didn't actually write a response to), while others were actual replies:
Comment: "U SUK! STOP RITING IMMEDIATELY U HAK" -- (Um...if you promise to learn how to write, I promise I'll take your criticisms more seriously once you do.)
Comment: "I hate your female character in The Sword. She yells all the time and bosses everyone around!" -- Answer: Since the story had plenty of drama in it, there were opportunities for the heroine to be scared or angry...but she didn't yell all of the time. As for bossing others around, some people are just like that. But this was only one character in one story; if you would care to read further, you'll find I use all manner of personality types for my characters. The heroine in The Wolf, the second book of the Sons of Destiny series, is definitely different from the heroine in the first book; she's not very bossy at all, and very rarely yells.
Comment: "There's too much sex in this story--take out the sex, and the plot will be better!" -- (This is one that never ceases to amuse me, as the plot for that particular story WAS about the sex. Take out the sex, and there would be no plot. Pardon me while I scratch my head over your request, and find a tasteful way to reply...nope, couldn't find it!)
Comment: "You shouldn't have your heroes calling your villain by childish names; you've established that he IS a powerful, scary villain, and having them call him by stupid nicknames diminishes this." -- Answer: Actually, this is a valid technique for a number of people, who use belittling nicknames to detoxify their fear of a thing. Arachnophobia, for example--calling 'em "spidey-widies" instead of "spiders" or "eight-legged freaks of nature that freak me out and make me scream like a girl--pardon me while I shriek at the mere sight of a very tiny one".
Comment: "You have a terrible habit of abusing commas. You use too many of them!" -- Answer: ...Okay, I have no snappy, neat riposte for refuting this one. It is true. I do have a terrible habit of abusing commas. They're like little orphans, neglected and disdained by other writers, turned into street-urchins grubbing in the gutters and looking for a place, maybe, to call their own...so I adopt them and put them to work in ways that would only be legal in the German language, not the English one. At least, according to one of my beta-editors... (For the record, I took French and American Sign Language...and it was many years ago. The only two languages I speak with any fluency these days are English and Music.)
Comment: "I can't believe you wrote that!! What kind of a person are you?!" -- Answer: Kindly do not make the mistake of thinking that what an author writes is the same as what that author believes. (After all, if what Stephen King wrote was what he actually believed in doing, then by rights he should be locked up in an insane asylum for the good of humanity...or sent to the chair!)
...Actually, I think it would be rather creepy if everyone loved my writing and no one hated it. So feel free to dislike my writing, if you wish. I accept constructive commentary with good grace and careful consideration...but please be polite. Vulgarity will only get you a raspberry and a time-out in the "Let's ignore that person" penalty box.
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors?
A. Some of my favorite authors include: Mercedes Lackey, Dara Joy, Alan Dean Foster, Randall Garrett & Vicki Ann Heydron (I totally recommend their 7-book series, The Gandalara Cycle), Deborah Simmons, Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick (whose books I have on my shelves, and you could've knocked me over with a proverbial feather when I saw the review quote from her!), Anne McCaffrey, Anne Logston, Andre Norton, Tad Williams, C.J.Cherryh...I literally own hundreds of novels, if not thousands-I haven't bothered to stop and count, lately-and read voraciously in my spare time.
I also subscribe to Science News Weekly, which keeps me abreast of the latest scientific findings in virtually every field of study available. While I'm more of a story-teller than a hard-science type, I try to make the science in my science-fiction at least somewhat believable...which lends itself equally well to the historical sciences I try to include in my fantasy novels.
Q. Where do you come up with your story ideas?
A. I'm always tempted to respond with, "Why, I extract them quite readily and frequently from the terminus-point of my alimentary canal, of course," because this is such an impossibly difficult and complex question to answer. But that would be impolite, incomplete, and a bit of a cheat. I get my ideas from dreams, from daydreams, from posing "what if..." questions, from revamping old faerie tales, and from chance little plot-threads that I notice in my other stories. Basically, from a synthesis of hundreds of ideas, big and little, which are intriguing enough to be turned into their own tales.
I also think big. I am a huge Babylon 5 fan, I loved The Gandalara Cycle, and I was reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy before the age of 15. I love big, complex plots that interweave in a gloriously brocaded tapestry full of hidden depth waiting to be discerned upon multiple readings, with lots of little plot-thread tassles to bat at as I go along, so that's naturally the kind of story I want to write. Either that, or I"m just that twisted.
Whatever the source, I have so many plot-bunnies hopping around and plot-threads to bat at with my little kitty-paws, I will never run out of ideas. Seriously. I don't have a plot-bunny hutch. I don't have a plot-bunny queue. I had a plot-bunny refugee camp for a little while, but they've since achieved permanent city-status, and are busy turning themselves into productive citizens. (I think their chief export are dust bunnies, which they scatter all around my workspace. Either that, or my dust bunnies are plot-bunny-wannabes.)
Q. What is the Mob of Irate Torch-Wielding Fans, anyway?
A. Originally, it was my email list of readers who wanted to know the moment I updated one of my fanfics online. But Yahoomort dislikes anything that tastes even vaguely of SPAM, and kindly suggested I get a YahooGroup...and then locked up my email account when I sent out two messages in one day to over 100 people each time, to ensure that I got the message. (Since the group is located in an age-restricted section of Yahoo!Groups, please adhere to the 18+ age limit, or Yahoomort will kill it. I've already had one YahooGroup shut down and an email account destroyed because someone didn't want to play by the rules. Not fun, and not funny.)
The name, Mob of Irate Torch-Wielding Fans, came about because my readers were, well, camping themselves outside my fictional castle home (where I'd love to live ideally, if it had decent insulation, indoor plumbing, central heating, electricity, and internet access) like some group of torch-and-pitchfork-owning villagers ready to storm the place and make their demands known to the crazy person living all alone in the spooky mansion on the hilltop. Sort of The Monster of Dr. Frankenstein-ish. They demanded I update faster, and in doing so, threatened to light a fire under my seat to get me to move faster with said updates.
I, of course, thought this was an amusing piece of mental imagery, one with a lot of potential. So I turned it around and used it on some of my own favorite fanfic authors, and threatened said authors with a mob of my fellow readers, torches, pitchforks, and all, if they didn't update soon, and so on and so forth. Thus, the Mob was born. (Not to be confused with the Mafia, please; we're crazier, yes, but nicer.)
Q. What does the Mob of Irate Torch-Wielding Fans do?
A. We talk about nearly anything and everything, hence the adult-only restriction. I firmly encourage the discussion of other authors' works, not just my own, and the only topics that are truly restricted are the active promotion of real-world illegalities. (For example: you can talk all you want about how to kill off one of your characters, but don't ever talk about trying to murder a real person.) We also get rather silly at times, making up little stories about what goes on at the Mob Tourism Centre (located just to the right of my castle gates, in the apple and hazelnut orchard), and "borrow" characters from various genres (predominantly the ones in the fanfic genres we like best) to "play" with as we exercise our imaginations. These are acts of parody only, of course...
We also discuss serious subjects, such as various illnesses and how to cope with them, seek advice for troubles with our spouses or significant others (those that have them)-and yes, there ARE active male Mob-members-we kvetch about everything in general and sometimes in specific at life's oddities, inanities, and injustices, and in general, we just relax in the company of our fellow, supportive, slightly nutty, online friends.
Q. How do I find the Mob of Irate-Torch Wielding Fans, so I can chat with you?
A. This website, www.jeanjohnson.net, is open to those of all ages. Regardless of your age. I have two facebook accounts, a Tumblr, and a Twitter account that you can contact me via. Click here for the link to my "Follow me on..."
You can also click on the "Contact" link to email me directly with a comment or a question. Click here for the contact page. I'll do my best to respond. So, if you just want to chat, or make a comment, or ask me some questions, feel free to post a message or send an email!
The Mobsite, however is restricted to those 18+ in age. There might or might not be a link hidden on this website, somewhere...but seriously, no one under 18. I don't want to have yet another email and groupsite be obliterated because someone thought it would be "cute" to disregard the rules. I don't make those particular rules, but I do get penalized if someone else rudely breaks them. *sigh*
...Thank you for being polite and kind!
Q. Have you had many rejection slips in the past?
A. I haven't bothered to keep my rejection form-letters. There weren't many over the last two decades, as I submitted no more than half a dozen or so times, but when the last three were all along the lines of, "You're not published, so we don't know who you are or how good your writing is; why don't you go get published, and then we'll think about publishing you?"...well, there are only so many times you can beat your head against a Catch-22 brick wall before you just stop doing it and look for some other way. That's when I had the brilliant idea of posting some of my writing on the internet, to try and get a readership base.
I was told by a long-time professional editor that the Catch-22 I received was "unprofessional", to quote her directly, so if anyone out there receives a rejection slip along those lines, don't get discouraged! DON'T write them a flaming letter or email in return, however-if you do, you'll be creating a very negative impression, and these editors DO talk to each other on a fairly regular basis, even across different publishing houses. I've always tried to present myself in a professional, polite manner, and it's definitely spared me from suffering extra hassle along the way.
Q. How did you get your break in publishing?
A. Once I got the idea to post my writing online, I thought I would collect what I hoped would be positive reviews, and then print 'em out, MAIL them in bulk to the next publisher I'd consider approaching, and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my work was good enough to garner an interested fan-base, and thus a purchaser-base, making me worth the risk of publishing.
It worked fairly well, to an extent; my writing did get noticed by the online community. I received first-runner-up at one website (including a small cash prize for an original story of mine, yay!), several nominations and a couple of awards at another, nominations at yet other sites...and somewhere in there, I got sucked into the world of fanfic. [I would like to state at this point in time that I have never received money for my fanfics, nor would I ever. They're works of parody, not of profit. *thbbbpts* Of course, I expect the same courtesy from those who wish to play around in my own universes...and while we're on that subject, please read my Policy on Fanfic & Fanart]
It was through one of these fanfic endeavors that I was noticed by one of the editors at The Berkley Group, Cindy; she had read my writings, really liked my style, and contacted me to make an offer: if I had any original works in the realm of women's fiction that I was thinking of submitting, would I be interested in submitting to her for her perusal?
...After getting over the initial skepticism of who-the-heck-is-this-person-anyway, I dusted off the manuscript for The Sword and submitted it, along with a synopsis of the second book, The Wolf (half-completed at the time), and a comment that this was part of a whole series of books I had planned. Cindy loved it, and offered me a three-book contract on the spot in our phone conversation a short while later. At that point, I had the awkward task of telling her, "But, um, the first four books are plot-integrated; if you only ask for the first three, there will be major plot-threads left dangling all over the place at the end of book 3. So if it's at all possible to make it a four book contract, it might a better idea..." The editor paused for about a second and a half (I could almost hear her popping the clutch and shifting it back into gear), and then Cindy said, "Well, I don't actually have the numbers worked up for a four book deal, but if you'll give me a moment, I can fix that..."
This was me: Totally Gobsmacked.
I mean, I was expecting to hear an explanation that, as a newbie author, I shouldn't expect to get away with such hubris, and that I should actually be flattered that I was being offered a 3 book contract at all, nevermind the lowly one book contract most of us unpublished peons should be squeeing with joy to receive. And she only hesitated because she didn't have the numbers worked up for an extra book's worth? *blinkblink*
Much squeeing, rejoicing, and hyperventilating later, I had the contracts signed and the remaining two and a half books underway. The fourth manuscript was delivered to my editor, after having been lovingly polished by my beta-editors, Stormi, NotSoSaintly, AlexandraLynch, and Alienor (accidentally mistyped in the acknowledgment page of The Sword as "Alienator", which thankfully amuses her). Of these four ladies, I have met both Stormi and Alexandra in person, and am looking forward to one day meeting NotSoSaintly and Alienor as well. They are jewels, each with different strengths as beta-editors; without their assistance in polishing my prose, it would definitely be a lot duller.
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