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The James Gang


THE JAMES GANG

April James Gang Interview

Each month, I interview authors or publishing insiders who have some form of "James" in their names or in their books. My April interviewee is author Emma Jameson!

1. Let’s get the most important question asked first: Why James?

Actually, this is an important question, because it contains a kernel of worthwhile information for all the aspiring authors out there. Here’s the story of my pen name.

I was sitting at my day job, bored out of my mind. The cat was away (at an international conference) and I, the mouse, was looking down the barrel of a long day stuck at my desk. When I checked my email for the thousandth time, I saw that a friend had forwarded me an article called “The Very Rich Indie Author.” It was a profile of Amanda Hocking.

I read the article and didn’t believe a word it. I assumed it was a get-rich-quick story leading to one of the many scams directed at would-be authors. To debunk the article, I did a quick Google search—and discovered to my surprise that Amanda Hocking was a real person who truly had earned two million dollars publishing books herself. As my research continued, I learned about Smashwords, Mark Coker, Jeff Bezos, Kindle Direct Publishing, book file formatting, and the many indie writer groups on Facebook that freely share experience and advice. By mid-afternoon, I was so determined to dip my toe in the indie publishing pool, I started formatting what I called my “trunk novel,” a mystery called Ice Blue.

Ice Blue had been my biggest writer heartbreak. After a vivid dream, I’d written it in a creative frenzy and gained an agent in less than twenty-four hours. After helping me correct and optimize the manuscript, my agent had shopped it around. Alas, it was rejected by all publishing houses, big and small, in record time. Having cultivated a case of Stockholm Syndrome, I assumed the “gatekeepers” were right and my book was objectively lousy, no matter how much I loved it. So Ice Blue seemed like the perfect low stakes sacrifice in my question to learn about indie publishing.

I can’t emphasize this enough—I still had absolute faith in the judgment of the traditional publishing industry. Indie publishing was something I hoped might help me launch some future book, as yet unwritten. Therefore I needed to save my real name, Stephanie Abbott, for that special project that would connect with readers and establish my career. My self-formatted, no-cover “trunk novel” on Smashwords needed some other name—any other name.

In the space of thirty seconds, I picked “Emma” for the Jane Austen novel Emma and “Jameson” as a contraction of my father’s name, James Peterson. With my pen name chosen, Ice Blue by Emma Jameson was published on Smashwords before I went home for the day.

In the weeks that followed, I commissioned a cover, reformatted my book to make it look prettier, published it on Amazon, received my first one-star [review], received my first five-star [review], and saw the sales slowly (slowly!) begin to climb. Then one day it happened: I received a direct deposit payment from KDP substantial enough to make me realize Ice Blue was a hit. A year later, I was making arrangements to quit my day job and write full time as Emma Jameson. Now I wouldn’t change my pen name, but it’s worth noting that if I’d had a bit more confidence in myself, I might have spent more time formulating it.

2. What fiction genre(s) and/or sub-genre(s) do you write?

I write cozy mysteries set in England. I call them “cozy” because they meet my definition of cozies: plenty of humor, plenty of heart, a big emphasis on the recurring characters and a much softer emphasis on the murder victim. In my mysteries, the victim tends to be unlamented and the story is meant to be fun and entertaining, not harrowing or hard to take.

3. Tell us about your latest release.

My next release, arriving April 17 2017, is called Dr. Bones and the Lost Love Letter. It’s part of my new series, “The Magic of Cornwall.” Here’s what it’s about:

There’s no such thing as privacy in a village as tiny as Birdswing. Everywhere Dr. Benjamin Bones turns, someone is spying out a window, listening through a wall, or gossiping over a garden fence. “The birds sing in Birdswing,” as Father Cotterill says. This is doubly true in February 1940. As Britain waits for Hitler to make his move and turn the “Phony War” into the real thing, the villagers crave a distraction more than ever. But Ben’s blossoming romance with Lady Juliet Linton must remain absolutely secret. So when a trifling “case” comes along—a love letter misplaced for almost thirty years, still in search of its destination—Ben and Juliet jump at the chance to investigate, if only to steal a little time together. Along the way, they uncover two lonely people who just might get a second chance at love…courtesy of the magic of Cornwall.

4. Is there a core story and/or a theme(s) in your books?

Yes, the recurring theme of my books is the magic of unexpected human connections. In the “Lord & Lady Hetheridge Mysteries,” my protagonist Anthony Hetheridge assumes he’s “missed the boat” regarding certain life choices, including marriage. When he falls for DCI Kate Wakefield, she’s an unusual choice to say the least—from the wrong side of the tracks, more modern in her worldview, and only half Hetheridge’s age. But this relationship is his second chance at a meaningful private life, to stop being “married to his job” and start mapping uncharted territory. And it opens the door to other connections with people far outside his usual blueblooded sphere, changing his perspective and enriching his life in ways he could never have guessed.

In the “Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries,” which begins in September 1939 at the beginning of WWII, my protagonist Ben’s life is upended. Chosen to serve out the war on English soil instead of overseas, the government compels Ben to trade his native London for a tiny Cornish village. On the day he arrives, his unfaithful wife is killed and Ben is severely injured in a road accident that leaves him with a limp. His recovery forces him to depend on his new and often eccentric neighbors. To my mind, that’s where the fun begins. These Cornish villagers are people he would never have mixed with, and the unexpected connections he forms transforms his life.

5. Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?

My favorite tends to be whichever protagonist I’m writing about at the moment. Once I get “behind their eyes,” so to speak, they are paramount in my mind. What I find amusing are those moments in real life when I suddenly “feel” Kate taking umbrage at some injustice, or Ben wishing he could help, or Lady Juliet launching into an impassioned monologue. It’s a bit like being haunted, or possessed.

6. What do you enjoy most about being an author?

Having readers I’ve never met. Most authors will understand what I mean. There was a time in my life when I could only get my best friend to read my stuff. Even my family members tended to mysteriously disappear when I asked! Later, teachers would read my stories, and other writers in a critique group, but that was about it. Every day that people I’ve never met read and review my books, I feel blessed beyond belief.

7, Do you have any awards, reviews or kudos you’d like to tell us about?

On July 14, 2014, a three-book collection of my “Lord & Lady Hetheridge Mysteries” called Deadly Trio: Three English Mysteries made the New York Times bestseller list. It’s one of the proudest moments of my author career to date.

8. How do you promote your books and your author brand?

I’m still evolving on that front. Like many authors, I came of age cherishing the false belief that one day, a publishing house would hand me a bag of money, wish me well, and sell my books for me while I sat at home typing a new one. Now I’m part of this brave new world of publishing, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s forced me to learn a thing or two about marketing. I’ve always maintained a presence on Facebook (a platform that works well for me) and currently I’m building my newsletter subscriber list. I don’t believe in spam or the hard sell, which is lucky, because I don’t think mystery readers appreciate of that sort of thing.

9. What is your next project?

My next project is Blue Blooded (Lord & Lady Hetheridge Book #5). This one will be a tiny bit darker than usual, but I think long-time readers will enjoy the ride. I’ve racked up some debts over the course of the series, and in this book I intend to pay them off—with interest.

10. Do you have a bit of wisdom you’d like to impart or a favorite quote?

For readers, I’ve said for years, “Fear no art.” All I mean by that is, sample different kinds of writing, push your own boundaries from time to time, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions about what you “should” or “should not” read influence you. Reading is at its most transformative, in my opinion, when the book takes you into a place you’ll never go, or allows you to experience a life you’ll never live.

For writers, I’ll quote a famous Englishman and prolific author (Sir Winston Churchill) who said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Connect with Emma Jameson:

Website: http://emmajamesonbooks.com
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/emmajamesonbooks/?ref=bookmarks
Twitter: @msemmajameson
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2nxxTw5

Thank you, Emma! Stop by next month, when my interviewee will be author Sheri Humphreys, who has a character perfect for the James Gang!

 

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