Welcome Jessi. It’s so great to have you visit today. I’m really excited to find out more about you. J How did you start your writing career?
Thank you so much for having me today, Laurie! I love your blog and am thrilled to be here!
I started writing fiction in 2008 and, like most hobbies I’ve attempted, I threw myself into it, learning everything I could, looking for feedback, and devoting every spare minute of my life to it. Unlike all the other hobbies (knitting, playing the guitar, quilting, gardening), writing grew into a passion. There was something about creating worlds and characters and thinking about how and why people fall in love that I just can’t live without.
After writing and querying 5 novels in 5 years with no success (while going to graduate school full time and growing my family by 2 beautiful members!), I pitched my 6th novel to an editor with Lyrical Press, a small press with big talent behind the wheel. Wishing for a Highlander is my debut release, and I’ll be forever grateful to Piper Denna and Renee Rocco for giving me my start in publishing.
Right now, I’m staying home with my two little monsters—I mean darlings—and writing, writing, writing! I’ve got many more Highlander tales (Highland Wishes Series-Lyrical Press) to tell as well as some fun contemporaries with rough-around-the-edges heroes (Blue Collar Boyfriends Series-Lyrical Press).
Does travel play in the writing of your books?
Yessiree! In Wishing for a Highlander, my museum worker heroine Melanie not only accidentally travels to Scotland, but 16th century Scotland! Who knew the artifact she’d been preparing for exhibit was actually a magical wishing box!
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
Oh my goodness, yes! I love, love, LOVE my CPs. I have had several wonderful CPs over the years, including one who has become a dear friend and whose input was instrumental in my finishing Wishing for a Highlander (Hi Laura!).
For the last 1.5 years, I’ve been meeting with two other ladies whom I met through an online critique group and the RWA (Greater Seattle chapter). We call ourselves the Cupcake Crew. We work super well together and are compatible on a number of levels, including career goals and commitment to writing. Every week we meet rain or shine, and that means every week we are writing, reading, and working hard at turning our passion for writing into careers.
It’s so important to have CPs who will tell it like it is and whose opinions you trust because you can see their talent shine through in their work. It’s also nice to have CPs you can meet with locally. Writing can be a lonely profession. I would have lost my mind a long time ago without my weekly infusions of cupcakes, critique, and snark.
What do you think makes a good story?
Character, Plot, Setting. Those are the elements I’ve got to fall in love with in the first few pages if I’m going to invest time in reading a story. And those are the elements I focus on bringing to life on every page of my own writing.
Another element is romance. These days, I find my attention waning if there’s not at least a subtle romance thread.
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
On the plotter-pantser continuum, I lean pantser. I usually don’t start outlining until I’ve written 2/3 of a piece and need to figure out how to end the darn thing.
Often, I find I can’t start outlining until I’ve written enough to understand my characters. The plot has to come from a place of needing to challenge the characters in that perfect way that will bring about change in them.
Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
I wish I could! Usually I write in between bouts of kid wrangling. It’s not exactly a peaceful, luxurious, dedicated writing block. It’s more like 10 minutes here while daddy takes kid 1 to pick up pizza, 1 hr there while kid 2 is napping, etc. There’s just no time to start up iTunes. I used to listen to Pandora radio while working on my research as a PhD student, but it would always have to be classical. Anything with words was too distracting.
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
I love tables and worksheets. I’ve accumulated many methods of plotting over the years, but there are two that work the best and that I ALWAYS use.
One is an outlining method for sketching out scenes before putting them on paper. You list out whose point of view the scene is in, what their goal is at the top of the scene (a scene without a character goal is boring!), what gets in the way of that goal, the action that happens in the scene, and the hook, or the surprise at the end of the scene that makes the reader want to kill you because they have to turn the page instead of going to bed like they should. Any time I struggle with a scene it’s usually because I haven’t given my character a strong enough goal and I don’t know what gets in the way. If I can nail that down, the rest of the scene writes itself!
The other tool I always use is a character development table with columns for the hero and the heroine. The rows list things like physical description, backstory, inciting incident (what kicks the story into gear-hint: this is where the book should open, or very close to it), Crisis 1, Turning Pont 1, Crisis 2, Turning Point 2, etc. until the crises lead up to the big black moment or the all-is-lost moment. Each crisis and turning point must result in incremental changes in character that lead to the big change or epiphany that makes the story a worth-while read.
I try to come up with crises that challenge my characters on two levels, internal and external. Every interesting character has baggage (internal conflict) and life challenges (external conflict). By the end of the book, the external conflict should be resolved and the internal conflict should be on the way to being resolved (the HEA doesn’t have to be a perfect healing or fixing of whatever was wrong internally, but the reader should sense that together, the hero and heroine will be okay).
I could say a lot more about the writing process. I LOVE talking about it, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome! Thank you so much for hosting me today, Laurie! I had a blast!
I’d love to interact with your readers. I’m curious about the writers in the bunch: are they plotters or pantsers and what they find most helpful in developing character. For the readers: what books have you read recently that do an excellent job of developing character through plot? Did the author give their characters the perfect challenges to strengthen them in the end?
While examining Andrew Carnegie’s lucky rosewood box, single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie makes a tongue in cheek wish on the artifact--for a Highland warrior to help her forget about her cheating ex. Suddenly transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in sixteenth-century Scotland, she realizes she should have been a tad more specific.
Darcy, laird in waiting, should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill, but a cruel prank played on him in his teenage years has led him to believe he is too large under his kilt to ever join with a woman. He has committed himself to a life of bachelorhood, running his deceased father's windmills and keeping up the family manor house...alone.
Darcy's uncle, Laird Steafan welcomes the strangely dressed woman into his clan, immediately marrying her to Darcy in hopes of an heir. But when Steafan learns of her magic box and brands her a witch, Darcy must do what any good husband would--protect his wife, even if it means forsaking his clan.
WARNING: A pregnant museum worker, a sixteenth-century Scot, and a meddlesome wishing box.
Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. In addition to writing paranormal romance, she’s a wife, a mom, an audiologist, a church-goer, a Ford driver, a PC user, and a coffee snob. Her guiding tenet in her writing is that good triumphs over evil, but not before evil gives good one heck of a run for its money. The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.