It’s time for another instalment of my “Getting to know…” series. Today, author Ines Johnson is joining us. I first heard about Ines through Facebook–we’re both passionate about diversity in romance writing– and after reading her novel, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, I asked her to join my release party for Maybe Forever. Ines is based in Washington, DC and writes erotic, paranormal and fairytale romances. Add her books to your TBR list, and follow her on Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook!
I come from a family of storytellers. My mother would talk your ears off for hours and my father is a songwriter. I began my storytelling career in television, where I still dabble from time to time. A few years ago I’d written a script that I thought would make an excellent book, only I didn’t know how to write a book. So I took a couple of classes and started querying. I never received a single rejection letter. Instead, I got no responses at all in the beginning! But I never gave up and I never stopped writing. Wait, isn’t the the definition of insanity?
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I do my best writing at hightop tables where I can alternately sit or stand while typing on my laptop. A cuppa is a must. My favorite is a cuppa soy chai, sweetened with honey. I write best in the morning from 8am until lunchtime. Nights are reserved for reading.
Where do you find your inspiration when you write?
I’m a very bad Buddhist. I sit each week in sangha, which is similar to sitting in a church pew on Sunday. In a sangha the teacher, think preacher, will lecture on spiritual teachings and guide the group in mediation. During meditation when I’m supposed to be getting my zen on, my mind always wanders back to the teaching and turns it into a story.
Tell us about your latest release. What inspired this book?
I released my debut fairytale retelling in March. It’s called Pumpkin: a Cindermama story. Here’s the blurb:
Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town. Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne because for generations the Charmayne’s have spotted their soulmates be seeing a golden aura around them the first time they laid eyes on them. When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Could you describe your writing process for us?
I love plotting. Its my favorite part of writing. I love to go into Scrivener and use the Outline tool to plan the journey of my characters. I can recite just about any plotting structure you can think of. The Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat, Romance Arc, Relationship Arc…I could go on.
The first time I tried to write a book it took me one year to write the first three chapters because I agonized over each word choice. Now, I believe in fast drafting. Vomit the story onto the page without a care for comma placement. All told, it takes me about six months from the first drafted word to the final polished manuscript.
I take three to four weeks for the first draft, which I call The Dirty. I let The Dirty breath for as long as I am able to be parted with it -usually a week or two. Then I come back and Sweep up the grammar and plot holes, which usually takes another three to four weeks.
Next I send The Swept draft out to my trusted critique partners. When it comes back I Clean it up for another three weeks focusing on my weaknesses which is setting. Finally, I send The Clean manuscript off to the copyeditor for two to three weeks. When it comes back I Polish up all the commas and rethink my overused words. Then I hit publish, and start all over again!
What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
I went to school for producing and screenwriting, and worked in the broadcasting industry for over a decade, before trying my hand at novel writing. I wrote my first novel in 2009. It was based on a script that I wrote but couldn’t find the financing for. I was so proud of my work, but readers and critique partners noted that it was evident that I was a screenwriter and didn’t understand the mechanics of novelization. Screenwriting consists of action and dialogue. That’s it. In scripts, there is no internal monologuing and setting is minimal. I had some learning to do. Five years, and a ton of classes later, I’ve got four published novels lush in setting and internal angst.
Which of your characters is your favorite? Why are you so partial to that character?
My favorite character is still my first hero, the pleasure monk, Jian, from The Pleasure Hound.
The elements of a great romance is when the hero and heroine fit each others need. There’s a preponderance of books where pain is pleasure. And that’s okay with me -when I believe that there’s actually pleasure being had. I’ve read too many books where women are getting spanked just to get spanked. It’s not clear how the act satisfies a need in them, nor is it clear that the man understands and is acting to fulfill that need. That understanding is the sexy part to me: a woman who knows (perhaps subconsciously) what she needs and a man who knows exactly how to give it to her.
My book, The Pleasure Hound, came into being out of this frustration. I wanted to read about a heroine who was eager to explore pleasure. I wanted to encounter a hero who was skilled in, and solely interested in, that woman’s pleasure. My hero, Jian, studies women’s bodies like textbooks. After thorough perusal of, he emerges ready to ace the examination.
Do you have a critique partner? If so, could you describe how you work together?
I have a fairy book sistah in author L. Penelope. We’ve been sharing stories since our days as film students and college roommates. In 2014, after a few years at NANO and writing workshops, we made a pact to self-publish in 2015. Pulling, pushing and shoving each other along, we both made it through and haven’t looked back.
We share WIP drafts in the early stages of crazy sentences and plotting derailments; messy pages that we would never show our editors. For me, the early stages is the only time that I’m open to making changes in my story. Once I start painting my words with pretty prose I’m no longer open to critique.
Which books are on your TBR list? Do you have any particular indie writers who are your favourites at the moment?
I’m obsessed with Ernessa T. Carter who just went indie. Her book “32 Candles,” is an 80’s fairytale retelling for women of color.
What’s next for you? Are there any new publications in the pipeline? If so, could you tell us about them?
I’m currently working on the second book in the Cindermama series. These books are fairytale retellings featuring single mothers as the heroines. The first story is Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story, which is a retelling of the Cinderella story. This story is based on actual events. Shortly after my divorce, I was out with my two children at a community farmer’s market. A really handsome politician waved me over and began chatting with me about his platform. I was more interested in his light-colored eyes. But my burgeoning fantasy was dashed when my son sauntered over and embarrassing words spewed from his mouth. I ushered myself and my kids away, chiding my silly imagination. What man would be interested in a single mother of two school-aged kids? There are no fairytales featuring mothers as the heroines.
That night, I rewrote the events of the day to my liking. In my imagination, the light-eyed politician asked me out, after winning over my guard dog of a son. We got married and I moved out of my apartment and into some big mansion with a closet stocked full of name brand clothes. Oh, that closet…
Anyway, it was October, and so I plotted the book for the next month of NANO. The completed manuscript sat in a drawer for years because I didn’t think anyone would want to read a story where a single mother was the hero. Thankfully, I was wrong. Every woman deserves an HEA.
Thanks so much to Ines for joining us! Hope we can meet in person when I am in the US again!