Getting to know Ines Johnson

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 07.25.03When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

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!

Whats 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 07.26.23My 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.

Whats next for you? Are there any new publications in the pipeline? If so, could you tell us about them?

Author Ines Johnson

Author Ines Johnson

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! 

Guest Post: Getting to Know Mara White

HOD_quote_01A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon fellow indie writer Mara White on Goodreads. It all happened by chance–another member posted a short note about a book she was reading, and the synopsis sounded pretty intriguing. Who knew it would lead me to reading a book that beautifully captures the dilemma of craving someone you know should not want? I’m halfway through Heights of Desire, and it’s a definite must-read if you like your books hot!

Could you tell us what inspired the story of Heights of Desire and the Heightsbound series?  

My main inspiration has come from living in Washington Heights and closely watching the wave of radical gentrification that the neighborhood has been experiencing within the last five years or so.  The story and plot line developed as I started writing, but the inspiration for Kate and Jaylee’s relationship definitely came from witnessing the changes in the neighborhood.

Mara White Author

Mara White, author of Heights of Desire

Two years!!  My kids are toddlers, so there was a lot of interference from daily life.  About three-quarters of the way through the novel I started to feel disillusioned with the genre and actually gave up.  Then I read a new novel and it inspired me, so I decided to reach out to the author.  She took me under her wing, beta read for me, walked me though the self-publishing process and helped turn my disheartened attitude into determination.  Without her, HOD never would have come to fruition and she’d kill me if I revealed her identity so I’ll just say that she is a phenomenal writer and quite possibly the kindest and most generous person I know.

When you were writing, did you envision any actors or actresses to play the leads? Or did you find inspiration elsewhere? 

Not really.  Dare I be inflammatory and controversial here and say that Hollywood does not fairly represent the US population.  Knock, Knock, Hollywood – let the world in!  How hard is it to cast HOD?  Hard enough that I gave up on doing a blog post on casting despite help from friends.  I would absolutely love it if readers would chime in and throw ideas for casting my way.  But to answer the question – whenever I felt that the age difference between Kate and Jaylee was too extreme or bordering on inappropriate, I would look at pictures of JLo and Casper Smart together and channel their chemistry.  I also have become – of the corner boys as well as the young men that work out on the neighborhood playgrounds in the Heights (as you can imagine) so I picked up a lot of inspiration from listening and watching.

Heights of Desire CoverHow would you describe your typical writing day?  

Oh Lord!  Write if I possibly can.  Write after the kids are asleep if I’m not too exhausted.  My most productive writing time happens on the NYC subway on my commute to work (if I get a seat) with a pen and a notebook and bumpy train handwriting.

Do you have a special place where you like to write? Could you describe it for us?  

The train!  Somewhat dirty, oftentimes packed beyond belief, always entertaining (with performers or just regular, crazy old, New Yorkers), always infuriating (late or stuck underground or running on an alternate track) and forever epic – the best mode of NYC transportation hands down.

Did you have a special playlist or soundtrack which you listened to while writing Heights of Desire? Could you share it with us? 

I mostly just listened to the soundtrack of my neighborhood seeing that wherever you go in the Heights there is always music playing!  For the playlist for HOD, I collaborated with a dear friend and fellow WaHi resident, Leslie de Jesus.  She runs a music reviewing blog called http://sinistergirlz.com  The fist song Leslie gave me was ‘Llévame Contigo’ by Romeo Santos and I listened to it repeatedly while completing the end of HOD so that’s how it became Kate and Jaylee’s song.

 When will the next book in the series be released?  

As soon as I can finish!  Late 2014

Sale Graphic-2What has been the biggest challenge for you as an indie writer? What lessons do you feel you’ve learned going through the process?  

Definitely trying to get the word out about he book to the general public.  Accept any and all help offered because you can’t possibly do it all on your own.

Have you already got plans for other standalone novels or series? Could you share any info about those with us?  

I do have new ideas as well as some older work that I’d like to revisit at some point but for the immediate moment I’m just putting my energy into finishing the Heightsbound sequel.

What advice would you like to give to aspiring authors?  

Write because you love to write.  Don’t let the criticism get you down.  Break the rules.  Run from convention.  Push boundaries.  Challenge your readers.  Scare yourself.

Many thanks to Mara for making a book blitz pitstop with us! If you like sexy women’s fiction, then head over to your favourite online bookstore and get a copy of Heights of Desire. It’s on sale this week for e-readers for only 99 cents–but I can tell you this book is definitely worth the normal price. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Heights of Desire Synopsis

A woman who has everything meets a man who can offer her nothing but trouble.  They bring each other to a height of desire neither thought possible, but is it enough to overcome the differences that tear them apart?
Kate Champion, a forty-two-year-old, married mother of two, leads an enviable upper class life of luxury.  Her comfortable path takes an unexpected detour after a chance encounter at a neighborhood playground.

Jaylee Inoa is a twenty-two-year-old, second generation New York Dominican with close ties to the Heights and the gangs that run them.

Her life of privilege is no match for the code of the streets he navigates with ease.  When a crime of the heart leads to a crime in the flesh, how far will she go to redeem him?  Can she risk all in her life that is golden for the love of her golden-eyed man?

Add to Goodreads

Heights of Desire is on sale for $.99 during the blog tour!

Purchase Links:  Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Google Play | Smashwords

 

About the Author

I’m a reader, a writer, and a lover of all things romantic.  I’m also a coffee, hot sauce, ink, telenovela, and Bikram Yoga enthusiast.  I live in New York City with my husband and two children, and I spend a lot of time on the playground.

Connect with the Author:  Facebook | Twitter | Blog  | Instagram | Goodreads 

Enter to win an autographed copy of Heights of Desire in paperback:

Tour-Wide Giveaway

 

 

At the Women’s Fiction Festival 2013 — What happened today

Image, Matera, Women's Fiction Festival, Italy

The Sassi district in Matera, Italy

Well, it’s my second full day at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, and it’s been very insightful. We’ve had some great panel discussions, including one on screenwriting tips for novelists, which was led by James Dalessandro, author of 1906 and who also happens to be a poet/screenwriter/director/producer. Jane Corry led a very in-depth and compelling workshop on how to better revise your novel. David Gaughran was also on hand for a very interesting presentation of self-publishing and what one needs to think about when embarking on a self-publishing project.

Lessons I’ve learned today?

  • novels don’t have to have a nice, tidy ending (unless it’s a romance)
  • don’t write your novel thinking it would make a great film–write it thinking this is a great story
  • always read your writing aloud to make sure you have the right pitch and rhythm
  • keep main characters to a minimum–readers get lost when there are too many people “on stage”
  • don’t spend all day on Twitter–start a mailing list and send out updates to your readers this way
  • good metadata increases discoverability
  • invest in a good editor and a good cover designer

As always,  there was good wine and great food to be had. 🙂

It’s 30°C here today and I feel sapped of all energy, so I need a nap. And then I will do a little more writing. 🙂

By the way, if you haven’t heard yet, Ernessa T. Carter has a new book out called The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men and it’s…awesome! You need to read it ASAP!

David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible is now available!

ImageFellow writer and indie writing guru David Gaughran has a new book out with tips on writing, selling more books and getting noticed. The book is called Let’s Get Visible and it’s a companion volume to his previous book, Let’s Get Digital. I think both of these books are must-reads for indie writers.

David’s no-nonsense approach is spot-on. I think he’s got another winner here. 🙂

He shares with readers tips on positioning your books for discoverability, cost-effective ways to promote your work and how to minimize the amount of promotion you do and for more writing time–and still sell books. So if you are as curious as I am about how to build your platform without having to spend all hours of the day on Twitter or Facebook (especially when you know you should be writing), then check out Let’s Get Visible. For more information, head over to David’s blog.

Getting closer to publishing Choose Me

Choose Me's lovely cover

Choose Me’s lovely cover

A few months ago, I shared with you a cover for a project called Choose Me. I originally thought I would have published it by April 15. That was my deadline, but then life got in the way. Well, now I am getting closer to feeling like it will be ready soon. I’ve got the first part of it under control. I’m just making some minor tweaks to it. Part One of Choose Me is a novella set in Edinburgh. Part Two will be four short stories set in Philadelphia, Richmond, Rome and London. The stories still need a tiny bit of tweaking but tweaking short stories isn’t nearly as daunting a task as tweaking a novel.

The common thread for the novella and the stories is people making choices. Choices about staying, choices about who they love and what they want. My new deadline is June 1. I think I’ll have it ready by then.

Choose Me will be available as an ebook and a POD paperback. I’ll keep you posted about the official launch date. It might be around Midsummer (June 21) since I will be in Italy the first two weeks of June.

That’s it for now! It’s bedtime for me.

Happy reading (and writing)!

P.S.

Thanks to James at goonwrite.com for making such a beautiful cover for me!

Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers

 

David Gaughran at Let’s Get Digital has a great blog post on Simon & Schuster and how they’re starting a self-publishing arm. No, don’t rejoice just yet. Take a look at David’s post and find out why…Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers.