Jocelyn’s struggle to find a balance between independence and asking for help is very reflective of where I was as a teenager. I know I can’t be the only one who struggled with that and I’d love for teens like me to learn earlier rather than later that they don’t have to have everything figured out yet.
Tay LaRoi – 14 September 2017
The Back Flap
In the midst of a summer storm, seventeen-year-old Jocelyn Lennox swerves to miss a strange creature in the road. The resulting accident leaves her mother in a coma with doctors skeptical about her recovery. Desperate for answers, Jocelyn returns to the scene of the accident to discover that the creature was one of the good folk—a faerie. Not only that, but the queen of Faerie herself is willing to listen to Jocelyn’s story and offer her help. For a price, of course. The two strike a deal: Jocelyn will paint the queen seven portraits and, in exchange, the queen will heal Jocelyn’s mother. Unfortunately, nothing in the faerie realm is ever that simple. The closer Jocelyn comes to finishing the paintings, the harder malicious magical forces try to ensnare her. If she isn’t careful or can’t complete the portraits by October 31st, the day of the Hallowed Offering, her mother’s life won’t be the only one in jeopardy.
About the book
What is the book about?
“Portraits” is about a teenage girl named Jocelyn who makes a deal with the faerie queen to save her mother’s life. She’ll paint the queen seven portraits and, in exchange, her mother will wake up from the coma caused by a car accident several months ago. All the while, an ancient ritual sacrifice is getting closer, so Jocelyn has to race against the clock so she doesn’t end up the sacrifice. You’ll have to read the book to see if she succeeds. 🙂
When did you start writing the book?
My senior year of college. I tried to pass the first chapter off as a short story. My creative fiction professor saw right through me and told me to run with the idea. I’m just glad he didn’t tell me to redo the assignment, haha.
How long did it take you to write it?
Between all the false starts, edits, and dry spells, it took about two years from start to finish. For me, that’s impressive.
Where did you get the idea from?
Several different places. The opening scenes came from a friend’s 21st birthday party. It was my first time in a nightclub and I was instantly captivated by all the shadows, the music, and the atmosphere. It felt like a different world where everyone could be something else entirely if they wanted. I got to wondering about what sort of creatures might like to live in a world like that. Shortly after that I stumbled upon the Medieval Babe’s rendition of “Tam Lin,” and somehow I just knew that the story and that nightclub belonged together somehow.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The ending was a pain. It’s easily the most rewritten part of the book. As a whole, I rewrote the book maybe four or five times. The ending got about seven or eight rewrites. It took forever to find a satisfying way to fit everything together.
What came easily?
The characters. I don’t know why, but making them converse and interact was a breeze. They all just fit together naturally, regardless of who it was. Jocelyn and the queen work especially well together, which really surprised me. They have a really complicated relationship, so I expected writing them together would be complicated, but it was like they already knew what to do. I was just there to record it.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I’ve moreso borrowed elements. Certain quirks and characteristics in people I’ve met along the way. Jocelyn’s struggle to find a balance between independence and asking for help is very reflective of where I was as a teenager. I know I can’t be the only one who struggled with that and I’d love for teens like me to learn earlier rather than later that they don’t have to have everything figured out yet.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Holly Black and Neal Shusterman. I started reading their work as a teenager and have yet to stop. Holly Black was the first author to show me how dark and dangerous the world of fairy tales can be and yet, within that darkness, there’s a sort of lightheartedness and wonder that makes me feel like a kid reading a story book. If I could write modern fairy tales half as well as she does, I’d consider my career a success.
In a similar light, Neal Shusterman’s work is always dark, even downright terrifying at times, but also has glimmers of hope that continue to influence my worldview as well as my writing. He was the first one to show me how smart and thought-provoking young adult fiction can be, which is why I write it now. I want readers to think as well as be entertained, though maybe not about the sort of moral issues he tackles. I don’t think I’m a mature enough writer yet. Maybe I’ll try after the “Faerie Court Chronicles.”
Do you have a target reader?
While I welcome any reader, I really want to reach teenagers who feel alone or like the entire world is on their shoulders, especially LGBTQIA+ teens. The best part of being a teenager was all the books I read in my free time. I’d like to pass that along to the next generation to help them get through those years. And while things are getting better, being a teenager in the LGBTQIA+ community is still frustrating, scary, and confusing, even at the best of times. If I had more characters dealing with that part of their identity, I think I would have figured out mine a LOT earlier and saved myself a lot of anxiety. I also just want to tell them they are worthy of love, happiness, and help, if they need it. You can’t tell people “You are loved” enough when they’re struggling to believe it.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I usually discover characters first, then the story grows up around them. After that, it’s researching, outlining, more outlining, then writing.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I work with a combination of the snowflake method and the three act structure, so I outline VERY extensively. For my last book I bullet-pointed the major plot points, then wrote up a page-long synopsis for each chapter. It took a while and got boring at times, but I pumped a manuscript good enough to send to my editor in a month, so I’d say it worked.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I wait until I’m finished. While I’m writing I keep a list of things I want to change, then implement the list when I start editing. That way I know what parts work and what parts don’t through the entirety of the book, which saves a lot of time.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Only all the time. The Pandora Journey YouTube channel has really good playlists for writing fantasy action scenes. For the quieter or slower parts I alternate between the Medieval Babes, the Moon and the Night Spirit, and an acoustic indie playlist, depending on where the scene takes place.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I submitted it to my friend, Ashley, who knew my current editor. We exchanged chapters of each other’s work and she loved “Portraits” so much that she mentioned it to Jason at NineStar Press, who made all this happen. He told her to tell me to send it directly to him and the rest is history.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I knew from the beginning I would be going indie, but working with a publisher didn’t occur to me until Ashley suggested I send my manuscript to Jason. “Portraits” and the rest of the Faerie Court Chronicles series focus on characters with different LGBTQIA+ identities, so I was skeptical that a big publishing house would want any of the books. If the main characters were JUST gay or JUST trans, or JUST anything, maybe they’d give me a shot, but each main character is going to have a different identity, so I think they’d worry about keeping an audience for the entirety of the series. Heck, I worry about keeping an audience for the entirety of the series, but that’s still how I want to write it. I think it’ll challenge me as a writer and possibly give stories to teens that don’t have many about them.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
NineStar Press took care of the book cover and I LOVE it!
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
My marketing plan is basically to get as many reviews and interviews as possible. Other than spreading the word and doing give aways, I’m not sure what else I can do. Due to my current job, I can’t travel to promote my work. If anyone has any ideas, please email me!
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Focus on your writing mechanics just as much as you do your story. A common issue I see in indie books, especially sci-fi and fantasy, is authors who spend all their time trying to construct elaborate stories and build grand worlds and think those things are all you need to make a good book. It’s not. If your dialogue is awkward and unnatural or your descriptions are too vague and/or stale, your book is going to suffer for it. Get a professional editor if you need to/can afford it. Study how your favorite authors write. Highlight sections that showcase their talents and take notes on why you think it works so you can make it work for you. Study your craft, study your craft, study your craft, for the love of God, study your craft.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Michigan. The setting for “Portraits” is based on all the summers I spent in little tourist towns on the coasts of the the Great Lakes.
Where do you live now?
I’m currently in South Carolina. Hopefully I can immerse myself enough to use it as a setting in the future as well.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I want you to come talk to me! Email me, message me on my Facebook page, connect with me on Twitter, whatever. It doesn’t have to be about book stuff. Tell me about your favorite movie or shoot me a music suggestion. I’ve discovered in recent years that I really like talking to new people, so reach out! I’m listening!
What are you working on now?
I’m currently scrambling to finish the edits on the second Faerie Court Chronicles book, Tale of a Faerie Knight, while trying to find time to outline and conduct research for book four. I just signed the contract for book three, so work on that will probably start soon.
End of Interview: