Wednesday’s Author Interview – Jen Rasmussen
Today, Bookin’ It is happy to welcome Suspense/Horror writer, Jen Rasmussen. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got to say this morning, Jen. And folks, if you enjoy this interview as much as I think you will, please consider sharing it via reblogging, Twitter, or Facebook. Jen and I will both thank you.
NOTE: Take advantage of the 99-cent Kindle Countdown deal Jen’s running this week on Ghost in the Canteen. You’ll love it!
BI: Jen, can you tell us a bit about how you became a writer? When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
JR: Before I became a stay-at-home mom I was doing technical and instructional writing, which is less fun than fiction, but easier to pay the bills with. And although you might not think it, it was fantastic preparation for writing novels. First of all, nothing will teach you that writing is a job, versus some glamorous romantic thing you only have to do when inspired, like writing software manuals.
More importantly, absolutely nothing can be done in the corporate world without a committee and seventeen meetings. That kind of team writing gets you accustomed to accepting criticism and revising based on feedback as an expected part of the process, one you would never dream of taking personally.
I also wrote six middle grade novels over the course of a decade, had two agents during that time, and never got a traditional sale. Ghost in the Canteen is my first book for adults, and I think that’s a better fit for me. I adore middle grade novels, but you can’t swear in them, and I like to swear a lot.
As for deciding that’s what I wanted to be, as with many writers, it goes back to how much I loved books as a child. I couldn’t imagine anything better than getting to be one of those people with a book on the shelf. (And mostly still can’t.)
BI: I have this vision of you, working away on software manuals and dreaming of writing scary books, cussing all the while. Is that close? 😀 I’ll bet you were inspired by a lot of writers, too. Can you share some of your favorites with us? Tell us who impresses you and why.
JR: I admire so many authors, it would be ridiculous to try to list them, but I love that you asked about inspiration instead of expecting me to name a favorite. As far as my writing, I’d say the influence of Stephen King is most recognizable. I’ve been reading his work since a probably-inappropriate age, plus most of my stuff is at least horror-tinged, if not horror outright, and he’s the master. I do my best not to rip anyone off, but I think you can see some of the books I love in the things I write.
That goes for non-King writers too. I’ve had critique partners leave me comments asking “Why do you sound British all the sudden?” And the answer is, because Brontes. (And Jane Austen, and Daphne DuMaurier, and Dickens…) I also grew up on British authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, so somewhere in the back of my head is the hopelessly ingrained idea that that’s just how books sound. Luckily, my current series is written in first person, and my protagonist does not have that problem.
BI: I can certainly see King’s influence in your work, and the strength of your writing indicates a wide background of other authors, as well. What genres do you read most often for pleasure…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
JR: I’d say I read most in the genres I write: fantasy, horror, supernatural. That said, I also love historical fiction, the occasional thriller or crime novel, and romance novels that are done well. I’ll read pretty much anything with a well drawn world that pulls me in.
BI: Your reading tastes sound as varied as mine, though I’ve been a bit single-minded lately with my love of urban fantasy. Can you tell us if you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
JR: I’m more consistent with the amount of time I spend procrastinating each day. I have a workmanlike attitude toward writing, but I’m also a girl who knows how to waste some time. My desktop computer is my gaming machine, which is not always a good combination. Sometimes I have to take my laptop and go to Panera and pretend they don’t have internet.
BI: Thank goodness I don’t have that gaming thing to worry about. I waste enough time on Pinterest! Do you use visual aids, like Inspiration Boards/Photos or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
JR: Sometimes I use photos of settings, especially floor plans of houses, but if I have photos in my Scrivener file they’re far more likely to be of people. I sometimes have to cast actors as my characters, because I have a hard time imagining faces from scratch, especially of minor characters who don’t live in my head as much.
I do a fair amount of research before I start writing, mostly online, and copy/paste links and notes into Scrivener. Then I just ignore it when I feel like it. For example, more than one medically impossible thing happens in my work, but that’s okay because they’re supernatural injuries, so who’s to say?
BI: Oh, another Scrivener user. I love it, and I do the same things. I always go looking for the faces of my characters, so I can talk to them while I’m writing. (Or in the case of Swamp Ghosts, drool over them.) When you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
JR: Oh dear, no. I never just sit down and type. I have to have a spreadsheet (preferably more than one) and a Scrivener file with color coded index cards and the right tea and a detailed outline and research notes and my slippers. And when I’ve done all that prep, I prep some more. I’m a huge planner.
BI: Haha. I love it. I do some of that stuff, too, but only because I like to be surrounded by pretty colors, pictures, and lots of Earl Grey tea. As far as the writing, not so much. Now a bit more about reading. Do you prefer reading eBooks, or print? Why?
JR: eBooks by a mile. I don’t have to feel guilty about being party to tree-killing, and I can read and turn pages with one hand, which means the other is always free for holding a tasty beverage or snack.
BI: Finally! An author who prefers eBooks! And for all the right reasons, too. Let’s talk about what you’ve written. Tell us about the books you’ve published, and where we can buy them.
JR: I only have one published book, Ghost in the Canteen (I’m hopelessly addicted to play-on-words titles). It’s the first in a series about a smartass ghost hunter and all the ways she gets herself and others into trouble. I refer to my work as “dark snark,” equal parts light and dark. Ghost is currently only available on Amazon.
BI: Having read Ghost in the Canteen, I can say with some authority (mine!) that it is one delightfully snarky, but totally scary, book. I loved it! Are you currently working on a new one? When do you expect it to be available?
JR: I’m working on the sequel to Ghost, which is called Peak of the Devil (see what I mean?), and also just starting to get going on books 3-5, which I’m outlining all at once. I expect to release Peak this spring, probably in May.
BI: I can’t wait! I’m dying to know what else is in store for Lydia. Tell us, Jen, what is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
JR: Pajamas. Poverty.
BI: Hahahaha. Hands down, the best answer to that question, ever!
BI: Bonus Question: Are you self-published, and if so, what have you learned from the process, overall? Positives and negatives?
JR: Honestly, if I’d educated myself about self publishing sooner, I’d also have stopped querying agents sooner. As it is, I was querying Ghost and still had a full with an agent when I made the decision. I withdrew that submission, and I’m pretty sure I could feel the eye roll all the way across the internet when I told her why.
So what I’ve learned is, don’t make assumptions about what’s right for you until you’ve explored both options. Different paths will work for different people, and you should make the most educated decision you can.
For positives, it’s been genuinely fun. There’s been so much to learn, and I like learning new things. There’s also so much control, which is something I’m even more fond of.
As a negative, I think it takes a level of confidence to self publish that isn’t always easy for me to maintain. The week before I released Ghost was like being pregnant: nauseating, yet fattening. If you’d asked me for positives that week, I’d probably have told you to shove it and pass the pie.
BI: Oh, I can understand that last part, all right. I feel sick with worry every time I ask someone to read what I’ve written, even a good friend.
Jen, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today. This has been a fun interview, and I hope you’ll come back to talk to us again. Please keep us posted on the progress of Peak of the Devil, too. I wish you great success with all of your endeavors, and I can’t wait to read more in this series.
Folks, just a reminder. If you enjoyed this interview, please remember to share it with your tweeps and friends. Jen and I say thanks!
Jen is a writer and stay-at-home mom living in Charlotte, North Carolina. She’s afraid of pretty much everything (no, seriously), which is a great place from which to write horror. In her spare time, which is not actually spare at all but stolen from the time she’s supposed to be doing something else, she reads and games.
Although everyone in Jen’s household is great, the award for most loyal supporter goes to her beagle Pippin, who shows his solidarity by spending every minute of writing time under her desk, waiting for her to drop candy.
You can buy Jen’s book here. (Take advantage of the 99 cent Kindle Countdown deal running this week!)
Ghost in the Canteen