Interview with Jeanette Lewis, author of “The Glamorous One”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

Many of my author friends are very outgoing, but I am definitely an introvert. I love meeting new people, but I do much better on a one-on-one basis instead of a big group. I’m not very good at small talk, so I’m not the kind of person who can comfortably shoot the breeze with a stranger in a grocery line, but I can sit and talk with a friend for hours.

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I use a combination of methods. When I start a new book, I have an outline form that I print out and fill in by hand. For brainstorming, I usually do a stream-of-consciousness type blitz by hand. Once I actually start writing, I’ll transfer my outline onto the computer and use the layout option in Word to keep track of scenes. I try to keep the font simple and the formatting minimal when I’m drafting because I am a visual person and can get hung up on how the page is looking rather than what I’m actually saying. I’ve heard George RR Martin writes his drafts on an old Commodore computer with the green text against a black screen. I might need to try that!

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t ever NOT want to be a writer. I remember writing melodramatic novels in my English notebooks when I was six or seven. (They weren’t very good.)

How often do you write?

Every day.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?           

I try very hard to have a set schedule and keep my working hours consistent. Once you start writing for a living, it’s not something you can do only when you’re in the mood or have some spare time.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I do a little of both. I plan out the story, but leave it open enough that I have some leeway once I start writing. I always map out my key plot points beforehand and take the time to make sure they’ll work before I start writing. Otherwise, I’d just spin my wheels writing scene after scene that I’d end up deleting because they don’t work.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Staying motivated and making myself hit my daily goals. I’m an indie author and since I don’t have a publisher setting deadlines, I have to be answerable to myself.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I love to read! My favorite authors are Charlotte Bronte and Laini Taylor. I also love Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, JRR Toilken, Laura Ingalls Wilder, John Grisham, and Philippa Gregory.

Do you edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I do a lot of editing, but I always send it through professional beta readers and editors as well. You’ll never catch all your own mistakes, no matter how careful you are, and the extra story feedback from beta readers is critical.

I also print my manuscript at least once, read it out loud to myself at least once, and upload it to my Kindle and read it there before I send it to my final proofer. It’s amazing how many things I catch just by changing the format.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

There are so many book sites and review sites that there’s no way to keep up with them all, so I mostly focus on the stores where I’m selling books like Amazon, B&N, etc. and Goodreads. I don’t reply to reviews unless someone has a technical problem with a download, then I’ll try and help fix It. I do love hearing from readers though and I respond personally to emails or Facebook messages.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

No one likes getting negative reviews, but I try to take them in stride. If I think the reviewer has a valid point, I’ll try harder next time. But sometimes people leave bad reviews just to be hurtful, and those you have to shrug off.

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Start publishing earlier! I put it off for a long time because I didn’t think I was good enough. But no one ever feels like they’re good enough. I wish I’d jumped in with both feet a long time ago.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

An astronaut, a ballerina, or a Broadway actor.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Yes, quite often. I grew up on a dairy farm and several of my stories are either on farms or my characters have come from farms. In my newest book, The Glamorous One, rock star Kynley gets her start singing to her dad’s cows. That’s exactly what I used to do as a little girl. And in Feels Like Love, April wrestles a goat in the back of a pickup truck. Been there, done that.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

My heart has been broken a thousand times and probably will be broken a thousand more! I think that’s not specific to writers, but we do tend to be more on the sensitive side. I’m also the type of person who would rather have “Fifteen minutes of wonderful over a lifetime of nothing special,” (to quote Steel Magnolias) so I tend to wear my heart of my sleeve and get myself into emotional situations where I’ll end up hurt.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

I think the muse is often mistaken for work. You don’t write only when you have the muse, you write until the muse shows up. There are plenty of days when my story feels like it’s falling apart and I’d rather do something else. But once I make myself start writing, I get into it and the wrinkles begin to smooth out. And I usually hit on my best ideas after I’ve pushed through that tough bit and kept going.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

I freelance as a technical writer and also do a lot of work for nonprofits, specifically those focused on Lyme disease. A close family friend has been affected by Lyme and I’ve seen firsthand how terrible it can be, so I try to help with their work.

Do you enjoy book signings?

Book signings should be an event for fans who want to meet their favorite author, not a way for an unknown author to sell books. I think unless you’re established and have a fan base that would like to meet you in person, a book signing is just awkward for the author and the shoppers!

Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?

I wish I’d been more adventurous when I was younger and not as tied down by obligations. I had great dreams about traveling the world or learning all kinds of new skills, but I let my lack of confidence hold me back.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

­            For fiction, I love reading young adult, new adult, historical fiction, women’s fiction, African American fiction, crime thrillers, and some juvenile books. Nonfiction, I love biographies, sewing and crafting books, travel books, art books, and history–especially Tudor and Victorian England, WWII, and the Civil War.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

I am currently working on Sweet Illusions, a clean romance that takes place in the fictional town of Indigo Bay, South Carolina. I’ve teamed up with a group of authors I haven’t worked with before and it’s been so much fun to share ideas and get to know each other while we develop the series. I’m also working on my book for the Fall in Snow Valley series that is due out later in the year.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

My most recent release, The Glamorous One, is about a rock band, so obviously it focuses extensively on music. But music is always part of my writing process. I like to have something on in the background to set the tone and I usually assign a love song to my couples. With my Snow Valley books, I hold a contest and let my readers vote which love song best fits the couple.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I can write anywhere, but some places are easier than others. When I’m drafting and writing scenes, it’s easier to write on my bed or the couch or in the car while I’m waiting for my kids to get done with school or an activity. For editing, I usually sit at my desk because it puts me in a more left-brained frame of mind.

How many children do you have? Do you see any young writers in any of them?

I have two girls and two boys. The girls are already pretty good writers and they’re both working on supernatural fiction at the moment. I have no doubt they’ll publish eventually.

If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?

Young adult adventure.

If you’re writing about a city/country you haven’t physically visited, how much research do you conduct before you start writing?

I always try to visit if possible, but obviously that can’t happen with every book. If I’m limited to online research, I do a TON. I look at a lot of pictures and maps, figure out distances between cities, read about the population, economy, elevation, weather, culture … everything I can think of. I usually post my inspiration pictures to a secret Pinterest board and after the book is published, I make it available to fans. They love matching up the places in the book to the real thing.

Do you have specific culture you like to write about?

I write about the cultures I know. I often have people ask me why I don’t have more minority characters in my books and the simple fact is, I don’t feel like I’d do them justice. Simply changing someone’s hair or skin color isn’t enough to convey a different culture, in my opinion and so far, I haven’t had the time for a deep dive into a wide array of cultures.

If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?

Absolutely! I used to teach a creative writing class as part of the community education program in my city and I loved it. I had to stop because I got too busy, but if the chance arises, I’d love to start it again.

What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?

I want to have raised good children who are an asset to the world.