Category: Uncategorized

Author Brand

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about author brand. It’s all well and good that I love to write across genres. I’ve written paranormal YA, romance, horror/romance, women’s fiction, and a sci-fi/historical romance à la Gabaldon’s Outlander. But if I ever want to sell books, I’ll need to find an author brand and settle on it. I fully appreciate the need to know what the heck you’re getting into if you were to pick up a Joy Jarrett book. And I think I’m starting to realize what gets me excited.

I enjoy love stories, but I’m bored with reading more than the occasional romance.

I love books that are scary and suspenseful. Not usually horror. I don’t like staying in that icky place of psychological nastiness found in some horror books. Not necessarily paranormal either. I don’t want to read much urban fantasy with vampires and werewolves and angels and demons. But I love suspense with a supernatural twist and it’s so hard to find.

I love animals. From my own pets to visiting the zoo to watching Animal Planet, I’m fascinated by animals. My degree is in Zoology, after all. I’ve been reading De Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and loving every page of it. It got me thinking how I’d love to write a romance story with scientists studying animals. Yes! And also, maybe there’s something scary going on and then–bam! It hit me.

Love stories + supernatural element + animals = Joy Jarrett author brand!

Most of my books I’ve written and my book ideas include a love story with a supernatural/paranormal aspect and animals in the cast–often critically necessary.

Can that be an author brand? I sure hope so. My novel Old Cravings features a vet and her ex-husband on a ranch facing down a supernatural terror with horses as the backdrop. My book Wild Zoo Yonder is set on a safari park in England with plenty of romance and a ghost story. I’m mid-way through writing a romance between two battling cable TV stars–one with a ghost hunting show and the other a vet with an animal show. They’re forced by their network to team up for a mini-series about animal hauntings. And I have several ideas in the works that all involve romance, supernatural elements, and animals.

Now how exactly to brand that has me regretting my Zoology degree.

Should’ve done Marketing instead.

 

Priorities

I’m feeling profoundly sad and shocked today, my confusion about priorities cleared in an instant to one single thing.

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I was very self-absorbed this morning about my writing goals. I was lamenting the changing world of publishing and how I couldn’t hope to understand it. One of my manuscripts was requested by a couple of agents and I was obsessing about when I’d hear replies from them. My head swirled with a conversation last week with some critique group members who’ve self-published, one who’s found modestly decent success. I was wondering where to begin today and how to prioritize.

Should I write on my current manuscript? Should I revise a previous one? Maybe I should be doing some more research into self-publishing. Or maybe I could explore the information out there about indie publishers?

All of these questions came to a screeching halt in my head like the proverbial needle on a record. My fourteen-year-old daughter, voice shaking, called me to come upstairs. She’d just found out her soccer coach of many years had lost his twelve-year-old daughter in a tragic boating accident. Immediately, I felt sick and shaky, heartbroken for this family.

Priorities are an interesting thing, aren’t they? You’re caught up in things that are important until you’re reminded of what’s Important.

Years ago, I heard a quote that, as an aspiring writer, I found impossible to understand.

“If in 100 years I am only known as the man who invented Sherlock Holmes then I will have considered my life a failure.”

~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Today, I understand completely.

Writing is everything to me. But it sure ain’t Everything. No amount of writing success could matter to me without my family. Without love, it’s all for nothing, and I risk typing away like a noisy gong in the solitude of my office.

Today, my priorities are straight. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hug my children.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

 

 

Lessons on writing from The Late Night Show

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“The key is to tell a story that’s as emotionally engaging as possible.”      JJ Abrams

The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert this Tuesday featured an interview of the director/producer JJ Abrams. Colbert referred to the Star Trek/Star Wars director as “the consummate storyteller.” And of course, that’s what a good director, like a good author, should be. Movies and books are both made up of the business of storytelling.

I got three takeaways from the interview that apply to writing equally as much as to movie-making:

  • Emotional connection is key. 
  • Avoid too many lens flares.
  • Give your audience questions, questions, and then more questions.

Let’s look at each one for a minute.

  1. Emotion. The first is often overlooked by the makers of Hollywood blockbusters and authors alike. I love an action movie as much as the next person, but if you want me to remember the movie five minutes after I walk out of the theater, I need to make that emotional connection with the characters. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but a Trekkie, I am not. However, I really enjoyed JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness for the very reason that for once, we see the unemotional Spock become pretty darn emotional. He’s worried for Captain Kirk, he’s pissed as hell, and he gets, in Spock terms, a little sentimental. I’m not saying it wasn’t a great film otherwise, but the reason I enjoyed it and remember it is because of the unexpected emotion in a Star Trek movie. Visceral emotion connects the audience to a story in a powerful way and that’s why it was the first thing Abrams mentioned in his interview in regard to storytelling.
  2. Lens flares. While the director was talking about cutting out actual lens flares in his movies, I think it’s a reasonable jump to make this mean any flowery, over-the-top narrative or similar tricks of writing that blind the reader to what’s going on, either because the story and emotion is lacking in a scene, or the author is in love with their own pretension. JJ Abrams admitted that his wife, as all good spouses do, called him on his bad habit of lens flares, saying this about it, “There was one scene in Star Trek Into Darkness when you literally couldn’t see what was going on and it was a very important emotional scene.” Don’t blind your readers with a metaphorical lens flare, which is sometimes even more tempting in an emotional scene. If you’re getting carried away with your verbage, just take Colbert’s advice, “It’s like putting on jewelry. Put on everything you want before you go out, look in the mirror and then take off one lens flare.” (Or an unnecessary paragraph of purple prose–I’m sure Stephen would agree.)
  3. Questions??? JJ Abrams was there to discuss his role as producer in 10 Cloverfield Lane and man, does that movie garner some questions. The Late Night Show ran a clip where John Goodman’s character is seen to be holding someone apparently hostage in a bunker. His hostage escapes up some stairs and is trying to open a door to the outside. I love that for once in a horror movie, someone is actually screaming, “Nooooo, no, don’t open the door!” John Goodman screams this as he watches her struggle with the lock, only to have someone’s diseased (?) face appear at the window. I got me some questions. What’s worse for this woman–inside or out? And the movie trailer is even more intriguing. I would say questions are the beads in a long necklace of storytelling, but I’m just going to let JJ Abrams sum it up better than me. “The fun of something..when people go to see a movie…when you’re watching a film, you want the audience to be asking questions, you want people to need to know more…[I]t’s about telling a story that is drawing you deeper into it…[I]t’s what a good story does.” A good story makes the reader ask one question that must be answered by reading further only to be hit by another question and yet another burning question. If not every scene, at least every chapter in your book should be presenting the reader with a new question they MUST answer.

I love it when I get a lesson on writing when I wasn’t expecting it!