We are thrilled to have Jaime Ayres join us today! Jaime is the talented author of three YA novels in her “My So Called Afterlife” series: 18 THINGS, 18 TRUTHS, and 18 THOUGHTS. Jamie joined Sixteen to Read author, J. (Jenny)Keller Ford, to talk about her debut experience, the inspiration for her “My So Called Afterlife” series, and how being a teacher helps to shape her stories and her personal life.
Jenny Keller Ford
Jenny: Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Because Sixteen to Read is a group of debut authors, we’d love to know more about the beginning of your writing career. First, where did you get your ideas for your series of 18 Things, Thoughts, Truths?
Jamie: My cousin’s son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. These types of tragedies remind us that life is short, and it prompted me to write a bucket list. At the top of that list was to write a novel. After crossing off running a marathon, I felt like I could tackle anything! In the summer of 2009, I wrote my first draft, so I figured I might as well get it published. That process took a little longer. In the early part of 2012, an editor for TOR suggested I put a paranormal twist to make 18 Things more original and to turn it into a trilogy, since those were all the rage in YA at the time. I listened, and by June, I had a publishing contract!
Jenny: How long did it take you to write each story? Did they flow? Did you ever lose inspiration? If so, how did you get it back?
Jamie: Since I have summers off, I take about two months to write a novel. I only write five pages a day, then I edit what I wrote the next day before I write my next five. Sometimes I lose inspiration because let’s face it, the muse is as dependable as the Florida weather. But I just take the dog for a walk, listen to music, or watch a movie. Then I sit my butt back down in the chair, no matter what. Although, I’ve had a few days where I spent hours ‘writing’ and all I accomplished was a new Spotify playlist and spending another $50 buying books on Amazon.
Jenny: You are a teacher who educates teens. Do you find your job as a teacher made you a better YA author? Do you think being a YA author has made you a better teacher?
Jamie:Absolutely! When 18 Things released, I still taught elementary school (third grade). The following school year, I moved to middle school, where I teach eighth grade English Language Arts. Even though I helped with middle/high school youth ministry at church every Wednesday, that’s a totally different setting than being around that age group day in and day out all the time. It made me understand my characters a lot better. Now I cringe at some actions and dialogue in 18 Things because I know it’s not realistic, but at the same time, I’ve yet to read a perfect book!
Jenny. Are you writing anything else right now? Can you talk about it? 🙂
Jamie: I wrote another novel last summer, but my school year has been so busy, I haven’t had any time to edit. It’s still a coming of age YA, but a stand-alone and no paranormal twists. And since everyone keeps telling me they want to know what happened to Olga, Nate, and Conner, I plan on writing a novella that shows them at their ten year high school reunion, then releasing it as an ebook for 99 cents. Hopefully it’ll be ready before 2016 is over.
Jenny: Who is your favorite author today? (If you’re like me that changes on a regular basis. :-))
Jamie: J.K. Rowling . . . Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit of writers block, I watch JK Rowling “A Year in the Life” on YouTube, and all is ‘write’ with the world again (HA–I’m so punny!)
Jenny: And now for some fun because readers always like to know these tidbits from lightning rounds. Ready?
M&Ms or skittles? M&Ms! (The answer is always chocolate, no matter the question!)
Cats or dogs? Dogs . . . We have a basset hound, but I do love those Grumpy Cat Memes!
Harry Potter or Katnis Everdeen? Oh, gosh! I’m all about girl power, but Harry Potter is a book I can read over & over again!
Flip flops or sneakers? Flip flops; I’m a Florida girl.
Dragons or unicorns? Just for you Jenny, dragons!!
River or creek? Creek, since we live on one (where we sometimes see osprey, otters, & alligators, oh my!)
Fave color? Red
Jenny: One final question, Jamie. Knowing what you know now about the publishing process, marketing, etc., what advice would you give to debut authors facing this strange, new and sometimes scary world of publication?
Jamie: I won’t claim I’m an expert. Even after almost four years of being in this world of publication, I still find it strange and scary. Almost nothing turns out the way I thought . . . sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. I often go back to a speech I heard literary agent Donald Maass give at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) national conference in 2010. I was just starting out, and he talked about how much of publishing is up to luck and perfect timing. So write your heart out, market to the best of your ability (especially those six weeks leading up to your release and the six weeks after), then sit back and enjoy the ride. I haven’t made the Times Best Seller list, haven’t made a ton of money . . . but the unexpected thing that’s happened is I hear from kids all the time who say they never liked a book until they read mine or they were inspired to write their own life list (or even a novel!). Most surprisingly are those meetings and letters I get that say my book changed their life, or even saved it. So I guess my advice would be to remember WHY you write in the first place because honestly, for most, this business is a bumpy road and you won’t be scoring six figure deals that appear in Publisher’s Weekly. But there are some rewards you can’t put a price tag on. This business will humble you (which IMHO, is always a good thing).
P.S. I hope you don’t read this and think, Oh no–my book isn’t ‘deep’ enough to change anyone’s life! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book and the pure entertainment of it lifted me out of a dark pit.
Jenny: Do you have any pictures you’d like to share so other debut authors can see what it’s like to be a published author? J
Jamie: Sure! This is the banner my publisher sent me after my third book came out.
This one is of me recording some special part for my audible books.
This one is when I was a featured author at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival.
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO JAIME AYRES!
Jamie’s links to her social media and books:
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18 Things 18 Truths 18 Thoughts