The following is an interview between an imaginary fan and me, and doesn’t warrant a trip to the therapist at all.
Side note: All authors have imaginary fans, in case you were wondering. It’s a bit higher on the sanity meter when compared to the infamous “imaginary friend” little kids tend to have. (Put a sock in it, Bing Bong.)
Fan: “What does J.B. even stand for? Jelly Bean? Justin Bieber?”
Me: No and no. Jelly beans and J Biebs have nothing to do with my pen name, even though I was technically a “Belieber” at age 13…so six years ago. If you want it to stand for something, how about Jessa Brooke? You can just call me Jessa.
Fan: “Wait. So J.B. North isn’t your real name?”
Me: Nope. And I’ll tell you why I chose it. It’s not that my real name is hideous or impossible to pronounce. I just thought it didn’t sound adventurous enough to be on the front of an epic fantasy novel. My actual name is the equivalent of Little Bo Peep. Can you imagine “Little Bo Peep” on the cover of an epic series like The Lord of the Rings?
Crickets: “Chirp, chirp.”
Me: Didn’t think so. Plus, this was my only hope of a superhero name. J.B. North is to my name as Superman is to Clark Kent. Or Batman to Bruce Wayne. Or Spiderman to Peter—
Fan: “Moving on… Now I’ve wondered, alongside hundreds of others, how you managed to publish a book at seventeen years old and have it take off like it did.”
Me: Well, before I published my book, I read somewhere that you had to build your author presence online. After giving myself a pep talk in a dark, lonely corner like a proper introvert, I created a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Goodreads account, and a website. After Spark was published, I began to contact book bloggers to see if they were interested in reviewing my book.
Most said no or didn’t reply, but I kept pressing on. It didn’t matter that I was seventeen. In my mind, I could do anything anyone else could.
The thing is, some people do exactly what I did, and it takes them years to get to this point. So I’ve narrowed down my success to four big contributors. Cover, content, web presence, and chance. However, I happen to believe that there is only one ultimate Overseer, and He’s given me the ability to write and gotten me where I am today.
Fan: “You mentioned the cover as one of the four big contributors. Don’t you think that’s small potatoes compared to everything else?”
Me: Are you kidding me? I’ve had so many reviews where people say, I picked up this book because of the cover. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an expression for a reason, because people do. Like raccoons, we can’t help but have our attention drawn to prettier, shinier things.
Please, if you want to be an author, don’t just let Uncle Billy Bob or Cousin Myrtle design your cover unless they are extremely talented. Usually, it will take some investment. I launched a contest on 99Designs for $299, and I’ve made that back in profit countless times.
Fan: “Oh, really? How much money DO you get paid?”
Me: Ha-ha, nice try. I’m not going to tell you, but I will say that in my first year as a published indie author, I made a lot more in a month than my mother ever did. She’s been working various jobs for about twenty-five years, sometimes more than one at a time. (I’ve knocked out the few years in the middle where she stayed at home and raised her bratty kids.)
Fan: “Okay, that really makes me want to start writing a book. Which brings me to my next question: How did you get the inspiration to write Spark?”
Me: I’ve always loved reading, but especially books about wondrous adventures and fire-breathing dragons and people with strange, supernatural powers…and shapeshifters. (Back in my preteen days, I was a die-hard “Team Jacob”. Werewolves rule, vampires drool.) My love for reading fed into my love for writing, and soon, I was creating my own world of shapeshifters.
Fan: “You recently finished your second book, Icebound. Now that you’re an established author, was the writing process any different?”
Me: Yes. It was a hundred times more difficult.
Fan: “Really? Why?”
Me: I took my time with the first one. I poured all my ideas and thoughts and love into it over the course of three years, and when I was finished, I skipped over to the library and uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing.
I never expected to reach so many people, but as emails and reviews started cropping up, voicing the need for book two, I found myself trapped behind the bars of writer’s block. My early readers know that I postponed Icebound’s publication three times. Now, I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about myself and writing. I expect a much shorter wait for Sandstorm, the third installment in the Legends of the Shifters series.
Fan: “Good! I need that book in my hands as soon as possible! And speaking of Sandstorm, is this the conclusion of the Legends of the Shifters series?”
Me: No. I thought it was going to be a trilogy at first, but as I was writing the second one, the plotline spanning the whole series kept growing and growing. There will be one more book after Sandstorm.
Fan: “Awesome-sauce! I was afraid I would have to face the ending already. And is there anything else that you’re working on?”
Me: Oh, yes. I’ve got many projects lined up after the LOTS series is finished, but I guess you’ll have to wait another year or two to find out more about the new book I’m working on.
Fan: Looking forward to it. Thank you for the interview, J.B. … uh, Jessa. You are an extremely talented author, and I intend to follow you and your books for as long as both of us are alive.
Me: No, thank YOU, imaginary fan. Always a pleasure talking to you. But please don’t stalk me.