Shadow Town Q&A With Author Robyn Jones

Hey, gang! It's my real pleasure to share a quick interview I did recently with author Robyn Jones. Not only is Robyn a good friend, but she's a talented writer to boot. Her newest release, Shadow Town: Maggie Lane Chronicles #1 is full of supernatural goodness, and it's also New Adult--which you KNOW I'm a fan of. 

Plus, we both have fantastic interview initials. Seriously, just say, "EJ, RJ, EJ, RJ... over and over. It's catchy. :) 

Let's see what Robyn has to say!

5 Questions for Author Robyn Jones:

EJ: Shadow Town features a protagonist caught up in two seemingly opposed worlds: She works as a property manager for a ritzy development during the day and a waitress at a dive bar by night. As the author, why'd you make those choices? How did it shape the storytelling?

RJ: When Maggie’s character first perched on my shoulder, I lived in the weirdest neighborhood. I had car choppers to my left with an alcoholic patriarch who went on monthly benders. I had the year round Christmas decoration people to my right. We had drug dealers, a kid who sifted through people’s cars when they weren’t smart enough to lock the doors, and a guy who worked on his tiny yellow sports car for three years and it never left his front lawn. I thought about what Maggie would do if she managed that colorful cul-de-sac. She’d need a night job to balance all the crazies, that’s for sure.

EJ: Shadow Town is described as a New Adult Paranormal Romance. But there seem to be elements of sleuthing and adventure in there as well. Any specific inspiration for telling this kind of story? Is it truly a mashup, or does it strictly adhere to the pararom formula?

RJ: My childhood revolved around way too much 80’s television with awesome sleuthing women, that and my mom always said in her other life she was Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton mystery series. So mystery appeals to me, but I’m head over heels for all things paranormal. I’m plain giddy when I’m daydreaming in the land of fang and magic.

EJ: New Adult, I'm a fan. Why'd you decide to dive in? What makes Shadow Town a good fit for the New Adult category?

RJ: Shadow Town floated between YA and Adult until I read my first NA book. NA offers a glimpse into the direct aftermath of childhood. Everything feels so huge, dreams, love, pain. In New Adult, I found a home for my mouthy 19 year-old MC.

EJ: Maggie, the heroine of Shadow Town, seems like a real tough chick. What makes her so? Any challenges tackling the romance aspects with such a strong female lead?

RJ: Maggie is life-hardened. Abuse has done a number on her, but there is no way she’ll let it break her. I loved writing the romance in Shadow Town because Maggie was determined to close herself off. The push/pull had me clicking away and cracking up because the girl is funny.

EJ: Last one! Tell us why Shadow Town should be bumped to the top of our TBR piles, and where we can find it. (And you!)

RJ: If you told Maggie her story was about self-discovery she’d flip you off. Mention falling in love or healing and she’d knuckle punch you somewhere tender. She’s lovable like that. Maggie pulls you into her snark and her pain, and leaves you cheering and waiting for more.

You can find Shadow Town and my other books, Soul Walker and Soul Bender on Amazon and Smashwords.

I’m never too far from cyberspace. Stop by. I’m a chatty girl.


EJ: And while you're checking her blog, be sure to scope the Shadow Town tour page for a chance to win some Amazon $$$! (Click the banner below... click it! ;)

Should We Aim to Write Above the Reading Standard?

Hey, gang! Since we last met here I finished up a novel I've been working on for a while. *throws ALL the confetti*  Well, I say "finished", but it actually just got shipped off to the editor.  (We all know the real work comes once she takes the scalpel to it. :)

It's such a weird mixture of relief and angst when it's out of my hands. But the positive is that I'm now able to reclaim the parts of my life I've been neglecting in order to make my deadline. Like blogging! 

(Thank you all for the comments on my last post btw. My wife was duly humbled by your kind words, and I'm slowly working my way around repay each of you with a comment in kind.)

Should We Aim to Write Above the Reading Standard?

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the somewhat fallible notion of "good writing". I related it to the subjective line between a good house and a good home, saying, "The worth of a house is based upon function, form, location, etc. The worth of a home is based upon memories and feelings. Your house might be worth $150,000, but your home might very well be priceless. "

(Note: I don't quote myself out of hubris. It had just been so long ago since I'd posted that I had to go look it up to remember what I said. LOL)

Anyway, in that post I made a couple of offhanded references about the basic mechanics of "good writing", specifically calling out adverb spamming as a common stumbling block. 

Well, you fine people took me to task in the comments (and in e-mails), pointing out that the presence of an adverb will not destroy a story. I actually agreed with you in the post, but didn't articulate it very well.

So I'm afraid I gave the wrong impression. To the extent they aren't related to style, I view things like adverbs, passive phrasing, repetitive word choices, etc. like mosquitos in our writing: They are inevitable, but we should kill as many of them as we can because they are at best a nuisance, and at worst a disease spreading menace. 

Purely from a fundamentals standpoint, I've never read a perfect novel and I doubt I ever will. (God knows I'll never write one...) Furthermore, I can guarantee that a grammatically pristine read does not universally translate to a "good read". 

But all of that being said, I had more than one person let me know of various bestselling books they've read recently that are riddled with things deemed to be mistakes or sloppy writing. They use adverbs in every other line, begin every third sentence with 'it', etc. 

I've read them, too. And it's true that many of the foibles we fuss over in our critique circles the average reader could care less about. At least there's plenty of evidence to suggest that's the case.

But does that mean we shouldn't worry over them, either?

Not unlike other artists, I believe most writers hold their work to a higher standard than the general expectation. For most, there is a reading standard and a writing standard. Even though an average reader might not demand a certain level of word wielding acumen , we're going to try to achieve that anyway.

Claude Monet, the great French impressionist, once destroyed dozens of his (what would now be considered near-priceless) paintings because he didn't think they were fit for public viewing. Granted, he was going blind and severely depressed at the time, but there was clearly some level of motivation in him to achieve a standard that most people wouldn't even be able to discern. 

Similarly, when I read Hugely Popular Novel X, and it isn't the most polished, it doesn't make me relax. I don't suddenly think, "Well, I don't have to worry about getting any better, because I'm already better than that guy, and the readers love him!"

It keeps me up at night. I worry about falling into a sense of complacency with my craft. My insides fester with the notion that yes, I'm getting some good reviews, but is my work really living up to my own standards? 

That's not to say my writing sets some crazy high bar for writers everywhere. (ha) But I do work at trying to get better each time.

We live in an age--a beautiful age in my opinion--where authors are able to make their own decisions about when a work is fit for public consumption. But that freedom also comes with the burden of self-restraint.

We are truly the stewards of our craft, or at least more so than any generation of writers that has come before, and I believe we ought to struggle with that. 

What about you? Are your reading and writing standards different? Have you read a successful novel that wouldn't live up to your own writing standards? How did it make you feel?


Matchmaker! Matchmaker!

Hey, gang! Very excited to be taking part in my homie Crystal Collier's Moonless blogfest this week! As part of the fun, I get to pick who I'd want my parents to set me up with if arranged marriages were part of my culture. 

(Which means there'd be no chance of it happening, because my parents would undoubtedly set me up with the exact opposite to teach me some morbid lessen about true love... I digress. :)

All this matchmaking seems entirely appropriate, this being Valentine's week and all. And for some additional goodness, I'm over at Brinda Berry's blog as well this week to share in her "Month of Love". 

Basically, each day a bunch of us author types are sharing our thoughts on the best places for first dates, most romantic songs of all time, and more. So you can learn even more about me than you want to know. ;)

Loads of fun, and B is doing a big giveaway so be sure to check it out if you get the chance. (I believe my day will be on the 12th...) 

AND speaking of giveaways, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter for the Moonless release that follows the post.

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Her nightmares become reality: a dead baron, red-eyed wraiths, and forbidden love with a man hunted by these creatures. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with her beloved and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

And here's a special coupon code for $2 off via CreateSpace:
Coupon code: LQJM3F84

So here's the question: If you lived in a society where arranged marriages were a la mode, whom would you beg your parents to set you up with? Why? (Literary characters and celebrities welcomed.) 

So who would ol' E.J. want shacked up with? SOOO many possibilities here. Kate Beckinsale, those eyes... Scarlett Johansson, those lips... Olivia Wilde, those--EVERYTHING!

And if I went fictional, it'd be hard to pass up Olivia Dunham from Fringe (so tough!), Jean Gray (so smart!) from the X Men, or Lara Croft/Tomb Raider (so adventurous!).

But the sappy truth is that I could never find a better mate than the one I actually have. She's got the smarts and determination of Hermione Granger, the natural beauty of one of the Granthom girls from Downton Abbey, and the genuine, unassuming goodheartedness of Jess from the TV series New Girl. 

So just give me another round of what I have, please! :)

My wife and her Grandpa Bob (he passed last month). Told you I married up! :)
What about you? If you could be fixed up with anyone, who would you choose?


Find the rest of the hop below!

And while you're at it, enter to win one of these great prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

IWSG - What Is "Good" Writing?

Hey, gang! It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. 

What is IWSG? It's writerly peeps gathering together to share tales of inspiration and woe related to this gnarly craft on the first Wednesday of each month. You'll find tips for writing success. You'll find cautionary stories of authors gone insane. You'll find writers beating their heads against their desks, pulling at their hair, and screaming, "Why won't my fingers quit typing these damned adverbs?!!"

All in the spirit of togetherness, of course. :)

Sound like something you'd enjoy being a part of? You can check out who is at the party, and sign up, by clicking the IWSG button below.

What is "good" writing?

If you're a writer, you'd probably agree that good writing is hard work. In fact, we could probably just end this post there and get back to destroying our souls one word at a time. But that's not the entire story, is it?

Maybe we should start by defining what "good writing" actually is.

Did your eye twitch with a compulsive nervous reaction when you read that sentence? Did you dry heave a little? Is there a single tear streaking a jagged path down your cheek? If so, congratulations! You already know the answer: 

NO-FREAKING-ONE has a real clue. 

Oh, lots of smart folks have good guesses. And we certainly know a lot of the components to good writing. (Remember those adverbs I mentioned before? KILL THEM ALL!!!!) However, good writing often comes down to the house Vs home debate. 

A good house has a strong foundation, sturdy walls, a sound roof, basic amenities and comforts, a non-running toilet, and no neighbors. It's easily defined and measured, and there aren't too many identifiable flaws.

A good home, on the other hand, is a much more subjective experience. It's a matter of how well it suits you. Do you like the nap of the carpet? Are your neighbors crazy but also your best friends? Did your kids take their first steps there? The faucet drips, but happens to sound out the exact rhythm of your favorite song, so it's actually a bonus.

The worth of a house is based upon function, form, location, etc. The worth of a home is based upon memories and feelings. Your house might be worth $150,000, but your home might very well be priceless.  

Good writing is much the same, which is why it's such a struggle to create it. Good writing is oftentimes flawed, but you--and more importantly--your readers will love those flaws. 

A story can be mechanically sound, yet have no heart, which translates to what some might call "bad writing". Conversely, a story can have tons of heart, yet be a bit of a mess mechanically, then be praised as "excellent writing." 

So what's to be done? How in the world are we going to create good writing without a blueprint? 

By churning out the words until our fingers ache. By mining the depths of our emotions and exploring the outer limits of our imaginations until we're irrevocably lost. By believing down to our bones that we'll never get it JUST right, but trying over and over again anyway. By learning how to build a good house first, and then figuring out what it's going to take to make it a good home.

One thing I'm sure of: to create good writing is to engage in a beautiful struggle, to wage a glorious battle between determination and self-doubt. Learning comes from getting knocked down, and success is usually built on a foundation of failure. 

So perhaps good writing is actually measured by our scars, bumps, and bruises. "E.J. looks like he just went nine rounds with a pissed off jungle cat, he must be one heck of a writer!" :)

What about you? How would you define "good" writing? Do any of your favorite authors break the rules of fundamentally sound writing?