How many times do you read a stand-alone novel and wish it were a series? Well, I was given a copy of Jocelynn Drake’s NIGHTWALKER and absolutely loved it. What’s not to love? I’m a vampire fan and appreciate books with strong female characters, lots of fighting and oozing tension on all levels. This book fit the bill to a “T”. When I finished the novel, I actually went and found her on Twitter and Goodreads because I just wanted to tell her how much I loved the book and give her a review. To my surprise, other fans of hers tweeted me that this was actually a series and there were five more novels! I raced through each one of THE DARK DAYS SERIES and was just so impressed with the quality of the writing and the intricacies of the characters and worlds she created. The books were fun, action-packed and at times quite “saucy!” I truly enjoyed them.
So, since I’m not shy and love interviewing authors, I took a chance and asked Jocelynn if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously said yes. So without further ado, please let me introduce you to a native Cincinnatian who is a devoted fan of the Reds and Bengals, (and strangely not a Skyline Chili fan, but we’ll let that slide because her books are so amazing), Ms. Jocelynn Drake…
1) Let’s talk about writing a series. When you first set out to write the Dark Days novels, did you already envision it as a series from the “get-go?” What was your process like?
Funny enough, when I started writing Mira and Danaus, I was intending to create only a short story. I handed the story off to a friend to read. He returned it demanding I write more. By the time I was halfway through the first book, I realized I had enough material rattling around in my imagination to write several books. The original first book ended up being split into three books and expanded. And then when I was working on the second book, my publisher indicated that they wanted to do a total of six books.
The entire process of plotting/outlining the series has been very fluid, requiring I be flexible. From day one, I knew how the series was going to end; I just tweaked how Mira and Danaus got there. I didn’t plan on readers meeting Mira’s real father, even though I always knew who he was. I had always planned on Danaus getting his own book, but I thought it was going to be the second or third rather than the fourth. Some people died that I hadn’t planned on, which was as heartbreaking for me as it was for the readers.
When I worked on the series, I always had a goal in sight that I was working toward. I just didn’t always know how I was going to get there and who was going to survive the journey.
When I sat down for each book, I made plans for that particular book, listing problems and questions which needed to be addressed. I also tried to make notes of ideas of I had for future books. For several years, I had Mira constantly whispering in my ear as I worked.
2) There were a tremendous amount of plot lines and rules for all the different beings in these novels. How did you keep track of everything? Are you a big outliner or are you a panster, letting things develop as they go along?
I am something of a mix. For the main plot of the book, I am a serious outliner. The entire book has to be outlined before I am allowed to start working. I have to know where I am headed so my characters don’t get sidetracked. However, the character development and the personal moments develop more organically as I am working on a scene. I can’t plan those things. Sometimes a character will open his/her mouth and say something I wasn’t expecting, and the whole scene shifts to something wonderful and new. My outline is like a skeleton which supports the story and the story grows out from that structure. It demands flexibility. I can’t be locked to my outline, unwilling to change if I want the characters to be true and convincing
To keep up with it all, I make extensive notes. I have world-building notes. I have several different versions of characters lists so I know who’s alive, who’s dead, and when/how they died. I have several interviews of my major characters as well as essays written from the point of view of a character. Some of this I share with readers and some never sees the light of day. These notes help me understand the world I’ve created, keep details straight, and help develop new plot ideas.
3) I don’t think readers realize how much work goes into the telling of a story – they simply just get lost in the tale, which is what we want to happen. That’s probably the greatest gift for an author. So please, tell us about the new series you’re working on.
The Asylum Tales is a completely new and strange world. Humans live in a world surrounded by every magical and mythical creature we’ve ever run across in a story. Your next-door neighbor may be a werewolf, your office cube mate could be an ogre, your dentist is a siren, and your favorite bartender is a minotaur. And the strange thing? This is normal for you. In this world, everyone needs a little help every once in a while. Maybe it’s some good luck? Maybe your love life needs a boost? That is where a good tattoo artist comes in handy. With a magic potion added to the ink, the tattoo artist can help you woo your sweetheart or maybe hex your ex.
The series focuses on Gage Powell, owner and tattoo artist at Asylum Tattoo Parlor in Low Town. Gage, along with fellow tattoo artists Bronx (a troll) and Trixie (an elf), help people with their troubles while trying to stay out of trouble as well. Unfortunately, that’s not very easy for Gage, because he’s a former warlock from the Ivory Towers – the dark rulers of this world. The members of the Towers are still hunting for Gage because he left them. Dodging witches and warlocks, Gage tries to help his friends without losing his own head in the process.
4) Was it hard writing a whole new set of characters? Did you set out to make the book completely different than your previous work?
When I started working on the Asylum Tales, I set out to make it as different from the Dark Days series as possible. The new series involves vampires and shifters, but right now they have been relegated to smaller side characters. The new series is told from a guy’s point of view and Gage is very different from Mira, even though he does have a similar fast, hot temper. I tried to inject a little more humor into this new series. The new series isn’t as dark, but it does have its serious moments. I also wanted all the paranormal creatures out in the open. I didn’t want to worry about protecting anyone’s identity because humans didn’t know about vampires or faeries or trolls etc. Funny enough, it turns out that Gage is the one in hiding.
It actually wasn’t hard to work with an entirely new set of characters. I guess my mind was ready for the change of pace, because I found myself easily slipping into this world so I was mentally kicking back at Asylum with Gage and the gang. Gage’s voice reminds me of all the male friends I’ve had over the years, and he definitely has the potential to be just as crass. I think the hardest thing is balancing this large ensemble cast of characters. I’ve just finished the second book and the character list keeps growing. I’m struggling to find ways to work everyone into a book because they are all so fun to play with. I look forward to Gage’s visits to Chang’s black market because the wily old man is hilarious. I love visiting Jack because Jack hates Gage. I love working with Bronx because he’s so even and steady amid the chaos.
5) It sounds like you’re having wonderful fun with these books, so congratulations! So please, tell me what advice can you offer new writers who are struggling to receive recognition for their work? And how do you personally gauge success?
The best advice I can give is that as a writer, you should only focus on writing the best book you can possibly write. You should think only about that. Don’t worry about marketing, social media, publishers, and all the rest. Write the book. Finish the book. Revise the book. The rest will come later. The best way to get the attention of readers and publishers is to write a good book.
At first I thought success was measured by how many books were sold or whether I was offered another contract from my publisher. I’ve now been in this business for a few years and I think the best measure of success are the little notes and comments I get from readers saying they enjoyed the book. I love hearing someone loved a book or cried in reaction to an event in a book. I love hearing they’re looking forward to the next book or sad the series is over. I spent close to seven years working with Mira and Danaus. They were a big part of my life and it’s nice to know other people loved them as well. If I can entertain someone for a few hours, help them escape into another world, then I’ve accomplished my goal and that is the greatest feeling in the world.
6) It really is a wonderful feeling. And I love to ask this last question: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I didn’t set out to be an author. It was never a goal. When I started college, I was actually an engineering major. Oh, I started writing stories when I was 12 and I wrote stories all through high school and college, but I was also aware of how hard it was to get published. I knew it was a long shot. I just wanted to write stories. I wasn’t concerned with anyone actually reading them. It wasn’t until I had been out of college (with my English/Journalism degree because I hate calculus) that I started working on Nightwalker. It wasn’t until I finished writing the book that I thought it might be good enough for publication. It took two years and countless revisions, but I sold the book and several others.
If I couldn’t be a writer, I think my only option would be for me to be a cat. Yes, I will be a cat if I can’t be a writer.
Jocelynn, thank you so much for your time and allowing us a glimpse into your writing world.
If you’d like to learn more about Jocelynn Drake and her breadth of work, please feel free to locate her at the following addresses: