Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Jamie Fessenden – Jamie is an amazing writer whose work spans the distance between Viking History to Contemporary to Sci Fi, and includes the recently released book Violated, that deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault.
Thanks so much, Jamie, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Jamie Fessenden: My style is fairly clean and concise. I don’t like to have any wasted words in a sentence, and I’ll spend a lot of time polishing the prose and dialog until every word is exactly right. Not that it’s ever as smooth as I’d like it to be. I’m also known for being a stickler for historical and technical detail. As far as genre goes, I insist upon gay main characters. Other than that, I enjoy exploring all genres. I’ve written horror, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary drama, mystery….
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
JF: It was a Christmas Regency called The Christmas Wager. It was… cute. But not very historically or culturally accurate. To be honest, the stories I was trying to emulate were sloppy in that regard, so I didn’t worry about it. I soon learned that MM Romance readers had somewhat higher standards. Unfortunately, the cultural inaccuracies are such that a rewrite wouldn’t fix them. But the romance is still kind of sweet, so some readers enjoy it.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
JF: I like to start with the two main characters. I usually locate pictures online that match how I see them in my head, so I can refer to them for description. Then I sketch out the general plot before I begin, but not in great detail. When I begin writing, I try to shoot for at least 1,000 words a day. I don’t stress about missing a daily word goal, as long as I can manage at least 5,000 words a week—preferably a bit more. It tends to speed up as the novel progresses, but I generally finish a 60k-80k novel in three or four months. I don’t do 1st, 2nd, and 3rd drafts. I tend to go back over what I’ve written periodically to tighten it up, so by the time I’ve reached the end, the bulk of it has already been rewritten and polished several times.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
JF: I have a fascination with other languages. I’ve studied Spanish, French, Latin, German, Japanese, Italian, and Russian. The only one I might be able to speak, in a pinch, is German—as long as we stuck to elementary sentences. I’m currently seeing a Russian tutor to improve my Russian. I can read it, to some extent, but I’d like to get conversational.
JSC: What was the first speculative fiction book (sci fi, paranormal, fantasy, horror) that you ever read? How did it influence you?
JF: Good question. I remember reading a book called “Fire-Hunter” by Jim Kjelgaard in elementary school. That was about a caveman separated from his tribe, struggling to survive. It was wonderful, and I keep running into other people who read and loved that book. I’ve got plans for writing a similar YA novel soon, but with two gay protagonists and updated information, based upon what we’ve learned about primitive man since 1951.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
JF: Coffee, books (a lot of them), and my husband. Sorry, Erich, but I’m not doing this alone!
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
JF: I hated Tim in “Violated.” It was necessary to create a character nobody would want Derek to kiss and make up with. I might not kill him, but I can’t stand him. The two sexiest characters I’ve written, in my opinion, were Kevin, from “Billy’s Bones,” and Joshua, from “Saturn in Retrograde.” A threesome with the two of them might be nice. Or maybe throw in Ryan, from “The Meaning of Eggnog,” for a foursome…. They’re all my idea of dead sexy—kind of rugged, a bit on the crude side, and not a mean bone in their bodies. As far as marrying goes, probably Russ, from “Violated.” He’s the most considerate, selfless character I’ve created, though he can get a bit overprotective.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
JF: Not exactly. After I’ve finished writing something, I give myself a few days to do nothing but play computer games and watch movies. I know by now, nothing is going to happen during those few days. My creative brain needs time to reload. I’ve also learned not to let people read what I’m working on until I’ve reached the end. Nothing saps my desire to work on a project more than someone telling me in the early stages that it isn’t brilliant. I did inadvertently discover something else I should never do, when I was writing “Murder on the Mountain.” It was a NaNoWriMo project, and on the last day, I was just a few thousand words shy of “winning” NaNoWriMo. I knew I’d never be able to write that much, if I paid attention to what I was writing, so I just wrote this bizarre—and absurdly raunchy—sex scene involving all of the male characters in the novel. I “won,” but the consequence of that was I couldn’t even look at the novel for a week or so, because I kept thinking about all the kinky moments the characters had had together. Bad idea.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
JF: Both. I generally sketch out a plot before I begin writing, but I leave myself open to the novel shooting off in unexpected directions. If so, I simply revise the general plan. But not having any idea at all where I’m going will make me stall out.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
JF: I’m currently working on a novel about an American spy infiltrating the Soviet Union in the 1960s on a mission to kill an American scientist who’s providing the Russians with American military secrets. It’s very “James Bond.” But his mission is hampered by a Russian sailor he gets involved with along the way. It’s been fascinating to write, but at the same time, incredibly challenging. What’s it like in a Soviet naval shipyard in 1967? It’s not easy to find out. And I don’t like faking it. I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year. Assuming it sells, it could be out by next fall, but no guarantees.
And now for Jamie’s newest story “The Mill” – in the anthology Spirit:
My story “The Mill” is now available for pre-order, will be out on October 19th, just in time for Halloween!
“In 1907, a fire spread through Hawley Mill, taking the lives of ninety-seven workers. The mill was rebuilt, but since its official closing in 1989, construction workers attempting to renovate it have reported strange things happening—mysterious accidents and frightening, inexplicable events. Frank Carter and his team of paranormal investigators have been hired by the mill’s current owner, Mrs. Hawley, to determine if the mill is indeed haunted… and what can be done about it.
On their first night in the mill, Frank’s younger brother, Louis, is severely injured after running from… something. Now Louis is in the hospital and Frank is ready to call off the whole investigation. Then Mrs. Hawley sends in her own personal psychic, Toby Reese, to see what he can do to aid the paranormal team. Frank doesn’t have much respect for psychics, but when the dangers of the old mill threaten his team, he realizes he and Toby will have to work together to survive.”
This is part of an anthology of ghost stories called “Spirit (Gothika #4),” which also features wonderful stories by Eli Easton, Kim Fielding, and Bg Thomas!
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Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school’s literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn’t until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his “day job” as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.