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Jordanna East - 'Writing complex murderous plots is fun!'

Jordanna picture2Hello Jordanna, author of Blood in the Past and Blood in the Paint (scheduled for winter 2013)! Let me guess… they're not exactly romance novels? Tell us a little more about what you write about.
*laughs* Hi Sandra! You guessed correctly, definitely NOT romance. They’re psychological thrillers; some might refer to them as crime thrillers, though I try to shy away from that categorization because they’re not whodunits. The reader already knows the ‘who’. The journey the books take you on is ‘why’.

They are psychological thrillers because not all humans are well-adjusted and deal with the pressures and grievances of life normally. Sometimes life pushes and people push back…violently. In Blood in the Past, when one character pushes back, it sets off a chain reaction of events and three characters become intertwined, all pushing back in various ways. Blood in the Paint takes place ten years later, when they all come to be aware of each other, so to speak. It’s a very fun story arc to write. (Yes, I know saying writing complex murderous plots is ‘fun’ makes me look just as psychopathic as my characters.)

Is this your favourite genre to read as well?

Yes and no. I enjoy reading psychological thrillers more to hone my own craft. To make sure I get details right, to make sure I am asking the right questions as I write, focusing on the right quirks, and so on. But I read a lot, usually a book a week, and the genres vary. I’m just starting to get into YA and paranormal stuff, historical stuff, and dystopian stuff. Even a little mild sci-fi and fantasy. I say ‘mild’ sci-fi and fantasy because the heavy stuff makes my head hurt. Too many made-up technobabble terms and too many made-up futuristic names. I can’t deal. (Side note, I bet myself I couldn’t use the word ‘stuff’ five times in one answer. I just lost. Dammit.)

Jordanna BloodinthePastYou started writing a novel because you were bored… is one of the first things people can read about you on your website. That's a novel start to writing! Is that a sign that you were always a writer and it just needed a dull moment to get out?
Thank you for asking that! I’ve been wanting to address that line forever. I feel torn over that statement. On one hand, it’s totally true. One hundred per cent. On the other hand, I feel other writers who have been writing their whole lives, thinking of plots in utero, are rolling their eyes at me. But I subscribe to the philosophy that everything happens for a reason. I owned books. I owned DVDs. I am pretty sure I still had a Philadelphia library card (where I was living at the time). But I chose to write that day, even though I had never written fiction before, outside of a high school assignment. I’ve always been good at writing, technically. In college, I even made extra cash on the side, writing papers and lab reports for other students (I was a Biology major). But I’ve also always had a creative side. And perhaps you’re right: that side of me was just waiting for the right time to rear its pretty peacock head.

Did it take you a long time to get your first entire novel written?
Hmm. Well, that novel I started writing when I was bored? I wrote nine chapters. That is now Blood in the Paint. I wrote that in 2006 or thereabouts. Put it aside. When my best friend – after which one of the characters in my books is named, and Blood in the Past is partially dedicated to – passed away, I resumed writing. Took me about a year and half to finish, but I was also simultaneously writing Blood in the Past, as I felt the story needed an extended prologue of sorts, and I wanted to get it all out at once.

Are you a planner/plotter or did you just write with a few ideas to help you shape the story?
These books were my first attempt. I basically had no notes, no outline, and no clue. Everything was a mess. Revising was hell. But with the help of my beta readers and a fantastic editor, Blood in the Past has gotten nothing but compliments. Blood in the Paint has proven a bit trickier, because the beginning was written so long ago that it’s full of amateur author errors that make me want to wring my own neck. But I’m getting there. I’m more organized with my other projects and, as a result, I write much faster now.

I like to ask writers/authors what they think of the ‘Write What You Know’ motto, but you especially - since you take a killer's point of view. So what do you think of ‘Write What You Know’ and how do you write what you don't know?
I don’t want to offend anyone who takes that motto to heart, but I personally think it’s rubbish. I’m sure it works for John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell, but that’s what research is for. I may have majored in Biology and minored in Psychology and Criminology, but in all honesty, I don’t know crap. I have to research everything. The Crime Scene Writers Group on Yahoo is a forum where writers ask Law Enforcement and Medico-legal professionals questions so they can get the details right. Several of the members are acknowledged at the end of Blood in the Past. Why? Because, even with my collegiate background, I didn’t know crap. And just a fraction of the resources I employ. I believe in ‘Writing the Book You’d Want to Read.’ That mantra is much better. And as a side note, if I wrote what I knew, my books would probably be mostly about serving tables and tending bar, because that’s what I REALLY KNOW, since that’s what I did to pay my way through college. Who the hell wants to read that book? I think my books are much more entertaining.

(By the way, taking the killer’s point of view, at least for my characters, is pretty easy. I just imagine what I would want to do, but wouldn’t because I know about little things like conscience and consequences. Not hard at all. Plus, I read and watch a lot of true crime. TRUE crime, not just CSI: Miami.)

Jordanna blackwhiteJordanna East is your (somewhat) pseudonym. Why did you choose one?
I liked my name. But I was engaged when I started writing seriously again and I didn’t want to write under my new name. It wasn’t catchy enough. It wasn’t something I could build a brand around. My maiden name was only one syllable, which is why I liked it so much better, so I shortened my married name. But then my first name didn’t sound right with the modified version of my new last name. So I used my middle name and tada! Jordanna East has taken the world by storm! Well, not really…taken the world by drizzle? Taken the world by fine mist? Ahh, never mind…

Have you submitted your manuscript to publishers, or did you decide to self-publish right away?
I am a research nerd and I never make a decision lightly. So I did months of research before deciding to publish independently. The short of it is, traditional publishers rarely give advanced pay outs anymore because they don’t always see a return on their investment. Understandable. But they do take a cut of each book sold. The odds of success are the same now, whether traditional or independent. So basically, I have say over my cover design, marketing, and everything else. I sell the same amount of books. But I keep all of my royalties and have the rights to my work. It was a no brainer to me.

Why did you opt for starting your own publishing company (and what does that entail)?
That was a three-tiered situation. First and foremost, I founded the Blood Read Press publishing imprint (pronounced Blood “Red”) because it’s more professional-looking to potential bookstores and reviewers to have your publisher not be listed as Createspace or Amazon. They tend to take you more seriously. Sad, but true. (Myself and my publishing company were even mentioned briefly in the September issue of the UK’s Writing Magazine in an article about self-publishing tips!)

Second, it comes back to royalties and what I can do for myself. Why should I have a small publishing company do things for me that I can do for myself? Or worse, do nothing more than I would already do for myself. And take partial royalties to boot? No thank you. I’ll do it myself and continue to solidify my brand. Third, I’m well aware that not all authors feel this way. Some authors just want to write. Which is fine. So, in the future, I hope to accept submissions.

Do you plan to help other (new) authors get published?
Jumped the gun there, huh? My bad. Do you guys say ‘my bad’ in the Netherlands or am I being super American right now? Disclaimer: I’m nothing like Miley Cyrus. [I.e. see last line of previous answer!]

Jordanna wineglassSo are you a full-time writer now, and if not, how do you manage to find the time?
My husband has allowed me this year to write full-time, though I’d like to find a part-time job soon to help alleviate the costs of editing Blood in the Paint. I honestly don’t know how people with jobs and children find the time to write and market their books, too. The idea of working and starting a family soon is neatly filed away in folder in my mind labelled: Things That Terrify Me Into Tiny Pieces.

How lonely is this writing occupation? Where and when do you call in the troops (and what are they)?
Extremely lonely! I’m almost always under a self-imposed deadline-which I take as seriously as if it were written in stone. My friends just don’t get it. But I have recently discovered the South Jersey Writers Group, so I think I see some mingling in my future. *Fingers crossed* I’m also hoping to get to a few more writing conferences. I’ve only been to one, but it was way before I published, so I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone. Haha.

How do you find your readers (as a self-pubbed writer) and reach the largest possible audience?
Right now the three biggest mysteries of the world are:
1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Is there life outside of Earth?
3. Where are the readers?
Haha. It feels like we, as authors, are all still kind of marketing to ourselves. We ‘like’ each other on Facebook, we follow each other on Twitter, we read each other’s blogs, et cetera. So, I have no idea. I hold out hope that other authors are like me and read a book a week? But I don’t pretend to know where the readers are. My research has suggested that the most effective marketing tools are Pixel of Ink, BookBub, and eReader News Today. Basically, they are services that have already found the readers, but they hog them for themselves, and authors have to (sometimes) pay them to tell the readers about their books. Figures.

Do you have to do a lot of self-marketing or do you have help?
I don’t really have help. A couple of internet pals pitch in here and there and share stuff for me when they can, which I appreciate with the warmth of a thousand kittens, but I don’t have a street team or an assistant or anything. I post to my blog and my Facebook author page most regularly, but I also post to Google+ and LinkedIn, and of course, Twitter. I’m a member of various reader sites, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and so on. And I’m always scouring the internet for websites that showcase authors and their books.

According to your Twitter bio, you love killing off characters. Is it that easy?
It’s very easy. George RR Martin and I should go for drinks (Game of Throne fans, the books or the TV series, know what I’m talking about). He and I would toast our frosty mugs and laugh over making our readers become attached to certain characters, even root for them, and then we break their hearts, thus giving our readers PTSD. It would be a grand old time.

Do you know in advance who has been created to die at some point in the tale?
Eighty per cent of the time, but it’s always delightful, when I get to kill off a character unexpectedly. *rubs hands together like a crazy person*

Jordanna BloodReadlogoEver felt like 'saving' anyone at the last minute?
Only once. But I can’t. It would be cheesy and predictable.

I saw that Blood for Blood will be an entire series! Are they stand alone novels or can we expect cliffhangers?
I’ll put it this way: my husband read Blood in the Paint and all he did was stutter at the ending. ‘But, wait, what? But, who? But, why, can-he? Wait! What?’ So, yeah. I will say, that Blood in the Past does not have to be read before the rest of the series, though. It is a prelude that takes place ten years before. It would help if the reader had those details, but it’s not necessary.

Do you plan to write novels outside of this series or even in a different genre as well?
I plan to write for the rest of my life, I really do. I love writing and I’m good at it. I have a notebook full of ideas, complete with tentative titles, and some even have cover art descriptions to pass along to my graphic designer. A few of the ideas are a little out of the psychological thriller genre, but not much. I just wrote a serialized novel this summer about a young couple trying to escape from an off-the-grid religious cult plagued by abusive, deceptive, and power-hungry members. It might qualify as YA, as the couple is in their teens, but the rest is still kind of psychological thrillerish. I’m hoping to release that, in episode form, next spring.

Well, that concludes my time here, as I feel a jester tugging at my neck with a giant metal hook and I think the music might get louder, too. Thank you so much for having me, Sandra! I’d be glad to be back anytime!

Can’t get enough of the lovely Jordanna? Go visit her blog or Facebook page, follow her on Twitter and once you’ve read the novella Blood in the Past, do leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads!


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