Join me in welcoming author Jacki Renée as we discuss her passion and her pleasure.
Jacki Renée :
Reading is my Passion, writing is my Pleasure. An avid reader, I pick up a book to escape everyday life for a few hours. Reading fictional novels since high school, from timeless literary masterpieces to today’s mainstream fiction, I’ve found both passion and pleasure in the written world of books. I divide my “me time” between my two daughters and writing. Writing started as an after work hobby until a pen-pal encouraged me to try writing as a profession. Once the seed was planted, I watered and nurtured it into an obtainable dream.
My approach to writing is to draw the outline and allow the imagination of the reader to color in the blanks. I view genre conventions as guidelines for being different.
My goals as an author are to… always finishing what I start; be it a book written by a fellow author, or a manuscript I started working on but put aside for one reason or another. Expand my reading palate by finding new authors and “pay-it-forward”. Stay true to my beliefs yet open myself to a world seen through the eyes others, as I want my readers to do for me. Always find the positive in the face of wickedness; my stories may not be for everyone, but they will entertain someone.
Tanisha D Jones: Welcome, Jacki. I’m so happy to have you here. So,tell me about your current work.
Jacki Renée: Secrets and Lies is the final book of the Lies trilogy of the Men of Phantom series. Below is the back cover blurb. The series revolves around the lies that brought the two characters (Dr. Danielle Edwards and Bryan Hawk IV) together and the secrets that threaten to tear their bonds apart.
Have they come so far…
Everything’s been a secret or a lie. Everything except their love. Now Bryan and Danielle must face their biggest challenge yet—one that might tear their family bonds apart. The people they have called friends, are enemies. No one can be trusted; nowhere is safe. They must protect the people they love from being used as pawns in this deadly game. Danielle decides it’s past time she join forces with Phantom to help take down the homeland terrorists—but going on this mission means uncovering secrets that could change everything.
Just to fail?
The safety of the entire USA is riding on Bryan’s shoulders. But to conquer the enemy, Bryan must unleash the careful control he keeps on the dark side of himself, a monster born from years of training as a Phantom ghost—and even Danielle isn’t sure she can help him control that inner demon once it’s freed.
When all the lies have been exposed and all the secrets revealed, will Bryan and Danielle reclaim the happiness they’ve shared in the past? Or will the Secrets and Lies destroy the bonds they have?
TDJ: Do you write more than one genre?
JR: I have a file on my computer labeled BIAS (Basic Information About the Story). I have a BIAS for an erotic romance series, a contemporary romance that has the potential to be a series, a paranormal romance story based on a crazy dream I had after eating hot wings and drinking jolly rancher martinis before bedtime, and a thriller based on the monologues from my two favorite late night talk show hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Colbert. So yes, I write more than just romantic suspense stories.
TDJ: I recently hired a writing coach/editor and she told me to create a book bible for every series or book I write. It’s so helpful. I have two series now, the Fallen and my new Modern Muses contemporary romance series and it helps me keep everything in order. Backstory, appearances connections to other characters. It’s awesome.
JR: Naming the file BIAS is my way of not conforming to normal writing-business practices. But a BIAS is basically a book bible. They help me stay organize.
TDJ: Do you find it harder to write in one genre over another?
JR: As long as I’m inspired, I have no trouble shifting my brain to think/write in the style of different genres. Plus, all my characters have a play list of songs I listen to when I’m writing their POV. The music helps me stay focused on the genre style too.
TDJ: I do that as well. Right now I’m working on the 3rd Fallen book and Im all about the Weeknd’s Starboy and the Black Panther soundtrack. When I write Modern Muses, it depends on the characters. Callie is more latin/salsa inspired while her sister Clio is more 90’s hiphop.
JR: I listen to all kinds of music (except for heavy metal and gangster rap). In the thriller I’m writing, I listen to cello music when it’s a scene about the victim. The mood of the music describes his personality (before being murdered).
TDJ: Why did you choose this particular genre? What inspired it?
JR: I didn’t start off writing romantic suspense. As a matter of fact, I had no intention on publishing it for mass market. It started off as an all sex-no-content short story that I was going to post on one of those fun writer’s websites. Then one day I paid attention to “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith. The timbre of his voice mixed with the melody of the music brought out the voice of my hero. That day, my “just post on a website” short story grew to a full length novel with content and suspense, which became a trilogy that grew into a 12 book series because the other Men of Phantom demanded that their story be told in the span of 3 books too.
TDJ: How do you write? Do you start and stop? Or write furiously until it’s done? Do you plot or are you a pantser?
JR: I am proud to be a total pantser! I know how my story ends before I know its beginning. My characters one hundred percent drive the story. Some days, I’ll write for hours. Then there are those days when I stop and start. I’m also a full time student so, writing everyday isn’t possible for me when school is in session.
TDJ: Do you have any strange writing habits?
JR: Well when I’m experiencing writer’s block, sometimes I’ll sit in my car parked in front of the house and write. One time, I was on a roll and the laptop’s battery was about to die. I was afraid I would lose my rhythm if I stopped stop so I texted my daughter and told her to grab two extension cords we use for outdoor decorations, connect them, plug in one end and bring the other end out to me. The one thing I must have next to me when I’m writing is an extra large cup of ice water when I’m writing. Sometimes I drink it. Sometimes I don’t. But it has to be there when I’m writing.
TDJ: I have long breaks , not exactly a block, where I feel like I need to regroup. But then when it comes, everything comes in a rush. Like now, I have ideas to expand several short stories into full stand alone novels. I’ve posted them on my blog but feel like I can really do something with these three very distinct female characters and their stories Dayfall, would be pure paranormal fantasy, Breeder is more dystopian and The Escape Plan would be steam punk sci fi.
JR: I’ve had long breaks in writing too, and boy is it a frustrating time for me because I cannot shut up my inner editor. That’s when I start to get creative about the places I write.
TDJ: Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
JR: The sex scenes are the hardest for me to write not because I’m uncomfortable with the topic, it’s because I’m tooooooo comfortable with the topic and the first draft of every sex scene I’ve written is very graphic and raw. It takes me several rounds of editing just those scenes to dial it back a bit to fit the essence of the story.
TDJ: For me it’s so easy to write sex scenes. Certain characters I feel are just easier to connect. Like Eli and Celeste, I think their connection is primal. But the couple in the 3rd book (I won’t give that away ) will have more of a sweet connection. I think my problem is over visual. I write too many minut details that only matter to me.
JR: LOL, I love Eli and Celeste’s connection. Now you’ve piqued my interest with the couple in the 3rd book. Are they characters from books 1 and 2? Come on, you can tell me who they are. I promise to keep it a secret. If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right?
TDJ: I don’t think you’ll make the connection, but yes, they are in books 1 and 2.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad?
JR: Yes, I read my reviews. But I don’t respond to them, good or bad. Reading preference is subjective. I’m fully aware that not everyone will be entertained by my stories or they can’t follow my style of writing and I’m okay with that. Don’t get me wrong, the bad reviews do get to me and the good ones pump me up, but I don’t write with the intentions of getting good reviews from readers. I do it for the pleasure it brings me to write the types of stories I love to read.
TDJ: I agree completely I’ve only had positive reviews , so far. But I am eager to get a bad one. Hell, any reviews are awesome in my book because it means people are reading. Don’t get me wrong, I want more good than bad, but I want true criticism not some keyboard bully trying to make a point.
JR: I love that term “keyboard bully.” The only time I experienced keyboard was when I entered a contest. Two out of the three judges liked my entry. The other one wrote, “You need to read more books in your genre and follow those examples. It’s obvious you are clueless about what romantic suspense is” [copied directly from the scoresheet]. Little did that judge know, I do read romantic suspense, I just happen to believe there is more than one way to spin a suspense tale.
TDJ: I entered a contest and was told that the opening of The First to Fall was contrived and an obvious dues ex machina. Had no idea how they could get that from the first two chapters, but I ignored it. Name 3 authors/books that impacted your writing.
JR: I don’t really have specific authors who I can pinpoint as having an impact on my writing. I’ve learned something (good or bad) from every author I’ve read and it helps with my growth and development.
TDJ: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
JR: I love this question because when I’m describing my characters, I’m describing the actor(s) I’d like to play my characters. The problem is, my characters are like Frankenstein’s monster, they are pieces of actors and models put together like a puzzle to form one person. For example, Bryan Hawk (the character from the Lies trilogy of my Men of Phantom series) has Derek Theler’s (Baby Daddy television show) height and abs, Channing Tatum’s (Magic Mike movie) thighs and butt, and Josh Kelly’s (the actor – UnReal television series) face.
TDJ: I understand. At first, in The First to Fall, Eli looked like Idris Elba but over time he’s developed and now looks more like a male model whose name I don’t know but I have his pictures everywhere. And Celeste was Sydnie Tamia Poitier, she’s changed as well .I made an entire Pinterest board for my characters. That was before the book bible.
JR: The female character in the story has the fierceness or Laila Ali, the sassy sophistication of Jada Pinkett-Smith, the draw of Kerry Washington, the innocence of Zoe Kravitz, and the beauty of the model Blaine Shackelford.
TDJ: I guess over time all characters evolve in our minds.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
JR: The names of my characters are very important in my books. They must flow off the tongue nicely. So when I write and I haven’t given the character a name yet, I put XXXX XXXX or ???? ???? as a place marker until I come up with a name.
TDJ: My characters are always fully formed in my head when I start outlining. Like I know their basic information, name height etc, but their characteristic and mannerisms change and evolve as I write.
JR: I’m the same way, I just don’t know their name before I start writing.
TDJ: Names come as soon as I picture the person in my mind. Like Jinxie Monroe, when I thought the name that image popped into my head immediately. Have you ever created a character that changed mid-project from what you first envisioned? Have they ever evolved on their own?
JR: My characters evolve on their own. A few have changed mid-project but only because it made the story more interesting in my opinion.
TDJ: I completely understand. I didn’t know who Grace really was until halfway through my first draft. It just made sense as I wrote.
JR: It’s funny, when I started reading the story and Grace and Boogie were introduced, in the back of my mind I said, “there’s something special about those two.” Will we see more of them in book 3? By the way, I love Boogie’s realness, she doesn’t pull any punches.
TDJ: Boogie is actually a combination or women in my family. Yes, she will appear in more stories. Boogie is a character with a story to tell. I have lots in mind for her.
Is it easier for you to write the hero or villain? What are the hardest scenes for you to write?
JR: For me, since I already know the ending of the story before I write it, and therefore know who the hero or villain is from the start, that I don’t have a problem with writing either characters. How the story plays out between the hero and villain is completely up to the characters.
TDJ: That’s interesting. I never really know how something is going to end. I usually start out with a plan, but I let the characters take over. My villains always have a slightly sympathetic bend. Like Lilith, I completely get why she is the way she is and I know that their will eventually be a love story for her. May not be sweet, but it will be interesting.
JR: Don’t get me started on Lilith; I want Celeste to chew her up and spit her out. When you write Lilith’s love story you’ve got to send me a sneak peek so I can make sure it’s not sweet.
TDJ: Lilith’s love story will be darker in tone but I think it will make complete sense once the 3rd book is done. I don’t think it will be sweet per say, but definitely sexy and passionate. I have so many characters for The Fallen that it will probably become it’s own universe.
JR: How long before book 3?
TDJ: Hopefully by the fall. I want to get it out to beta readers by summer. Here’s hoping I can stay on track. I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy buff, I love movies/shows in this genre, was or is there a T.V. Show or movie which has inspired you (doesn’t have to be Sci-fi /Fantasy).
JR: I watch a lot of drama/suspense shows and those come in all forms. My daughter hates watching these shows/movies with me because I figure out who the bad guy is before he/she is revealed. My daughter will only watch comedies with me. I pay attention to everything and I have an overactive imagination. I think that’s why I put a lot of thought to the twists and turns of my romantic suspense and thriller stories and hide the clues behind a lot of detail without actually telling the reader, “Hey, pay attention to this. It shows you who the bad guy is.”
TDJ: My daughter watches certain shows with me. We’re all about Stranger Things and Riverdale binges. And now she’s into the new Sabrina the Teen Aged witch series
and Runaways, but generally she finds what I watch too inappropriate for her. I can her the appropriate police, kissing and love scenes make her uncomfortable. Other than that, she’s watching anime or cartoons.
JR: Our daughters could be friends. She’s into those shows too. My daughter even watches the Korean shows. Back in 2012 she got me hooked on a teen soap opera, Hollywood Heights. Posting short stores about Hollywood Heights on FanFiction led me wanting to post more adult content stories on another writing website before Necessary Lies evolved. Can you believe my Hollywood Heights stories still get likes, favorites, and follows even though I haven’t posted on the site is five years?
TDJ: I understand. My daughter is crazy about everything Korean and is obsessed with this boy group, BTS. They actually could be friends.What are you working on now? What is your next project?
JR: I have a planned 7 book erotic romance series that I’m working on. My goal is to release them at the same time. I’m also working on book 4 of the Men of Phantom Series (the Obsession trilogy), and the contemporary romance story.
TDJ: I look forward to those. Sounds ambitious and very interesting.
Last Question: Ice Cream or Chocolate?
JR: I eat chocolate occasionally, but for me, it’s ICE CREAM all the way (even though it doesn’t always agree with my digestive system). My favorites are, vanilla, butter pecan, pecan praline, black walnut (my medical file says I’m allergic to nuts—which I am—I’ve just never had a reaction to pecans or walnuts).
TDJ: I am all about Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra. And We have a gelato place here in New Orleans, Oh My God. But then in New Orleans we have everything, even snowballs with gummy bears, ice cream and sweetened condensed milk….I will be fat forever. HAHA.
JR: Me too…LOL.
TDJ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I look forward to seeing what else you have coming down the line.
JR: Thank you for having me. I can’t wait for the next book in your Fallen Series to come out.
TDJ: I will be sure to let you know. Thanks so much. You've been great.
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