Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview with Monique O'Connor James

I was introduced to fellow author Monique O’Connor James on my Twitter and we instantly hit it off, both coming from Southern Louisiana and both being paranormal/urban fantasy authors. I was so excited to get the chance to read her first novel, The Keepers, which was set in New Orleans.

“Jess denies God. In his infinite wisdom, he’s taken everyone she’s ever loved. Moving to the French Quarter was a ploy to erase the guilt she felt for rebuking her faith. Perhaps, if she hadn’t met Justin, an angel preoccupied with getting back into God’s good graces, and drowning in his hatred for humanity, her plan would have worked. Justin’s general disdain for the human race makes him difficult to like, but some higher power has appointed him her keeper. Justin’s convinced he can mend her broken relationship with her maker, but in the process he learns a thing or two about his own humanity. Never mind, falling in love, that’s not supposed to happen. In fact, it may even be forbidden. Jess just wants Justin to understand her plight, and he wants to protect her from a world she doesn’t know. If neither is equipped to save the other, then whose soul lives and whose will perish?”

I finished it that day and absolutely loved it. It is adult inspirational but appropriate for young adults as well. It is 277 PDF pages but reads really fast! After I finished it, I had a ton of questions. We had been emailing back and forth and this interview is a collection of our conversation:

So if you don't mind I have a few questions? Is this going to be part of a series?
Yes, a series for sure...meaning that the next book may not have the same fact, I know it won't <evil grin>. However, the option to do a sequel for the books in the series is open ,as I will miss Jess and Justin too!

Is The Keepers your first novel?
Yes, the Keepers was the first one I completed. But I shelved it for two years. During those two years, I wrote 6 or 7 other manuscripts (can't remember right off -guess I need to count). I pulled it down every now and then, and made changes because it wasn't what I wanted it to be. After having some critiques done on another novel late last year, I figured out how to fix what I didn't like and decided it was complete!!!

I read your bio, so sorry to hear about your mom ;(
There were a couple scenes in the novel that seemed very real. Did you take anything from real life?
I lived in NOLA from the time I was 2-6. Of course I visit often. However, the part in the book about Jess' mom stopping to pick flowers on Veterans...that's true. It's one of best memories I have of my mom :)

How many books are you planning?
Complicated question! I know there will be three in this series. However, like I said that's without the sequels to the books in the series. Each book will have separate charecters but all will be about a different class of angels....Justin was a Power...I'm writing The Watchers now about the Guardians....A Portion of the proceeds from The Keepers is going to Susan G. Komen.

Wasn't sure if you were talking about other books also? I have a short coming out in July. Its a YA novelette called The Mulligan Man. For the first six months, ALL of the proceeds from this book will go to the Japan Relief Fund. On Sept. 7th Jamais Vu is coming out. It is a novel about a girl who "accidentally" shoots herself and has a near-death experience. She comes back able to see other's deaths and dreaming of demons....This book has two sequels. I just submitted the first one to my publisher to see if it's a go.

Any hints into the next book? :)
Hmmm well, you know about Jamais Vu now. The Mulligan Man is about a group of teens who are at a party when an acquaintance dies. The Mulligan Man appears straight out of folk-lore and offers them the chance to get a "mulligan" on the night and save their friend. However, there are stipulations they must meet in order to save him. I have five other MSS completed waiting for me to edit or rewrite, so there are plenty coming and a few swirling around my brain!!!!

Have you already started writing them? When is the expected release?Mulligan Man 7/11 Jamais Vu 9/7

Will they be published by the same company?
Yes, they are all published by Astraea Press.

What has been your publishing process?
The publishing process with my publisher is really easy. Astraea is an Indie Publishing House and I submitted my MS with a synopsis and Query Letter. Stephanie Taylor, the owner, and her readers decided to offer a contract, a couple of weeks later, and I signed. After that I got a package and request for preedits. Basically, preedits are just reviewing the work again, for repetivie
words, formatting, missing punctuation, that type of thing. The MS then went through both content edits and line edits. After each set of edits it was sent back to me to make changes and agree to any content changes which were requested. I really didn't have any content changes, so I didn't have to make that decision. After the edits were done The Keepers was published in Ebook and is coming out in print in July from CreateSpace.

How did you end up going with the publisher you have now?
When Astraea first started looking for submissions a friend of mine told me about them. They offer clean fiction (no erotica, no cussing). My books were crossover YA/Adult, so I didn't feel it was necessary to have those elements and Astraea seemed like a good fit, so I sent a submission.

Did you submit to others?
Oh wow! Before I knew what Indie Publishers were, I toyed with the traditional route and even considered self-publishing. I did the research on agents, and did query letters, and collected rejections. It was a bad time to dip into publishing. As hard as it has always been to get into the business, it was even harder when the economy tanked. That was about the time I started submitting. I looked into self-publishing, but I wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted the guidance and marketing aide of a publisher with the freedom to write what I wanted, when I wanted. Author friends told me about the indie houses and it just happened that Astraea was the first one I submitted to. I got lucky!

What is your writing process?
It has been evolving! I used to be a complete "pantser", meaning I'd sit down and just start tapping out words as they came to me. My characters would dictate it all, and I'd happily listen. As time has gone on, I've started to take notes and develop my characters before I write. I also carry a notebook and make random plot notes. I don't think I'll ever be the "plotter" who uses index cards, but somewhere in the middle. I have a couple of friends I send my work to who help me with plotting and brainstorming. For me, writing is joyous, and I can get lost for hours. When it's done I always grieve a little!

Thanks that was fun!

Thanks Monique!

Monique can be reached at:
Twitter: mjames13
Author Page: