drey: Hello Jeannie! Welcome to drey’s library, and thank you for taking the time to visit us this month. I’m very happy you’re here as November’s Featured Author, I hope you enjoy your visit!
Jeannie: Thanks for having me. This is my birthday month so it’s nice to be featured in November.
drey: Oooh! Happy Birthday!! If you tell me when, I'll sing "happy birthday" to you... ;)
Can you share tell us about yourself in 10 sentences or less?
Jeannie: I’m a computer gal by trade and I write in the hours before and after work. I spend entirely too much time on the computer, work out as an excuse to get out of the house, and like to bake and decorate cookies.
drey: When did you know you wanted to be an author? What were you doing? Was it a gradual realization, or did it just pop up one day?
Jeannie: I fantasized about being an author since my mum told me that if you wrote stories that were good enough, people would pay you for them. (I think I was in second grade at the time.) Though I was always penning little stories when I was a teenager, I was really afraid to show them to anyone but my Little Sis. I finally threw my hat into the ring seriously about five or six years ago and my Little Sis is still my primary critique partner.
Of course she now has an MFA in creative writing so that partnership worked out nicely for me.
drey: How did your first sale happen?
Jeannie: Harlequin Mills & Boon requested my manuscript after reading it in the final round of RWA’s Golden Heart contest in 2009. Before that, my agent had the manuscript out on submission as well. In the end, Harlequin was the one willing to take a chance on the unusual setting.
drey: Well, I'm glad they did. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to read it myself, if they hadn't!
Who and/or what inspires your writing? How many ideas never make it to paper, and what do you do with them?
Jeannie: This is one of the sources of my writer angst. I don’t have a million ideas, beating down my door to get written. I gravitate around an idea and its players for a long, long time. I daydream about them and work and rework scenarios in my head. I can’t put my finger on what inspires my writing, but it’s usually about a scenario and how the people brought into it interact. I like classic scenarios with deeper exploration of the psychology of the players.
drey: What do you indulge in when not writing?
Jeannie: Cooking and eating. I have a plate of Halloween sugar cookies right now that I’m munching on way too quickly. I tell myself they’ll taste better if I eat them when they’re fresh.
drey: Of course they taste better when fresh! Right out of the oven's yummy!
Do you have a favorite accompaniment to chocolate?
Jeannie: Now, I’m actually not a chocolate freak like my husband. I do like coffee with chocolate. Coffee flavored truffles from See’s Candy are a huge weakness.
drey: *stunned* Not a chocolate freak...???
Smackdown: Your two favorite characters face off in the ring. Who are they, which one wins, and why?
Jeannie: This conjured up so many weird match ups. I mean Han Solo and Queen Elizabeth I would make a hilarious episode of Robot Chicken.
drey: Electronic readers are becoming more affordable and available. Their impact on paper books, the environment, people's reading & buying habits - what's your take on this? Do you think it’s here to stay? As a writer, how are you adjusting to, or taking advantage of, the digital age?
Jeannie: Here to stay, absolutely. For a newbie like me, it’s getting harder and harder to break in. I think eBooks with its low price point and accessibility is the only thing that’s going to get new authors a more widespread readership. I think print will start to take on a more boutique value. I see people buying books electronically and then, if they enjoyed it, buying print versions to gift to others or to have on their keeper shelf. Similar to what we see in the DVD market – people buying a movie they’ve already seen to gift it or to watch it over and over again.
I’ve learned a lot about the digital market with my first release. A lot of education was involved, telling readers how to get my books and that they didn’t need fancy e-readers to read them.
drey: On the publishing side—where do you think publishers and authors stand on the digital divide? Are they jumping across the great divide, or waiting ‘till someone builds a bridge? Name one thing you think could be improved in regards to eBooks.
Jeannie: If you’re jumping now, it’s already too late. I think publishers know that. Some publishers are weathering the storm better than others. Same with authors. I think in the digital media age, you need to be observant and you need to be flexible and ready for change. That’s what over a decade in the technology industry has taught me. Don’t get married to any one method – instead be literate in the basic principles of the space. Right now, the players who are winning the game are addressing two key aspects: technical interfacing and community. For instance, I think Amazon’s technical interfacing is amazing. I think Harlequin has the community aspect down, but has a way to go on the interface. Goodreads is a great example of interface design that actually promotes community.
drey: You are right about the technical interface and promoting community... I personally think that there is still a lot to be desired in almost all sites, and I usually forget that most business aren't technology powerhouses, but instead need a well-defined approach to melding technology with social interaction (i.e. community). Without the approach, all the technology in the world won't help you.
Tell us a little something about Butterfly Swords. How much is Ai Li like you?
Jeannie: Butterfly Swords is that classic adventure/travel tale of my heart. The romance gave it structure so it wasn’t just two people going from place to place and getting in and out of capers. Ai Li isn’t like me at all actually. She’s a very thoughtful girl and always tries to do the right thing. She jumps to conclusions and is very black and white in her thoughts about right and wrong, whereas I’m very accepting of the gray of life. I admire how righteous she is. I also admire how athletic and coordinated she is. Not me at all.
drey: What is it like, being an Asian writer in a (mostly) Caucasian publishing world? Not just personally, but in writing about Asian characters?
Jeannie: This is what life has been like. :) I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian community and was one of the few Asian kids in school. Now I live in St. Louis where I don’t see a lot of Asian faces on a day to day basis. I can’t say I don’t feel like a minority, but I can honestly say I feel an innate belonging. When I go to conferences, I feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t feel like I stick out at all. But when I see another Asian writer, it’s inevitable. We make eye contact. We may not go up to one another, but there’s recognition. “Hey you,” we say silently.
Writing about Asian characters in mainstream genre fiction is much the same process of balance and negotiation. I described my brain as having a huge Venn diagram at its center. Asian side, Caucasian side, the shaded part where they overlap. I’m always reflecting on Western culture and then Asian culture and then myself and my own biases. It’s not as easy as I’ve tried to describe here—it’s a million threads intertwined inside. And then to figure out how to put that on paper. It’s really a wonderfully interesting process. I know I overthink everything, but I’ve overthought everything all my life.
drey: Wow. I am sure I will have plenty to chat with you about on this topic, but it will have to wait for another day, i.e. when my brain-leaking-out-thru-the-ear problem is no longer a problem...
What are you looking forward to next?
Jeannie: I’m writing a book with my sister. It’s the most frightening thing we’ve undertaken. We even set a due date for having three chapter written each by Vietnamese (Chinese) New Year. I haven’t even started.
drey: Well, does your sister know? ;)
And last, but not least, the Proust-lite:
- What is your idea of earthly happiness? Holding my hubby’s hand
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Self-doubt
- Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in fiction? Han Solo
- Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in real life? My mum and my grandmothers
- What sound do you love? Crickets chirping (my husband hates them)
- What sound do you hate? Breaking glass
- The quality you admire most in a man? Dependability
- The quality you admire most in a woman? Intelligence
- If not a writer, you would be a ... global traveler
- What is your favorite swear word? Son-of-a-bitch (all one word)
Thank you so much for stopping by! Everyone, find Jeannie online at her website, http://www.jeannielin.com/, and on facebook.