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Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Jason Feifer and Jennifer Miller

Married authors Jason Feifer and Jennifer Miller both brought their own style and insight to their first, and only (so far!) romantic comedy novel, Mr. Nice Guy. Delivering a charming combination of flirty and steamy romance with your real-life romantic partner is no small feat, and we were thrilled the pair offered to give us some insight into their collaboration. Between juggling parenthood, a podcast, and two new novels in the works, the busy couple managed to give us the scoop on their writing process, their latest reads, and their winding career paths.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

JASON: It took a long time to figure out what kind of writing I was good at! I first thought of myself as a writer in high school, when I contributed to local music magazines. But as I pursued it professionally, I tried on many different voices and identities. I discovered, for example, that I’m a terrible screenwriter and an excruciating political columnist. I once thought of myself as a contemplative writer who used complicated prose, but ended up finding a groove as a fast-paced, straightforward writer who leans heavily on lessons and takeaways. It’s all been a surprise!

JEN: How hard it is to make a living…actually, I knew it would be pretty damn hard! 

When you set out to write a book, how do you begin?

JASON: Jen’s the true novelist between us, so I’ll shut up here.

JEN: I think about the main character in the book and try to imagine where they are and what they’re doing at a critical moment in their lives. In Mr. Nice Guy, that moment has Lucas emerging from the sweaty NYC subway to start his job at the city’s most popular magazine. In my debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, it has my protagonist Iris being swept away to a new (and rather creepy) mountain town by her parents. 

Both of you tackled a new genre when you wrote Mr. Nice Guy. What inspired your collaboration? Would you do it again?

JASON: When I was in my 20s, I struck up an e-mail friendship with a sex columnist. That gave me the idea for a novel: What if two people each week slept together and then criticized each other’s performance in a magazine? But I had no idea how to turn this into a novel. I tried many times, over many years. I kept failing. Then… I married a novelist! After Jen sold one of her novels, she was looking for a new project and I suggested that she write something based on my idea. She suggested we do it together. And so the collaboration was born.

JEN: Writing a rom-com was one of the most fun exercises I’ve done. There was something incredibly freeing about being able to lean into satire and romance and cheese all at once. And we were able to play to our strengths. All the sexy, steamy columns are in the book—but I’ve never been much of a columnist, so I made Jason do that part!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

JASON: Just keep experimenting. You may think a particular job, or project, or style of writing is lame—but you’ll learn a surprising amount from everything you do, and each experience will help you become a better storyteller later.

JEN: Stay away from social media. If you simply focus on your own work and what you love to do (and stop worrying about whether you’re successful enough), you’ll be much happier. My anxiety load significantly reduced when I finally quit Twitter! (I’m still there, but I only use it to track people when I can’t find their emails elsewhere and, occasionally, when I want to look up some breaking news.)

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year? 

JASON: I am loving my friend Joe Keohane’s upcoming book, The Power of Strangers. It’s a nonfiction book about our relationships with strangers, and how to talk to them, and why connecting with people you don’t know is so important.

JEN: I’m currently reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. It’s been super fun to compare/contrast the actual historical events with the Lin Manuel Miranda version (which I know by heart, because our 5-year-old is obsessed and demands we listen on every car ride). 

What’s next for each of you? Are you working on new projects? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date?

JASON: Yes! We both have book projects—though both are nonfiction and neither of them are anything like Mr. Nice Guy

I’m currently working on a book called Build For Tomorrow, Not For Yesterday, which will come out in the summer of 2022. It’s about how to become more adaptable and find opportunity in change, with lessons drawn from the history of innovation and the smartest entrepreneurial minds of today. If you want an early taste of it, you can download a free audio course I created on the subject!

JEN: I’m writing a young adult non-fiction book about first-generation college students. It follows three students, all the first in their families to attend college, through their freshmen year. And we’re talking 2019/2020, so it was all quite unexpected and dramatic. 

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Lauren Billings

An Interview with Lauren Billings

What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?

Probably New York sex clubs or how often people die in the Utah slot canyons.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why (any book)?

Bennett & Chloe, because of their ambition. Harlow for her fierce love for her friends.

If you had to write yourself as a villain, what kind of villain would you be? What would you be named?

I would be the villain in a mediocre man’s story about how a highly qualified, emotionally intelligent woman got the job he half-assed his way to the interview for, haha.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Oh, good question. For sure Where the Red Fern Grows, and I’m so glad they don’t include that in our district’s curriculum because I wouldn’t be emotionally prepared to help my kids work their way through that heartbreak. As an adult, I cried the hardest after finishing Forbidden, by Tabitha Suzuma.

What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

Hands down, my favorite part is working with my best friend every day, and getting to collaborate with a team of people who are so good at their jobs it’s awe-inspiring. I really am so lucky to be able to do this job, with these people. And least favorite part would be the hurry-up-and-wait aspect to the industry. There is a lot of that built into the publishing process.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date?

The Soulmate Equation is out on May 18th, and it’s our first hardcover release. We are so proud of this book! It’s the story of single-mom Jess, who is skeptical about a new dating service that matches people based on their DNA, but does it on a whim and finds that she matches with the company’s founder, in their highest level of compatibility ever. It has mild enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, a cast of characters I adore! And we also just finished drafting our 2022 novel, which is Romancing the Stone-meets-The Hangover and I honestly don’t know if we’ve ever had so much FUN writing a book before. Writing these two books has been the best writing experience of my life.

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Christina Hobbs

An Interview with Author Christina Hobbs

What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?

I LOOOOVE doing research for books. It’s like I need to feel competent in whatever the character knows (within reason) to write about their daily thoughts. After Dirty Rowdy Thing I know a lot about the Canadian fishing industry, and with Roomies I learned a ton about the US immigration process.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Probably a good computer? But also we have an outside PR rep (Kristin Dwyer @ Leo PR) and she is worth her weight in gold.

If a film were made of The Honey Don’t List, who would you cast in the leading roles?

We are the absolute worst at this. I don’t have an idea for Carrie or James, but Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard would be hilarious as Melly and Rusty. 

If you could spend time with a character from one of your books who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Fizzy is the best friend in The Soulmate Equation and she’s a total scene-stealer. She’s also a romance novelist and I think we’d be instant besties. 

If you could ask one other successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

  • What is the single best piece of promo they’ve done? It’s hard to know where to reach readers and what moves the dial.
  • I assume they’ve had a long career, so the best piece of advice for that longevity.
  • The best advice they were ever given.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

We have The Soulmate Equation out on May 18th. We just finished a first draft of a Romancing the Stone meets The Hangover type of book for 2022, and are currently brainstorming our next one! 

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Katie MacAlister

Author Katie MacAlister

What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?

It’s nothing I actually researched for a book, but it’s something that I did and later used in a young adult book. When I was a young thing going to the University of Washington, I worked for the Burke Museum on campus (kind of a natural history/local history museum) in the bird department. My job was to clean the bird skeletons that the zoology department brought in, and once the bones were picked clean by the dermestid beetles (that ate the flesh), I’d clean the carcass, dry them, and then label each bone with a number. It was a fascinating job, although I really did not like the mammal people with all their dead mammals. Birds I could handle…not so much with the mammals. Especially the day one of the giraffes died of natural causes at the local zoo, and they donated her body to the department…

How do you create chemistry between characters in your books?

I try to pair up people who have an instant dual attraction/aggravation because I believe a bit of irritation adds spice to an otherwise too happy relationship. So I just make sure there are things that will make the characters mesh, and other things that will cause a bit of chaos.

Which do you create first, your plot or your characters? 

Usually, I have a plot idea, or at least a setting and basic story idea, and then work out what sort of characters would be in the most conflict in that situation. There are a few times when I’m writing in series about existing secondary characters, where I build a setting around them that will do the same thing–drive them bonkers. 

Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?

That’s asking a lot from someone who has written more than sixty books! There are elements of me in most of the heroines, everything from my clumsiness, to facial blindness, plus-size nature, and fine appreciation of a sexy vampire. So really, I relate to all of them in one way or another.

What are some trends you’re seeing in romance that you’re excited about? 

I’m seeing more media embrace romances, things like mobile games and mainstream streaming platforms, which opens the romance genre up to whole new audiences who don’t realize they are consuming the happily ever after of a romance. Since I love paranormals, I’m delighted to see that they continue to be strong despite most traditional publishers pooh-poohing them. And finally, I love that more people are mixing genres, and breaking out of the normal “rules” to genres. That’s not to say I’m going to be writing a secret baby alien vampire dinosaur book, but hey, at least now if I wanted to, I know I could probably find an audience for it. 

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

Last year during the quarantine, I decided to write a serialized book for my dragon series, with chapters released each month for my newsletter readers. This was an odd interim book, one that fell between two existing books (the end of one series and start of another), and which readers had been wanting for years.

At the end of the year, I gathered up all the material, more than doubled it with content that evidently I’d left out, and tossed it over to my (now former) Penguin editor. This book–Dragonblight–should be out April 20.

Right now I’m working on another Dark Ones book…except it isn’t, really. It’s kind of a vampire book. Mostly. Somewhat. 🙂

I’m hoping to have it done in the next month or so, with a release this summer.

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Annie Murray

An Interview with Annie Murray

What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?

There have been so many things over the years – I remember going and buying a dead rabbit so that I could be sure of describing skinning it properly. (The butcher obviously thought I was pretty weird.) I’m not sure you would say a lot of the research is weird but it’s often very specific and technical. I had to research very carefully into the working of narrowboats in the old days to be able to write two books about it. Because Birmingham has been a city with such a variety of industries there are many things I wish I could research more easily – so many of them disappeared long ago.

When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

I definitely let them develop. At the beginning I have some idea who they are but things do change as I go through the story. It’s really only once I get to the end of a first draft that I start to get a much fuller sense of who they are and can go back and  edit, really working with them. Story and character are very closely bound together.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?

I would certainly have been very surprised to learn that I would still be carrying on my writing career 30 years later!  I suppose it might have been nice to know but on the other hand, it’s good for life to be surprising as well.

If you had to write yourself as a heroine, what kind of heroine would you be? What would you be named?

Definitely not someone floating about in a silk dress.  I’d like to be a traveler, adventurer type – a bit ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ or one of those Victorian explorers like Mary Kingsley who went to Cameroon and was whacking crocodiles with an oar to keep them out of her boat. Only she was real, obviously and I’m certainly not brave enough for that sort of reality!

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? 

Honestly I’m not sure I have one. I obviously need to become more interesting!

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

I have a new book coming out in paperback in April called Black Country Orphan. And just now I’m working on two more stories set around the much loved Cadburys chocolate factory in World War two. I have written about it before and this time I have chosen a new set of characters. The first book, Chocolate Girls is to be re-issued in December with a brand new cover – and I think Secrets of the Chocolate Girls may appear in April 2022…