About JB McDonald:
JB writes character-driven fantasy and m/m romance. She most enjoys making terrible things happen to or around perfectly innocent imaginary people, and then seeing what results afterward.
If she isn't writing she's probably riding her horse, chilling with her husband, or out with her BFF (Doc, her service dog and Best Furry Friend).
JBs are notoriously difficult to spot in the wild, but once caught may become tickled and embarrassed or bright and bubbly. In case of spotting one, keep an offering of chocolate on yourself at all times.
What inspires you to write?
I have to say, it doesn't feel like inspiration so much as driven. It's never quiet in my mind (which is pretty common among those of us with ADHD), and I tend to tell stories constantly.
They can be about the things around me ("If someone asked me why I'm just staring at this grocery shelf, I would say it's because I was just now imagining this exact conversation. Then they would say…"), or spurred by something I'm watching, reading, or listening to ("If someone suddenly got super strength, how would that effect their everyday life? I bet they'd have to keep replacing all the doors and fixtures until they learned… How frustrating would that be?"), even sometimes an emotion I'm feeling ("I have so many emotions all mixed in. What would re-create this feeling in a character…?").
If I don't give my brain something to focus on that it LIKES to focus on (telling stories), then these thoughts get obsessive. Next thing I know I can't sleep or focus on anything else, like the conversation I'm trying to have, or the food I need to pick out in the grocery store. And it's probably just the same bit of extremely lame what-if story over and over, maybe in slightly different ways, that my brain has decided to fixate on.
It drives me crazy! But if I hit on a bit of something I like, and then write it down so my brain is able to go on to the next thing, then not only am I (slightly) more sane, but I'm also ecstatically happy. Good thing the solution for my racing thoughts is one that makes me gleeful!
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Ohhh, so many.
Martha Wells (fantasy), for her world building and characters being bashed to smithereens but not broken.
Carol Berg (fantasy), for characters that are bashed to smithereens and have the best angst.
Elizabeth Bear (spec fi), for her crazy ability to write everything under the sun and do it so convincingly. (I've been loving her Steampunk work.)
Kaje Harper (urban fantasy m/m romance), for taking werewolves and tweaking them just enough to make me interested in something I'm normally not.
Naomi Novik (fantasy), for, jeez, everything she does.
Lyn Gala (sci fi m/m romance and m/m romance) for taking things I wouldn't normally touch with a ten foot pole, and making me love them so much and so inexplicably that I fling them at friends saying, "You have to read this!"
New-to-me, Tasmyn Muir (spec fi), for making characters that feel like people today (you know, "Ugh, this guy, I hate this guy. Oh, look, another memo from the CEO… Hey, free ice cream!") and placing them in crazy worlds. Instead of the above, you get, "Ugh, this nun with her skull-face painting, I hate this nun. Oh, look, another skeleton monster to fight from the cult leader… Hey, free ice cream!" And she makes it WORK.
A.J. Rose (m/m romance) for her plotlines and sweet-but-kinky smut. I'm waiting for some spec-fi to come out from her any day now, based on one she wrote a bit back. It was a great, "End of the world! …Wait, we forgot about NATO's help and the National Guard and…"
Tell us about your writing process.
One of the hundreds of story snippets that float through my brain every day catches my interest. For instance, that super strength thing. I probably imagine some bit of scene about someone with new strength opening a jar of peanut butter. Only the jar shatters, like so many things have lately, and triggers an emotional tipping point. My mind starts tossing up different scenarios from there, like sitting in a room with a bunch of TVs playing. Some will include people are the super person, or have the character alone, some may make the tipping point cause anger, depression, defeat, or laugh-or-cry giggles, more make the super male or female, etc. Whichever one is the most interesting, that mental story continues.
Oh! Oh! Wait! Better idea: same scenario, only what if they were given super strength without a stronger body? So they go to open the jar, but their bones can't hold against their own muscle, and BREAK. (I mentioned terrible things to perfectly innocent imaginary characters, yeah?)
All scenarios stop, because I wonder: why are they just learning this now? Have they done NOTHING since they got their powers except try to open this jar? If so, why?
Alternate TV: so they got super skin and bones, too, so no breakage. But they're breaking everything around them, and are now afraid to touch any people for fear of the same thing. Did they already hurt someone? Maybe not even badly, but… Are there a group of people all dealing with this? Maybe they have to see a therapist. If it's not a world where supers are the norm, then maybe it's a governmental or magic or cult thing, so there's a therapist in the know. And they get "assigned" to a partner to help each other out and have support. AND THEY AND THAT PERSON WILL FALL IN LOVE. Only, that person has issues… why would they have issues…? I dunno yet, but how would they have sex with that super strength problem? It might depend on the partner's issues…
…I'm getting away from myself here. And might have a couple of ideas for a new book! *laughs* You can see the TV effect. Basically, whichever one continues to be most interesting wins.
Now, what I meant to say before I got carried away is that I start with an idea, and I usually build on it linearly, forward and then back (or vice versa, or both at once) without writing anything down. When I've been obsessed with it for long enough to have the big ideas flushed out (and/or solved), I sit down and start writing.
I have to write linearly. First scene first, second scene second, etc. I've learned that if I write the bit I want to write, I never go back and explain how they got to that point, or what happens after.
As I go, I fill out character (and world) forms to keep everything straight. One of the great things about my ADHD is my hyperfocus. While hyperfocus has negative aspects (obsession on weird stuff, forgetting to eat), the positive one is that when I get to writing, it often only takes me a few weeks to get the whole novel down. Sometimes there are sketches, sometimes not. It depends on how long and intense the obsession is before I get it on paper!
And remember when I said "hundreds of ideas per day in my brain?" Let's just say there's usually quite a few that are interesting and being built on at any given time.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh, gosh, all of the above! Much of the time I'm just watching it play out once the main options have winnowed down. Or rather, it's playing out with me in the POV character's body, feeling and thinking what they're feeling and thinking. (This can be emotionally difficult, and I have to delay some scenes to a day when I have the energy to live that.)
But once I have the character's personalities down, I flash between things. One minute I'm imagining I am the character, so I can describe how everything feels and looks. The next I'm muttering at the character, "Sh**, you can't do that, it'll jack up this next bit of the story," and listening to the response, "Tough, that next bit of the story is out of character for me, you should have thought of that when you were creating me," and so on.
As a teenager living at home and writing, my little sister once said she could tell what I was working on by the expression on my face. That's kind of terrifying! LOL!
What advice would you give other writers?
First, junk all the advice you get. Maybe it's because I'm not neurotypical, but most of the advice I've gotten has hurt more than helped. (Especially, "Write for yourself." Please! I'm writing for an audience who likes what I write. I THRIVE off reactions I get. Even when I make them up! LOL!)
Well, okay, there are two exceptions that I'll pass on so you can take them or leave them. 😉
First, my dad reminded me when I was young that for every editor that rejects you, it's only one person. They may not be feeling the amoral demon hybrid vibe that day, or just read three m/m romances involving superhumans in therapy and they sucked, so yours got trashed without even being read. The rejection letter may not have anything to do with your story. Even if it does, it's still only ONE person's opinion. There are a lot of other people out there.
Second, I know a lot of authors feel like they're writing in a void, and it's hard. I don't. I feel like I have a cheer squad waiting just behind me for the next thing, and I always have felt that way. I think it's because I wrote fanfic. In fandom there IS a cheering squad that's dying to read the next thing you type. So my advice is: use it! Write your favorite comics, books, or TV shows. Try formats you could never use in a book. Play with language. See what works. (See what doesn't, in a very gentle way.) Buffer yourself, so that when you start writing original work and you don't have an audience cheering you on, you can still feel them in the background, and you know it isn't that they aren't there. It's just that you can't hear them yet.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Oh, gosh. This is a little embarrassing.
Someone told me a small press pub was having a competition, so I entered it. I got in, so I sent more stuff to them. They took one, and when they said "no," to the next I looked at the publisher of the couple of m/m romances I owned, and sent manuscripts to them. They said yes, and I never looked elsewhere.
In 2013 I'd published quite a bit of stuff, but life intervened and I went on a writing hiatus for way too long. By the time I came out and was able to be a full time author, my publishers had been bought out or gone under, and my books were in the ether. (Actually, they were still on my computer, but it felt similar.) I decided to re-edit (in some cases adding big scenes) and self-pub everything that had already been out, while I worked on new stuff to submit.
Then I learned that these days, small press publishers (so any m/m romance I wanted to write) left marketing to their authors. Since that was really the biggest reason I wanted to publish with a publisher, I decided that if I was going to have to do marketing myself either way, I might as well self-publish the new things, too. And so, here I am, with very little in-depth thought given to pros and cons.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
As much as possible, I don't. I imagine since there are some big name authors turning to self pubs, publishing's going to change big time if any publishers want to compete. But overall, I bury my head in my books and don't really look up.
What genres do you write?: Fantasy, dark fantasy, m/m romance
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.