In this episode, we are joined by Jessica Ward, also known as J. R. Ward. J. R. Ward is the author of the acclaimed series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. Over 15 million copies of her novels are in print around the world and she has been published in over 25 countries globally! Her latest release as Jessica Ward is The St. Ambrose School for Girls, a coming-of-age novel described as Heathers meets The Secret History. We were so excited to read this book and to hear more from the phenomenal author behind this new title and dozens of others.
We have a great conversation about Jessica’s writing process, the evolution of her career, her new release, writing an unreliable narrator, having multiple pen names, the inspiration for The St. Ambrose School for Girls, and much, much more! We really enjoyed this conversation and know you will, too.
In this episode:
- We hear about Jessica’s writing career, and learn more about how she got started writing and first publishing in 2005
- Jessica talks about her start with contemporary romances (written under Jessica Bird) after only writing as a hobby without any intention of becoming an author
- We get into aspects of Jessica’s writing process, including have a research assistant, writing full-time, and more
- Jessica gets into having multiple pen names and what that means for her, her authors brands, and her readers – and in the context of The St. Ambrose School for Girls
- We ask Jessica to tell us more about The St. Ambrose School for Girls, and what it was like stepping into the world of a psychological thriller, and how the book was written
- Jessica talks about being “the first reader” while writing her book, and how this influences her writing
- We talk about the setting of the book in the 90s, particular in regards to the lack of mental health support systems available for young people, which is a key part of the novel
- We also ask about some of the other characters in the novel, and what the relationships between the characters mean to Jessica
- Jessica talks about her fanbase, and recounts some (extremely) memorable fan interactions
- And much more!
Mentioned in this episode:
Lassiter by J. R. Ward
Dark Lover by J. R. Ward
J.R. Ward is the #1 New York Times and USA Today author of over thirty novels, including those in her acclaimed series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 18 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the globe. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.
KWL’s director Tara is pictured here with J.R. Ward. We snapped this pic at Readers on the River in Louisville, KY in 2022!
Transcription by www.speechpad.com
Laura: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Laura, Kobo Writing Life’s author engagement manager.
Rachel: And I’m Rachel, the promotions specialist at Kobo Writing Life.
Laura: Today we talk to Jessica Ward, also known as J.R. Ward, who is the author of over 30 novels, including those in her #1 New York Times in USA Today bestselling series, the “Black Dagger Brotherhood.” There are more than 50 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.
Rachel: Our conversation with Jessica aka J.R. was so much fun. Laura and I were cackling, and it’s a great thing our mics were muted because you would have only heard us laughing. It was such an entertaining conversation but also so interesting as we got into Jessica’s writing process, how she comes up with her stories, and then we really dug into the evolution of her career from starting in contemporary romance, moving into paranormal romance where she found her success, and now writing under Jessica Ward, going into psychological thrillers.
We really dug into “The St. Ambrose School For Girls,” which is her upcoming release, and the writing process in that, what it was like to inhabit her main character who is an unreliable narrator, and it was just such a fun and interesting conversation. And we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
We are joined today by bestselling author, J.R. Ward also known as Jessica Ward. Thank you so much for joining us. We are so excited to talk to you.
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me.
Rachel: Now, to start things off for our listeners who are unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you write?
Jessica: Well, I write paranormal romance and vampire fiction under the name J.R. Ward, and I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years now. “Dark Lover,” the first in the series, came out in 2005. And now there are 20-plus books in the main series and, like, another 20 or 30 in side series. So, that is the big focus of my career.
I’m very grateful and lucky that what happened to squirt out of my brain when I got fired and had to reinvent myself as an author back all those years ago happened to be something that appealed to a robust group of readers. There are a lot of authors that are far better than I am and whose work should be rewarded more than mine have been. It’s just sort of the luck of the draw in some ways, like, you know, appealing to a large readership like that. I’ve been lucky, very lucky.
Rachel: Did you always want to be a writer? Like, what was your journey to becoming a full-time author like?
Jessica: So, I wrote my first story when I was seven years old. I still have it, “George and the Dragon.” And the funning now is, when I look back on it, I can see the narrative structure, beginning, middle and end, like it was all just right there. And as my mom says, it’s just the software package my brain does.
But I never wanted to be a writer. Never expected to be published. I never took creative writing classes. It was something that I did on the side. I graduated from Smith College here in the States with a double major in art history and history with a medieval concentration in both, which is great for cocktail conversation but will do absolutely nothing to support you as an adult.
So, I went to law school afterwards and then specialized in non-profit governance of healthcare institutions. So, I ended up in Boston, which is where I was actually born, and I was working really long sort of corporate America hours. And writing was something that I did on the side on the weekends. It’s like to relax myself and to just enjoy doing something that I really love to do.
But it wasn’t until my now husband read a chunk of what I’d written. He’s like, “This is a book.” I was like, “No, it’s not. It’s just something I do.” And he was the one who actually had a contact through a friend with an agent. She read one of the first books that I actually finished, and she said, “I’ll represent you,” and it was still one of the biggest shocks of my life.
She sold four contemporary romances that were written in, sort of, a very Nora Roberts traditional romance style because I figured, if I was going to try and get published, I should do something where, number one, I love romance, and it’s what I read as a teenager and in my 20s, but, number two, it was a vigorous market. And I thought, “Well, if you’re going to break into something, try and get into the biggest pond you can because maybe readers would give me a chance.”
And my first four books were critically well-received, very critically well-received, but they didn’t sell, because why would you buy almost Nora Roberts when Nora Roberts is actually still putting books? I mean, it was like, as a business strategy, it was not really well-thought-out.
So, I’ll never forget my agent at the time telling me, “You have to figure out what a Jessica Bird book is. Like, go figure it out.” And I was a huge fan of Stephen King in addition to the romance, and all of a sudden, I was like, “Wait a minute, you could put the two of them together?” because paranormal romances were starting to get that engine on and so I thought about it for about two weeks and panicked when nothing showed up and then, boom, I had “Black Dagger Brotherhood” world and 10 books.
And the pitch for “Dark Lover” was supposed to be…if you’ve completed a book and you have some publishing history, usually publishers will entertain three chapters and a quick summary. I sent in 120 pages of which were the first 69 pages of “Dark Lover” and then the entire world-building behind it, and I was very, very lucky. And I got picked up and I’m very powerfully grateful that I’ve been very lucky with my career, and I never take that for granted. So, that’s how I ended up here sort of.
Laura: One thing that continuously comes up on our podcast as we talk to authors is the crossover between authors who started in law and then moved into writing, and I just find it so fascinating that it is just something that keeps coming up. When did you make the decision to take the leap from your law career into becoming a full-time author? Was it when you sold your first book or were you kind of balancing both for a while?
Jessica: I was writing for two hours every day before going and working. And then I wrote all weekends to do my first three books. And then my husband, who was at the time in New England, wanted to go back to his home in Kentucky because that was where Louisville is really…Louisville and how the city takes care of its citizens and the profile of the city within the state and this community here is his passion.
And so I decided that I would of course come down. If that was important to him, I was getting kind of burned out because doing that, you know, wake up at 5:30, go to bed at 10:00 at night, you know, Monday through Friday, and then right on the weekends, that was a big grind and I thought this will be great. The cost of living is less than in Boston. And I got down here, and within two months, I was let go by my publisher, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” I had been reduced to Little Neville’s wife as opposed to Jessica Bird, Chief of Staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of Harvard’s academic medical centers to unemployed Little Neville’s wife in Louisville, Kentucky, in the south. I mean, it was an interesting time, shall we say.
But honestly, getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was afraid I’d have to go back to law down here. And I was like, “Well, sweet cheeks, pull up your big girl panties and make it happen.” Like, what are you going to do? Like, quit your yapping, quit your whining. Like, I was like, “Oh, yay.” I went “wah wah wah poor me” for 48 hours. And I was like, “Okay. Either you get your shit together and you start figuring this out. If you want to write, figure it out.”
So what I did is I sold some projects to Harlequin, and ironically Harlequin Presents were the first romance novels that I read when I was 13 years old. And I sold a couple of those books and then the “Black Dagger Brotherhood” came along and that’s how it happened. So, it was a geographical relocation that kicked me in the can and was like, “Okay, you know, you can let the law go.” And then of course other things that I had not planned occurred such as getting my ass fired, and they were right to fire me.
And this is what I tell people. I am very passionate that people who write call themselves authors without getting permission from some publishing house. You are an author if you put pen to page or story to page. And you don’t need anyone to give you permission to have that label. And I think it’s really important, when you decide to get published at my level or any level that becomes commercial, you have to understand that as supportive and wonderful as the people at your publisher may be, it’s a business. And if you don’t earn out your advances, you’re going to be let go and that’s appropriate.
Look for support and nurturing from your friends and your family, but understand that when you are in a relationship with a publisher, you better sell. And it’s not because they’re mean, it’s because you’ve chosen to welcome economics into your passion. And when you do that, you know, I think it’s wonderful for people to say, “I have this dream of being a writer.” You can be a writer and not welcome that economic reality into your dream. You don’t have to do that. And I’m no better than anyone else who hasn’t done that.
We’re all the same, but the stressors and the boundaries of a published author situation is just a whole level of stress under that dream, and you can pick or unpick that depending if you want. That’s one of the reasons why I’m really glad though, for self-publishing and independent publishing houses, because it allows authors to have more autonomy within that economic reality versus when I started out where it was like you were one of the big six or you weren’t ever getting anything.
So, I really like the fact that this landscape has changed, and I like to empower authors, especially those who are own voices or who are underrepresented at large economic churning wheels that are getting to be seen, and read, and appreciated. And I think that’s really, really important.
Rachel: Those are some really important parts of self-publishing, so I’m really glad that you touched on them. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you about was your “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series, because at this point, it spans several different series and it’s a whole universe. So, what was the creation of that world like and does it kind of become overwhelming to keep up with all the timelines and the different characters?
Jessica: I’m not smart enough to think of any of this. So, that doesn’t work. I didn’t create anything. I have pictures in my head and they show up. And my job as the author is to describe those pictures in my head in such a way that my readers can approximate the movie that’s very internal for me. So, I don’t think anything up. They’re not my people. They do what they want.
The one time I tried to affect the course of a book was “Lover Revealed.” My publisher was getting a little bit worried that the books were getting so long, and they got over that. And I decided I would be smart, and I would kind of trim some scenes, and the pictures didn’t like that, and everything went dark. It’s the only time I’ve ever had writer’s block in my entire life, and it was utterly terrifying. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything. And so for about two or three days, I was like, “Uh-oh, I’m really in trouble.” And all I did was go back and just let the pictures go and do what they do.
So, as for keeping track of everything, yes, it is hard. I have a research assistant who is amazing. And he’s over in Scotland, and he started out as a reader. He and his boyfriend, his partner were readers of mine. And now, I mean, we’ve been together now 20 years, and he just really loves…we call him the retriever. He just has to hunt things down. And we make mistakes all the time. The readers are actually the better experts than even we are. We try to catch any and all little things, but we have a running catalog of failures and things that we’ve missed. It is incredibly complex and what a wonderful problem. What a blessing to have that problem, you know?
Rachel: One thing I kind of wanted to touch on, and you’ve mentioned this, you started your career as Jessica Bird and then created this huge series and huge following under J.R. Ward, and now you are launching a book under Jessica Ward. And what are the challenges that come with creating new pen names throughout your career?
Jessica: There are no challenges involved in it. It’s a marketing thing. And by marketing, I don’t mean like ads. By marketing, I mean maybe that’s the wrong word, signaling to readers what is this experience going to be like, because I write commercial fiction with regard to genre fiction. It is paranormal romance. J.R. Ward is paranormal romance. And when I chose the name, I wanted something that was very easy to spell. And Ward is an old family name and Jessica and Rowley, those are my first few names. And so that’s where the J.R. came from.
And it was important for us to signal to the market when… Jessica Bird’s my legal name in the first four books. When that contract, when they didn’t re-up it, if I had tried to write paranormal romance under Jessica Bird, it’s such a complete departure from contemporary romance, that it would be kind of confusing.
With regard to Jessica Ward and “The St. Ambrose School For Girls,” we thought it was important. I thought it was important. And my publisher, I worship my publisher. I have the best publisher in the world. The women and the men that I work with are amazing and I’m so grateful to be with Simon and Schuster and Gallery. They’re just phenomenal. They’re really, really supportive. It’s a very nurturing, supportive, like “go team” kind of place, which I’m so grateful for.
We all kind of like got together and talked about how it’s important to me that my J.R. Ward readers are respected. I don’t want to do… If I were to slap the J.R. Ward name on “The St. Ambrose School For Girls,” I didn’t want to mislead my readers. And one of the things that happens when you’re a big commercial author… That sounds egocentric. I mean, like a large profile like J.R. Ward, there is a certain trust between that brand name and the readers that show up. The books are expensive. There’s a lot of them out there. There’s a lot that I publish every year under that name, and I think it’s really important for me to respect my readers. They’re reading that content. They’re not reading what I want to write. They’re reading what they want to read.
And because I want to write “St. Ambrose School for Girls,” I don’t want to disrespect them and be like, “Well, because I wrote it, you’re now required, or I’m going to deliberately confuse you and do a shady gaslight and be like…” Do you know what I mean? Which is not to say I’m very proud of “The St. Ambrose School For Girls.” This is a book of my heart. The only other book that is as important to me as this one is “Dark Lover.” They’re the two books that I’ve seen most vividly other than “Lover Awakened,” but that’s a different story. But like, you know, I just want to make sure that my readers, I take into account that life is expensive. They’re choosing to invest in these books, and so I want to make sure that that’s clear when I put something on a cover. Does that make sense?
Rachel: That makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of like keeping your author name but making sure…or keeping your author brand, I should say, but then kind of sub-branding under two different names. Do you have any worries at all about finding the cross-readership between pen names or are you pretty confident that your readers will follow you?
Jessica: I think that I don’t want my readers to follow me if they don’t want to read the content. Do you know what I mean?
Rachel: That makes a lot of sense, yeah.
Jessica: I mean, I want them to try it because I think it’s a great book. But if you love paranormal romance and that is where you want to put that short, special, private time that… A lot of my readers are women. And so when they read these books, it’s their private time. And my publisher’s probably going to kick my ass for this, but I hope that they choose to try it out. And I’m very proud of St. Ambrose, and I love this book. It’s absolutely the book of my heart, but I’m hoping that readers who read dark academe books, that read first-person. It’s not a YA book but are interested in a first-person narrator who’s 15 who like books about murder mysteries, who like books about prep schools, who, as you said, liked Heathers, those people will look at St. Ambrose and, just by looking at the cover and reading the blurb on the back, they’re like, “Oh, okay.” You know, prep school, murder, mystery, you know, underdog mouse roars, those kind of themes, I think those readers will really, really love this book.
Laura: Yeah, I agree with that. It’s not about like avoiding your past audience, it’s about making them aware of what the new book is going to be like and making sure they’re okay with that content. I think that makes sense for sure. And I do think the comparison to Heathers and the Secret History is really helpful to find that new audience as well. So, that makes sense.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your writing process. Because you’ve been writing for so many years, like you said, has it kind of evolved throughout your career and does it change depending on the genre? So, was it different when you were writing St. Ambrose at all?
Jessica: No. Mm-mm. No, nothing has changed. I write seven days a week, 365 days a year. No excuses, no whining. Unless I’m really, really sick or I’m getting dental surgery, I write. That’s what I do. The pictures are what they are. My ability to describe them may have gotten more facile over time, but it’s just what my brain does.
I want to take the mystery out of it. There’s nothing… I’m not special, I’m not unique. It’s like someone who’s like good at math. It’s just what my brain does. I’ve gotten maybe… I don’t even know. It’s the same thing that it’s always been, which is I see pictures in my head, I put them in order, and then I write them down. And then there’s no… I’m not smart. If you had sat me down and said, “I want you to write a book,” I would have no idea how to… That’s why I often fail at craft courses when people say, “Well, how do you do what you do?” I have no clue. I have no control over the fact that I live these daydreams.
And they’re very invasive. The way it works with me is there’ll be a scene and there’ll be three people in the scene. And I will start out and I will be in the body of one of those people looking out through their eyes and feeling the temperature of the room for them and their clothes on their skin. And they’ll look across and they’ll notice specific things about the person on their left. Then I can replay the scene and be in the eyes of the person on the left, and they’re looking at the person on the right who just spoke, but they have a different opinion about the temperature of the room. And they notice totally different things. And I can hear their voices, and I can feel when they’re walking what it feels like. And I can smell what they smell. And I can hear their inner thoughts.
And so the only thing that’s maybe gotten a little bit easier over time… It was never hard. I guess maybe that’s my point. And so, to me, over time the clarity with which I see those scenes and playing back and forth has not changed. And they can come at any time. Like I run and so the pictures really come when I’m running. They can come in the middle of a cocktail party. I can be driving and all of a sudden, you know… You know, I make sure that I obviously kick them to the side in that regard, but I will start in my room and I’ll be thinking about one. And the next thing I know, I’m standing in front of my refrigerator in the kitchen and I have no idea how I got from one or the other because I’m in that scene.
Maybe the only thing I have gotten better is putting them in chronological order like figuring out… If you have four different characters in a book, you’ve got to figure out with regard to their points of view, how do I stage this for maximum reader effect. Because what you want to do when you’re dealing with paranormal romance or any really good stories, you want your readers to go up and down and have positively charged and negatively charged scenes. And you want that swing to get deeper and broader as you get to the end. And then you want to have the conclusion be a nice sort of ride out.
Rachel: That’s so interesting. And knowing now how you inhabit the characters in your story, I have so many questions about the writing process of “The St. Ambrose School For Girls,” but we will get into that because before we, kind of, get into the nitty gritty, can you tell our listeners a bit about your upcoming release, “The St. Ambrose School For Girls” and what it was like kind of stepping into the psychological thriller genre?
Jessica: So, first the why I wrote it. “The St. Ambrose School For Girls” is a book about a 15-year-old girl who has a bipolar diagnosis in 1991 when mental health, mental health support, the culture of acceptance, whether it’s people who are neurodivergent or are racially different or with regard to gender identity or sexuality, it’s about how someone in the environment of the 1990s sort of navigates falling into an all-girls prep school where you have a lot of, you know, upwardly mobile neuronormative people and a bully across the hall.
And Sarah M. Taylor is the main character, and I love her. I love her. I love her with the same passion that when Rahv showed up in my head, I loved him. I had a very dear friend whose child was going through a catastrophic mental health crisis, and it took me four years to write the book. And about six months into being on the sidelines and support of this family and this kid who I’ve known since they were very young, watching the terror and the confusion of going through a diagnosis and figuring out medication and going from one crisis moment to the other, I think I so completely absorbed all of those forces, that all of a sudden one day Sarah M. Taylor showed up in my head and I saw her.
I knew exactly what she looked like, and I remember when she showed up and I was like, “Oh, shit, what the hell is this?” I didn’t know at the moment. I pictured her with her dyed black hair, but it’s growing up and she has brown roots and her black clothes. And I’m like, “I’ve had this experience before.” I’m like, “Who the hell are you and where are we going with this?” And then she was in a Mercury being… I saw her in her mother’s car going through the giant iron gates, these beautiful elegant iron gates of “The St. Ambrose School For Girls,” and the beautiful manicured lawn and all of the brick buildings and the blonde… I’m blonde, so I’m not being…you know, I’m not harshing on people that are blonde, but the beautiful blonde little princesses who were getting out of these BMWs.
And I remember saying, “Oh, shit, Sarah, pull out. Abort. Abort. Do not go there, Sarah. Sarah, turn the car. This is not going to go well, people.” And then she pulls up in front of her dorm. And I remember her with her basket of folded clothes, the plastic basket of sheets, and looking at all these other girls with their beautiful parents and their Mercedes. And I was like, “Oh, shit, this is going to really go badly.”
So, I really believe it was out of the very real crisis that my friends were going through, that my subconscious… I guess it’s a… I don’t know where it comes from. That’s how she came to me. And as soon as I saw her, she wouldn’t leave me alone. I saw her every day. I saw the whole thing, and I had to write her to get her out of my mind because if I didn’t, she was never going to leave me alone. So, I wrote the entire book, waking up at 5:00 in the morning before I did my J.R. Ward work.
So, for about three or four months, I relived my life as a lawyer in Boston, waking up two hours early before my meetings in my workday to get this out because I have big deadlines doing three books a year with J.R. Ward, and I’m grateful for those deadlines. And I’m very lucky that I have them. I had to fit her in. So, in the end of three months, I emailed my agent and I don’t like to bother her. I really don’t like to cause a fuss or cause any problems. I was like, “Meg, I’m so sorry. Could you give me a phone call?”
So, within five minutes of pressing send on that email, she was like, “Oh God, what’s wrong?” And I said, “I wrote a book.” And she was like, “Yeah? Yeah.” I said, “No, no. Meg, you don’t understand. I wrote this book.” And she was like, “Okay?” I was like, “Meg, you don’t understand. I wrote a book and it doesn’t have anything to do with the J.R. Ward thing and this is a totally different thing. It’s going to be a different thing.” And she was like, “Oh, God, did you send it to someone?” because I always do stupid shit like that. She’s like, “Oh, God, what did you do with it?” I said, “No.” I said, “I was good. No one’s seen it.” She’s like, “Oh, thank God.” You know, because I’ve got friends in the publishing industry and the idea of me being to an editor friend like, “Oh, here, read this.” “Okay.” Because I’m that kind of baddy.
So, she and her wonderful… I have two agents together. They both read it, and it needed to have some reworking because I’m very confident about what to do with the “Black Dagger Brotherhood” book. I had, as you said, no frame of reference for how do I make this experience as close to what I’m feeling… I had to really work the material because I was not as good… I see the visions, but what do you tell people about the visions? How do you maximize the effect of your words on the page. And I, kind of, had to figure that out plus it was first person and I’ve never done that before. And the voice was totally different.
And so we worked on it for… I worked on it for about two and a half years before I actually showed it to my editor whom I worshipped. And she read it, and she was like, “Oh, my God, I want to publish this.” I was like, “Yes.” I mean, you know, that’s one of the great blessings of “The St. Ambrose School For Girls” for me is that like, in a lot of ways, it was my first book all over again. And how amazing to have been lucky enough to have this career that I’ve had and then have that phone call come in, “Yes, I want to publish it.” And it was just like… I mean, it was the giddiness, it was the excitement, and it was the…
And then she and I went through it a couple of times, and she actually had a background in mysteries, so it was perfect. Hannah Braaten at gallery. But the great thing is, is when… I don’t know whether I’m supposed to tell you any of this …. So, when you sell a book, your agent gives it to say your editor or whatever, and your editor reads it and then makes an assessment and then has to go to her boss, who’s in this case, the Grand Poobah of Gallery, Jenn Bergstrom, who’s a spectacular woman. I totally respect her. She’s amazing, and I worship her.
And so Hannah called her up and said, “Well, Jess wrote this book that doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood.’ ” And Jen was like, “Oh, God,” because what she expected… She told me this later, she was like, “Oh, this is going to be awful.” She was like, “I was so worried that I was going to have to tell you I hated it.” And then immediately Hannah was like, “No, no, it’s great. This is an amazing book. We have to publish this.”
But I just love the fact… Because Jen and all of the people at Gallery are just incredibly supportive of me. And even though I talk about the economic side of things, I feel like we’re all women who just really support each other wherever we are. So, it was just hysterical. The idea that Jen Bergstrom’s stomach drops because she thinks she’s going to have to tell me that the book of my heart sucks and she can’t believe. It was great. It was great.
Laura: I just love this mental image of you thinking that you writing a book is going to be a problem for your agent and that the editor being like, “Oh, God, she wrote a book.” That’s just so funny to me.
Jessica: I know. It’s really important to me. One of the things that matters to me as J.R. Ward is I don’t want my publishers or my readers to ever think that my eyes are off the prize. Some books in the series are better than others just for reading experience or content, and that’s just the way it rolls after you’ve written, you know, 40 or 45 or whatever it is in the whole series.
But I don’t want anyone to ever think that I don’t put… I do the very best I can with every single book based on factors of life and, you know, whatever. And so it’s important to me that they don’t think I’m ever going to take my eye off this prize, you know?
Laura: Was there one part about stepping into psychological thrillers that you found particularly challenging or that you weren’t anticipating?
Jessica: No, because it’s not really about me. I don’t matter. My opinions don’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I put my ass in my chair, and I show up seven days a week and I do the work. That’s the only part I play in any of this.
I will say if there was a challenging thing for me, I wanted to be very, very careful and respectful of the fact that the mental illness is portrayed in this book. Because it’s not something I personally have gone through, I needed to be very, very…I wanted to be very respectful and responsible with that content.
So, in addition to doing a lot of research, when the book was finally getting ready to go into production, I gave it two or three people who actually have a diagnosis of bipolar diagnosis, and I wanted them to tell me if I was not coming across on the page with the intention in my heart, which was to portray… You just have to be very respectful with that kind of content if it’s not your own, if you haven’t lived it. Do you know what I mean?
And so I really, really was very, very careful to tread very respectfully about it, because I wanted to tell Sarah’s story. Sarah is a fictional character for all of the vividness. And also because I have my own biases and my own privilege as a writer, I wanted to make sure that no wires were inadvertently crossed. And I think you just have to do that when you’re dealing with mental health issues that you haven’t walked yourself.
Laura: And what was it like kind of living in Sarah’s head while you’re telling that story?
Jessica: One of the interesting things about being in the first person is that you are transcribing thoughts 100% of the time. The “Black Dagger Brotherhood” books are in something called deep third, which means that it still is an omniscient narrator choosing when to bring in a thought. And so most of that is either faithfully recording conversations or describing settings and scenes with maybe 10% to 15% of the book being those internal thoughts that you just record.
Sarah Taylor is 100% her inner thoughts, how she describes the scene, how she thinks about someone’s tone or words, and it also is when you’re in first person, you are limited to only those things that the person hears about, sees, stumbles upon. So, it was an interesting… I loved being in her mind. I loved hearing her voice. I loved seeing the world through her eyes because it’s so completely… Well, it’s not completely different. The idea that she feels like an outsider or something, that I think is a universal theme that everyone can kind of have echoes in their own life.
But my favorite part, my favorite part, my favorite part, and I hope you guys know the scene that I’m talking about is at the end because the mouse fucking roars. And I love that. That scene at the end, right? Not like the last, last scene, but like that moment. I was like, “Oh, yes, Sarah, fucking get it.” I was so excited. So, I loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it.
Laura: And just kind of keeping on the theme of living in Sarah’s head, she is somewhat an unreliable narrator also because she doubts her own thoughts sometimes. I imagine there was a little bit of a challenge between making her an unreliable narrator without falling into any mental illness tropes as you create this character. Am I accurate on thinking there was a challenge or was there a balancing act there?
Jessica: No, because again I didn’t create her. She just is. Do you know what I mean? So like, no, I don’t…again, I’m not smart enough to figure any of this stuff out. I’m a secretary, a very competent secretary. And so the extent to which she was an unreliable narrator is because she’s an unreliable narrator. That’s just what she does. And that’s why, again, I feel like I always fail when people ask me how I do this because I don’t do it.
Lauren: We don’t want to give away any spoilers because this book was so fun for me and Rachel to read and watch unfold, but did you kind of have any plotting process at all or did you always know what the twists were going to be or how it was going to end?
Jessica: No, no. So, the way it works with me and these pictures is I’m just the first reader. And the way I kind of view whether one of my books works is I figure, if I’m shocked, if I’m laughing, if I’m tearing up, if I’m experiencing any of that, then chances are, as long as I do my recording job right, the reader is going to feel the way I do. So, I had no fucking clue. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can swear on this. I hope that they can beep me out, and I don’t mean any disrespect, but I have a potty mouth and I apologize.
I had no clue where we were going, and I knew… No, that’s not entirely true. I knew that someone wakes up dead in the book, because I knew in that first scene that either she or her nemesis, something bad was going to happen. But when I wrote that first chapter, I didn’t know which one of them, and I went through the entire first draft not having any clue what was going to happen, which is not to say that I don’t outline things but my version of outlining is to get the… It’s almost like blocking a movie where you just get things lined up sequentially kind of where things go. But when I wrote that book, I just had no clue what was going to happen and how.
And the other thing that was great about it was, as commercial author with “Black Dagger Brotherhood” books, those books are complex, particularly the big “Black Dagger Brotherhood” books that come out every spring. The big ones, very complex. There’s a lot of moving pieces. I have to make sure that I know where I am because there are so many points of view that like… This comes back to your question about, how do you keep everything straight? How do I get these visions all lined up? How do I not lose the trails of the various plot lines that I’ve been shown?
What was awesome about Sarah M. Taylor is she showed up in my head, she showed me her world, and I said, “All right. I’m just going to sit and type.” So, it wasn’t until after I finished that first draft that I went back and really started to think about what was the structure of the book that had been revealed to me. I was just still on the ride. I was really… and every morning, I couldn’t wait because I was like, “Oh, my God, I got to figure out…” And it was just so fabulous. I loved it. I was very lucky to have that experience.
Laura: I love the description of yourself as kind of being the first reader. I think that’s really interesting, and I do think it’s kind of good advice for all authors to just kind of think of yourself as the first reader of the first draft and just kind of get it out there. And then later on, you can worry about the editing and how everything else works. You’re just really like…
Jessica: Yeah, Nora Roberts was asked a million years ago when I started out writing romances. Right around the time that I got my first contract, I joined Romance Writers of America. This was back in the stone ages 850 million years ago, and I went to one of the national conferences. And I was amazed to get a chance to sit in a room with Nora Roberts. There was a Q&A with her, and there were hundreds of people in the room. And someone asked about her writing process and what does she do if she’s just not writing well or whatever. And she said, “I can fix bad writing. I can’t fix a blank page.”
And I just think that goes to what you’re saying, which is when in doubt, get it on the page. That’s what matters. And then you can take your chainsaw out, you can cut and you can refine. And you can get to chainsaw it first, and then you get your chisel, and then you get your sandpaper, and then you’re ready to varnish, you know? And you can go through all those steps, but you can’t do shit with a blank page.
Laura: I love the chainsaw metaphor. So, this book is set in 1991. What inspired you to choose that time period or was that just how Sarah came out in your head?
Jessica: That was where Sarah came out in my head. And this is why I wonder the role that the subconscious plays in these pictures and people that live in my head. I went to prep school actually in the mid-’80s in Massachusetts. And so I think that part of why she’s set there must have to do with the fact that I was able, when I was writing, to bring a lot of personal experience. So, just what is it like to be at a prep school in Massachusetts? I mean, it’s 1991, sure, but it was like in the mid-’80s when I was there.
I also think that when you talk about… Things have changed so much with regards to mental health and kids and adults and talking about mental health challenges and having support systems in place for mental health crises, it’s nothing compared to what it was in the mid-’80s and in the ’90s.
So, I think that for Sarah’s book to be placed back there, I’m really grateful because I have a daughter, and I look at what her friends are going through, just being teenagers. How grateful I am for the supports that we had. And to some degree in the mid-’80s and early ’90s, you were on your own if you were a kid who didn’t really fit in, you know? Expectations and social norms were just very different, and I think that her story is all the more powerful because she goes through it in a vacuum of…not complete vacuum of support but in a culture that’s very different than now.
Laura: Yeah, that isolation that she kind of has and that feeling that she can’t really go to anyone with how she’s feeling, that definitely adds a different level to the story. So, that makes sense knowing the time period for sure.
Rachel: And kind of along those same lines of the ’90s being a very different time, I kind of wanted to touch on the decision that one of the characters is revealed to be gay.
Rachel: And at this school during this time, it’s almost viewed as more of a crime to be gay than it is to actually perpetrate a crime. And I’m curious if this was a conscious decision to add this layer to the character or if kind of along the same lines as Sarah, she just appeared this way.
Jessica: So Sarah’s roommate, Strots, who is one of my favorite characters I have ever written in my entire life, is gay. And it’s interesting because I wanted to have the heroes of this book win in spite of the environment they’re in. And that actually makes it sound like I thought things up, which I didn’t. So, maybe I should say more.
One of the things that I liked best about where the story took us all was that there was people prevailed in spite of the divergence from what was considered okay and acceptable. And I thought that someone who’s like a powerful sports athlete, wealthy, super confident person is not going to have anything in common with Sarah, and her insecurities, and the diagnosis that she’s keeping to herself, and the reality of having an extremely unreliable brain, and what happens when you take that brain and you put it in a new situation.
But I think what unites them, aside from having compassion for Sarah, is the fact that both of them are outside of what is considered acceptable. So, there’s a powerful synergy. And I was neurodivergent when I was a kid. I still am. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s. This now would be considered… I’m considered on the autism spectrum. And so I had a very visceral experience being a kid who was always on the out, who was always looking in, who was always confused about social discourse and emotions. I couldn’t read expressions on people’s faces. Like, my peers were confident and they were forming relationships with each other and they were going through school, and I was looking at all of them not in a foreign landscape. And I had to train myself to mimic their behavior so that I could fit in at all.
And so I was a construct eventually that kind of fumbled around and figured my way out. It wasn’t until years later that I really found my stride and found ways to succeed and, kind of, figured out the schedule that I don’t divert from no matter what happens is very characteristic. There’s just lots of things that now I understand that are actually strengths, but back then they were not.
And when I look at Sarah and Strots together, I think that sense, if even on the surface you look like you belong but inside you know that you have something to protect from others around you, you have a secret you don’t want to let out, I just think that it’s something that we all kind of go through in different ways when we’re teenagers and when we’re… I think that’s, again, the outsider thing. I think when people read the book, if they read the book can perhaps see some of their own experience about how was I an outsider when I was a teenager, and who were my allies, and who were the people who were out to get me, and how… Does that make any sense?
Rachel: No, it makes perfect sense. And as somebody who also was an outsider as a teenager and who relates deeply to Strots, it makes a lot of sense to have these two characters. And it’s really interesting because Strots portrays that she is normal and perhaps it’s been “normal” with giant air quotes. And it could be because she has had more time to study her peers and to learn how to fit in. And I found the development of the friendship of these two girls just to be so powerful of these two outsiders, one who looks like an outsider and one who looks like she fits in. I don’t know. Yeah, it was really powerful.
Jessica: And coming as the first reader, that’s one of the things that I found most powerful for myself is I can remember finding unexpected allies in places that I didn’t expect as I said. And who were those people? And, boy, you really valued them. You really did. Because back then… I mean, I suppose it’s true now, but I’m just… So, I think the other reason why this book is important to me is I also have a daughter. So, one of the things about having a kid is—and I had heard people talk about this—is you start to look at your kids’ experiences, and you go back into your own past. You kind of like, “Oh, I remember being that age. I remember…”
And so looking at some of the challenges that she and her friends are going through, I’m so grateful that now granted I’m the benefit of… I have privilege. Not everyone is having the same experience that my family and my kid are. And I’m very grateful for what we have. But I do contrast that, and I feel like when I was writing this book and seeing through Sarah’s eyes all the things, I was reliving my own experiences and also thinking about my daughter in the contrast of back, you know, 40 years ago and now.
Laura: Even the journey of her and her mom. Like, you kind of think about how everyone has their own internal journey that you’re not aware of looking at them. So, it really was kind of an internal journey for everyone in the story.
Jessica: Well, and that’s actually… The two relationships that I love in the book actually are between Sarah and Strots and then Sarah and her mom. And there’s this one line that Sarah says that has something to do like it was the first adult thought I’ve ever had with regard to her mother. And I think that that’s a really interesting pivot for everyone in their developmental stages. That moment when suddenly your parent is not your parent, they’re a person, they’re a human being, and that really does happen.
And I always tell my daughter, “You know, listen, I’m not any superhero. I have no more answers than anyone else does. Like, do not put me on any pedestals because we’re all just floundering around through the laws of chaos and trying to just come out of this life experience in a positive way.”
Laura: One of the other things that we wanted to talk to you about was your fan base because you have an incredibly passionate one. Do you ever feel pressure from them when it comes to your release schedule? And is there a fan interaction that stuck with you throughout the years?
Jessica: It’s not the schedule. It’s the quality of the content that I feel a big pressure on because… And by quality of content, I mean, did I spend enough time on the drafting? Did I do the best job I could at describing what I’m seeing? Am I being faithful to…? You know, am I paying them the respect back by my effort? That’s the wrong word, but they’re putting a lot of money into my books. Am I paying them the respect due back by putting a lot of effort into my books? You know what I mean? Because I feel like I’m always very conscious of being so grateful for the platform I have, for the career I’ve had every single day. I mean, some days are better than others, absolutely. But like, am I showing up? Am I doing the work? Am I remaining disciplined? Am I staying connected to the gratitude?
I’m sorry. I have a charmed life. I mean, I get to write 10 hours a day with my dogs. Right now, the top, I got dressed up. I’m wearing pajama bottoms and boxer shorts right now. And I have Adidas shower shoes on my feet. And this is a professional engagement. Who the fuck gets to be professional in their goddamn pajama bottoms in the middle of a tornado storm, right? I mean, I’m the luckiest person in the world, and I feel like, since I don’t understand why I have been so lucky, because again, there are better writers than I who have not had the opportunities that I’ve had for a variety of reasons, since I can’t explain why I won the lottery, the only thing I can do is work my fucking ass off to deserve it. And even then I feel like I fall short.
Okay. So, best fan interactions undoubtedly is the woman in labor in the wheelchair who came through my signing line. So, this was probably…
Laura: Oh, my God.
Jessica: Kidding you not, this actually happened. I’m so lucky to have the readers that I have that it can be hard for me to do big signings where I actually signed books one-on-one. So, that’s the reason why we do virtual signing, which is like we’ve sold thousands and thousands of books through the virtual assigning for Lassiter’s release. It’s the biggest virtual signing that I’ve done in the 15 years I’ve been doing them. It’s because Lassiter’s book which comes out… Well, by the time this podcast gets published, you know, it will have come back in the spring, but then I can spend whole days doing nothing but personalizing books.
But back in the old days when I could actually have a line, those lines would be 200 or 300 people long. So, I was in signing books and this woman comes up in a wheelchair and I was like, “Oh, hi.” You know, and she said, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m…” And I’m like… And I’m on the other side of the goddamn table thinking, “Oh, my God, we need a medic. I don’t know what’s wrong with this woman, right?” And then she goes, “Ah.” She goes, “Actually, I’m having contractions.” And of course, because I have no filter, I’m like, “What the fuck are you doing in here?” And she was like, “Yeah, I’m in active labor but it’s really important. I had to get my book signed.” I was like, “Oh, my God,” so I signed her book. And of course because I’m an idiot, “I throw the book at her.” I said, “Now get the fuck out of here and go to the hospital.” I was like, “Holy shit, she’s going to be down.” And she was so lovely and waited in line. I’m like, “Girl, please. If you are in active labor, tell someone and come the fuck to the front of the line, so your water doesn’t break and you don’t have your baby in front of 300 strangers and me who’ll be passed out because I have vasovagal symptoms and if I see blood, I faint.” I was like, “Holy shit.”
So then a year later, line, same line, and this woman comes up and she’s got this beautiful year-old baby and she goes, “Hi, I was the woman who was in labor and this is the kid.” And it was wonderful. We took pictures and such. There are legions of wonderful stories, but that’s a high point for me. High point.
Rachel: That is incredible. And I feel like saying passionate fan base just is an understatement for that.
Laura: Yeah, right?
Jessica: The other one… I’m sorry. This is back in a bookstore in Radcliffe. This was probably 15 years ago. This woman comes. She waits in line, totally waits in line, and my team and I are always very sensitive. If there’s someone with special needs or somebody needs…like, we always bring them to the front of the line. Not that I’ve really been able to do well. We did actually do a signing in Saratoga. In certain circumstances, I’ll still do lines, but it depends on how many tickets.
So, this woman comes and she goes, “Oh, I’m so glad. Here’s my book.” And I’m like signing it. I’m like, “Oh, thanks for your support,” and all this stuff. And she goes, “Yeah, my husband is in the car.” I said, “Oh,” I said, “That’s great.” I said, “How supportive,” and she was like, “Yeah, I just picked him up from the hospital. He had surgery and it’s been intensive.” I stopped and I was like, “You left your husband in the car?” And she goes, “Oh, yeah, he’s fine. They gave him a morphine shot.” She’s like, “All of his drains are fine.” I was like, “Your husband is on fucking morphine with drains in the car.” She was like, “Oh, yeah, they took part of his colon out or whatever. It wasn’t for cancer or anything.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was like, “Get this woman.” She got couple books. I was signing and then, “Go take your husband home.” She’s like, “He’ll be fine.” I was like, “Oh, my God.”
Rachel: I hope she cracked a window for him or something in the car.
Jessica: Like you’d leave a dog. She literally picked him up from the hospital, parked him in, and gone in and get her books signed. I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” So, I’m very, very, very grateful. And seriously no husbands were harmed in the course of that signing.
Laura: That’s amazing. As you mentioned a few times, you’ve been publishing for a really long time, and I kind of wanted to ask you, where do you think the romance industry is heading next if you were kind of like looking into the future? Because there’s been so many changes even through the past five years.
Jessica: So, are you talking about in terms of like what books will be popular. Can you tell me exactly? Are you talking about what kind of romantic content is?
Laura: Yeah, like romantic content or kind of like the romance side of the publishing industry in general. Any new trends or anything like that that you just, kind of, see coming?
Jessica: I think what we’re going to see is a continued specialization of content. It used to be back when publishing was less nimble because there were no self-publishing or small press publishers competing, you’d go through, “Okay, now it’s chick lit, and now it’s military romance, and now it’s romantic suspense.” And then there was this big paranormal thing that when, oh, my God, Edward Cullen, why am I spacing on…
Jessica: When Twilight came out, the paranormal romance really got hot. And then I think that the marketplace is so fractured in a good way that I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to the time when like 9 out of 10 romances are exed. I think that it’s going to continue to be what does this individual romance reader want to hold in his or her hands and where is that content being championed and supported best. And I kind of like that, because I’m kind of a freedom of choice kind of girl when it comes to basically almost everything in life. Like, I think that people and their freedom to choose and find themselves in books, to see themselves represented as authors, I think that’s really important. And it doesn’t mean that a reader can’t read books about other people or by people who have lived experiences that are very different than their own. I think it’s actually a really good thing for people to do that.
So, I don’t really… I think that we’re going to continue to have a very vigorous marketplace where there are lots of authors finding lots of readers, and I hope that we do an even better job going forward of making sure that all different kinds of voices and authors and readers find the content that they want to read. Does that make sense?
Laura: Yes, that makes sense. Yeah, and I agree. I think we are seeing a lot of people kind of embracing what they love in romance and finding their genre in all the many sub-genres that have popped up.
Rachel: Now, I am very conscious of the time and I know that we are past the usual hour, but I feel like we can keep talking to you forever.
Jessica: Yeah, I’m grateful that you all have given me an opportunity to speak, so I’m happy. Besides, the only thing I’m waiting for is a tornado to come and sweep my house off the planet. So, trust me, I’d much rather be talking to you than being scared to death about what’s coming our way.
Rachel: Well, before any impending Wizard of Oz scenes of you flying in your house, can you give us a little sneak peek of what you are currently working on?
Jessica: So, I am currently getting ready to publish “Lassiter.” So, at the time of this recording, it’s March. “Lassiter” is… So, when you have a big series like the BDB, there are tent-pole books that readers wait for because the person is, number one, super fun and interesting and, number two, mission critical to the world at large. And “Lassiter” is one of those tent-pole books. So, like “The King…” Well, “Dark Lover,” “The King,” I would argue Blay and Qhuinn’s book “Lover at Last” was a huge tent-pole book. These people were just so excited to read about Blay and Qhuinn’s romance.
So, “Lassiter” is one of those big books, and I am starting a YouTube channel of all things. And I’m going to be talking about myself, my life J.R. Ward, and we’re going to take people through, you know, what’s it like to do a giant virtual signing with thousands of books and like what’s my security team like. And on Monday, we’re going to go up to the big convention center and we’re going to film what it’s like to go and have them preview the scene. And we’re going to talk about like, why do I need bodyguards and like all that stuff? And also we’re going to… Actually, it looks like we’re going to have about 900 people come to my Cincinnati event. And what’s it like to do that? And we’re going to actually videotape the entire thing and we’re going to put portions of it because we’ve never really put videotape portions.
And then for the writing part, I’m actually drafting the first of “The Lost Dagger” series, which is going to come out not until 2024, but that’s another side series for the big BDB books. And there is a second Sarah M. Taylor book where she goes the fuck to college. And if people think that what happens at “The St. Ambrose School For Girls” is wild, it is nothing compared to what she showed me about college. And I can’t give anything away, but I am so excited to write that book. And my publisher loves St. Ambrose so much. Even Jenn Bergstrom, the big muckety muck was like… I think she just wants to find out what happens, which I do too. So, I’m already in quiet moments returning to Sarah’s world and getting really fucking excited because like some fucked up shit happens. It’s like things get really weird and really twisted. And I know what happens, and I’m like, “Oh, my.” So, that’s where I’m at right now.
Rachel: If our listeners could see how much Laura and my faces lit up when you said there’s more Sarah Taylor coming like…
Jessica: I want to tell you so badly. Oh, I want to tell you so badly.
Laura: Especially when you say weird and twisted on top of it, we’re like we’re ready to read it.
Jessica: It’s so fucking twisted. It’s so twisted. And like when I saw what happened, there’s definitely twists and turns with St. Ambrose. It’s not fucking twisted like her college thing. There are only two Sarah M. Taylor books that I’ve seen, and one’s prep school and the other one’s college. And it’s fucked up. Fucked up. And it is fabulous. I’m so excited. I cannot wait to write it.
Rachel: We cannot wait to read it because St. Ambrose was a wild ride.
Jessica: Thank you very much. I’m very grateful that you all took your time out to read it. It really is. As I said, you know, “Dark Lover” was the book of my heart. When Rahv showed up and started talking to me, I fell in love with him and I loved his world. And he was the gateway to that whole world. And Sarah M. Taylor is the gateway to this amazing new world for me. So, I’m very grateful.
Rachel: Well, it was an absolute pleasure to read, so you don’t have to be grateful. We are grateful to you for writing it because it was so much fun.
Rachel: And before we let you go and hunker down with this impending tornado, where can our listeners find you online?
Jessica: I think there’s a possibility that your readers could find me pedalling a bike with a little basket, pedalling like a bitch right into the sky, and I could land in the internet. I don’t know.
I am on Facebook and Instagram and soon to be on YouTube. And I’m not really a Twitter person very much but, yeah, I’m just in all the usual places.
Rachel: Incredible. We will include links too. All of your show notes and your YouTube… All of your show notes, all of your socials in our show notes and your YouTube channel if it’s live when we launch this episode. And just thank you so much for joining us today. This has been so much fun.
Laura: It was so fun.
Jessica: I’m very, very grateful. And one of the things that I love doing is working with real kickass women. I just love… I mean, obviously I’ll work with men too. I’m not whatever. So, Tosca Musk, who is fucking amazing, bought the first 11 books for her streaming service, Passionflix, and Tosca is going to turn the “Black Dagger Brotherhood” into… She and I are talking about her vision, but she wants to do almost mini-series for each book like three episodes per…
And the thing that’s so powerful about Tosca, aside from the fact that she’s fucking amazing, she’s just super smart and just super wonderful, is she stays really, really close to the book itself to the point where we’re going to peel out actual dialogue from the pages and stuff. And one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be doing it with her is because of her approach to really not just use the material as a springboard but to do the material, you know?
So the other thing that I’m really super excited about is just to have her and just learn from her because I’ve seen movies and TV all my life but I wouldn’t know a screenplay if it came up and bit me on the ass. So, learning about like, how does she approach screenplays? And she’s invited me to come and watch it get filmed. I’m super excited to just learn from her because she’s just amazing. So, that’s the other thing that I’m super excited about.
Rachel: That is extremely exciting.
Laura: Yeah, that’s so cool. We can’t wait to watch.
Jessica: Me too.
Rachel: Again, thank you so much for joining us.
Jessica: I’m very grateful.
Laura: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in picking up Jessica’s books, we will include links in our show notes.
If you are enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. Be sure to follow us on socials. We are at Kobo Writing Life on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Rachel: This episode was hosted by Laura Granger and Rachel Wharton with production by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker, and the biggest thanks to Jessica aka J.R. Ward for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.