Today, I have the distinct pleasure of featuring author J.M. Holmes on this edition of A Perfect 10.
Please enjoy this special installment of A Perfect 10
If you want to check out past interviews, you can find them in the following links:
A.C. Flory, Steve Boseley, Kayla Matt, Mae Clair, Jill Sammut, Deanna Kahler, Dawn Reno Langley, John Howell, Elaine Cougler, Jan Sikes, Nancy Bell, Nick Davis, Kathleen Lopez, Susan Thatcher, Charles Yallowitz, Armand Rosamilia, Tracey Pagana, Anna Dobritt, Karen Oberlaender, Deby Fredericks, Teri Polen, Darlene Foster, Robert Rayner, C.C. Naughton, Sherry Rentshler, Linda Bradley, Luna St. Clair, Joan Hall, Staci Troilo, Allan Hudson, Robert Eggleton, Paul Scott Bates, P.C. Zick, Joy Lennick, Patrick Roland, Mary Carlomagno, Kathleen Jowitt, Michele Jones, J. Bliss, Maline Carroll, Alethea Kehas, Angelique Conger, Colin Guest, Rebekkah Ford, Andrew Joyce, Win Charles, Ritu Bhathal, Deborah Jay, Robin Leigh Morgan, Marjorie Mallon, Marina Costa, Lynda Filler, Lorinda Taylor, Aidan Reid, Lizzy Chantree
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me when I’m working on a story with characters I enjoy spending time with, and a story I can see develop. When I hit a roadblock in the story, or when I’m editing, writing is a more exhausting exercise.
Do you ever write under a pseudonym? If not have you considered it? Why or why not?
I’m writing under my initials, J.M., in the mystery genre. I read an article some time ago about how women writers are still trying to catch up to male authors in certain genres, such as mystery/suspense. The article detailed one writer’s experiment with querying the same work, with her full name, then with her initials. The queries with just her initials got more attention than the ones with her full name. She suggested her initials didn’t indicate her gender, so the queries weren’t subjected to a gender bias. Also, if I add more genres to my repertoire, such as fantasy, I will write under a pseudonym.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers? Why or why not?
I think an ego can be beneficial for marketing, because marketing requires confidence—which ego fosters—in the product: the writer’s work. An oversized ego, though, can hamper the humble in a writer that encourages her to continue improving her craft.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best investment I’ve made in my writing journey was a week-long writing retreat at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I met five other wonderful authors and a superb writing teacher in my master novel writing class. We “clicked”; we’ve now been a writing group for five years now. My “writing sisters” have become more than just a writing group—we are great friends.
What does writing success look like to you? Have you achieved it?
To me, success in writing includes not only getting to the publishing goal line, but continuing to improve the craft. I think when people say “I love that” about your work, you are successful. I haven’t achieved it yet, but I’m getting closer, one step at a time.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What sources do you use?
My research depends on what I’m writing. I’ve written a police procedural set in San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco, but I found Google Earth to be invaluable when looking at street-level scenery. I also do book research, and through the wonders of Facebook, I’ve been able to ask direct questions to people who know the information I’m looking for, including retired detectives and forensic specialists. For example, in my debut novel to be published in 2019, my main character ends up babysitting a pet ferret. I’ve never had a pet ferret. One question in a FB writers’ group yielded a handful of people who’ve actually had a ferret. Google is a great resource as well, but I’m always wary of Wikipedia. Because the information is crowd-sourced, there’s no guarantee it’s accurate.
How do you select the names of your characters? Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name? Why?
For me, the characters often determine the name they get. When I need a name for a new character, a main or strong supporting character, certain names come to mind when I think of the character. When I can’t decide on a name right away, I look at lists of names on the Internet. As I look at the lists, a couple names will usually stand out for the character. As for name regret, in my debut novel I gave the main antagonist a particular name. When my writing sisters read the first few chapters, they all said I had the wrong name. They suggested a number of other names, one of which fit the character much better than the original.
What is the hardest type of scene to write?
I think the first scene of the book is the hardest. Am I starting the story in the right place? Will the scene entice the reader to continue on? If a reader pulls the book off the shelf and reads page 1, will she continue to page 2? Will he like it enough by virtue of that very first scene to buy the book?
If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be and what would you want to ask them?
First and foremost would be my mom. She passed away almost thirteen years ago, a victim of breast cancer at 56 years old. I’d ask her what she thinks of my family, of how we’ve gone on despite her absence. She’s never far from my thoughts, especially as I work through the challenges of parenting two teenagers.
Leonardo da Vinci would be fascinating to talk to about anything, but especially how he came up with some of his inventions. I’d love an opportunity to talk to Agatha Christie, the Grand Dame of mystery. I could spend an afternoon asking Tami Hoag about her writing, her process, and why she moved away from Minnesota. I mean, the winters aren’t all that bad.
What platform has brought you the most success in marketing your books?
My debut novel is due out in 2019. I’ve just started working with my editor, and I don’t have a cover yet, so I can’t answer the question. A number of the writers whose blogs I follow have been posting about their experiences with various marketing strategies and platforms, so I’m taking notes.
Connect with J.M.