Our guest today is J.Keller Ford (aka Jenny). With a father in the army, Reader’s Choice award winner Jenny, spent much of her childhood travelling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive. Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Jenny also had a YA short story, Dragon Flight, released December 2013 as part of the ONE MORE DAY anthology When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading. She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life. With a fascinating bio like that, of course we have loads that we want to ask Jenny…
Why did you choose to write young adult and new adult fiction?
In a nutshell, I don’t want to grow up. When I was young, so many people told me, ‘Enjoy your youth. It’ll be gone before you know it and you can’t get it back.” Like a typical teen, I snarked at those words. Now that I’m a grown-up, I don’t want to be. I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I’d been a bit more daring, maybe prettier, stronger, more adventurous. In writing YA and New Adult fiction, I can do all the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do as a teen. I can re-live my youth vicariously through my characters. Every day holds endless possibilities for my young characters. Love is new and fresh. Heartache is raw. Dreams aren’t wasted. It’s fun to see my characters do what I always dreamed of doing if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up.
What gave you the idea for In the Shadow of the Dragon King?
Oh wow, there are so many factors that came into play, but I suppose it boils down to my brave, knightly dad, and a soldier who wanted a little bit of fairy dust to save the world.
My dad was in the Army, and on the rare occasions he tucked me into bed, he would tell me stories of how he battled dragons and protected us (his family) and his lands from bad magicians and evil-doers. I knew better. I watched the news, but my dad’s version was so much better, and thus my love for fantasy began. Between the ages of 6 and 8, my dad was stationed in Germany. My mom, knowing of my dad’s stories, made sure she took my brother and me to as many castles as she could, thus solidifying my love for fantasy. Sadly, my father died a few years later, slain by a figurative ‘dragon’, and a very sad story began to churn in my mind. It wasn’t until after the end of the first Gulf War in 1995 that the story resurfaced and started taking shape. I saw an interview with a soldier who said he wished he had magic and fairy dust because he’d sprinkle it everywhere to make the world a better place to live. I saw these brave men not as soldiers but as chivalrous knights battling evil for the sake of humanity, and if they had a choice, they’d prefer a little magic, rather than lives, to save the world. Over the course of several years, I toyed with plots, characters, and ideas, finished my first draft, and then let it sit for a very long time. I picked it up about 3 years ago, dusted it off and allowed it to breathe. Soon it will be ready to present to the world, thanks to my dad and an unsung hero who wished for a little magic and fairy dust to save the world.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for publication?
First thing: never, ever, ever give up. I don’t care how many rejections you get, how difficult the process may seem. Never throw away your dream of being published.
Second, as time passes, more and more paths to publication are opening up. I’m of the old school. I like the traditional publishing route. I like being vetted before my work gets out in the world. On the other hand, I have some lovely writer friends who have been very, very successful in self-publishing, hitting best-seller charts on Amazon all the time. There are so many avenues to travel and so many doors to open that make it easier now than ever before to be published. I do recommend, however, if you choose to self-publish, please produce your work to professional quality. Yes it costs money, but if your book is worth publishing, it’s worth publishing correctly. Get a professional editor. Make sure your book looks like a mainstream book.
I think it’s also important to be present in some fashion of social media. You don’t have to be on all of them, but you should have at least one prominent presence. You need to make sure people out there know you. Be yourself. Be someone that others want to interact with. Help others promote their work whenever you can. Once you have a following and have established yourself as someone trustworthy and helpful, they’ll do everything they can to promote your work when the time comes. Always be thankful. Always be respectful.
Do you have any advice for UK based writers looking for a publisher in the US? Are there any things we should think about or avoid in our writing?
First, check tax laws. Self-published U.K. Author, Karen Inglis, wrote an extensive blog post on taxes, ITIN and EIN numbers and paying U.K. Tax on book Royalties. You can find that article here and I recommend everyone from the U.K. to take a look at her very informative blog on the matter.
I would also pay attention to local colloquialisms. Some words or phrases may be viewed differently in the U.S. than in the U.K. I’m aware of a few words that mean nothing here, yet are frowned upon or mean something completely different in the U.K. Of course, if a book is set in Britain, some words and phrases might add flavor and color. Just make sure they don’t make the book confusing or distracting.
As to covers, U.S. publishers usually do not consult with the author. American publishers will usually write their own blurbs for the back of the book. They may also change your title to suit the market.
It may be worth your while to get an agent to sell your rights to a U.S. publisher who will ‘translate’ and sell your books. Always ask any publisher or service to give you full details of their plans for your book, especially how they intend to use the rights. Never give world rights as standard. Works published in the U.S. are subject to U.S. copyright laws, not those of the country of origin. Always be aware that if an agent sells your book in the U.S., they are entitled to all subsequent income on that book in the US even if you part ways with the agent somewhere down the line. Always do your research and try to stay abreast of the latest international publishing laws. It’s a lot to take in. A lot to do.
Who are your favourite writers?
OMGosh, I have so many. There are the classics: Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Jack London, John Steinbeck, and the list goes on. More recent favorite authors would include J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Kiera Cass, Cassandra Clare, Jocelyn Adams and Julie Reece.
We see from your blog that you love visiting castles and we wondered which was your favourite?
Neuschwanstein, by far. The first time I saw it, I forgot how to breathe. It was more grand and opulent than anything I could imagine. It was (and remains) the epitome of everything I ever imagined a fairy tale castle to be. Not only that, the “Mad” King Ludwig only lived in this magnificent palace for 172 days before his body was found, along with the body of his doctor, floating in a nearby lake. While his death was ruled a suicide, the demise of this romantic and popular German king remains a mystery to this day. There is so much history in this castle and is a must-see place of beauty and serenity. It is a reminder that no dream is too big. Anything can be accomplished if we set our minds to them.
Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today Jenny, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you and we hope you will come back again and see us really soon.
Find out more about Jenny and her stories at the links below:
Follow Jenny on Twitter at @jkellerford