Jodi Payne on Characters, Writing, and her release ‘Creative Process’ (author interview)

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Creative Process by Jodi Payne
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Available for Purchase at Dreamspinner Press

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jodi Payne here today talking about writing, characters, and her latest release from Dreamspinner Press, Creative Process.  Welcome, Jodi!

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~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Jodi Payne ~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

There’s no simple answer to this one for me. When I first dream up a character it’s usually a “what if” kind of scenario. Then, I try to draw a bit on my own experience to flesh them out a little, so at that point I suppose they get some of me. But as the story goes on and they end up in different situations and need to react “in character”, I pull a little from what I’ve learned about them, their primary motivation, and their development to that point. This back and forth goes on as the story takes shape so that by the time they story is done, they’re such a part of me it’s hard to tell how much I gave them and how much they’ve taught me.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

Gary Stu. Love that.

No, actually, I don’t. The line is pretty broad IMHO. We’ve all heard the saying “write what you know.” People say that because pulling from your own experiences helps add authenticity to a setting, a situation, and/or a character. But using my own experience to inform a character is a lot different than putting them up on a pedestal. For example, if I’m going to write a rower (I row – though I am an amateur, trust me on that), I’m going to use what I know about the sport from my own experience to inform that character. The endless erging and oar drills, the workouts that make you feel like you’re going to puke, the high when nine people in one boat are moving like a well oiled machine. Even an Olympic rower has horrible days on the water. Sometimes horrible months. To make that same character a Gary Stu (I’m just going to keep snickering here while I type) I would have to make them the BEST ROWER EVER OMG who never has a bad day and is constantly praised by the coaches and admired by all. That renders the character one dimensional and fake.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

So, I have a theater background. Characters are kind of my thing. I worry if I don’t have an emotional tie with a story because to me that means it’s not real. A love story needs to play fast and loose with my emotions. I always hurt with my characters, share their joy, regret breaking up couples even if I know they’re headed for an HEA. It’s just how I work. I’ve made myself cry more times than I can count. What would make me put an ‘in progress’ story aside would be if that wasn’t happening.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Growing up, I liked stories that took me out of my world. High Fantasy with heroes and heroines that were put through the wringer but managed to keep their dignity. Epic series (David Eddings, Anne McCaffery and the like) that had it all – power struggles, personal one, love with happy and unhappy endings, death, struggle, triumph. I ate that stuff up. Now, it’s authors like Steven King, who use language and imagery so well sometimes I think, “Man, I’ll never ever write that well.” I like stories with authentic settings, and with genuinely human characters that reflect and represent their cultures and their emotional life well. They don’t have to be epic at all; in fact, I prefer them not to be. Firefighters and spies are hot, sure. And I read a lot of that, too. But your suburban nine-to-five clock puncher, your redneck, or your single dad all working for a weekend and a paycheck are more interesting to me.

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I love ebooks. I love having the favorites I read over and over at my fingertips everywhere I go. They’re here to stay, and as for where they are headed, the sky is the limit. I saw a new edition of the George R. R. Martin series (spoilers: winter is here, people) that was gorgeous. It had interactive maps and animations… it was stunning. That is the direction things are going for the right kind of books. For romance, soon I hope to see ebooks get the same recognition and be eligible for all the same accolades as print books, across the board.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

Right now, it’s Creative Process. That sounds hokey I guess, to call out my newest novel, but I mean it. I’m very proud of it, I love the main characters, the supporting cast is a lot of fun, and I think it’s my best writing to date.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am working on a standalone novel about an attorney at a respected law firm who falls for a dancer at a gay nightclub. I’m also hoping to write about some of the secondary characters in Creative Process as standalone but related “in world” titles. And I’ve been doing some co-writing with one of my mentors and a great friend, BA Tortuga that are lovely, and off the beaten path.

Blurb

Best-selling thriller author Reese Kelsey knows his career isn’t conducive to romance. He doesn’t work the normal nine-to-five, and sometimes his characters take hold and demand all his attention, causing him to neglect important appointments… and lovers. Rather than go through another heartbreak, Reese contents himself with his small circle of friends—fellow gay New York City artists—and his dedicated publicist, Chad.

 

Until he sees Owen Mercado lugging his cello toward the subway and impulsively offers him a ride.

 

Owen has worked long and hard for a career in the symphony, and success comes with a demanding schedule—something Reese understands. Their desires and lifestyles are surprisingly compatible, and Reese and Owen certainly set the bedroom on fire. They’re both carrying baggage, but they fit, and it’s hard not to hope for a future that once seemed impossible. 

 

But when Reese’s work inevitably pulls him into its dark world and refuses to let go, Owen draws a hard line, and Reese discovers he can’t rely on good intentions alone. He will have to control the obsession that drove his other lovers away or risk losing Owen as well.

About the Author

Jodi Payne spent too many years in New York and San Francisco stage managing classical plays, edgy fringe work, and the occasional musical. She therefore is overdramatic, takes herself way too seriously, and has been known to randomly break out in song. Her men are imperfect but genuine, stubborn but likeable, often kinky, and frequently their own worst enemies. They are characters you can’t help but fall in love with while they stumble along the path to their happily ever after.

For those looking to get on her good side, Jodi’s addictions include nonfat lattes, Malbec and tequila any way you pour it. She’s also obsessed with Shakespeare and Broadway musicals. She can be found wearing sock monkey gloves while typing when it’s cold, and on the beach enjoying the sun and the ocean when it’s hot. When she’s not writing and/or vacuuming sand out of her laptop, Jodi mentors queer youth and will drop everything for live music. She lives near New York City with her beautiful wife, and together they are mothers of dragons (cleverly disguised as children) and slaves to an enormous polydactyl cat.

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