Jo Ramsey on Characters, Writing, and her release Dolphins in the Mud (Harmony Ink Author Interview)

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Dolphins in the Mud by Jo Ramsey
Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Available for Purchase at Harmony Ink Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jo Ramsey here today with an author interview and a new release to share with our readers. Welcome, Jo!

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~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Jo Ramsey ~

  • 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?

To be honest, no, I don’t think there’s that tight a line. A Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a character the author wants to be. The one all the other characters love. The one whose many accomplishments leave people in awe. The one who solves the mystery, or drives the entire plot, simply because of their skills and sheer awesomeness. In general, I would suspect that the experiences of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character aren’t even close to the experiences of the author. They’re the experiences the author wishes they’d had.

An author using their own experiences to inspire a character isn’t the same thing. The character might share personality traits with the author, or with someone the author knows, but isn’t so heavily based on the source that anyone can tell who it is. Also, someone’s real life experiences often aren’t ones where they’ve saved the world and are beloved by all who know them, so an author who uses their own experiences is not likely to be creating a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Some of my characters share my experiences and/or personality traits, but they’re very definitely their own people.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I do not enjoy research at all, so in general I will avoid it whenever possible. I much prefer creating my own worlds, or, with contemporary fiction, writing about characters and situations that are very similar to people and things in my own life.

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

When I was ten, someone gave me a copy of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. In the book, a typical 11-year-old boy, the youngest in his family, learns that he’s the last of a group that exists to fight evil. The story is heavily inspired by Arthurian legend and mythology, and the idea that someone “normal” and often overlooked could have such amazing things happen to him captured my imagination.

Although nearly all of my books with Harmony Ink Press are contemporary fiction, my heart lies more in writing paranormal/fantasy. Primarily urban fantasy, where someone who is seemingly “normal” and often overlooked has amazing things happen to them. Some of my previous books, all of which are now off the market, followed that basic concept. Fighting evil, even if you don’t believe you can. Learning that you have power and are a hero, even if you’ve spent your entire life being taught otherwise. Even in my contemporary fiction, I incorporate some of those ideas with characters who, rather than fighting evil, fight things like mental illness, bullying, and trauma, and come out as heroes.

  • 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?

When I wrote Work Boots and Tees, the fifth book in my Deep Secrets and Hope series, I had to stop several times. Jim, the main character, is a sexual abuse survivor who, as a teen, sexually assaulted two girls he was dating. In both cases, he didn’t recognize it as assault; they didn’t say no, after all. When he realizes what the girls perceive as having happened, he’s devastated. In his mind, he has become as much a monster as the man who abused him.

I’m also a sexual abuse survivor, and, like Jim, was quite young when it happened. His memories and flashbacks of the abuse hit far too close to home for me. Although my life didn’t go the way Jim’s did, throughout writing his story I could feel the anguish, anger, and fear he experienced. I went much more deeply into his head than I have with almost any other character I’ve written.

Unfortunately this caused me to have more severe PTSD reactions than I had in a while. I had plenty of support from my loved ones and my therapist, but for my own mental health I had to stop working on the book a few times to give my brain a reset before I could continue.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I much prefer happy-for-now. I don’t think happily-ever-after is at all realistic. Even in the best relationships, there is sometimes conflict. And people change over time, so “the one” for you might not be the one five, ten, twenty years down the road. I prefer realistic endings to artificial ones.

  • Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

I have read some romances, though most of my reading is nonfiction at this point. The romances targeted at teens have improved since I was a teen, in my opinion. The ones I remember reading back then were always about a girl having to choose between two boys, and that annoyed me, partly because I couldn’t even get one boy interested in me and partly because I didn’t understand why the girl couldn’t just have both boys so they could all be happy.

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

I think ebooks will become more popular, but I doubt they’ll ever entirely replace hard-copy books. Some people just enjoy holding a physical book in their hands. It’s also a lot easier to highlight or otherwise mark things in a physical book than an ebook. Personally, I think ebooks are great in terms of saving space, but I prefer physical copies.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

It’s fairly easy for me. My publisher contracts an artist to create the cover based on a form I submit that includes descriptions of the main character(s) and the setting, and I’m sent three versions from which to choose. I choose the one that comes closest to what I’ve envisioned, and feels the most “right” to me.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

That is a good question! I’m currently working on a novel about an abusive relationship between two teenage boys. I think that dating abuse among teenagers happens far more frequently than people realize, and I also believe that abuse between same-sex couples is vastly underrepresented in fiction. Most abusive relationships I’ve seen depicted are between heterosexual couples. I know two teens who were involved in abusive relationships, and I felt it was important to depict.

Readers can always find out more about what I’m working on and what I have coming up by visiting my website, http://www.joramsey.com, or my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/JoRamseyAuthor. They can also check me out on the Harmony Ink Press website, where they’ll find my new release Dolphins in the Mud among other books. https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/books/dolphins-in-the-mud-by-jo-ramsey-485-b

 

More about Dolphins in the Mud – Blurb

Stranded. Hopeless. Trapped. No one to turn to and no way to reach the freedom just beyond his grasp….

That’s how Chris Talberman feels when his family moves to an isolated New England coastal town and leaves him alone to care for his severely autistic sister, Cece.

Chris knows how the dolphins stranded in the cove near his home must feel—he understands their struggle better than he can express. But the tragic event has a silver lining. It’s there, while chasing his sister, that Chris meets Noah, a boy his age who is as kind and handsome as he is fascinating. Not only has Chris found the friend he needed, but the possibility for love—

Until Chris’s mother abandons the family and Noah reveals his own hidden pain. Now Chris must care for the person he thought would care for him.

Kindle Edition and paperback, 2nd edition, 180 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press (first published May 29th 2012)
ASINB071WX1KGR

HARMONY INK PRESS GUEST POST: Jo Ramsey on Midnight Chat (author interview)

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Midnight Chat by Jo Ramsey
H
armony Ink Press
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Available for Purchase at

Harmony Ink Press

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jo Ramsey here today talking about writing and her latest release Midnight Chat. Welcome, Jo, thanks for sitting in our author interview chair this morning.

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  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

It depends on the character. Nearly every main character I write has some aspects of my personality, such as shyness or liking to read or write. Sometimes they have traits I wish I had.

  • 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?

To me, a Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a case where an author creates a character who is a perfect human being everyone loves, who may or may not be a representation of who the author wishes they were. I don’t think that’s the same thing as using personal experiences and traits to create a character. My characters are as flawed as I am, and things don’t always go the way they hope they will.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Even when an author makes up their own world and culture, I think they need to do some research. They might only use bits and pieces of the research to make up their own thing, but it helps to have some basis in reality. I personally don’t enjoy researching at all, so I write things for which I need as little research as possible, but I always need to look up something or ask someone questions about something.

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

To some extent, yes. When I was a preteen and teenager, I really enjoyed fantasy novels of the type that mostly takes place in the “real world,” where ordinary people end up having extraordinary experiences. Think things like Madeleine L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, which were two of my favorite books from about age 10 on. I write some things like that, but I also tend to write contemporary fiction where there isn’t any fantastic stuff going on, just people living their lives and solving (or not) their problems.

  • 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?

My novel Work Boots and Tees, book five of my Deep Secrets and Hope series, was like that. Because of the things the main character, Jim Frankel, had done to others, and the traumas he’d experienced himself, it was an incredibly heart-ripping novel to write. I’m a sexual trauma survivor myself, and there were times when I was writing that book where I triggered myself so badly I had to step back from the computer for a few days. At one point my husband tried to convince me to stop writing the book altogether, but I’m way too stubborn to do that.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

I don’t exactly choose my covers. I fill out an information sheet for the cover art department, and they send me, usually, three mock-ups to choose from. Unless there’s something really wrong with all three of them, for example showing a character that bears no resemblance to the ones in my book (which has never happened with Harmony Ink Press), I have to choose one of the three.

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

I have more than one favorite. I’m partial to Nail Polish and Feathers because I think Evan Granger is a completely awesome character who doesn’t give a rat’s behind what people think, he’s determined to be himself. I’m also partial to Work Boots and Tees because Jim is a very broken character who nonetheless is trying to make a better life for himself, and he is modeled on several of the boys I worked with when I taught in Maine years ago.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

My latest novel, Midnight Chat, has just released from Harmony Ink Press. (https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/books/midnight-chat-by-jo-ramsey-448-b). I’m excited about it because it’s based on a song I wrote and recorded, which is available on Spotify, Amazon, and iTunes (the song is also called “Midnight Chat), and because I think Mira’s dilemma about how to help Rob is true to what some teens experience when they realize a friend needs more help than they can give. Toward the end of summer 2017, Harmony Ink will re-release my novel Dolphins in the Mud, originally published by a different company in 2012. That’s another novel in which the main character is far out of his element trying to help a friend, as well as keep his family running smoothly.

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About Midnight Chat

For the past two years, since meeting in ninth grade, Mira MacDonald and Rob Stevens have been inseparable best friends. Rob’s struggles with depression, and his reliance on Mira, sometimes make the friendship difficult for Mira, but she wants to support Rob. Especially since he’s the victim of severe bullying at school due to his sexuality. Even though Rob isn’t out, he is gay, and the suspicion is enough for some people to torment him.

Now Mira has her first girlfriend, Talia Acevedo, and Rob’s jealousy is becoming even more of a problem. Rob insists that Talia doesn’t like him and is trying to break up their friendship. Mira tries to stay neutral, but it isn’t easy when Rob’s obsession with her escalates—along with his anger as the harassment gets worse.

One night, during one of their typical midnight text sessions, Rob tells Mira he’s decided to take drastic action at school to stop the bullying once and for all. And if she tries to stop him or tells anyone else, she’ll be first on his target list.

About the Author

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Readers who are interested in knowing more about me are welcome to visit my website, http://www.joramsey.com. I’m also on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/JoRamseyAuthor/, Twitter @JoRamseyYA, and Tumblr, http://www.joramseyya.tumblr.com, and my offspring Phoenix and I have a YouTube channel, Real Life Rising, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeeZBAEzSDIdPf7RS7iNQAQ.