Today, Tag Line Tuesday is pleased to (virtually) sit down with a writer from “Across the Pond,” so if any of my fellow Yanks are confused by a “u” that doesn’t seem to belong, or an “s” that should be a “z,” that would be why. It’s a big planet and a big language, get used to it.
Let’s get started.
Ed: As I hear writers are creative folk, please answer each of the following twice, once with the truth, or some version thereof.
JM: Jess Mountifield or Night-Sword Girl, actually both of those are kind of untrue. Jess is short for Jessica but I always feel like I am in trouble when people use that.
Ed: Where you from, Night-Sword Girl?
Ed: Day job?
JM: Writer/company director by day and superhero the rest of the time.
Ed: Dream job?
JM: Writer/Film Producer/Singer/Clothes designer. I like to do lots of things and the perfect job wouldn’t ever be one thing. I’ve always wanted to be a scientist that comes up with some super cool drug that makes people psychic or gives people x-ray vision or something like that.
Ed: And the inevitable, Why do you write?
JM: Because if I don’t I go whacko and start swinging swords at things. Apparently it’s better for humanity if I write. Mostly though, I just get so many characters and imaginary people in my head that I just have to write about them and their lives. They are a little like children and I tell people all the good (and sometimes bad) things they get up to.
Band – Jessus and The Wailers, the Rockband game band I sing with.
Actually in all seriousness I don’t really have a favourite band. I listen to so many different types of music and just pick a few songs I like from so many different people. The only bands I’ve followed for more than an album or two are Bon Jovi and Boyzone, and one is just so shameful compared to the other.
Food: Pie! Chicken and Mushroom Pie is the best.
(Ed: Proof positive you’re in the UK)
Game: Geocaching! Though I’m not sure it’s a game actually. It’s a modern day treasure hunting thingy that involves walking, outdoors, and finding hidden things.
Word: Smoosh, I’m not sure it’s even a word but I love it anyway. Something is satisfying about sticking fruit in the blender or cracking and egg and going ‘Smoosh!’ at the same time.
Color: Black – everything looks better in black, including me.
Animal: Dog, they are such faithful creatures.
Piece of clothing: Torn between corsets and dresses, of course corseted dresses are pretty epic.
Movie: Beauty and the Beast because I love how fairytale-like it is, yet how it also raises some interesting psychological questions on what love really is.
TV show: Sherlock, the new BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s so true to the books, yet modern, and I’ve always thought brainy was the new sexy.
Drink: Hot chocolate though pink milk is good too (strawberry milkshake).
Song: I know it’s really old and odd but I absolutely love “Amazing Grace.” I loved it long before I even knew what it meant or what it was on about because I wasn’t brought up in church or anything but something about that song always makes me feel better.
Line from a song: “We all rise when we all stand together, each and every one, somewhere we belong.” From a Boyzone song. I’ve always thought people are stronger and achieve more when they are banded together to fight for something and give people a sense of family and community.
Pizza topping: Mushrooms. In fact I like mushrooms on a lot of things.
Crime: Speeding. I really do like fast cars.
Quote: ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference you’ve never spent the night with a mosquito,’ I saw that written on a wall at school when I was about 12 and never forgot it.
Three random things about yourself, please.
1). Even though I’m pretty slender now I was so large as a child I couldn’t walk properly, and my nickname was “Bumble Bee” because my mum didn’t know how I got off the ground.
2). I have no middle name making my name entirely unique. I’m the only Jess Mountifield alive today.
3). My hair is so long I can sit on it.
What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?
JM: It used to be genre and mood, but lately it’s a bit more author requests and mood. I get asked to read and review a lot of books now that I run a blog, so I have a tbr list that easily grows faster than I can read them before I’ve even added any books I personally would like to read. My mood tends to decide what I’ll take off the pile next, but to get added to the pile and not be a request it’s usually some kind of adventure book, encouraging tale or other book that’s been recommended to me.
Ed: You are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever. What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”
JM: I don’t like a book to be too dark unless it’s a good-triumphing-over-evil sort of book, so dark books and most horrors make me pass by default. I’ll read anything that’s light, good for a laugh, or got a good sense of adventure to it. Mostly it’s characters I think I can relate to, however.
Ed: What genre do you enjoy most?
JM: At the moment probably sci-fi and fantasy as long as there isn’t too much paranormal or witchcraft. I have had some bad experiences of those kinds of things when young and don’t really want any reminders. The rest of sci-fi and fantasy is all good though, including all the heavy science based stuff.
Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?
JM: Probably plain romances. I tend to find they seem too unrealistic for me unless blended with a bit more real life.
Ed: Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?
JM: I have lots of authors I like from the oldies like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis to more modern ones like Francine Rivers, Bernard Cornwell. I think everything I read impacts my writing to some degree, as with everything I watch, it all goes into a big melting pot of experiences I draw on and create from.
Ed: Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?
Ed: What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?
JM: I can’t remember exactly what book but a local bookshop had a few years where they stocked a lot of the old classics and they really weren’t very much. I used to pick them up with my pocket money when I was about 10. Things like Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Alice In Wonderland and all sort of others
Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?
JM: Not at the moment. I didn’t ever think I’d read The Da Vinci Code but I ended up finding it on the shelves of a holiday cottage I stayed in a few years back, so I flicked through to see if it was really any good or not.
Ed: Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?
JM: Yes but I can’t remember what book now. It was one of those situations where I was young and everyone had read this great teen book, and I had spent several minutes listening to some other friends go on about it so I blagged pretending I’d read it to the ‘cooler’ kids by repeating what the other people earlier had said to me.
Ed: I do that with The Bible all the time.
Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?
JM: Actually it just happened to me. I’ve got my first did-not-finish review to do after a long time of enjoying pretty much every book I’ve read. I won’t say who or what but I thought it was going to be a great spy-style mystery thriller and I found it wasn’t that well researched, and there was too much jargon for me to understand what was going on. It also had the Prime Minister in it, and he spoke like he was American. As a Brit it drove me up the wall and I just couldn’t carry on reading.
Ed: Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?
JM: Thankfully, no. I don’t tend to bother reading if I don’t think I’ll enjoy it. This might change with all the books I’ve been asked to review lately.
Ed: What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)
JM: “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” – Sherlock again but there is just something I love about that guy’s logic.
How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?
JM: It varies. With two of my books I’ve got right to the end and deliberated the title for ages. In both cases I went for something that conveyed what the characters had learnt. In both cases, I also hadn’t intended for it to be a theme of the book, it just was. With others, they’ve just come to me at some point while thinking over the plot, and I’ve known what it’s called.
Ed: How do your characters get their names?
JM: In a few cases they’ve sort of come with them, and their names have already been in my head. With all the others I’ve picked names with meanings that match their personalities and roles in the story.
Ed: If you could live in the world / with the people of one of your stories, which one would it be and why?
JM: It would be in my newest one, Sherdan’s Prophecy. Lots of exciting superhero style stuff happening in their world, and some great characters to have a natter with about all sorts of philosophical topics.
Ed: What do you think your books say about you?
JM: I honestly don’t know. Probably that I’m quite adventurous. I do often have quite action-packed books, but also despite my dislike of pure romance books, I always seem to find some relationships sneak their way into my plots. I think it’s letting people know I’m a bit of a romantic at heart, though shhhh, I don’t let too many know.
Ed: Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?
JM: All of it! I tend to find I really dislike my work about 6-8weeks after finishing it (though sometimes I get a surprise and still like parts). I think it’s the perfectionist in me. I want to edit again and tweak it all a bit more, but I’d never get anything published if I did. I do a set number of edit runs and then just let go.
Ed: Tell me about your favorite character.
JM: My favourite character changes often, but at the moment it’s Sherdan Harper, the main character of my third book. He’s a scientist and leader of an organisation. Quite serious and not the nicest of people, but he is one of those bad guys you love anyway.
Ed: Have your favorite character tell me about you.
Sherdan Harper: Jess is a control freak. She wants to know everything we get up to as well, and it’s sometimes infuriating. I think she should trust me more, and just chill.
Ed: Back over to Jess, what’s your favorite line which you have written?
JM: ‘Oi, dirt-sniffer, get out of bed.’
It’s from the story “Learning to Fly,” in my Innocent Hearts collection.
Plotter or Pantser?
JM: A bit of both, actually. I do a rough plot which gives me an idea of what’s going to happen, and then write without it and it invariable doesn’t match up by the time I’ve finished writing.
Ed: What’s the Best and Worst advice you ever got as a writer?
JM: Best advice was to just keep writing, and that my writing was the best advertising for my writing. Worst advice I’m not really sure about. There’s nothing bad that I’ve followed yet.
Ed: Best/Worst thing about being a writer?
JM: The best thing is getting to spend all day hanging out with imaginary people who are always worth hanging out with. The worst is being thought crazy for spending time with the people in my head.
Ed: Why Indie?
JM: I like to have the final say in things and a higher royalty percentage. I think traditional publishers are also playing things too safe with what they will publish these days.
Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?
JM: Mostly yes, although I never expected quite so much marketing to be involved. In terms of the writing and editing, it’s pretty much as I thought it would be.
Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?
JM: I’ve collaborated on film scripts and a twitter fiction thing I did last year, but not a full book yet. I’m not sure I would at this point unless I felt the other writer was a perfect fit. I’ve started too many different projects only to be let down by the other person when halfway through to want to collaborate too much anymore.
Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?
JM: I’d learn a little more about writing first. My first novel was edited so many times because I’d realise I had done something really basic that was wrong and it needed changing. It’s weaker as a book because of it.
Ed: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?
JM: That it’s important to do it often, even if you don’t feel like it. The more disciplined the process is, the easier it seems. Also, not worrying about how good it is while writing the first draft has been the most releasing thing ever. I worry about how good it is right before it’s all sent to my editor.
Ed: What’s the moral of the story?
JM: Be realistic but don’t give up.
Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back. You can save one thing off the hard drive. What is it?
JM: My current WIP, everything else will be backed up on my kindle.
Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities. What do you do?
JM: A mix of things. Some singing, some writing, lunch with a friend and dinner with my other half. Probably a little filming in there, too.
Ed: Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?
JM: Ignore them. There are no guarantees on that kind of thing. If my editor said it, I might consider it, but not anyone else.
Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing. What do you do?
JM: Keep writing. I tried that other one working at a day job that was enough to live on, all I wanted to do was write.
Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?
JM: How much time goes into each book. The answer, far too much. I think I clocked well over 1000 hours in my first book.
Ed: Thanks for stopping by, Jess. Or, let me see if I can get this right: “Cheers, Mate.”
Please do take a gander at Jess’s novels, for which she has provided a Five Word Synopsis. I only ask authors to do that ‘cuz I know how much we all hate it.
Two girls on big journey.
Marie, Captain Hayes, and swashbuckling.