Welcome to Jo Myles, writer of very hot m/m romance, with very British characters and settings. I’m delighted to have her here. I’ve met Jo a couple of times and I’m looking forward to saying hello again at the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet in July. Jo is answering questions from my grab bag. And she’s answered loads of them. Excellent!
Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants?
I’ve tried both, and I seem to have ended up with a mishmash, but I think at heart I’m more of a pantser. I do a very rough plan, but this often changes as I write. The stage where I can plan best is when I’m about a quarter of the way through a book. By that point the characters are coming through clearly and can tell me what needs to happen. It isn’t always what I’d assumed was going to happen.
Do you write every day?
I write every week day during school terms, unless I’m editing, doing other admin or having a day off. So in other words, no. I don’t think you need to write every day, and people who say you must are being unnecessarily strict meanies. So there.
Most fun part of being a writer?
Being able to turn your entire life into a fabulous research project. Gleaning little ideas and images from even the most mundane situations. Everything becomes fascinating. Every conversation can yield snippets of inspiration. I steal anecdotes from people left, right and centre. Nothing is sacred!
Hardest thing about being a writer?
Deadlines. I need them to keep me motivated, but they can be really stressful. Ultimately I’d rather have them, though, or I know I’d spend forever and a day tinkering with the edits.
Do you read the reviews of your books?
I read reviews on blogs, especially when I sent them the book myself. I occasionally read them on Amazon, and since I’ve learned how to filter the Goodreads ratings I will sometimes read the four and five star ones. I’m not interested in reading anything lower than that, though. It’s tough enough to have the courage to put your writing out there without suffering that kind of ego-beating. If someone hated my book, that’s fine and I’m perfectly happy for them to share that online, but I really don’t need to know the details of why. I’m not that much of a masochist!
Which characters from standalone books or completed series are still hanging around in your brain?
Loads of them, but I’m terrible at getting around to writing sequels because I have so many new and shiny ideas. I’d love to write another story for Felix and Andrew in Tailor Made, and I’m desperate to give Mas from Junk his own story. Oh, and poor old Nasher from Screwing the System. Come to think of it, I also have ideas for Dylan in The Hot Floor…
Do people in your life know you’re a writer? Do they know what you write?
All of my friends and most of my family know what I write. I will sometimes tell total strangers when they ask me. So far, the reaction has always been positive. Bemused fascination, mostly. That’s never a bad thing, and gives me something to talk about at parties, because that “I used to live on a narrowboat” thing is getting old now!
When did you decide to write seriously for publication? What triggered the decision?
I decided to do so a few months after I’d started writing fanfiction. To me, writing the original characters was the most fascinating part of the process and I knew fanfic wouldn’t hold my interest for long. Also, I had a feeling this was something I could make a go of if I buckled down and learnt my craft diligently. I’m naturally drawn to writing smutty contemporary romances, and luckily for me, those do have a huge market.
How many novels/stories did you write before submitting/getting one published?
I wrote a couple of fanfiction novellas and lots of short stories. My first novel was Barging In, and I was fortunate enough to have it accepted by Samhain.
Are you organised?
I used to be. Not so much anymore. I blame the characters for taking over too large a part of my brain.
Do you find writing fun while you’re doing it?
Yes and no. Some days it’s tricky and I have to make myself sit down, then constantly clock watch. Other days the words just flow and I really enjoy it. Reading through what I’ve written can be great fun, though. Especially when I don’t really remember writing it and every word seems to come as a lovely surprise. I constantly have that “oh my god, this is so much better than I thought it was” when it comes to reading through the drafts. Of course, there are always bits that need work too, but I try not to let those get me down. Editing is fun too. Honest.
Do you have a dayjob? Do you want to give it up to write?
I’m lucky to somehow be able to live cheaply enough to write full-time.
What would make you give up writing?
I don’t think anything would. I’m sure I’d still manage to write something, whatever obstacles life threw in my way. It’s just too rewarding not to. Plus I’d probably go mad if I didn’t.
What’s the most memorable book you read as a child?
Either Exupery’s The Little Prince or Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. They’re my two all time favourite books I can read again and again and find something new and true every time.
Do you like being around other writers?
Oh yes. They understand the voices in my head, and if you get them drunk you hear some great gossip!
Do you love or hate the promo side of being a writer right now?
Actually, I’m loving it. I think it’s because I’ve just stopped doing the stuff I didn’t enjoy, and I’m not stressing about it anymore. Twitter and Facebook have become more fun and engaging since I got a smartphone (and learnt how to use it properly).
Who is your favourites(s) of your characters?
Dan from Barging In will always have a special place in my heart. However, I think Jasper from the upcoming Junk might have taken over as new favourite. He wasn’t at all how I’d originally planned him, but I just loved his nerdy, book-hoarding ways. He’s also wonderfully determined when he sets his mind to something.
Do your characters feel like they have minds of their own, or are they putty in your hands?
They rarely do what I want them to. Headstrong and stubborn, that’s what they are. Bit like me, really…
If you could go back and change something in one of your books, would you? And if so, what would it be?
I think I’d add a few more scenes to the ends of The Hot Floor and Handle with Care as so many readers found the endings bumpy. I’ve always been allergic to overlong, drawn out endings, but I’m trying to learn how to make them work for me as they seem to be what romance readers crave. Contrary to the cult of “artistic integrity at all costs”, I don’t actually believe it to be selling out. Finding a way to both give readers the things they enjoy but still retain my artistic vision is my goal as a writer. I want people to really enjoy my books, after all!
Do you listen to music when writing? What kind?
Nope. I’m weird in that I crave silence. Music just irritates me when I’m writing, although I enjoy the sounds coming in through the window in summer: kids playing basketball at the youth centre across the road, birdsong, the occasional car and lawnmower. It’s not so good when there’s roadworks, though.
Do you “cast” your books with real-life actors or other pics from the net?
No. I feel a bit weird as so many other writers do, but every character is a unique person. Sometimes I use an actor as a starting point when describing them (I had Cosmo compare Alasdair to George Clooney), but they always look different in my mind. I guess I’m just not that obsessed by actors.
Which of your covers do you like most?
That’s tough. I have so many good ones. I’m an absolute sucker for Screwing the System, though. Lou Harper did wonderful things with that one. So simple, but so striking. And the model, Elimpash, is just gorgeous!
What do you wish someone had told you before you became a writer?
The advice for writing great literary fiction doesn’t always translate to writing in the romance genre. Don’t feel like you have to follow any rules, and listen to your readers. They’ll let you know what needs working on.
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and publishes regularly with Samhain. She’s one of the organising team behind the UK Meet, an annual event celebrating GLBTQ fiction. She has also been known to edit anthologies and self-publish on occasion.