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Jessa Callaver
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Writer Q & A (Archived) > Q and A with author Jessa Callaver

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message 1: by A.F. (last edited Mar 02, 2012 05:48AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Please welcome Jessa Callaver to our Q & A discussions.
Jessa is above all else a writer who loves to read, and after years as an academic drone, writing fiction has truly opened a new window. It's offered her both a mental and spiritual release while at the same time proving that she does in fact possess at least one creative bone in her body.
She has published three erotic short stories, and is currently working on a contemporary romance novel.

Jessa's Goodreads Profile:
Jessa Callaver

The Very Thought of Him by Jessa Callaver The Goat and the Heathen (2nd ed.) by Jessa Callaver Family Care by Jessa Callaver

message 2: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Bannon (goodreadscomjbannon) | 30 comments Hi Jessa, nice to meet another writer :) I'm wondering about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Did you go the traditional route or did you self-publish?


message 3: by A.F. (last edited Mar 02, 2012 07:52AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
As someone who sucks at writing romance, I'm curious as to what you find the most difficult about writing in the romance genre?

message 4: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments Hi Jeanne, =)
Good to meet you as well.

I chose to self-publish by way of Smashwords, primarily because these were short stories I'd written and, as a new and new-to-fiction writer, it was readers' feedback that I sought more than anything else; to get my work out there and get input. But oh yes, it was a long and bumpy road. From writing, proofing, re-proofing, editing, finding, formatting and attaching both your e-book and covers to align with the publisher's guidelines, which compelled me to strip down a lot of the more traditional e-book elements (i.e. page numbers, headers, footers) just for the sake of compliance. Also, at least with Smashwords, distribution happens in a somewhat peacemeal form, not all at once. So when you're out there trying to attract readers, and particularly if you've released a revised edition of your work, you have to extra-vigilant to keep track of who has what (in what form) as it were. I've since chosen to self-publish with Amazon Kindle and AllRomanceebooks as well, which, thanks in part to my Smashwords experience, wasn't quite as difficult.

Long answer there :-S lol Sorry about that.

message 5: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Bannon (goodreadscomjbannon) | 30 comments Thanks, Jessa. Sounds like you've learned a lot along the way. I wish you continued success in all your endeavors :)

message 6: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) Hi, Jessa!

I self-published through Smashwords, KDP, PubIt and Lulu for various stories, so I entirely understand how it goes in getting all the formatting and what not done to get books out! I actually kind of like formatting stuff, though, 'cause I'm a freak like that.

Anyways, off topic. :D

What I wanted to ask was... as a romance author, have you met with any... stigma, so to speak? Romance and Erotic Romance is very popular, but there's still a section of fiction writers and readers that 'look down' on the genre, and more who look down on self-publishing. Have you met any difficulties with either/both of these in your writing and marketing?

message 7: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments It's definitely been educational and I'm extremely grateful for what I've learned during the process. Thank you, Jeanne. I appreciate the warm wishes and wish you all the same and more! :)

message 8: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments @ A.F.
The challenges of writing romance have been rather two-fold; both internal and external in a sense.
One internal difficulty I encounter is keeping the language fresh and not being repetitive in one's descriptions. Perhaps second only to the more external obstacles many of us face, in my experience anyway, with the many preconceived notions out there surrounding the genre and those who write romance and/or erotic romance. I know when I first began reading romance books I too, admittedly, had some rather set ideas regarding what a romance book was. I can also say that those assumptions were dashed within one week of actually reading my first romance e-book. And I've been hooked - as both a reader and a writer - ever since. lol

message 9: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 97 comments How did you choose to write romance? Have you written in any other genres, and would you use a pen-name if you did?

message 10: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments @Mia

I can't say I genuinely enjoy the formatting part, Mia but I do think the knowledge and skills can be indispensable. There are of course people one can hire to format their books, but being able to do it yourself can remove certain delays and open up certain creative options for those seeking to e-publish their work. What's more, in the current environment, where more and more people are choosing to purchase and read books online, the more you know about the nuts and bolts of e-publishing, in my opinion, the better.

To answer your question, yes, yes and yes lol With the genre, in being self- published and when self-promoting one's work, I think they all carry their own set of hurdles. I'm going to try and refrain from 'soapboxing' here - I did say 'try' lol - because I admittedly have very strong feelings on the stigma that romance and erotica writers/authors contend with and why it exists. We are talking about books that may or may not allude to, detail or otherwise delve into the matter of human sexuality, so that in itself will of course provoke certain visceral reactions. Sadly the diversity that proliferates within these genres are often overlooked in the, at times, equally kneejerk response some readers have to the 'romance' or 'erotica' label. At least that's been my experience and impression. Suffice it to say that I was happy to find that there do exist mini online communities of writers of these genres who do seek to support one another and help each other effectively maneuver through the online lit arena, stigma and all.

Regarding self-publishing, I think it's the assumption that because you've published your own work, that you either 1) did so because you were rejected by the traditional publishers and therefore haven't been vetted, or 2) aren't a "serious writer" and your work doesn't merit being treated as such. Both assumptions are untrue. I personally chose self-publishing first, never having approached a traditional publisher and, in fact, am extremely committed to my writing, as much if not more, than those who have gone the traditional route. Now, I can understand, as a reader, wanting to invest in a quality product and veering more towards what's 'safe' - one that's been scrutinized by a professional proofer, editor, team of editors etc. And I too have seen e-books out here that were self-published and had sub-par editing. I have also seen however read many a self-published book whose appearance was as pristine as that which you'd find on any bookshelf. Of the self-published authors I know some hire proofers and some do not, some have betareaders to look over their work, some choose to do it themselves. But of them, all that I've spoken to on the subject, commit hours to the proofread process for their work because they know the stigmas they face as self-published work and because they care about their creations just as much as those able to hire the professionals. That said, no one's perfect, and even traditionally published books have typos. So, in my opinion, painting all indie and self-publishers with the same broad brush means you, as a reader - means too many readers - lose out. Not all SP writers have work riddled with typos or are devoid of plot or creative prowess or are somehow comparatively inferior; and the best books aren't always the ones that come with the 'prettiest wrapper.' But a lot of good books have been self-published and are perhaps dismissed or ignored for that fact alone. So, yeah, IMO, self-publishing does have its own set of hurdles, regardless of genre.

And lastly, when it comes to self-promoting and marketing romance or erotic romance...I mean, to put simply, there are reviewers, bloggers, public outlets and webcommunities that are completely unwelcoming. Just outright. And the discrimination is internal as well - romance reviewers or bloggers who won't review erotic romance, erotic romance reviewers who won't touch straight (non-romance) erotica or BDSM, the list goes on and on. I've received passes from soo many reviewers, had my writing ability (and intelligence, on occasion) derogated, received ridicule or just been entirely ignored at webcommunities or at literary message boards solely because I write romance and erotic fiction. So, the roadblocks come in many forms, throughout the literary world I'm sure, even before people even see your work and are able to gauge whether you possessactual writing talent. Par the course I guess.

*I wanted to qualify something I wrote in my first post really quickly. My choice to self-publish was not, in large part, because I wrote short stories. The short story format really just fit the stories I wanted to tell and self-publishing fit the goals I'd set at the time - the manner of feedback and diverse distribution I wanted. I didn't anyone to misread that I was minimizing or belittling the time, work, effort or quality of the short story. Believe me, I have the numb fingertips to prove how much work they require. ;) Just wanted to make that clear.

message 11: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments @Kyle

Hi Kyle,
I do not write in a liner fashion at all. I have rough outlines (very skeletal) that I start with but along the way take notes as I write as reminders and to help keep the details straight as I hop around my story. (Don't mean to 'billboard' the program here but OpenOffice has helped me immensely with this, particularly in the novel I'm working on at present. I'm sure other writing programs have the virtual note options as well though.)

I'd have to say, however cliche' it may sound, my characters evolve pretty organically. Though I do find myself inspired to write characters, specifically female protagonists, who are smart, independent individuals yet have a 'safeness' around them outside of which they're looking to explore. At the same time, the ins and outs of my characters often emerge out of the story I'm trying to tell and the conflict I create, interactively. I don't know if that makes sense but lol... In other words, I often create my characters around scenarios and predicaments that I want to examine and see unfold, and toss and turn them around and within those predicaments - they effect as they are affected and vice versa.

And I have experienced writers block. I haven't been writing fiction as long as yourself, and am a lot more familiar with more academic writing where the research guides you arguments and conclusions. When it comes to my imagination however, I find that because I can go anywhere, I often tend to end up everywhere and all over bringing my writing to a screeching halt. When feeling cut off though...I usually try to re-focus on what I want to get across in my story, what I really want and want my characters to focus on and deal with. It helps reel me back into weaving the tale. At base though, I most often begin writing one story and end up with something different and love that that's the case.

Writing for me often feels as if I've been dropped in the center of this labyrinth and told to find my way out. But it's like, even if I encounter a dead end or if others might find the exit by taking a different shorter or longer or easier route than I would, it's my path to the exit and mine alone that's going to release me. I just need to dig in and keep moving. And therein would be my enigmatic advice I suppose.
Even when you don't feel like writing, try to sit with your work and see what comes, however ungermane it might feel; the 'movement' itself can stir and spur on your creative juices I've found. Hope I've answered your question, however circuitously lol =)

message 12: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments @ Sheila

Hi Sheila,
Ok, so here's cliche' number two. It was love that initially inspired me to write romance stories. I was in a long-distance relationship at the time and he and I would often send each other little lovey dovey tales (cue gag reflex lol) - mine were better (he'd tell you the same) and the ideas just kept flowing. At the same time, I'd become curious about and begun reading e-romance books and shorts which only fed my imagination all the more. And during our relationship, I started writing "Family Care." I finished the story while he and I were together and, though our relationship did not last, from there, the fuse was lit. After I finished my first e-book, after I knew that I could write (from start to finish), that's what I found myself attempting to do more and more.

To be honest though, writing has been an interest since I was younger, though the bulk of it had, up until recently been more academic. I'd tried several times over the past 15 years or so to begin a few different books, and though the ideas flowed, when it came to the actual writing process, I couldn't manage to flesh them out; to get what was in my brain onto the virtual page. Writing fiction has been such a gift, in that it has simply helped me write; helped me to develop, mold and improve my writing overall.

I would like to write in other genres in the future, yes. Non-fiction. And I'd probably write under my real name.

message 13: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
With all the recent controversy over the enforced censorship by Paypal, I was wondering, as a writer of erotic romance, what were your views on the matter? And would you feel comfortable writing about edgy or controversial topics?

message 14: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments I'm afraid I've been following this issue from the periphery and only know the basic details of what's happening. That said, erotica and stories with graphic sexuality and graphic language are, at least on this side of the pond, usually deemed 'controversial' and 'edgy,' which makes such a move against them rather unsurprising. What has been surprising for me has been the response. I mean, being that these books are deemed to be 'on the fringe,' I think Paypal and others were under the impression that they'd have the tacit approval of the so-called 'mainstream' lit community. But, from what I've seen, that assumption has proven premature, with writers and authors outside of the targeted genres also speaking up against publishers and online book sellers acquiescing to the censorship. Interesting turn of events IMO.

Personally, though my books don't really delve into the 'targeted topics' (i.e. certain types of BDSM, bestiality, under-18 sex etc), there is a definite slippery slope here. One of my stories does, for example, show three of my characters in a menage a trois, and I can only wonder if, with the recent bout of censorship, books containing polyamory might be next. At base, even if I don't care for a lot of these topics, what's occurring now is IMHO setting a dangerous precedent.

message 15: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Jessa wrote: "I'm afraid I've been following this issue from the periphery and only know the basic details of what's happening. That said, erotica and stories with graphic sexuality and graphic language are, at ..."

I think the wondering if more genres might end up targeted is why so many writers are angry and speaking out. And the plot has thickened a bit, with Smashwords back in talks with Paypal and calling for more people to speak out on the issue of censorship.

message 16: by Jessa (last edited Mar 07, 2012 10:33AM) (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments **Updated**
Thank you to everyone who participated in the weekend Q&A (March 2-4). I understand that A.F. had kindly re-opened the event for a while and I welcome any additional queries or comments or discussions any members would like to engage in. Thanks to A.F. for organizing the event.

message 17: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 97 comments Thanks for all your answers, and for sharing your thoughts on the Paypal thing.

message 18: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Callaver (jessa_callaver) | 16 comments Always happy to talk to other members! :)

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