Alyssa: I can’t wait to introduce you all to Jessica Peterson! I started stalking–er, anticipating–her books long before her debut hit the shelves, and then I had the pleasure of meeting her at the RWA National Conference last year. She’s bright and funny and charming, and a sweetheart to boot. So without further ado…To start us off, tell us two things about yourself that would surprise your fans the most about you.
So, two things about myself that would surprise my fans…hm. I’m really into music – all kinds, everything from classical to One Direction to hipster alt rock – and scour iTunes on a daily basis for new artists. Music has a big influence on my writing, and usually I’ll have one song or artist I’m OBSESSED with as I draft each book – a sort of “talisman” that captures the mood and theme of the story perfectly. When I sit down to write in the mornings, I’ll listen to that song to help me step back into the world I’ve created. For THE MILLIONAIRE ROGUE, that artist was The 1975 – think angsty alt-rock jams – specifically the song “Sex” (which may explain why this book is my sexiest to date!).
Another fun fact about me – I love to walk. Well, that’s not exactly a fun fact, but it’s true. I’m a big walker. Not only do I like the exercise, walking loosens the impossible knot inside my head – which helps me to clear space for my stories. While I’m walking I plot, I have conversations with my characters, and I think about theme. It’s like a therapeutic brainstorming session.
Alyssa: I’m curious now whether you walk outside or on a treadmill. I recently put together a homemade (and slightly not attractive) treadmill desk to walk and write. I love it!
Jessica: Great question. I definitely prefer to walk outside – my neighborhood has an awesome four mile loop I like to walk a few days a week – but if the weather is not cooperative, I’ll head inside. I’ve been thinking about getting a treadmill desk for my office at home, but I’m not quite that motivated yet.
Alyssa: Before you decided to write full time, you worked at an investment bank. So, from the world of finance and high-powered deals, you went to spending your days writing Regencies. That must have been quite an adjustment. Can you tell us something about those first days of being a full time writer? Were you disciplined from the start, or did you have problems making the change and staying focused.
Jessica: Sure! It was definitely a big change. But when I took the job after I graduated from college, I think I knew, quite secretly, I would one day quit to write romance. I had a really great job at the bank, met amazing people, and learned a lot – both about capital markets and myself. That being said, as an introvert with a strong creative streak on a trading floor, it just wasn’t “me”.
Those first few weeks after I quit were WEIRD – and awesome. Looking back now, I realize how little I knew about writing or publishing. But I’ve always been a pretty disciplined person, and I thrive on routine. “The muse is a fickle bitch,” as Nora Roberts said (I think), so I knew from early on I couldn’t wait to get “in the mood” to write – I just had to write. Day in, day out. I still do 2,000 words a day, five days a week. Some days are easier than others; it can take two hours, or it can take twelve. I made the effort to read a lot, too. I consider reading part of my work day.
Alyssa: What is your favorite all-time romance book(s)?
Love this question. Right now I’m going through a huge Tessa Dare phase. SAY YES TO THE MARQUESS was devastatingly amazing. I just read my first Joanna Bourne novel (shameful, I know!), ROGUE SPY, (Alyssa: GASP!!!)and I almost died it was so good. Of course Sarah MacLean’s NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE is fabulous; anything Kristan Higgins, too. THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS by Christina Dodd was an early favorite. GONE WITH THE WIND – I think I’ve read that book three times now. Shana Galen’s WHEN DASHING MET DANGER is a master class in the perfect alpha hero, and both of Alyssa Alexander’s books are ingenuously plotted. (Alyssa: Aw, shucks. Thanks! How much do I owe you for that one, by the way?) In the Young Adult world, I’m not afraid to admit that I adored the TWILIGHT series (although the movies left much to be desired!). I loved Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, and I still reference Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR AND PARK when I’m plotting my characters’ emotional arcs.
Alyssa: You indicated you listen to music before you write each day, but what about while you’re writing?
Jessica: Like I said above, I usually listen to a song or two when I sit down to write to acclimate me to the world I’m building. I’ll listen to some super sexy jams when I’m writing a super sexy scene – right now I’m loving the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY soundtrack, and newcomer Dawn Richards – but for everything else, it’s pretty much silence. My books have gotten progressively more complex, both narratively and emotionally, and I really need to focus on what the characters are thinking and feeling in each scene, while keeping an eye on plot. Music has a tendency to scramble my thoughts.
Alyssa: And the age-old question…are you a plotter or a panster?
Jessica: A little bit of both. Broadly speaking, I’m a pantser. I’ve tried plotting before, and I just get bored. I’ve discovered I have to sit down and write to figure out what, really, I’m trying to say. Usually I’ll have the first few scenes of a book plotted – say, the first fifty or hundred pages – but I have to rewrite those pages multiple times as I discover who my characters are, and what they want. It’s ugly, but it seems to work. I write with a notebook beside my computer to jot down any ideas as I go. These ideas usually turn into plot points later in the book.
That being said, I try to have an understanding of the major conflicts – both internal and external – before I get past those first fifty pages. Conflicts serve as guideposts the deeper you get into the story. They can keep you from getting lost. I reference Sarah MacLean’s awesome “Mastering Conflict” power point presentation she showed at a workshop at RWA last year. Check it out here: https://prezi.com/uxwk00ijrfib/mastering-conflict/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy
Alyssa: Do you have to have your hero’s or heroine’s names before you are able to begin a story? Do you ever change the names at some point?
Jessica: Names are very important to me as I write. I always have to have the characters’ names figured out before I begin writing. It’s a fun exercise, coming up with names – especially for super wealthy, titled British aristocrats. For THE HOPE DIAMOND TRILOGY, I riffed on my love for music, and used a lot of names from classic rock – Roger DALTREY, Pete TOWNSEND, Keith MOON, Jimi HENRIX, Paul McCARTNEY – in the books. A little wink at readers who share my passion for good music!
I’m also a fan of solid, classic names. Violet, Sophia, Caroline; William, Thomas, Henry.
Alyssa: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about a book or series you are working on now, or have planned for the future?
Jessica: Right now I’m gearing up to promote the release of the third and final book of this series, THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL, which hits shelves on June 2. I did a fair bit of promotion for book 2, THE MILLIONAIRE ROGUE, and I’m planning to do even more for book 3. Promo is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work!
Thanks again, ladies, for having me – so appreciate your thoughtful questions.
And now, for the GIVEAWAY! Comment below and tell us who your favorite singer or band is to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of THE MILLIONAIRE ROGUE! Here’s a little blurb and excerpt to wet your whistle…
Though not of noble birth, Thomas Hope has a skill in banking that’s made him one of the richest, most trusted men in London. Still, he keeps his dubious past hidden. So when an old acquaintance calls on Hope to help acquire the infamous French Blue Diamond, he’s desperate to be discreet. He never expects that his biggest concern shouldn’t be losing his reputation, but his heart…
Sophia Blaise is determined to make a brilliant match with this season’s most eligible, most titled bachelor, but her true passion has been ignited by the incredible stories she hears while secretly transcribing the memoirs of a notorious Madam. After a night of clandestine writing ends with Sophia caught up in a scandalous adventure of her own—with an alluring banker—she begins to question whether she’s suited to the proper life she’s always known…
Caught up in a thrilling exploit and unexpected romance, Sophia must make a choice between what her head knows is safe and what her heart desperately desires, before both slip from her grasp forever…
LONDON, SPRING 1812
Another sleepless night. Sophia tossed and turned, the darkness stifling as her thoughts drifted time and time again to Thomas and those deucedly beautiful eyes of his. Her body ached for him; it felt like an eternity since he’d put his hands on her last.
Sophia stumbled to the window, half hoping La Reinette would be waiting in the shadows below, and slid it open.
The night was warm and quiet.
Quiet, save for the strange rustling noise off a bit to the right.
Blinking, Sophia poked her head out the window just in time to see the Earl of Harclay launch headlong into cousin Violet’s window one down from her own.
Sophia blinked again, catching the tip of the Earl’s shiny Hessian boot before it disappeared into the house. She heard Violet whispering some curse or another before closing the window behind her midnight visitor.
Ducking into her chamber, Sophia listened as several telling thuds reverberated through the wall between her chamber and cousin Violet’s. Whatever Lord Harclay was doing, he was doing thoroughly.
An interesting development, to be sure.
Sophia flung herself upon the bed and with a sigh of frustration tugged a pillow over her head, but to no avail; she still heard Violet’s fluttering sighs and Harclay’s groans of pleasure. It was a miracle their ardent – er, affections did not wake the whole house.
She should be scandalized, should knock on Violet’s door and warn her against fraternizing with the enemy. Then again, Sophia was guilty of walking a fine line herself; wasn’t she the one courting the attentions of a well-fortuned Marquess while dreaming at night of a different dark-haired gentleman with eager hands?
A gentleman she wished would climb through her window, and do to her whatever it was Harclay was doing to cousin Violet.
Clutching the pillow over her ears, Sophia closed her eyes. She and the Marquess were to attend Almack’s tomorrow; yes, she would think of that. They’d become friends, she and Withington. Even his notoriously sharp-tongued sisters had taken a liking to Sophia. All was going well, and could only get better.
Perhaps, perhaps he would propose by the end of the summer – or, at least, before she was outed as the author of La Reinette’s memoirs – and all her dreams would come true: the extravagant engagement ball, the envious tittering of the ton, the titles and the castle and the fortune. The things she’d dreamed of all these years would at last be hers.
Sophia closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep.
And woke that morning with a start when she realized she’d dreamt not at all of a glamorous turn at Almack’s on the arm of the Marquess of Withington.
It had been Thomas Hope who’d taken captive her dream, whispering into her ear all the things he wanted to show her.
All the things he had yet to make her feel.
Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.
A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaPAuthor (@JessicaPAuthor)