A writer who loves Roald Dahl gets a definite win from me . . . as does a woman writer who braves the very male world of speculative fiction. Enjoy this interview with J.S. Bailey.
Rage’s Echo is about a paranormal investigator named Jessica Roman-Dell who has a run-in with the ghost of a murder victim named Jerry Madison during her investigation of a graveyard one night. Desperate for human company, Jerry follows her home and refuses to leave. He tells Jessica that he longs to go to heaven since lingering on earth and watching the world move on without him is more painful than death itself. Little does Jessica realize that Jerry secretly wishes to get revenge on the people who killed him, and that interacting with Jerry will inadvertently awaken Jessica’s own inner demons and thirst for revenge.
In short, Rage’s Echo is a parable about forgiveness and how we have to let go of the pain that holds us in the past so we can finally “move on” and heal. Of all the stories I have written, this one is the closest to my heart and it is my hope that it will touch others as well.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I started reading when I was four years old and began writing when I was five. I remember devouring stories such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and The Boxcar Children; which I guess is what influenced the elements of mystery and suspense I include in my novels today.
My earliest attempts at writing were picture books that I illustrated myself. One was about a bear that went to school. Another was about a sentient rainbow that followed people around. (Subsequent to that, I developed a fear of rainbows.)
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I write by the seat of my pants—I’ll have a vague plot idea in my head and take it from there. I might write a hundred or more pages before realizing that the plot isn’t working, so I’ll scrap it and start over from the beginning. Usually this happens several times before I have a decent plot in place. It’s time-consuming, but I want to give my readers a quality story so if something in my writing doesn’t feel “right” to me I know it won’t feel right to them, either.
Once the first draft is complete I’ll set it aside for a few weeks or months and go back to it with a fresh set of eyes so it’s easier to catch mistakes. I revise so much that the final draft has little in common with the first one—which is a good thing!
4. Who are you reading now?
Dean Koontz! He is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been reading his books for about four years. Right now I’m rereading his novel Watchers.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
(1.) Watchers by Dean Koontz, because it’s about a freakishly-intelligent dog and a monster that eats people, and it’s awesome. (2.) The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker, because it’s about a vigilante priest who murders sinners when they don’t repent, and it’s also awesome. (3.) Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl, because they’re all twisted and, you guessed it, awesome. (Now go read them and find out for yourselves.)
Did I mention that I like awesome books? I’m always looking for new ones, so if you know of any, please tell me.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I only write a few pages each day. At this time I spend more time promoting my stories and building an audience than actually writing, and that’s because I hope to have more readers by the time my next novel is released. (If you’re going to be a published author, you have to let people know that you and your stories exist; otherwise nobody is going to read them.) So I write some in the morning and spend the afternoon and evening making connections and forming relationships with readers and other writers online.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
I have a part-time job 6 days a week, so that takes up a lot of my time. I usually get my writing done while I’m there. Every time I go to write, I read a randomly-selected chapter from the Bible and then pray for guidance and give thanks for the blessings God has given me.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
This might be odd, but I don’t have one! I write either at my desk at home or work or at the kitchen table, and I’m perfectly happy with that.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I got a lengthy two-star review for my first novel, The Land Beyond the Portal, in which the reviewer criticized my weak characterization. I thought over what he said, and compared his remarks to similar reviews, and focused harder on characterization in my second novel, Rage’s Echo. People who have read Rage’s Echo tell me that my characters are so lifelike that they seem like actual people. See? Negative reviews CAN be helpful!
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Keep writing, but keep learning, too. Don’t just put words on the page. Put words on the page that mean something.
J. S. Bailey, writer of Christian speculative fiction and suspense, is the author of two novels, Rage’s Echo and The Land Beyond the Portal; and two short stories, “Weary Traveler” and “Vapors.” She lives in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati with her husband and a collection of sickly house plants, sometimes plays the piano, and is currently overcoming an unhealthy addiction to Mexican food.