Today on the blog, we have an interview with indie author J. Mercer! She has written numerous books, all of which sound amazing, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them! Hope you enjoy!
Hi J. Mercer! It’s so nice to have you on the blog today!
J: Thanks so much! It’s great to be here 🙂
First off, I have to ask — is J. Mercer a pen name or is it your real name?
J: Pen name… I also write fantasy and had planned on keeping the contemporary and fantasy under separate names for reader expectation purposes. That being said, I haven’t published any fantasy yet, and there’s a chance when I do, it’ll end up being under J. Mercer. Stay tuned, I guess 😉
When did you first decide you wanted to write? Was it your first career choice or were you planning on doing something else?
J: In the very beginning, I didn’t really decide at all. I just picked up a pencil and notebook and wrote a few novels while babysitting in junior high, after the kids went to bed. For whatever reason, though, it didn’t occur to me that it was something I could go to school for. Instead I studied psychology and accounting (my first two career choices). It wasn’t until after I met my husband, we opened our own business (dog daycares), and I was home with newborn babies, that my brain got restless and took off penning another novel. And another, and another, and another. It was like the floodgates opened and I couldn’t stop it. That was when I officially decided I wanted to write.
When did you first publish? Did you enjoy your self-publishing experience?
J: I first published in June of 2017 and have released a book per year since then. I very much enjoy the self-publishing experience in that I have total control over choices (edits/cover, etc) and timeline (with a family, business, and chronic autoimmune disease, this keeps me sane). I have actually really enjoyed all the stages, the marketing and social media even, which surprised me. It’s also a nice change sometimes when your brain needs a break from creating – and both are arguably still somewhat creative.
You have three books currently published, is that correct? Would you mind giving us a little summary of each of them?
J: DARK & STORMY is romantic suspense, my raciest work for 18 & up 😉
Faryn Miller wants to build a new life in a small town. It’s her last chance to figure out, of all the roles she’s played in her thirty-some years, which one truly fits. Her aim at simplicity sounds like the perfect medicine until she meets Kai Allen, who’s spent his life doing everything the hard way and never bending for anyone. Lucky for Kai, Faryn has no preconceived notions about what he’s done and who he is, unlike the rest of town.
When cryptic messages start sneaking their way into Faryn’s apartment, then blatant threats, the two of them compile a long list of who could be stalking her. Unable to keep his frustration and rage hidden any longer, Kai explodes on everyone in his path and Faryn can’t help but wonder if the storm is closer than she thinks.
AFTER THEY GO is a women’s fiction/family drama set in a small tourist town:
Gwen is the oldest of four children in the Aaldenberg family, and the one who seems to have it all. She’s also most desperate to escape. Betta, having nursed their dying grandpa for the past three years, is anxious for Gwen to go, so she can finally have reins to the family business. And Esmerelda, viciously determined to follow in Gwen’s footsteps, vies for popularity as a freshman in high school, only to learn she must sell her soul, reputation, and most prized possession for acceptance.
When Gwen’s fiancé moves to town, Gwen does her best to resign herself to a local life, while Betta struggles for meaning without the store. In order to carve out a place for herself, Betta must decide to what lengths she’ll go in order to become her own person, and Gwen must decide what’s more important: her sister or her future. Can this family pull through their disappointment, jealousy, and regret? Or will they cling so tightly to their desires that it ruins them?
And TRIPLICITY is a young adult contemporary:
One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies.
Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher’s daughter, she did end up with someone else’s purse in her hands, and Jesse knows way more than he should about what’s gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive—enough money and he could get back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they’ve told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.
Are you working on something right now? Could you tell us a little bit about it?
J: I’m working on final edits of a YA contemporary titled PERFECTION & OTHER ILLUSIVE THINGS, to be released in 2020. It’s about a girl who wakes up perfect, goes after everything she’s ever wanted, and gets it. Easy peasy – or maybe not. Maybe perfection isn’t what she wanted after all. 😉 In addition to that, my work in progress has themes of what if/fork in the road type decisions and effects.
What inspires you to write?
J: Perfect segue! Theme is where it starts for me – questions. For example, AFTER THEY GO was inspired by my daughters as toddlers, watching how my youngest compared everything she did to her older sister. That relationship, being nurturing and at the same time competitive, was what I wanted to dig into. TRIPLICITY, on the other hand, was born from how everyone has a different perspective, and how those perspectives are probably not even completely accurate to the objective truth. I wanted to write something where you could see and follow and believe one person, then switch to another who you could see and follow and believe, even if their truth conflicted with the previous POV. Sometimes I think I write the novel for myself, almost as an essay to study the theme that first comes to me. And then I move on to another life question 😉
Who are some authors that inspire you to become a better writer?
J: Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor inspire me with their prose, world-building, and plot. Laurie Halse Anderson and Nina LaCour inspire me with their emotion/truth (grittiness?) and commitment to their stories. And some of my other favorites – because really any book I put down with a smile on my face inspires me – are Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhardt.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written thus far?
J: My favorites to write are maybe the ones most unlike me – such as Kai or Isaiah. They’re arguably the less composed, the ones who don’t really care what anyone thinks of them and are just going to say and do what they want to say and do. There’s so much latitude with characters like that, so it’s fun having that leeway (and having them dig some holes and throw some dirt). My favorite character, in that I love them most, would probably always be my newest characters, the ones I’m getting to know. The meet and greet part of it, author to character, is a really fun spot for me to be in. Sort of like that exhilarating beginning of a new relationship.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
J: Lately, and maybe always, I’d say the inspiration is the hardest for me. I’ve been as unhealthy as I’ve ever been the last two years (referring back to that chronic illness I mentioned), and it’s really taken a toll on me caring about anything more than what’s directly in front of me. Sometimes when I force myself to sit down anyway, I do good work, but other times I feel like I’m just wasting everyone’s time. I definitely miss the charge of it, but I don’t think I have the energy right now. Hopefully I’m turning the corner and on the road back to “normal” so my world should right itself again. But even then, my busy life often edges out the inspiration. In those situations I try to get away for a bit – the cleaner the world around me, the less on my to-do list, the more my brain feels free to wander.
How would you describe your writing style?
J: I’m a plotter who allows change and re-plots at the halfway point (and sometimes again three-fourths of the way through). I write fairly clean the first time around, sentence-wise, so mostly my revisions are building things up – characters, worlds, scenes. Coloring in the sketch, I like to say.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink you enjoy while writing?
J: Not to be a cliché, but coffee. And then old-fashioned lemon drops. Maybe chocolate on occasion, but there’s something about the hard candy that helps me concentrate – and it lasts longer 🙂
Just because I’d like to include it for readers’ purposes, what would you say your target audience is for your books? Is there any content I should warn readers about?
J: Dark & Stormy and After They Go are for the women’s fiction audience, and I’d say Dark & Stormy is 18 and up. After They Go could be handled by a few years younger, but there are still adult themes in there. Triplicity is definitely for the young adult audience, but as D. Donovan of The Midwest Book Review said, “The depth of characterization, flavors of romance, adult confidences, and alternating viewpoints keep this story lively and involving for all ages.” (Thanks, D!)
What is some advice you can give aspiring authors out there that you wish you had known when you began your writing and publishing journey?
J: Patience and persistence are key, there’s no way around it. If someone would have told me how long every step takes when I started, I would not have wanted to believe them, but I also wanted to get it right, so maybe their words would have stuck with me and helped my frustration earlier on. I get impatient with how many rounds of revisions, and how long they can take, and how you always want to be done before the manuscript is ready for you to be done. There’s a Jim Watkins quote I often think of in regards to writing: “A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.” That also means be persistent in honing your craft. There is always room for growth – keep an eye on where yours is and keep bettering yourself. Also, YES, take that month break between edits – at least! Honestly, you will find your own mistakes but you need some distance. That was really hard for me to learn (see: patience).
What do you consider your definition of success, as an author? Have you reached it yet or are you still in the process of obtaining it?
J: Hmm, interesting question… I guess I’d say my definition of success as an author would be a combination of readership, followers, and maybe making enough money for it to be a decent part time job. In which case, no, I haven’t reached it. That being said, I’d rather my work be out there waiting for readers than sitting in a drawer where no one can find it, so I’m also happy where I am. What’s your definition, Savanna? — this might be my new question to ask all the authors I meet. I bet it’s different for each of us!
Haha, thanks for the question, J! Personally, my definition of success has changed many times in the past couple of years, but for now I think I’ve settled on two different definitions. One, I want to create a steady platform. Money certainly isn’t everything, but I’d love to one day have a platform where I’m making book sales every day, even if it’s literally just one book per day. The second is I want to have a shelf of books for my future kids to look at. I want them to know their mama pushed for her dreams and attained them, and that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. I just want to be a good example for them, and honestly for anyone that’s wondering if they should do the “writing thing” or “creative life” when everyone around them is telling them to do something different. 🙂
A huge thanks to J. Mercer for letting me interview her! If you’re interested in checking out her books or giving her a follow, check out the links below!
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on Instagram or Facebook @jmercerbooks and online at www.jmercerbooks.com.
Insta, where you can see what I’m reading, what keeps me interested, some craft and some reviews: https://www.instagram.com/jmercerbooks/
Facebook, more for news and updates, along with some of my insta posts: https://www.facebook.com/jmercerbooks