Welcome to The Book Nympho, Jess! We’re looking forward to learning more about you and your books, especially the Mistress Matchmaker series. Let’s begin by exploring more about you.
Jonetta: I understand that you graduated with a Psychology degree but never worked in the field. Did you immediately begin writing or did you first explore other career opportunities?
Jess: I had written a book in college and was much happier doing that. So I began writing full-time less than six months after college (I had a few months in between where I was doing some field work). Writing has always been my “real job” though.
Jonetta: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Many authors talk about having these stories that needed to be told. Was that the case for you?
Jess: My first stories were written when I was a girl and I always wanted to be a writer, though I never thought I would ever do it. I definitely feel driven to tell my stories now and always have multiple ones in my head.
Jonetta: It appears from your website that you used to travel a lot. Did any of your travel experiences find their way into your novels?
Jess: We don’t travel very much anymore, though we used to travel quite a bit. When I travel, it’s usually for fun and I travel far outside of where I write, so I don’t take that into my books much.
Jonetta: I understand you’re a big fan of the MMA! Have you developed any characters based on the men in these competitions?
Jess: My hero in my Regency historical HER NOTORIOUS VISCOUNT (written under my Jenna Petersen name) is an underground fighter and was very much informed by my love of MMA. And I mentioned it a couple of times in my Jesse Petersen zombie books during fights.
Jonetta: You're now self-publishing. What is the single most benefit of doing so at this stage of your career? Do you think you benefited from first having been with an established publisher? Why or why not?
Jess: I actually have my toe in several parts of publishing. I have self-published several projects, but I continue to write for Samhain Publishing (where my Mistress Matchmaker books are published). They are a smaller press not based in New York. My zombie books were done by Orbit, a division of large publisher Hachette and my next urban fantasy series, CLUB MONSTROSITY is from Pocket, a part of Simon and Schuster.
I self-published because I wanted to write books and was between publishers, also it’s a great way to have books out to readers where I charge less and get a much higher royalty. I’m self-publishing the final chapter in my zombie series, THE ZOMBIE WHISPERER at the beginning of the year and wouldn’t rule out doing it with other projects in the future. Having an established audience definitely helps.
Jonetta: What was the biggest influence in your decision to leave the security and resources of a publisher and manage everything on your own?
Jess: Wanting more control over my writing. I liked deciding my release dates, my covers, and getting paid each month. I still think those are great benefits to self-publishing.
Jonetta: If your publisher hadn't requested you do so, would you have released your erotic historicals under a pseudonym? Any plans of ever consolidating them with your historical romances under one name?
Jess: I actually wrote the Jess Michaels erotic romances first, so Jenna Petersen was my second name. They wanted to launch the historical romances in their debut program and I liked keeping the super hot separate. At this point, I have a very established and successful careers in both names, so I don’t see them merging at any point.
Jonetta: I’d like to shift and talk more about your books, specifically your erotic romances. Do you find writing erotica in a historical context to be more challenging than contemporary? Why or why not? Any limitations?
Jess: I’ve only written a couple of contemporary erotic romances, historical is really my first love. I actually like having rules to flout and passions to pursue. In contemporary, the stakes aren’t sometimes as high. Being caught making love could be embarrassing, but not life altering usually. In historical, everything changes.
Jonetta: How would you characterize your erotic romance novels? Is there a common element shared by your heroines? Are you more concerned with the female perspective or is there a balance between the main characters?
Jess: There’s definitely a balance between the male and female points of view (POV). I want my heroes to be as balanced and complete as my heroines. They’re the one the reader is falling in love with. Probably the only common trait between my heroines is that they’re likeable. I like to write women I could be friends with.
Jonetta: What's the biggest challenge in writing erotica? How do you maintain that balance between the sexy moments and the heart of the story?
Jess: It’s all about emotion. The sex will be nothing more than porn if there isn’t an emotional core to the story. That’s the most important thing to me. Then I usually ensure that I also have a sexually driven conflict and the sex scenes become as germane to the story as any other. The reader wants to keep reading, even beyond their titillation.
Jonetta: Are your audiences different for your historical and erotic romance novels?
Jess: There’s a heavy crossover between my romances and my erotic romances. I write in the same time period and the Jenna books have always been pretty hot, though perhaps not quite as explicit or driven by sexual plot points or motivations. Those who like the Jess Michaels books almost always enjoy the Jenna books and vice versa, although there are some who don’t like the explicit language from Jess. But the cross-over is pretty strong.
Jonetta: Do you concern yourself with historical accuracy of the societal norms of the Regency era or do you take liberties? Why the Regency era?
Jess: I’m not an utter purist, but I do my best to maintain the integrity of the period as much as I can. And explain why if I don’t. I love the Regency because it isn’t as stringent as Victorian period (also far less dark). To me, the Regency period feels like a fairytale setting more than any other and I love it.
Jonetta: I’d like to talk more specifically about your Mistress Matchmakers series. How did you conceive the series? Was there a reason you wanted to tell the story of mistresses in this era?
Jess: I have written several mistresses/courtesans over the years. I like a woman who has had some experience, one who isn’t afraid of her sexuality, but perhaps afraid of her feelings. And I actually have been wanting to write this series for several years. My idea of Vivien, a mistress who plays matchmaker between courtesans and those with titles and then suddenly a handful of them start to marry and everything gets very complicated. They were very fun to write and I was happily surprised when the first book in the series, An Introduction To Pleasure, became such a rousing success.
Jonetta: Having read it, I understand why. It is about a heroine, Lysandra, who decides to become a mistress as a last option. However, Mariah, the heroine in the second book, For Desire Alone (released last week) has been a mistress for a few years. What contrasts were you drawing between the two characters? Is one more sympathetic than the other?
Jess: I don’t think I was really drawing contrasts between the characters, just trying to tell their stories. Obviously Lysandra is an innocent and Mariah isn’t, but otherwise they are both strong women, trying to deal with the specifics of their circumstances and falling in love even if they know they shouldn’t. I think they’re both very sympathetic and likeable women.
Jonetta: As I would agree, it appears you accomplished that goal. The men they are matched with seem to have their own tortured pasts. Was that by design?
Jess: I love tortured alpha men. It’s kind of my thing. I’ve written bunches and bunches of them and I like them best
Jonetta: Well, you aimed right at my heart! You use the term “Protectors” for the men with mistresses. Is this something you developed or is it historically accurate?
Jess: It is historically accurate. A man with a mistress was called her “protector.”
Jonetta: The recurring character in the series, Vivien Manning, is a former courtesan who is now a mistress matchmaker. She seems to be a pretty complex woman with her own tangled history. Are we going to learn more about her?
Jess: Her book is the third in the series, Her Perfect Match.
Jonetta: I understand that Her Perfect Match, is the final book in the series, scheduled for release in March. Do you have another series by Jess Michaels in the works? What can you tell us about it?
Jess: My next series is The Pleasure Wars and will be out from Samhain Publishing in Summer and Fall 2013. It’s about a set of warring families, a terrible tragedy and the women and men who are thrown together because of it.
Jonetta: Heroes and heroines thrown together out of conflict…you just hooked me :) . We haven’t talked about your historical romances novels or your Zombie books. What would you like to share about them? Please explain where the Zombie stories come from!!
Jess: My historical romances were all set in the Regency period. Many were published by Avon and there are several that were self-published. You can find information about all of them at www.jennapetersen.com
Jonetta: Your titles are very clever! Are there any other genres you may consider in the future?
Jess: Right now I’m focusing on my contracted works and the projects we’re pitching to publishers. But if I had a great idea and time to write it, I wouldn’t rule anything out really.
Jess, that wraps up our 20 questions. Thank you so much for joining us today so we could get to know you and learn more your books. The second book in the Mistress Matchmaker series, For Desire Alone, is now available just about everywhere. Jess, I’ll let you have the last word.
Thanks so much for having me! I hope if readers pick up For Desire Alone or any of my books, they’ll enjoy them! And they can keep up with me on Facebook, via Twitter (@jennaromance) and on my websites: www.authorjessmichaels.com www.jessepetersen.net or www.jennapetersen.com
You can learn more about the books written by Jess, including those under her pseudonyms, from her website at www.authorjessmichaels.com