Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview with the amazing Jo Ramsey

 What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Oh...that's a hard question to answer! I loved to read, and almost every book was my favorite at one time or another. Charlotte's Web was one of my favorites in elementary school.

 What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?

As a teen, I had a favorite series, not just one book. I loved the series The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper. Those books are the reason I got into writing YA urban fantasy.

 Cool. When did you discover that you knew how to tell a good story?

I've always enjoyed my own stories, even though when I was young they probably weren't all that good. I started making up stories when I was about two or three, and I would tell them to my parents, my friends, and even my stuffed animals. Whoever I could get to listen. Fortunately, a lot of the adults in my life liked my stories and encouraged me, though they might have been just humoring me.

 How old were you when you started writing fiction?

The first fictional piece I remember writing was a story about a girl named Maria who was sent to live with her uncle. I was five.

 Wow! Did someone encourage you to write?

As I said, a lot of people in my life encouraged me. The biggest encouragement when I was very young came from my kindergarten teacher. I already knew how to read when I started school, and I picked up writing pretty quickly, so she wasn't quite sure what to do with me. As part of my language arts program, to give her time to work with the other students, she started asking me to read some of the books in the classroom and draw pictures about them. Then she started asking me to write stories about the pictures I drew. I loved being able to write stories as part of school.

 Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. Even when I was two or three, I knew I wanted my stories to be in books someday.

 Why do you choose to write fantasy?

I don't write exclusively fantasy, but definitely the majority of my stuff is urban fantasy/paranormal. When I was a kid, I really wanted to get out of my own life. Reading books like the ones by Susan Cooper, Dianna Wynne Jones, and other authors who wrote fantasy were a wonderful escape for me, and when I started writing seriously (when I was about eleven), I wrote stories that took me out of my own life and into some pretty fantastic situations.

I still have a soft spot for stories about "typical" kids who end up in very unusual situations. Like having to save the universe from being vaporized.

 Why do you write for this particular age group?

I started writing for teenagers when I was a teen myself, and I guess I never really matured past that point.

 Tell me about your book. What inspired this particular story?

I have two new releases.

Cluing In came out November 9, and is a contemporary YA novel about Jamey Mandel, a 16-year-old boy who breaks up with his girlfriend Tina when she starts pressuring him for sex. A few weeks later, rumors circulate that Tina is pregnant by her new boyfriend, and she comes to Jamey for help. Jamey turns her away. A few days later, Tina takes her own life, and Jamey blames himself.

I created the character of Jamey when I was in college; he was a baby then, in a story about two teen parents. Somewhere along the line, I wrote a story about Jamey as a teenager. When I polished it up to submit, I was told there were too many subplots, but the one thing that stood out in my mind was a minor mention that a girl Jamey had once dated was pregnant. I scrapped most of the other subplots and that became the main focus of the novel. (Not to worry...the other subplots are going to become their own novels, at my editor's request.)

The other new release, From the Ashes, is book five in my urban fantasy series Reality Shift. Shanna Bailey and Jonah Leighton are two teenagers who use energy healing and channeling (communicating with higher-level beings) to banish demons, send malevolent dead spirits to "the other side," and prevent the universe from being vaporized. In this book, Shanna and Jonah find a "psychic" who isn't what she seems, and who is the next potential portal for the entity that will destroy the universe. Meanwhile, Shanna is getting used to life in her foster home, and is trying to cope with her former next-door neighbor Ken Gallant, who now wants to be her boyfriend.

The series was inspired by some conversations a friend and I had a number of years ago, about things like demons and dead spirits. My friend practiced energy healing, channeling, and yoga, and those became part of the story; Jonah is based on him. Some of the struggles Shanna goes through are from my life.

 Tell me about your writing process. Do you outline? How do you edit, and is there a lot of editing? How do you get feedback? Are you a member of a critique group?

I don't really outline. I do jot down brief notes about where I think the story's going to go, especially if I'm working on a book in one of my series. Sometimes the story ends up somewhere completely different, though. I write fairly clean first drafts, so my editing process is pretty quick. I highlight all my "crutch words", the words and phrases I tend to overuse, and do a first pass where I eliminate as many of those as I can, fix typos, and fix any plot holes or other content issues that I find. Then I do a second pass where I fix anything I've missed the first time. Usually after that, the manuscript is ready to submit. I'm not a member of a critique group and I don't have any beta readers; I don't usually get any feedback until my editor at whichever publishing company I've sent it to sees the manuscript.

 If readers could take away just one thing from your story, what do you want it to be?
That no matter what has happened in their lives, they can still grow and change, they can get help and get past it, and they can go on to do great things.

Cluing In is available from Featherweight Press,

From the Ashes, along with the rest of the Reality Shift series, is available from Jupiter Gardens Press,

To find out more about Jo and her books, please visit her website,


Jo Ramsey said...

Thanks for hosting me, Shevi!

Shevi said...

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Jo! Good luck with your books.