Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh interview


Thanks so much for agreeing to get interviewed by me.

How long have you been writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
(Jeanie) I’ve been writing for a long time but it’s always just been meanderings, it wasn’t until my late teens that I started to structure my writing into something understandable.

(Jayha) Since the US makes education compulsory, I’ve been writing since way back. It started off with ‘what I did over summer vacation’ papers and progressed to book reports, then onto history papers and before you know it I was doing thesis papers for professors. I always wanted to do something that gave me unbridled power but right now I don’t have the juice to be like an evil dictator so along with Jeanie we get to create worlds where we can run thingsJ

Who is your target audience?

(Jeanie) I’m unsure if I have one individually, together I think Momma and I are targeting the women out there in the world who have lived/survived/worked it out and those who don’t have a voice, we want to give them one, heck we want to shout out loud for them.

(Jayha) Yeah, what she said…but I’d like to add that we are our target audience being that we write books that first and foremost WE want to read. Until we’re happy with a book it doesn’t go out.

Often a writer’s first book is the toughest to write. Was this true for you? If so, what helped you get through it? If it wasn’t the first, which one was the most difficult to write? The easiest?

(Jeanie) Together our first book involved a whole lot of phone calls and emails – actually so did our last book, we just communicate a whole lot and we keep tempting each other’s reader by sending each other snippets/excerpts of what we’ve written that day, it keeps us on our toes and its entertaining as all get out and to be quite honest I don’t think it could ever be hard to work with Momma. I don’t think it was the most difficult, but with Carolina In The Storming – it was a juggernaut to conceive then to transfer from ideas to the page it was never meant to be easy because for us it was important that we truly realized the characters and the story they wanted us to share, we think we did that and that is once again all down to communication.

(Jayha) what she said…and let me just add these two points. First, we didn’t ever intend to write together. In fact, after getting rejected by EVERYBODY and their momma for Wild, Wild Mess: Atlanta, I was convinced that I was through trying my hand at writing and Jeanie was convinced that no one would want to read her prose (silly, beautiful child). And I honestly don’t recall how we ended up writing that first book…but I’m glad that we did.

When we finished HOT LIKE FIRE: the Taming and Liberation of Mariana, we figured it was a one-time deal. We never intended it to grow into a series or for the series to spawn other series, but alas it did. When we finally realized that we needed a joint website and such, we tried to be all corporate and organized and even purchased a dry erase calendar (both Jeanie and Dréa have dry-erase board fetish) where we scheduled release dates and such. After one month we realized that that was so not for us because we had to write the story that was beating at us, that sung to us, that captured our hearts. The muse has no freaking respect at all for schedules and we (and our moderators and readers) have learned to accept that. Second, before Mr. Me got us a deal with the cable company, our phone calls were running in excess of a thousand dollars per month being that we like to talk stories out.

Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

(Jeanie) Routine is a FOUR letter word for Momma and myself, many different hours of the day could be inspiring for Momma and myself, unfortunately the MUSE is also a four letter word (literally as well! LOL) so whenever he/she decides to inspire us we just have to roll with it.

(Jayha) routine…muse…why are y’all cussing so early in the morning? Smile.

Is there any plot/setting/character that you’re dying to write but haven’t yet?

(Jeanie) Oh Marie-Rochelle, if Momma and I have fifteen hands EACH and numerous PC’s and keyboards we still wouldn’t be able to keep up with the idea’s that we have within us. So in short, YES, YES and YES! J

(Jayha) Yeah, what she said. Y’all just have no idea how many stories are in the works...we just hope y’all jump on the ride with us and ride this baby to the end.

Any advice to aspiring authors? What craft books helped you that you would recommend to aspiring writers?
(Jeanie and Jayha) Every single book someone reads is going to help a fledgling writer to write – every book will have something you love, something you hate, something you want to expand upon this can only exercise one’s imagination.

Decide if you want to write because it’s a passion burning within you or if you want to write for money. If you decide you want to write for money well, there are a whole set of regulations that come with that. If you decide you want to write because you’re your passion, know what YOU want to write. Know what you’re NOT willing to compromise on. Van Gogh didn’t sell one freaking painting during his lifetime but he kept painting and though I don’t care for his technique, I have a whole new respect for the man. It takes passion to create art especially when it doesn’t reward you financially.

What can your fans look forward to from you in the near future? What are you working on now?

(Jeanie and Jayha) We have so many series that we’re really trying to work through because we know and love every single one of our characters and we want them to have the day in the light. Right now we’re working on three different stories (that haven’t been mentioned by us just yet) as well as our individual stories/series.

What does your family think of your writing? Do they read it?

(Jeanie) Our family is slightly bewildered by what we do. I think one of cousins mentioned Danielle Steele back when I first started writing…I don’t talk to that cousin anymore…lol! J

(Jayha) My family is just amazed that I’m not rotting away in foreign prison somewhere…smile.

What do you do to amuse yourself when not working?

(Jeanie and Jayha) Is there ever a time when a writer isn’t working? But seriously, we sit around and plot world domination.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

(Jeanie) I’m the spoiled baby and my Momma and sister’s are the ones that spoil me.

(Jayha) What do you mean by this word ‘spoiling’? I don’t recall spoiling you … at all. So a bit about me…I’m a full-time grad student, I work full-time (third shift) and I’m a full time sh*t starter whose been known on occasion to stagger into work…ON TIME.

What makes a great book to you? Is Happily Ever After an important aspect for you?

(Jeanie) Characters that I can identify with, a storyline that keeps me guessing, hilarity, hot love all wrapped up with a man who loves his woman like every woman needs/wants – COMPLETELY!

Jayha interrupts this question for a soapbox moment.
Although we write books that we hope anyone could get into and enjoy, we know that our biggest audience consists of women of color. Women of color tend to suffer the ills of society disproportionately (rape, poverty, ill health, single parenthood, etc) so the female readers that come to our stories have enough shit in their lives and we want to make our books a refuge of sorts.

Just my opinion but what women DON’T need is to read about more shitty fucking males who do the female wrong and more long-suffering females that allow themselves to enable the male to act like an azzhole or allow themselves to be treated like doormats. Too many women already have the cheating spouse, the deadbeat dad, the boyfriend who beats them, the boss who harasses them because they know that jobs are scarce, money issues, family issues, and a whole host of –isms. Every one of our books will have a HEA because women so desperately need that and women of color and poor white women especially need it.

Just as if you only show a child uneducated, poor role models they often will grow up to think that being uneducated and poor is normative. Too many women have grown up thinking that being treated like shit, being overlooked, being alone is normative and we don’t want that. We want women of all kinds, all sizes, all shades, all backgrounds to realize that they deserve a HEA. And yes, life is hard, no guarantees but for just a little while, in our books life can be a little bit easier, a little bit sweeter.

Do you have any indulgent behaviors? Favorite comfort foods? Favorite bath or body products?

(Jeanie) Coca Cola
(Jayha) sweet iced tea, dessert

(Jeanie) Victoria’s Secret Love Spell
(Jayha) a whole host of Carol’s daughter products

Do you have a favorite music you love to listen to? Least favorite?
(Jeanie) Everything – from Classical Music to Death Metal and everything in between, I’m a weirdo

(Jayha) I’m also a weirdo but I primarily listen to the NFL channel on my satellite radio…I rarely listen to music which is why I don’t know the titles of anything. Still, a few of my all-time fav songs are Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma, This Woman’s Work sung by Maxwell, and of course the MNF Jingle and the Tarheel (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) fight song

You find yourself stranded on a desert island; what things could you not live without?

(Jeanie) Coca Cola, internet connection and my Momma

(Jayha) What Jeanie said except replace the Coca-Cola with sweet iced tea or citrus cooler Gatorade being that I don’t drink soda…also a bridge to another island that had an airport, an ER and a standing army you know, because I have enemies…Also selected members of my family.

1 comment:

Shreeree said...

Even though it was a vicarious journey,(lol) I enjoyed the glimpse into Jeanie's and Jayha's minds. Thank you for the interview Marie and thank you to the wonderful authors Jeanie and Jayha for their open honest answers. Also, for creating female characters that make me proud to be an independently thinking woman.