Welcome back for our first interview of April! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Serena Jayne. Serena is the author of Kiss Me Dead along with numerous short stories, and she’s also a frequent reviewer and incredible supporter of her fellow writers.
Recently, Serena and I discussed her new book as well as her inspiration and her future writing plans.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
Reading has always been a passion for me. I dreamed of becoming a writer, but pursued science, while taking every single writing class offered in college. After a few years doing laboratory work, I turned my focus to technical writing and eventually management. By 2009, I was burned out. After too many moments like the one in Eat Pray Love where Elizabeth Gilbert describes sobbing and lamenting the course of her life on her bathroom floor at three AM, I knew I needed to make some changes. With a new determination to follow my dreams, I sought out online writing communities, joined the Romance Writers of America, and enrolled in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. I met a bunch of phenomenally talented people whose belief in me helped me foster belief in myself.
Some of my favorite authors include Jim Butcher, Laurel K. Hamilton, Randall Silvis, Kresley Cole, Don Winslow, Rainbow Rowell, Blake Crouch, and Sara Wolf. I loved your short story collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and your novel, The Rust Maidens. Your other works are at the top of my To-Be-Read list.
Congratulations on your new book, Kiss Me Dead! What was the inspiration behind this story?
I took an outstanding intensive course on using tarot cards in writing taught by Devon Ellington. I drew the death card for my protagonist and my reaper hero was born. My draw for the story included a number of major arcana cards, including the magician, the star, and the hanged man. I expanded the story by adding in elements from Greek Mythology and Death’s personal assistant.
I absolutely love Matt Andrew’s art for your cover! What can you tell us about how that cover artwork developed?
As a huge fan of Matt’s art and writing, I was thrilled when he agreed to do the cover. His attention to detail makes his work shine. We both love retro-style pinups and his vision brought the elements of horror and romance together in a fun and sexy way. He absolutely captured the heart of the story with his stunning artwork. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Your work spans numerous genres, including horror, dark fantasy, noir, mystery, and romance. Do you have different approaches to a story depending on which genre you’re writing?
The genres tend to put me in different emotional headspaces. With romance, I know the main characters are going to end up in a good place. With noir, horror and other dark genres, happy ever afters aren’t necessarily in the cards. One of my professors at Seton Hill taught me that paranormal/dark romance is a subgenre of horror. Everything is connected and life is a mix of all the things—and I want to write about them all.
With all my stories, I tend to come up with the situation or the protagonist or some other seed and let it stew in my mind until I know enough to get started. My process tends to be different depending on the length of the piece, rather than on the genre. For shorter works, I’ll brainstorm a bit and then get writing. With longer works, I need to plot more. It’s not enough to have a beginning and end. I need a more detailed map or else I tend to get lost. My go to move when I am stuck is to hop in the shower. There’s nothing like some hot water and suds to get my subconscious cooking.
Reviews are crucial to me, both as a reader and as an author. I’ve one-clicked books based on reviews or recommendations from friends. Book seller algorithms make books with numerous reviews easier to discover. A friend got me hooked on NetGalley. Advanced reader copies are the best. I wouldn’t say it’s changed the way I write fiction, but becoming a reviewer has taught me the importance of blurbs. When I find a book on NetGalley that looks interesting, if the blurb doesn’t grab me, I won’t request it.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process: crafting dialogue, developing characters, or creating a sense of setting?
My favorite part of the writing process is developing characters and those precious ah-ha moments when things start to gel. I’ve found each story to be unique. Some are easier to write, while others need to be scraped out of my brain and heart in tiny, bloody chunks.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on several horror short stories and a noir novel. There’s a romantic comedy novel series featuring generation-X characters bouncing around in my brain. I’m hoping to get the first installment written this year, while I’m submitting my thesis, an urban fantasy novel, to publishers. I haven’t published anything 20,000 words or longer yet. I’m hoping to change that soon.