Author Interview: Jesi Lea Ryan

I am pleased to welcome fellow author Jesi Lea Ryan to my blog today! Jesi Lea Ryan was born and raised in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa. She graduated from Loras College with degrees in Creative Writing and Literature, and is now working on her MBA. She currently lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to her debut novel, Four Thousand Miles, she has published several short stories and maintains a book blog.

[DAVID K. HULEGAARD]: It’s been almost a year since your debut novel, Four Thousand Miles, was published. Looking back on it now, what do you remember the most about that experience?

[JESI LEA RYAN]: I loved the day my book was finally for sale. I had been working on this book for a long time, and to have my family and friends be able to read my work was incredible. I loved going online and seeing it listed for sale. I was such a nerd that I kept going back and looking at the listing!

[DKH]: What prompted you to choose England as the setting for the story? Was it somewhere you’d been personally that stuck with you?

[JLR]: I have always loved English history and culture, but the real inspiration came when I stayed at Elvey Farm in Kent. This place was so beautiful and romantic that I never wanted to go home again. Obviously, it isn’t possible for me to just abandon my life in the States like that, so I did the next best thing. I created a character that spontaneously moved to a B&B in rural Kent.

[DKH]: Did you have to do any extensive research in order to keep your story authentic to the English?

[JLR]: The single most vital thing for me as far as research was actually having visited all of the places in the book in person. I don’t think I would have felt confident to even attempt writing a story set some place without having that first-hand knowledge. In fact, the only place in the book that I haven’t been to was Herrod’s Department Store. I wrestled with whether to include it or not just for that reason. What I ended up doing was watching YouTube videos posted by tourists so I could experience it vicariously.

Other than my personal experiences, I used the internet extensively. Some of my searches involved learning Scottish slang, how to restore a 500 year old barn, and just about every Rob Pattinson interview available on YouTube (He was my inspiration for the character of Gavin.)

[DKH]: Once an idea enters your head, describe your process from conception to publishing.

[JLR]: Writing for me always begins with day dreaming. I have a vivid and emotional imagination. This allows me to visualize scenes, hear the voices, and flesh out details long before I sit down in front of a computer. When I get to the point of writing, I usually have a good idea of who the characters are and what the main action of the story is, even if I don’t quite know how it will end.

With Four Thousand Miles, I attempted to attract an agent for several months with no luck. Then, I decided to pitch my book directly to an editor while at the Romantic Times Convention last summer. Jean Watkins, the editor at DCL Publications liked my idea and offered me a contract. DCL was extremely easy to work with.

[DKH]: In addition to being a writer yourself, you also run a blog featuring other authors and book reviews. Talk a little bit about “Diary of a Bibliophile?”

[JLR]: The blog started because I love to talk with people about the books I read. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who reads as much as I do. I think I average about 150 to 200 books a year. So, I thought I would start doing book reviews. When I started, I didn’t think about the exposure I was giving to the authors, I just did it for fun. After I began promoting my own work, I discovered how important reviews are for authors to sell their work. That’s when I began also posting author interviews. I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog, but I get plenty of hits. I think the lack of comments is more a result of “BloggerFail” than anything else.

[DKH]: Do you feel that it is important for authors to band together and help each other out, or do you tend to view other authors as competition?

[JLR]: It is absolutely important for authors to support each other. When it comes down to it, we are not in competition with each other, at least not in any measurable way. Most readers read many books in a year, not just one. So if they have to choose between two interesting novels, it’s easy for them to go back and pick up the other later. I really think writers need to band together to encourage more reading in general. This will help all of us to sell more books. Not to mention, reading is so beneficial to developing well-rounded people.

[DKH]: Was there any advice in particular that you received prior to writing your first novel that really helped you?

[JLR]: I don’t think I could have got through the publishing process without Twitter. I’m serious. I went into this not even knowing what a query letter was, much less how to write one. Other writers on Twitter have been helpful every step of the way. It also connected me with my writing partner, a few beta readers, many book reviewers, and some local writers. When people tell me they want to begin writing professionally, I always tell them their first step should be to get on Twitter and connect with the writing community.

[DKH]: As a young writer, sometimes dealing with that first negative review can be a crushing blow to your confidence. How did your first negative review impact you?

[JLR]: I have a really thick skin. I was an insurance underwriter for many years. You have to be tough when you are canceling people’s insurance policies. They love to call you up screaming. 🙂

As far as reviews go, my reviews for Four Thousand Miles have been really good. The piece that I’ve had the most difficulty with is a short story that I wrote called Delia Boobelia. Childhood bullying has been in the news a lot this last year. When I was growing up, puberty hit me early and hard. Having an adult body at eleven years old was not only uncomfortable, but I was brutally harassed. I decided to write a story where I took my childhood and exaggerated it in order to show how cruel people can be to these young women. I knew that my topic was controversial, so I didn’t even bother trying to submit it anywhere. Instead I self-published it and crossed my fingers.

As I expected, people either loved it or hated it. I heard from several women who could relate to my character and her plight. Others completely missed the point and had strong negative emotional reactions. I think because I expected this before I put the story out there, the negative reviews didn’t bother me that much.

[DKH]: As if writing and blogging weren’t already time consuming enough, what is your involvement with Miricor Publishing?

[JLR]: Miricor is a side project involving myself and my friend Tori. So many writers want to enter self-publishing, but either don’t know where to start or they make poor decisions which result in bad product. I read a lot of self-published work and honestly, there are some wonderful ideas which fail because the author did not have professional editing. Tori and I want to help writers to self-publish by offering a la carte services such as the editing, proof-reading and formatting help a publisher would give them, but for a fixed price so that the author can maximize their royalties. If anyone is curious about the services we offer, they can check us out at .

[DKH]: So you’re certainly a busy woman these days! What can your readers look forward to up ahead on the writing front?

[JLR]: I just finished a young adult, paranormal romance that I will start shopping out in the next month or so. I also have a couple of romances started that I will be dusting off here soon. I’m also in the home stretch with completing my Masters degree, so I’m sure much of my writing time will be spent on term papers!

Thank you, David for hosting me today!

[DKH]: Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to chat with you!

Buy Jesi Lea Ryan’s books on Kindle or Smashwords

Check out Jesi Lea Ryan’s blog, Diary of a Bibliophile

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