Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jules Jones ~ The British are coming!

Morning (or evening) to everyone, and thanks to Jeanne for inviting me. Jeanne's suggested that I talk about some of my stories, so I thought I'd do a slightly different version of that old favourite, "where do you get your ideas from?" But if anyone's got general questions or comments about any of my books and stories, go ahead.

I write cross-genre romance, and while I'm published by a romance house (Loose Id), I started on the science fiction and fantasy side. I've been a speculative fiction reader since I was old enough to read, but I got started writing fiction about twelve years ago, when I discovered fanfiction -- specifically, fanfiction for an old sf show on the BBC. It was dark and political and had some fascinating characters and world-building, and it left a lot of loose threads waiting to be picked up by fan writers who wanted to explore that world.
When I started getting ideas for stories with original characters, they were by and large speculative fiction -- science fiction and fantasy. But they were speculative fiction about relationships between people, stories that reflected some of the books I'd loved best as a reader. Not always romantic or sexual relationships, but very much about people learning to make things work between them. So it's not a surprise that the first stories I sold were cross-genre erotic romance, and that's continued to be a strong strand in my output. But as I keep writing, I keep exploring different aspects of my chosen genres. Each book is a learning experience, a chance to develop new skills and techniques.
My books range across a variety of styles of SF&F. The Syndicate, my first full-length book (and Loose Id's first m/m title) is slapstick comedy about geeks in space. It's silly, over the top, and was enormous fun to write. It's also, in the third book in the series, a gay inspirational romance. At the time Alex and I wrote volume 3, theAnglican communion was having a family fight over the acceptance of gay church members, and I wanted to show a future where it was no longer an issue. So there are a lot of anachronistic jokes about potential culture clashes at a mixed Anglican-Methodist wedding, and not a mention of the fact that it's two men getting married.
The Buildup series, Mindscan and Pulling Strings (and maybe one day I'll break the writer's block on the third book) is dark space opera with strong political undertones. It's essentially looking at some of the same themes that attracted me to writing in the first place, only with my own characters and stories rather than with someone else's universe. And, of course, a romantic couple in each book who manage to win their way to an ending that's at least happy for now, with hopefor the future.

I had a change of pace and shift of genre with the Spindrift stories.These books are fantasy, a reworking of British and Irish mythology in a modern setting. I took the legend of the silkies, the fairy people who live as seals but can shed their sealskin to appear human, and wrote a story of silkies in the present day -- a people who are dying out as the magic fades away, but who remain yet, hidden amongst human friends in a Scottish fishing village.

One of the staples of silkie mythology is the silkie woman whose skin is stolen so that she cannot return to seal form, forcing her to remain on land as wife to a human man. But my stranded silkie is a man, his skin stolen in mistake for his sister's, in a community where such theft has not been known in generations; and the refuge he finds while his friends look for his lost skin is with another man, a stranger to the village who finds himself trusted with its greatest secret. On the surface it's lighter in tone than Buildup and much more slice-of-life, and there's a much more unequivocal HEA ending for the central couple, but it's also a look at the problems faced by people who want or need to live in two worlds. You can see a more detailed discussion of where this and some similarly themed short stories came from in a blog post I wrote to answer a piece of fanmail: http://julesjones.livejournal.com/273475.html

I stayed with shapeshifters in a contemporary world when I wrote my next book, Dolphin Dreams, but this was another development in my writing range -- it was the first time I wrote a menage a trois romance. That was an interesting thing to handle, as I needed to develop a balanced relationship where nobody felt like a spare part brought in to make up the numbers. Writing it was also interesting from another perspective, as when I started researching real dolphin biology and social behaviour to do my world-building, I found a lot of nifty stuff that fitted neatly into how I wanted the story to go. Sometimes you get lucky this way, and your research gives you even more ideas for the book.
And after that I moved out of sf&F altogether, with my take on that classic romance plot, the tycoon/secretary. In Lord and Master, my tycoon and secretary are both openly gay men, and with more in common than their gender and sexual orientation. What separates them is a gap in age and experience, the tycoon a self-made millionaire in his forties who's built up his own engineering consultancy firm, his secretary the newly-qualified young scientist he's just hired as his research assistant -- a man much like himself twenty years earlier.

This started as a very short erotica story about a young man who got involved in a friends-with-benefits affair with his older boss, but then fell in love and has no idea if his feelings are reciprocated. But as sometimes happens, I then wanted to write more about the characters -- how they got into that situation, and what happened next. And in the two years the story had been in submission to various anthologies, the UK Civil Partnership legislation had passed through parliament. That was an interesting plot hook to base the story around, all by itself. But I wanted something more for the conflict in the story, and so as I developed the book, something else crept in -- the downside to the creativity that had made Steven successful in business...

The next completely new book I work on will be an urban fantasy. It started as so many of my stories have -- a single scene, a sudden mental image of characters doing something, and the need to know how they got there and what happened next. In this case, a protagonist who has befriended a local homeless man is asked to help a mutual acquaintance who has been badly beaten -- and discovers that the reason they've asked him for help rather than going to the police is that there are dragonfly wings under that long shapeless coat the man always wears. _Someone_ has collared and bound a fairy, in 21st century inner London. I've got about 15,000 words so far, although I set it aside for a while to work on more material in the Lord and Master series.
And that's the theme that runs through much of my writing. It covers a broad range of sub-genres, and more than one genre, but it's largely character-driven. One of my sf writer friends says that writing is chasing your characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them to see what they do -- and that does describe a lot of my writing. I hope it's as interesting to read as it is to write.


Jeanne said...

I am so pleased to have Jules here at The Sweet Flag.
And I have a question:
What was the name of the BBC program?
We folks in America do love our British telly that dribbles over to us via BBCAmerica.

Anonymous said...

This one is 30 years old, and hasn't been repeated on the US for ten years or so. :-) It's not even available on Region 1 DVD because of a rights wrangle, and that rights wrangle is why I'm a bit wary of saying which programme it was. I think the new rights owners have calmed down now, but they did go through a phase of being worried about Unauthorised Fan Activity, and I'm of the school of opinion that it's bad manners to shove fanfic in the face of the rights owners unless you know they're not bothered about it.

My shiny new toy of Torchwood, OTOH, I am quite happy to link to from my pro blog. Because Torchwood is written by fanboys for fanboys (and girls), and I think Russell T Davies would be worried if there wasn't fanfic for it all over the net. :-)

Jeanne said...

Morning, Jules or should I say, Good Afternoon!
I love Torchwood! But then I'm a fan of most of the shows they send over to us on BBCAmerica
We're seeing a show now on BBCA called "Primeval". Not too fond of it. It seems a bit derivative, but then, I like the cute little dinosaur, Rex.
I got hooked on Cash in the Attic. We have a version which seems so tacky over here.
It is interesting how many of us who write m/m stuff started out in fanfic. I know I did with Atonio Banderas movies

Jeanne said...

Jules, this may sound like a weird question but it was prompted by a thread on our LI authors loop.
Did you notice any difference in sales with the cover on Lord and Master? It's very "yaoi" looking as compared with your other covers. We were talking about the impact covers may or may not have on how readers perceive our works.

Jeanne said...

I know it's getting on time for dinner maybe over there...The memory is getting really bad. Please feel free to check back any time between now and next few days to check on comments. I'll be off doing errands until the afternoon, but be back before it's your bedtime!

Anonymous said...

Just got in from work...

I haven't seen Primeval, but I don't watch very much tv, partly because I'm away a lot and I tend not to be able to follow a series in proper order. What I heard about Primeval didn't entice me to try and catch up with it.

I've even missed the last couple of episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures (the Dr Who spinoff aimed at children, but watched by adults as well), and I *like* that. :-/

L&M 1 has sold well and I think is now the third highest sales of my titles (behind Dolphin Dreams and volume 1 of The Syndicate), but it's always difficult to work out what the various factors are, especially as I do vary theme and sub-genre quite a bit. The general trend has been up as Loose Id continues to add readers, so I don't know how much of the sales for L&M1 and DD are simply due to that.

For comparison, Dolphin Dreams, which came out a few weeks later than L&M1 (though it was written earlier), has sold around 10% more copies -- but DD also has a very pretty cover, is m/m/m menage, and has the Cute Overload factor of dolphin shapeshifters. Oh, and it's a D/s romance, which always sells well for me, but then a lot of people have taken L&M for a D/s romance from the title.

However, the sales numbers after two royalty statements on L&M2 are almost exactly the same as at the same time point on L&M1 -- which given that people tend not to buy a sequel unless they already like the series, suggests that either people really liked the first book and ran out to get the next one, or the cover itself is attracting people.

Jeanne said...

Good timing, Jules as I just got back from errands.
I didn't realize you were LI's first m/m title - wow! now, they have pages and pages!
I wrote my first for them this spring and I've found I adore writing these guys.
It still cracks me up to remember that I thought you were a guy! LOL

Ken said...

Firstly, I'll confess I haven't watched Torchwood yet. Perhaps it's from watching so many spinoffs end up lacking the same qualities which I loved in many shows over the years. When I do finally watch it, I know I'll be comparing it to Doctor Who and scrutinizing it heavily. Perhaps because I have this slight crush on David Tennant... LOL

Otherwise, your stories do sound quite engaging and intriguing. Anything either UK-based or of some British/Scottish/Irish content is an instant hit in my book. Perhaps it stems from reading Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle in my youth and growing up watching Lovejoy, All Creatures, and Benny Hill. Perhaps not as fantastical but fodder for an active imagination, indeed.

Yet more works to add to my mounting "to read" list...

Anonymous said...

Ken -- Torchwood is cheesy, over the top and often an utter disaster -- but it's also enormous fun, and when it gets it right it is fantastic. It's also got canonical slash... But no David Tennant, because up until the Who Series 4 finale there's almost no cross-over between the two series other than Captain Jack himself. You can find my episode-by-episode ramblings on my LiveJournal from when I started working my way through the boxset. Must get back to that and finish watching series 1.

Sounds as if you were living somewhere with a good PBS station. :-) I lived in Silicon Valley for several years, moving back to the UK about a year ago, and Other Half and I were fascinated by how much British programming the local PBS stations ran.

If you want to try some of my writing, you can find a few short stories and excerpts from all the longer pieces on my website.

Jeanne said...

Hi Ken!
Glad you stopped by. You must try "Torchwood" or go to the website. If you want to get a new crush, you can't miss with John Barrowman. Gorgeous and gay (or bi- not sure?) ;~D
Has a very decent voice and does Broadway musicals. Of course, he does have a partner, but you can dream...

Jeanne said...

Jules, I have to leave now and if I'm correct, it's getting pretty late where you are, too!
Time to make my famous cheesey mashed potatoes for the dh's supper.
Please stop by and see if we have some late posters.
Thanks again for sharing your world with us!

Jeanne said...

Posting this for my fellow LSB author, Savanna Kougar
Jules, thanks for sharing your books and your inspiration as an author. Those scenes that just show up and demand a story, I know them well.
Sometimes, it is like that with characters. Chasing them, throwing the plot at them, or the villain, and seeing what's next, how they respond.