Author’s Spotlight: Jessica Russell Interview

Jessica Russell, author of Hot Winter Sun.

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Jesse Broadt, but I use a pen name, Jessica Russell. I live on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach SC, although I’m not originally from here.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I have been a professional web content writer for approximately 16 years, but last year I published my first novel-length work of fiction, Hot Winter Sun. It is a murder mystery-romance that is set against the backdrop of the English Civil War and is very rich in history.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

The main character is Catherine Trefelner, who was raised in a radically Puritan home but nevertheless marries into a Royalist household. She is well educated but poor, which makes her feel caught between two worlds. She is a woman of strong character, but is sometimes too trusting. Catherine is not the typical female heroine in a historical fiction novel. Rather than a larger-than-life character, she has a calm and quiet demeanor and is a thinker as opposed to someone who acts and reacts based on emotion. This gives her a mysterious quality that attracts and intrigues certain people.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The most difficult scene to write was probably the one involving the death of one of the main characters. To get it right, I pretended it was one of my own family members and that’s probably something I could never bear to do again, but it did make the grief very realistic.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I initially had the interest of a traditional publisher, but because my story is meaty rather than fleshy, there was some conflict. I didn’t want to sacrifice the subplot and the historical dialogue for endless pages of cheesy sex scenes. I branched out on my own and found an excellent press for independent authors, where I keep 100% of my royalties and my book is made available not just on Amazon, but on a dozen other major retail sites for books. I just couldn’t sacrifice what I knew was a great story and multidimensional characters for the sake of cheap scenes that add little or nothing to the book.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Prior to publishing I thought that writing a book was the most difficult part. However, I learned that in reality, the hardest part of the journey is all the work that comes AFTER you’re published. Advertising and promoting are ongoing tasks that you have to do on a continuous basis after your book is on the market. So while the writing of a novel eventually comes to an end, the marketing never does. And it is definitely like another full-time job! I would advise other writers to map out a strategic plan for marketing that is both affordable and realistic.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I am currently writing a sequel to Hot Winter Sun, which will feature Catherine’s daughter as the heroin. I am hoping to do several more after that featuring the next generations.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

My favorite writers include iconic historical fiction authors such as Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Belva Plain.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Amazon ads, podcasts and book signings have given me the best return for my advertising dollars so far.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I think all writing styles have their place and there’s definitely a market for almost any approach, but I find it irritating when authors take three pages to say what could be said in three sentences. For example: “I got up, I got dressed, I went to the kitchen, I turned the coffee pot on, I waited for the coffee to brew, I drank the coffee, I put the cup in the sink, I got my coat on, I went out the door and went for a jog”. Why not just say: “I got up, had some coffee and went jogging”?

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I always read book reviews, and fortunately I haven’t gotten any truly negative reviews yet. Of course, that day will come as it does for all of us, but looking at it objectively helps. Sometimes people have a good point with their criticism of a book, while other times they simply aren’t connecting with what the author meant to say in his or her story.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I definitely always have a plot in mind, but if the story begins to take me in another direction, I follow. I don’t typically play music when I’m writing.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

The best advice I’ve been given with regard to creative writing is that you can’t always follow “rules”, such as “always begin your subplot in the fourth chapter,” “never open a scene with weather,” “don’t use ‘smiling’ words,” etc. I have found that these things typically only matter to editors. Readers, on the other hand, just want a good story. They don’t care if a person is smiling when they say something or if you mention the weather or what chapter your subplot started in as long as it makes sense. (They usually don’t notice whether or not you used the Oxford comma either. LOL) The best advice I would give to new writers is don’t give your books away for free! People don’t value something that they don’t have to pay for. New writers frequently fall into this trap. They run around offering their book to everybody for free, thinking that if people read it they will realise how wonderful it is and tell everyone else and eventually they will hit the big time. In reality, free books typically end up on a pile somewhere and never get read at all. People are far more apt to read a book they spent money on than something someone gave them for free. It makes the writer seem desperate.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am currently working on the sequel to Hot Winter Sun.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

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