Continuing the conversation with independent author J. M. Gregoire:
VAH: When did you decide you were a writer?
JMG: I have always written, as far back as I can remember, but the day I considered myself a writer for the first time was after I read the first review of Burning, the short story prequel to my Demon Legacy series. That was the day I realized that I may actually have something. Up until that point, although I enjoyed doing it, writing was just a form of art to me. The problem with art is it’s very personal. You create something out of nothing, and you love it to the core with every fiber of your being, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is going to think anything of it. I have a poem I wrote years ago, and I still it love to this day. When I read it, it transports me back to a certain point in time and I adore that feeling. However, I would never consider calling myself a poet. That just happened to be the art which came out on that particular day. Poetry is all about intense emotion and very often, it’s born of a sadness of some sort. I don’t have that in me. I am too much of an optimist. However, I have always been a storyteller. When I started to create the Demon Legacy world, I still wasn’t convinced I was a writer. It took someone else calling me a writer for me to realize it. Now I feel it in everything I do.
VAH: As an independently published author what is your best advice for emerging writers?
JMG: First, read a lot and write every day even if you only write a few sentences. Not to compare your work to others, but to learn from other styles. Reading lots of different styles will help you develop your own unique style.
Second, be humble and accept constructive criticism when you ask for it. If you ask for someone’s opinion, and you’re only asking so someone will pat you on the back and tell you how good and smart you are, you’re going to be very angry and highly disappointed when they actually come back with suggestions. This is something which some authors never learn, and it’s the worst mistake of their career.
Third, NEVER STOP BEING A FAN. The second you stop getting stupid excited about writing, not just your own, is the day it starts to become a chore. Get out and meet the authors you have fangirled or fanboyed over for years. Get so excited and nervous that your stomach turns. When you stop getting that feeling, I guarantee you will miss it like you’ve never missed anything in your life. Admiring another author feels just as good as being admired. I think a lot of writers forget to keep being a nerd for writing and I find that very sad.
Fourth, learn the ropes of publishing a book BEFORE you hit publish. Use betas. Use editors. Use proofreaders. Have a cover professionally made by someone who knows what they’re doing. Polish your book until you think it can’t possibly shine any brighter. THEN PUBLISH. There’s absolutely no reason to rush the process.
VAH: What are your thoughts on studying writing?
JMG: I don’t have a MFA in writing. I don’t think you need one to be a writer. However, it certainly couldn’t hurt. I can honestly say I don’t know a single reader who goes out and checks the collegiate history of an author before or after they’ve read one of their books. I think if you’re a writer, you’re a writer. It’s not something which can be taught, simply because creativity is either in you or it’s not. That being said, I feel studying writing is good for a writer in the technical sense. Higher learning is always a good thing. I think it is just a matter of how you apply it. Now, in my genre (urban fantasy and paranormal romance), it’s not “necessary” to have a masters in writing as the genre itself tends to be written in a way which sounds more like one person telling another person a story in every day conversation. Twist that same line of thinking into something like literary fiction and you’ll probably find the majority of LitFic authors are in possession of some sort of writing degree. Not to point fingers or anything, but there’s a reason a lot of LitFic authors look down on genre fiction authors. I look at it this way – everyone from all different walks of life love to read and the reader themselves shouldn’t need a degree to be able to enjoy reading a book. I think that is the mindset which most genre fiction is written from. So, is it worthwhile? Of course!! Is it necessary to be a successful writer? I think that depends on the tone and genre of your writing.
VAH: Do you have a favorite conference or writing retreat/seminar?
JMG: I have only done a few cons so far, but the one I am really excited about is The Novel Experience Event in Las Vegas in April 2015. That one is going to have 500 authors and 5 days of fun! I can’t wait!
VAH: Are you a full-time writer and if not, what is the job that sustains you so you may write?
JMG: Unfortunately, I am not a full-time writer yet. For now, my day job is working at a major financial services company. I answer internal employee Help Desk calls all day. It may sound tedious, but I love it. I am able to drink all the coffee my body can handle, and most of the time, I am strapped into my iPod with either a podcast playing or an audiobook playing. For someone who loves audiobooks, and I totally do (narrators are rock stars in my world), it’s a dream job. It’s low stress and I am able to write all day long between calls. Plus, I have a group of “fans” at work that follow my writing which is kind of fun.
J.M. Gregoire was born and raised in New Hampshire, USA, and despite her abhorrence for any season that dares to drop to a temperature below seventy degrees, she still currently resides there with her two children and her two cats. Always a passionate reader, her love of urban fantasy books eventually morphed into a love of writing them. She is currently working on the Demon Legacy series, and has a spin off series, the Killer Instinct series, coming soon.