Today we’re honored to have as guests on the blog the wonderful and exciting writing team Jamie Craig. Jamie Craig has only been in existence for 2-1/2 years but during that short period of time has published an astonishing number of books and amassed an incredible fan base. Writers Pepper Espinoza and Vivien Dean who make up the writing team are well known in their own right, having produced several very popular books before the partnership (and they are still writing under their individual names), but when they teamed up they hit the jackpot, their popularity entered the stratosphere and fans of Jamie Craig couldn’t be more thrilled.
Welcome ladies and thank you for joining us today. What can you tell us about Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza, the brains behind Jamie Craig?
There’s two of us? Sometimes we wonder, lol. Well, we met in late 2005, though we had known of each other and shared mutual friends through fandom for years before that. In a lot of ways, we’re as different as night and day. Pepper is from Utah, just completed her Master’s degree in literature, is happy just to have her two cats and her husband (sometimes in that order), and prefers to write character-driven stories. Vivien has never managed to stay in a single address for longer than two years, got her degree in film though she’s a frustrated actress at heart, is a stay-at-home mom, and prefers to write plot-driven stories. But the differences are superficial. We have the same work ethic, a lot of the same ideals, and realized early on we simply understood each other.
You decided to write as Jamie Craig in March, 2006 – 2 1/2 years ago. How is writing as a partnership different from your separate writing careers and how do you decide on your stories?
In some ways, it’s not very different at all. We were both highly productive before hooking up together, and the energy we have together only increases that. If anything is different, it’s that given the choice, Pepper will almost always choose the character-driven story first while Vivien will choose the plot-driven one. Pepper is much more comfortable just writing and seeing where the story goes, while Vivien gets nervous without an outline. Deciding on our stories usually stems from one of us being inspired by a picture or a word or a scene. She shares that with the other, we brainstorm for maybe half an hour, and the rest of it just falls into place. Sometimes it explodes. The Master books started from a single desire to write an alley sex scene with an alpha male.
You have very busy single writing careers. Pepper you have just released Peanut Butter Kisses and If All The Sand Were Pearl which is reviewed here. Vivien, your most recent books are Walk Among Us (reviewed here) and Blood of Souls and Jamie Craig has recently published a contemporary romance, An Innocent Proposition as well as No Fear in Love that is also reviewed on the blog . How do you find the time to write stories under your own name and how do you decide which stories should be written as Jamie Craig?
Pepper and I agreed early on that what we wanted most was to make writing a career. Careers require a commitment of time and effort. So we treat it like that. On top of our everyday responsibilities, we commit to working on writing stuff – which means writing, editing, promo, etc. – 60 hours a week or more. It’s not always together. Vivien is up earlier because of her kids, while Pepper stays up later in the evening. Some of that time is taken up with tasks that don’t require the both of us. Determining what stories are Jamie Craig titles and which ones are solo titles is actually pretty easy. Different things inspire us, and we’ve gotten to the point now where we know what will work better as a solo project.
You write a number of different romance genres. How would you categorize your writing?
We don’t. We write romance. Full stop. We’re more interested in the emotions than the body parts. We don’t limit ourselves on genre because honestly, the characters dictate what the story will be. We’re just serving the characters.
The Master Chronicles
Most writers have a story arc and decide in the very beginning how many books will be in a series before they wrap it up. Sometimes authors keep writing and realize too late that they should have ended a series 2 books earlier because they have run out of good plots (present company excepted, of course *g*). Your very popular BDSM/Vampire series The Master Chronicles is now at Book VII – A Renaissance in Blood, plus a prequel At the Advent of Dusk, with Book VIII scheduled to be published shortly. Could you tell the fans how many more books you plan for this series before you call it a day?
There are 10 novels total planned, and then one novella. Our estimate from the beginning was 9 novels, but book 7 got too big for its breeches and we had to split it up into 2 somehow.
One question that has come up periodically from fans in discussion forums is why did you change this paranormal/BDSM series from M/M to a menage? I read the first 2 books Master of Obsidian and Unveiled but when I recognized the direction in which the series was going I stopped following it because I wanted Gideon and Jesse to be together without a third in the relationship. So, why did you change the genre or had you decided originally that it was going to be a threesome?
It was always meant to be a threesome series. The menage was meant to be more firmly grown in the second, Unveiled, but we realized early on in writing it that it wasn’t going to do any of it justice by rushing them along. Emma serves a very definite function within the relationship, one we knew we wanted from the start. But we had to get Gideon and Jesse together in Master first. One thing people don’t realize, though, is that not all the books are menage. Emma is a definite player in 3 (Mosaic Moon), 4 (Seduction in Black and White), and 6 (Dominion), but she’s minor in 5 (Chaos & Communion), and not present at all in books 7-9. The core throughout all of the books is Jesse. It’s his story that ultimately gets told in all these.
Book VIII in The Master Chronicles, The Age of Retribution, will be released when? Could you give us the 30 second pitch for the book? How is this story different from the others?
It’s coming out in November; that’s the best we can say. Jesse had a major upheaval in his very existence in A Renaissance in Blood. Everything he knew and was is now different. The Age of Retribution starts immediately after the end of book 7, and tracks Jesse and Gideon as they work on the dilemma of how to keep Foster from killing Jesse, Dominique’s custody, and Emma’s reopened case. What makes it different from the others is that, for the first time, Jesse and Gideon are on the exact same playing field. In fact, in some ways, Jesse is the one with power. This one focuses more on how they find a new balance, how Jesse can resolve his new strength with his need for Gideon’s mastery, and how Gideon comes to grips with this new dynamic.
You are one of the few writers or writing teams that can write a successful vampire series with a LOT of blood and guts. I expect vampire books to be very dark and have a great deal of blood and violence and quite frankly I enjoy that aspect of the genre, but you seem to have ramped it up in these books. Did you make a decision initially about that particular content in the books?
Neither one of us is fond of defanged vampires. For us, what’s the point of having a vampire who’s not scary and bloody and dark? Toss in Jesse’s masochistic streak and the levels in the series were pretty much inevitable. Both of us were steeped in the horror genre long before we started writing romance. If a creature is evil and violent, sugarcoating that doesn’t do anybody any favors.
Your other series, Calendar Boys, is also extremely popular and I personally love the stories which are very diverse and I will miss them. How did you come up with the idea in the first place? I assume that this series will end with the December book? Do you have anything special planned for the final story?
This one is Vivien’s fault, lol. We had been writing a lot of het stories, and not very much gay at all. Vivien called Pepper out of the blue – she was in the car with her family driving home from the movie theater, actually – and announced she wanted to write more gay romances and she had an idea for the series. It exploded from that. As for the final story, we went back to the beginning. December is about Michael and Tre from January’s installment, and it’s a sweet, fluffy, very happy Christmas story. We liked the idea of coming full circle. But, this isn’t quite the end. There were a number of pairings that we thought, “You know, their story isn’t over.” So we’re planning sequels for 4 of the Calendar Boys stories, probably novel-length, to come out in 2009 – April’s Nick and Jay, June’s Levi and Andrew, August’s Aaron and Xander, and October’s Darren and Aden.
How many books have you published as Jamie Craig and what is your most successful to date in terms of sales?
As of the end of October, we’ve published 40 stories. Most successful? Well, we have to exclude Chasing Silver because we have zero idea how that has done number wise. One of the not-so-joys of the print world. But amongst the rest, it’s probably a three-way race between Master of Obsidian, Trinity Broken, and Brindisi Bedfellows. There are a number of stories close to those, however, and some of them, it’s hard for us to gauge because we don’t always get numbers from other retailers like Fictionwise and All-Romance-ebooks until months and months after the fact.
With your extensive experience as authors, what advice would you give aspiring and new writers?
The two most important pieces of advice we follow are oldies but goodies. First, a writer writes, always. If you want to be a writer, you must make time on a daily basis. Even if you only get 500 words done a day, it’s better than nothing. Second, once you have completed and submitted a book, you start a new, better book. That means you’ve got to learn from your previous mistakes, target weakness, and always be too busy to worry about rejections and the other low points of this crazy business.
Another guiding principle is to remember that writing is a business. You can’t take anything that happens personally. Rejections are not commentary on you as a person, it’s a purely business decision. Acceptances do not validate you as a person, either. It means you wrote a book that could make some money for the publisher. Don’t lose sight of that!
Can you tell us one fun fact about Vivien and Pepper that no one knows? :)
Pepper is completely obsessed with Cary Grant. And don’t ask her about Randolph Scott. You’ll probably get the “ohmigod, their love is so hot” speech. Vivien just got her second guitar, an electric to go along with her acoustic, because her guitar lessons are one of the highlights of her week.
Thank you Vivien and Pepper for being such wonderful guests and we really hate to see you go. This has been very revealing in terms of your partnership and how you collaborate as well as what’s upcoming for your extremely popular series The Master Chronicles and Calendar Boys. I know I speak for other fans of Calendar Boys when I say that the news of 4 new books next year will help us deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Fans of The Master Chronicles will be pleased to learn that there will be 3 more books in the series after A Renaissance in Blood which has just been released. I will definitely be re-reading the first two books in the series and will be getting other books I haven’t read to get back in touch with Jesse and Gideon since I love their characters so much. I will be posting my review of Calendar Boys October: Trick of Silver, which I really loved, in a day or so – I, personally, am having major withdrawal at the thought that this series is ending and I can’t wait for the four new books that will be coming out next year.
It’s been a real pleasure having you both on the blog and I want to express my thanks again for the time you spent answering all of my questions. I really appreciate it.
And that’s a wrap!
Jamie Craig’s contact information
Jamie Craig’s Backlist
Jamie’s Craig’s backlist is so extensive that it might be better for you to log on to their website at http://www.jamie-craig.com/