I’d like to introduce my readers to Jade Kerrion, award-winning author of the science fiction series Double Helix as well the Life Shocks romance series, among other work. I had the fortune of being featured alongside Ms. Kerrion in the Prometheus Saga anthology along with other authors in the Alvarium Experiment group. I was impressed by Jade’s professional approach to her writing, and was curious to know more about her work and how she operates. So without further ado, let’s all get to know her a little better.
Let us know a little about your journey to become a writer. Your biography is an interesting one. What is it that compelled you to pursue writing instead of other profitable ventures in your fields of study?
Kerrion: I actually work full-time in corporate America and write on the side. I wish it were the case that my income from writing is large enough and stable enough to support my family, but we’re not quite there yet. My journey as a writer meandered through the realm of fan fiction. I spent many years in my twenties and early thirties playing computer games, and I wrote fan fiction about my characters and picked up quite a following in the process. In 2010, my husband suggested I start writing books I could actually sell. He started me down the path as an author.
Having a supportive spouse is a definite plus in a profession that can be rather solitary. Let’s talk genres. You write both science fiction and romance novels, often intertwining the two. What’s your favorite genre to write, and why?
Kerrion: I started out in science fiction, and it’s still where I’m most comfortable. Civilization is so much more likely to teeter on the edge of collapse in a science fiction novel, and oh, isn’t that fun? Romances are rarely (literally) earth-shattering. There is romance in my science fiction novels, and it is of the sort that frames and defines the protagonists and wins the day, but it would be stretch to call the books science fiction romance novels, not when the bedroom scenes are (at most) a short paragraph.
I also write contemporary romance, and that was much more of an experiment. Instead of dabbling in a small category (futuristic superhero / genetic engineering thrillers) in a small genre (science fiction), what if I decided to play in the biggest category (contemporary) of the biggest genre (romance?) So far, the experiment is going well. I’ve had some romance readers cross over to my science fiction work, and it’s hugely gratifying when they love my science fiction novels as much as my romances.
Always nice to have readers take a chance on another genre. Your Double Helix series features characters with various abilities. If you could have a single ability from your novels, what would it be?
Kerrion: Oh, so hard to choose! The abilities in the Double Helix series are primarily psychic in their abilities – telepathic, telekinetic, empathic, and pre-cognitive. Telepathy would be awesome, but pre-cognition would probably keep me from stepping on Lego pieces on the dark. It would be cool to have telekinesis and pick up the room without getting up from my chair. Never mind saving the world. I’d need all these abilities to keep my house from falling apart. I can’t choose. I want them all!
I completely understand! I don’t think I’d like to know what’s on other people’s minds, but being telekinetic would be a blast, admittedly for most of the wrong reasons. Getting back to writing: seeing as how you’re very prolific, you’ve created many different characters. Do you have a favorite one to write?
Kerrion: One of my favorites is Zara Itani, the lead female character from the Double Helix series. Impulsive and fiercely loyal, she’s an assassin with a brazen disregard for human life (other than the fact that blood stains both carpet and marble, and she’s tired of getting her floors replaced.) Ironically, she falls in love with an alpha empath, Danyael Sabre, who is both a doctor and a healer. Her talent for dealing death is matched only by his compassion for saving lives. Her passion for living counters his trained reclusiveness. As individuals, they’re amazing, but they are made better by being a couple deeply in love. Although they’ll never see eye-to-eye, they’re perfect for each other.
The epitome of opposites attracting. With so many novels under your belt, how do you keep your writing and characters fresh?
Kerrion: It’s not easy, and it’s harder, I think, in romance than in science fiction because romance readers have been trained to quickly identify tropes (e.g., friends to lovers, second chances, mistaken identity, secret baby.) In the end, it comes down to the characters. Are they so vivid that they are real to the readers? It’s more than just presenting a balanced character, one with strengths and weaknesses. It’s about that something more than makes a character memorable. For Danyael, it’s his compassion and courage in the face of impossible odds. For Zara, it’s her talent for finding and escalating trouble; she can turn a passing summer squall into a hurricane. It’s whatever keeps that character alive in the reader’s thoughts long after they’ve closed the book.
Let’s talk more about your romance titles. Your novels are described as ‘sweet and sexy contemporary’ romances. Erotica has leaped into the mainstream with the success of 50 Shades of Grey. Did you personally feel any pressure to ‘go there’ as an author? What’s your viewpoint on where to, or if to, limit yourself as a writer of romance?
Kerrion: I grew up reading Nora Roberts, who sits somewhere between sweet and sexy, and although I’ve read erotica, I’ve found writing it incredibly challenging. My background is science fiction; I was trained to create tension and conflict through the plot. To me, bedroom scenes aren’t about tension or conflict (unless the couple is fighting,) Sex scenes are typically a culmination of a thread in the story – a virtual check mark, so to speak – and I’m usually chafing at the bit when writing those scenes, trying to move on to the escalation of the conflict, not of the sex. Consequently, I’ve tended towards sweet romances (where sex happens off-screen) because they allow me to write the story instead of the sex. Sex scenes are, by the way, highly technical. It’s basically an action scene, with more attention paid to limb placement than any self-respecting action-adventure flick would care to worry about. For example, if he holds her here with his right hand, what is his left hand doing? And where are her hands? What’s she doing with her legs? Where are his legs? What kind of sheets are they on—are they cool or do they chafe? Goodness—the details. It’s a lot easier to just close the door and leave it to the reader’s imagination.
Especially when reader’s imaginations can be so vivid, no doubt. Looking at your body of work, you’ve been successful at series writing. What is the hardest part about writing them?
Kerrion: Keeping it fresh, and more importantly, knowing where, when, and how to end. It’s natural to fall in love with the characters and to want to keep the story going and going, but as Death (in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series) says, “It always ends; that’s what gives it value.” The ending is as important as the beginning. In the Double Helix series, Danyael and Zara’s story are pretty much at an end. They may show up as supporting characters as other characters come to the fore, but they’ve achieved their happy ending (and it only took hundreds of thousands of words…)
What’s coming up next for readers of your work?
Kerrion: Fans of the Double Helix series can expect to see more Double Helix Case Files (standalone stories featuring Zara’s mercenaries) and a Galahad trilogy. Fans of the alphabetical Life Shocks Romances series still have a long way to go before we reach letter Z, so hang in there.
Questions on the Industry
Tell us a bit about your publishing journey, and the pros and cons of your choice of publishing.
Kerrion: I chose self-publishing. It’s the perfect path for someone who is a little (okay, a lot) of a control freak. I love controlling my content and my timelines. That said, self-publishing isn’t for the faint-of-heart. The self-publisher is a business owner, and with it comes all the responsibilities of forecasting and driving sales, managing inventory, reducing costs while maintaining quality, hiring and working with contractors (e.g., cover artists, editors, etc,) managing morale (especially your own), defining the market/audience, and reaching it through marketing and advertising. As a self-publisher, you’re much more than just a writer, and it takes time away from writing.
I definitely understand the notion. Your books have won several awards. Do you actively pursue such contests? Also, what benefits have you enjoyed from such recognition?
Kerrion: I submitted my debut novel to several contests and landed up winning six literary awards. From a marketing perspective, I believe that the awards help in lieu of a USA Today or New York Times best-selling author status. In many cases, the award is a stamp of quality that says someone else thought the book was worth reading. These contests can get expensive, though, and it’s worth being picky about which contests will provide the desired level of recognition. In addition, some contests provide reviews and/or critique as an added benefit, and those are especially valuable.
Do you think there’s a different perception of female writers in the science fiction/ fantasy genre, or has the playing field been leveled?
Kerrion: Progress is never quite as quick as we would like it to be, and I think it’s unlikely that society will attain a state of true gender neutrality with regard to perception of skill or right to belong—not in the workplace, not in the board room, and not in science fiction/fantasy, at least not for a good long while. Nevertheless, conscious effort has been made to encourage female talent to participate and to be visible, and it’s a necessary step toward creating an environment that is about one’s skill in story-telling, and not the name that appears on the cover.
Well said. You have had great success in your writing endeavors. Do you follow a particular plan for promoting and marketing your books?
Kerrion: I’m still very much a newbie when it comes to promoting and marketing. I’ve tried several things, including going through Kindle Select for free/discounted days. Right now, I’m working hard on building a mailing list so that my marketing isn’t dependent on Facebook or any other social media site being gracious enough to display my content. To build my list, I utilize a “permafree” strategy, i.e., offering a prequel novella free, and then following up with an offer to readers to join my mailing list and receive the first book in the series free. Once they’re on my mailing list, I’m able to market the other books in the series to them and inform them of new releases.
What’s your view of the future of publishing? Do you see self-publishing eventually taking over, or will the best option be a hybrid approach like many authors enjoy?
Kerrion: I don’t think the big publishers are going to disappear. The simple fact is that it takes money to make money, and big publishers are able to front large marketing costs in exchange for large sales—something that the indie authors may find harder to do. I hope to explore a hybrid approach now that I have built something of a name and an audience as an author. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Any advice for up and coming writers?
Kerrion: Don’t give up. It’s said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert. That’s five years of full-time work; longer if you’re doing it on the side. Be patient with yourself. The path to becoming a good writer is intended to be a lifelong path. Invest the time—learn the skills of writing, and if desired of publishing and marketing (make that 30,000 hours. Invest in yourself.
Sound advice. Thanks for taking the time to share some of your experiences.
Those interested in finding out more about Jade Kerrion can check out her work, sign up for her newsletter, and score free books at her website. Be sure to check it out.
My name is Bard Constantine, and if you’re reading this you already know that Bard Writes Books.