# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m Amber Jakeman and I love to write “#uplit.” In an age when non-stop tragic news depletes our reserves of optimism, I crave the uplifting escapism of feel-good fiction. There’s real power in a “happy for now” ending.
In my early career as a “hard news” journalist, I wondered why good news rarely featured. Humans have told stories around campfires since the beginning of time. Fairy tale endings feed the soul and remind us of the heroes inside us all.
Writing fiction satisfies my hunger to share good news stories; to acknowledge the deep challenges of a quest, but most importantly, to see the characters triumph. I’m hooked on the high notes of victory.
My House of Jewels series follows the romantic fortunes of the extended Huntley family—Australian jewelers with interests in France and the US and an ordeal or four to overcome in their professional and personal lives.
In House of Diamonds, handsome James Huntley III clashes with newbie jeweler Stella Rhys who sets up her stall directly outside his store. Both face financial challenges and lacklustre love lives. Sparkles fly when she steals his PR limelight, but wait till she steals his heart!
In House of Hearts, James’s younger brother Will picks up a gambling habit on the French Riviera and then becomes addicted to his Vegas therapist. Their passion is curbed by the two-year client therapist dating ban. Will is a rule breaker, but does he really want to ruin Lisa’s career? What does it take to be lucky in love?
House of Spades pits serial single Flame Rhys against widower Ross Archer when she trespasses on his farm; and love might just call on widow Cynthia Huntley for a second time in House of Clubs, set in the south of France.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
As a journalist, I was fortunate to glimpse many predicaments and their solutions while interviewing people from all walks of life. I learned to ask questions about extremes, to draw out quotes about the worst and the best of the experiences of others.
Subsequent work as a professional communicator for universities, government and schools offered further insight, as did raising a family.
I’m grateful for a childhood spent in Australia and the US (in Texas, Minnesota and Michigan), and to have family in California, all of which offer fresh perspectives, including those of an outsider.
The opportunity to make jewelry in a high school class in Michigan may well have sparked the House of Jewels series and some of the details readers enjoy in House of Diamonds, while a job helping publicise the great work of gambling addiction therapists inspired House of Hearts.
Cultural norms may be universal or arbitrary. Human behaviour is infinite in its diversity, and in fiction, absolutely anything goes.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Anything and everything can inspire a story or scene—from snatches of overheard conversation and a glimpsed exchange in a busy street, to tiny details on community noticeboards.
Writing is sedentary, so I make sure to take a daily walk and keep my eyes open.
Museums, libraries and art galleries are treasure troves that help add rich layers to any story, often in greater depth than the internet can provide.
Markets are jumping with stories. Every object has a past. An old silver teapot with an inscription sparked my historical novel Amulet, for example.
# How do you deal with creative block?
Finding time to write is a far greater challenge for me than creative block. As an enthusiastic member of the #5amwritersclub, I love watching the sun rise as I unleash words without interruption.
If lacking ideas, often extra research or a conversation with friends or family will spark inspiration. Once, my daughter offered to give one of my characters a Tarot reading! This exercise injected so many fresh ideas I’ve used the technique again for a different character, again with helpful results.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
In my case, passive characters and too much “pantsing” (letting the story happen, ie writing by the seat of your pants, rather than planning and plotting in advance) left me with five unfinished novels!
While I love to witness stories emerging by themselves, I’ve had to learn to create more complex characters and to pit them against each other to engender the kind of conflict which drives a story forward.
Plotting too far ahead kills my interest, but I now try to look at the story as a whole and discern a basic structure and the major transformational character arcs.
The learning curve continues. It’s part of the neverending fascination with the creative process of capturing and sharing a tale with words.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I write down as much as I can about each character, then imagine the scenes when they meet each other.
I describe these scenes in brief and save them in roughly the right sequence as they come to me, then fill them out in ever greater detail when time permits.
Often I review and reposition the scenes as I race towards establishing the whole backbone of a book.
My books usually end up on the floor as different colored Post-it Notes! Each character has a different colour, helping allocate POV (point of view).
Revealing the back story without info dumping is always challenging, so I begin the Post-It Notes well before the inciting incident (when the characters first clash), and feed in these details later, often with the help of a conversation with a new minor character, such as an old friend or family member.
I’m always on the lookout for new techniques to try.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
Without doubt, the best part of completing a book is sharing it and receiving positive feedback. I really want readers to feel the same joy of discovery I experienced when creating them.
The worst thing is realising that writing the books isn’t sufficient. Easily as much work goes into finding readers for them!
Like most writers, I am an introvert. “Look at me” and “read my book” are the hardest few words for us to say, and yet they are essential.
So here we go… NFReads, by reaching out to writers like me you demonstrate that you are a real life hero, a dream come true, creating genuine uplifting endings for writers!
I could not be more grateful to you and to the other reviewers and bookstagrammers out there (true angels and heroes) who help bring our works to readers through unexpected publicity. #gratitude
As for surprises, how extraordinary is the subconscious, providing plot hole solutions from nowhere!
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
There are so many genre preferences out there that I can’t hope to “serve” every reader, except by being true to the stories I want to tell.
Even naming my genre remains difficult. While on the surface my books might be classified as romance (on the sweet, clean and wholesome side rather than spicy, steamy or erotic) a number of men who would never voluntarily read romance have described them as “pageturners” and told me they’ve really enjoyed the emotional journey they offer.
I love it that we can break down reader stereotypes in reality in the same ways as we are broadening character behaviour in fiction, welcoming diversity.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
The deeper the pain, the greater the joy.
I believe that emotional rollercoasters create the most interesting ride for readers.
Through art, music and literature we reach out and comfort each other across time and space.
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
To add authenticity, I search the internet for images, or listen to music to create more of a mood. Research always fuels more ideas.
The next trick is to pull back on the research quickly enough to actually get on with writing the book!
# What are your plans for future books?
When I’m done with the House of Jewels series, I would love to collaborate with more Australian First Nations people (#ownvoices) to finish my historical novel about two school children whose forbidden friendship divides an Australian frontier community in the early 1900s. It’s based on a true story.
Part of the fascination with writing is we don’t know what might emerge next.