Interview With Author Jami Gray

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I write in both Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, and all my series tend to center around stubborn, strong-willed characters as I’m a firm believer that you have two choices when life starts putting you through the wringer, stand up or fall down. My women (and men) tend to stand up, even if they’re weaving on their feet, faces bruised and battered.

I wrote my first series in my favorite genre to read, Urban Fantasy. The Kyn Kronicles take place in world much like ours, except the fragile curtain that separates the monsters from the humans is starting to fray, which is where Raine McCord, the monster other monsters fear, comes in. My second series is paranormal romance that centers around a group of ex-military psychics known as the PSY-IV Teams. My third series is a bit different as it veers into a post-apocalyptic future where civilization is crawling back from near ruin and humanity fights to hold on to their new reality. It focuses on a band of vigilantes known as Fate’s Vultures, who think the future is worth fighting for, so they stands as shields for those without.

What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

I hit on writing after being adopted at the age of fourteen, my state mandated therapist suggested I keep a journal. Funny thing, it got boring so instead I started creating stories and characters that were much more interesting than reality at the time. I started writing fiction in earnest as a freshman in high school. Back in the dark ages, typing on an actual typewriter was a required class. My parents had invested in an electric typewriter so the six of us in high school could practice our typing skills. Needless to say, I would hover over siblings until they finished then I would commandeer the typewriter for my own nefarious purposes. By the time I began to pack for college at eighteen, I had almost 200 pages of YA fantasy novel done. And no, it will never, ever, see the light of day again. After that, writing was something I had to do.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I wish I could share some profound inspiration for the Kyn, but yeah…no. I always knew magic would be a key component of my world crafting.

One of the greatest mind benders for me has always been how would our world react to the existence of magic? How well could the everyday populace handle the reality of werewolves, vamps, necromancers, demons, witches, and every other story ever told? And because life has a darker side and the Grimm Brothers never met Walt Disney, what would those in power do to harness such abilities for their own advantages? So I knew Raine McCord, my main character for Shadow’s Edge, had to be intimately acquainted with the pros and cons of the reality of magic. She’s part of the magical world, but thanks to some human scientists who just couldn’t resist playing god, she’s a bit more than even she expects.

As for the PSY-IV Teams: I’ve always been fascinated by the arena of psychic abilities, plus I may have a teeny-tiny bit of a conspiracy theorist residing in a small dark corner. I read a great deal outside of fiction, and one particular book, THE SEARCH FOR THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE by John D. Marks, which follows the history of behavioral science and the CIA, helped sparked the idea. After finishing that book, I moved on to THE PSYCHOPATH NEXT DOOR. Um, yeah, my research library of non-fiction titles would be scary to an outsider.

When it came to Fate’s Vultures, I’ve always loved the what if possibilities of civilization collapsing, so setting a romantic suspense story against that backdrop just added to the overall thrill of the story. Humanity’s survival instinct means that your world can fall to pieces—emotionally and/or physically—and still we find the strength to stand up and keep going. That would be the definition of a survivor, and this series pays homage to that spirit.

How do you deal with creative block?

I always hit a block when writing. Doesn’t matter if I write by the seat of my pants or plot the bugger out, sooner or later (probably sooner) I hit a point where I think, “For crimney’s sake, can’t we just get along!”. Normally it hits in the first third of the story, probably because the characters and I are trying to get to know each other. Plus, as an avid reader, the stories I enjoy most are the ones I’m unable to set down, because turning the next page is vitally necessary to find out what’s going on. To achieve that result sometimes requires rewriting certain scenes until it clicks, either by changing the point of view or the voice. Unfortunately, it means what you thought would happen, doesn’t. In the end, the key to shoving your way through is to keep writing because somewhere in what you get down, will be that sneaky little piece that pulls it all together.

How has your creation process improved over time?

I started out as what’s called a “pantser”, where you write by the seat of your pants. Through the course of my career, that’s morphed into some plotting so now I’m a combo pantser/plotter. Instead of free wheelin’ it down the creative road, I now have to use major road signs: Next Left-Heroine gets attacked, Hero and Heroine find themselves in dire straits for next 5 miles, Warning- Manic Villain ahead. What happens between those points, well that’s more like I’m driving with my eyes closed and using my knee to steer as I throw my hands up and go “WHEEE!” It’s a frightening way to write, but I’ve found it works best for me. The more I outlined a plot, the farther away from it I went. My characters want to make their own stories, so I let them.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Generally the opening chapter is actually the easiest for me to put to paper. For me, I can get an opening scene stuck in my head for weeks before I actually write it. I mentally write and re-write the first scene and as I tweak it, I start to plot out the rest of the story. However, the first few sentences take a bit to get just right. You don’t want to lose readers from the start, so a compelling first chapter is huge.

The hardest part of story is a toss-up between the middle and towards the end. Pacing is vitally important to any story, so you don’t want to lose steam in the middle. You actually want to push the tension higher. Which isn’t always easy because your characters are begging for a break, but you’re a cruel creator so you make them continue on, facing more and more challenges. The end presents it’s own set of hurdles. You want to make sure you’ve tied up your various plot threads, gotten your characters where they need to be, and keep your readers on edge, but you don’t want to rush it. It’s such a delicate balance, I tend to slow down towards the end so I don’t miss something.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

I think emotions are key to creativity. They help inspire your story and your characters. If you don’t feel for something or someone, there’s no reason to tell the story. Which also means some of the more emotional scenes are difficult to write, only because to do justice to why a character reacts, they way they do, without providing an easy emotional out, is tricky business. Anger’s a great emotion but can be overused. Fear, even in the strongest person, can be the most corrosive. Love can cut both ways on the good/evil spectrum. But emotions are the core of who we are, and why we choose to act the way we do to any given situation. They are the core of my characters and scraping through those emotions aren’t just painful for my character, they’re painful to write.

What are your plans for future books?

  • I have at least one more in the Kyn series to tie up the initial arc, but will probably go back with some spin off series.
  • I’m working on PSY-IV Teams’ #6 and there will be two more after.
  • I have a new Urban Fantasy series I’d like to start in there somewhere…

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

  • I’m a total klutz. My superpower is falling upstairs. No lie.
  • I’m the fifth eldest of what would eventually total 37 children (Think adoption, not natural methods as that would tire out any dedicated couple. And yes, I’ve heard ALLLLLL the jokes.)
  • I ended up with three tier list of minors—History, English, Theatre—before I finished my Bachelor’s in Journalism, but managed to stay on task for my Master’s degree.
  • Coffee is an essential food group, right next to chocolate.
  • Adopted two female labs to balance out the gender scales in my family and to off-set the gamer/geek domination in the household. With the dogos, I have a way to drag my boys (including my Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor) outside where the light, and I quote, “it blinds!”.

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