In honor of Read-A-Romance Month and Romance Awareness Month, this August we’ll be sharing the insights of four romance authors who have been navigating the world of the genre and writing all about love in their latest novels. Here, you can read the full interview with Jade Dollston. For her website and social media, see below!
How did you first get into writing romance novels – why romance? Do you have any stories you’d like to share about your initial experiences in this particular genre and how they have influenced your journey going forward?
I’ve always loved to write. My husband has told me for years that I should write a book. I think he meant like a mystery or suspense, so imagine his surprise when a romance novel ended up coming from my fingertips.
What does your writing process typically look like? Where do you gain inspiration from, especially because there is a depth and complexity to these stories that set them apart from traditional conceptions of romance novels?
I’m a chronological writer. I have to do things in order, though if something great pops in my head, I’ll make copious notes about the scene until I can get to it.
Inspiration… gosh, it comes from everywhere. I came up with an entirely new series based on something I saw written on the side of a work truck. (Soooo mysterious, right?)
How much of yourself – if any – do you put into your books?
I think most authors write what we know. Whether I’m thinking, “What would I do in this situation?” or “This character is totally different than me, so what’s the opposite of what I would do here?” there’s something from my own life and experiences in each of my characters.
How do you come up with the names for your characters? What about the titles of your books?
Names – There are times when the characters name themselves. I picture them in my head, and think, “This guy’s name is Axel.” There are other times when I search baby name websites until I find a name that fits with the character in my head. (Due to these searches, Google apparently thinks I’m pregnant and has recommended some excellent prenatal vitamins for me.)
Recently, I searched for “most pretentious names” because that’s what my character needed. (You’ll meet him in an upcoming book.)
Titles – Oh, this is a hard one. Most of my books are part of a series, so the most difficult part is thinking several books ahead. If I name Book One blah blah blah, is there a corresponding title that I can call Book Three or Book Six? Luckily, I have a wonderful group of book friends, and we love to discuss titles, plots, characters, and everything book related. We all brainstorm and help each other out.
How do you approach determining the nature of the plot or the trope(s) that you pursue in a given novel? Do you tend to stick with what is popular among readers or what is trending at the moment? Are there other key decisions at any point in the writing process that you tend to struggle with?
When I wrote my first book, Delay of Game, I had no idea what a trope even was. I simply wrote the story. For my first series, I tried to give each couple a different theme – grumpy/sunshine, cinnamon roll man and a female who is recovering from a tragedy, second chance, enemies-to-lovers, single mom, and age gap. I love reading all tropes; therefore, I also enjoy writing a wide variety of themes.
When writing a novel, how do you decide whether or not it will become a series? Is it sometimes difficult to envision a future for a narrative or characters, or do subsequent books come naturally? Do you plan writing a series in advance/prior to starting the process, or is that a decision that comes later?
My first book was a standalone, but I fell in love with the female main character’s brother and his Navy SEAL buddies. The further I got into the book, the more I felt compelled to give those guys their own series. Three of them are now published, and I’m working on the fourth right now.
I recently had a similar experience when writing a piece for an age gap anthology. The male main character’s family had backstories that were just itching to be told, so it’s a series of four books that I have planned out in my head now.
Sometimes the side characters demand that I tell their stories, and they are the ones in charge. I just live to serve them.
To what extent would you say that writing in this genre is a group effort? Or, how does having a greater network of writers and collaborators benefit your work and help you grow as a writer?
It is one hundred percent a group effort. I mentioned before that I have an amazing group of book friends. They are always willing to let me bounce ideas off them. Since we’re all from different parts of the world, it gives me entirely new perspectives I may not have considered.
Tell me about the impact of events/conventions/etc. in the romance writer community. How have these shaped your experience as a writer? What has your personal experience/take-away been from attending as an author or even as a fan/participant?
I’ve never been to one as an author or a reader, but I will be a signing author at Hot & Steamy New Orleans in September and at Readers Take Denver next spring. I’ll get back to you on this one.
Social media, particularly TikTok in recent years, has played a huge role in book promotion with the advent of “BookTok” and the progression of online fandom activities that have existed for decades. How has social media provided a platform for promoting/marketing your books and creating a fandom space for your novels? Do you have any notable stories in mind about your works going viral or skyrocketing in other ways through TikTok, etc.?
I feel that I’m still pretty new at the whole TikTok thing. I learn something new every day and try to improve my content as I learn. I post on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and I seem to make the most headway on Insta and Facebook. I probably wouldn’t have sold a single book outside of my family if I hadn’t started marketing on social media. It’s definitely an invaluable tool for self-published authors.
That being said, readers are more connected to authors than ever through social media and independent publishing. How do you feel about this sense of connection and attainability? How do fans impact your writing process, whether directly or indirectly? Describe what it’s like having an ARC team, beta team, etc. and being able to receive trusted feedback from your readers.
I absolutely LOVE hearing from fans. Some days, a comment or private message is what keeps me from throwing up my hands and quitting. Seeing their comments about what they like or don’t like certainly impacts what and how I write. For example, my readers seem to love alpha males, so all my male main characters have a bit of alpha in them.
Tank in Devoted Protector is my sweetest man yet. He’s six-foot-eight, kind and gentle, yet he can still let his alpha side come out and play to bring the spice to the bedroom scenes.
My ARC team is amazing! When I was preparing to release my first book, I was shocked when more and more people kept signing up to be on my ARC team. I was even more shocked when they loved the book.
My beta readers help me to breathe life into my stories. Their feedback is invaluable. When they say they like the direction something is going, I know to keep pushing in that direction. When they are less than enthused, I know to take a step back and re-evaluate. I’d just like to say that I hope none of our private chats are ever made public, or we would all probably be arrested – or at least evaluated by mental health professionals.
Do you feel a sense of pressure having a dedicated fanbase who cares about your stories? Discuss any concerns you might have that come with this, especially since sharing your narratives with the world can be an extremely vulnerable exercise.
Oh my gosh! So. Much. Pressure. When people love your characters, it’s the most difficult thing in the world to start writing their stories. What if I disappoint my fans? What if they don’t like the direction this story takes the characters? Are the new characters I’m introducing worthy of the ones my readers already know and love?
I think a lot about the people in my books, and I try to keep the same energy as in previous books while also making sure they have their own individual personalities and storylines.
Although social media has definitely helped to dismantle negative perceptions of romance novels (i.e. views that “they’re not real books”), what is your stance on these sorts of beliefs? How do you think the genre more generally, or your particular niche of romance novels, disproves popular stigmas?
Social media definitely helps, but it’s also refreshing to see romance novels on store shelves in bookstores and even in Target and other department stores. I think the more readers that pick up those books, the more destigmatized the romance genre becomes.
I personally love a good story. I do my best to write books with a compelling plot and I do love throwing in some twists and turns to keep my readers on their toes. While I enjoy writing the spicy stuff, I also adore coming up with backstories and personality traits that make readers really connect with my characters.
How do you curate a cohesive aesthetic and visuals for your stories and series? What about the creation of merchandise that pairs with your stories? What sorts of artists and creatives do you normally have to consult for your vision to be realized?
The written word is so dang powerful. It can take you places you never thought you would go. I’ve learned so much about the world by just researching for my books. Everything from what kind of woods are used to make desks to the types of tiles used in bathrooms.
I’m a visual person, so I look at a lot of pictures when I’m trying to describe a setting. Rooms, gardens, architecture, furnishings, décor, clothing. Sometimes something as simple as a color can spark an idea.
I do extensive searches to familiarize myself with things I’m unfamiliar with, whether it be locations, industries, cultures, or medical conditions. I try and find a variety of people to speak personally with to make sure my writing is truthful and correct.
For example, in the book I just finished, the man is in the fashion industry. I did weeks of research before I ever typed a word. The woman is an accountant, so I spoke with an accountant friend of mine about CPA testing and how she fits into the world of accounting. I have friends who are attorneys and in law enforcement, so I often call them up if I have a procedural or legal question.
I’m also writing a female character who is an amputee, so I’ve spoken with several people regarding how day-to-day life is for them, as well as medical personnel so that I’m accurate from a medical perspective.
So, my answer to forming aesthetics and visuals is RESEARCH! Lots and lots of it.
I’ve worked with two fantastic cover artists who are excellent at taking my spotty vision and turning it into something amazing.
Going off of this, explain the process of seeking out and attaining cover photos/art for your books. What is it like to choose designs and models that best fit your story? Do you find it troublesome finding real people that align with the characters in your mind?
All of my covers so far have featured actual models, so finding just that right person can be difficult. You must match hair and eye colors, body type, as well as their expression. For example, grumpy character can’t have a huge smile on his face.
My author friends and I share the names and websites of photographers, and we spend hours poring over photo after photo to find one that meets all the criteria that we’re looking for in a cover model.
I recently saw an Instagram reel of a model that would be perfect for my upcoming book featuring Bode, something I was struggling with because he has a unique look. I searched the model’s Instagram feed until I found where he tagged a photographer. Then I messaged the photographer, and he luckily had an entire file of pictures of this particular model. I was so happy to find the perfect photo, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
Describe what it’s like to be an independently published novelist. What obstacles have you encountered with this approach? Advantages? How do you handle the “business” aspect of being not only the author, but the publisher and promoter of your stories?
I love having complete creative control over what and when I write. To me, that’s the biggest advantage of being an independently published novelist. I still hold down a full-time job, so there are definite constraints on my time. Though I write every day, it’s nice to only have to meet my own goals and not someone else’s.
The promotion part was something I didn’t expect when I began this writing journey. I thought I would produce the stories, and someone would market and promote them for me. Alas, I was sorely mistaken. I spend at least half of my time on the computer posting on social media sites, trying to get people to notice my books.
But this has actually been a blessing in disguise because I’ve met some of my very best friends through social media posts. These are people I now talk to every single day, and they are a very important part of my life. I’ve even met some of them in person.
So, while most of us grumble and groan that we “just want to write,” the connections we make with each other are invaluable. These people are my book tribe, and they encourage and spark my creativity every time we talk. I would be completely lost without them.
Here’s where you can find Jade Dollston online and learn more about her novels!
Website » www.jadedollston.com
Email » email@example.com
Amazon » Click here!
Facebook » Click here!
Instagram » www.instagram.com/author.jade.dollston
TikTok » firstname.lastname@example.org
Reader Group » Click here!