Jayde Scott is a widely published fiction and non-fiction author who is enjoying success in the YA genre. Her novel ‘A Job From Hell’ is a paranormal story that is highly readable and elegantly and tensely written. As an author she creates strong characters and delivers a narrative that manages to unsettle. Her latest novel ‘Beelzebub Girl’ is out now and it is the second book in the paranormal series ‘Ancient Legends’.
She met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about E books and fantasy.
Young Adult literature is enjoying widespread commercial success. Why do you think this is and what drew you to writing it?
I attribute YA literature’s current appeal and commercial success partly to Twilight. Obviously, Stephenie Meyer wasn’t the first author to write a teen book with crossover appeal and market it well, but she was the first one to write a teen book that catered to a broad audience by turning adult elements, such as a broader context than just school and teenage love, into an easy read. Adult fiction has become too targeting in the sense that there are too many similarities and cliches in books across one genre because genre boundaries aren’t crossed. In Young Adult literature, authors and readers find more room for experimentation. Genres are often combined, and that makes both reading and writing YA more fun. Before A JOB FROM HELL, I actually never figured I was a YA writer at heart. It only occurred to me after an editor made me aware that the manuscript didn’t belong in her adult urban fantasy slush pile. Her elaborate email made sense to me and everything clicked into place. So, writing YA literature wasn’t really a conscious decision.
What were you writing before then?
As a teen, I used to write poetry and song lyrics in the hope of becoming a poet one day. Needless to say, one’s career prospects as a poet aren’t very promising, so I moved on to fantasy. I was inspired by Norse and Greek mythology and kept starting new projects based on ideas and characters in my head, but never really finished anything because I didn’t take writing seriously. People kept telling me to focus on obtaining a degree first and get a proper job, so I ended up putting off writing fiction for a few years, and only started again at twenty-four when I joined critiquecircle.com. It took me about a year to complete my first novel, a paranormal thriller, which is gathering virtual dust now. I guess every writer needs that first bad book to help them learn the craft, establish their style and their preferred genre, and realise a thick skin is a must-have in the publishing industry. In the last few years, I’ve been going back and forth between women’s fiction and fantasy, and have just started pitching my first completed women’s fiction novel, The Divorce Club, to potential publishers.
What do you think are the advantages to the author of the e book as opposed to the traditional paperback and do you think there is a future for the printed book?
The advantages are endless. For one, starting costs such as printing and distribution are almost non-existent. Considering that many authors decide to self-publish just to see their name in print, not having to pay hundreds or thousands, like it used to be the case a few years ago, is fantastic. Another advantage is that everyone can publish their book since e publishing completely eliminates the need for an agent or publisher, meaning readers get greater variety, a chance to try new talent and more choice. With many indie books flooding the market, readers also experience a drop in prices. Nowadays, one can get a bestseller for just $0.99. Isn’t that unheard of? The probably biggest advantage is being able to maintain titles on sale for as long as one wants because there is absolutely no paper printing or physical storage involved. And designing one’s own cover art and book trailer is a bonus too. Being my own boss in the design process is probably my favourite part of e publishing.
Whether there’s a future for print books is questionable. I think in the next ten years there will still be a demand, but it will gradually decline. Everyone’s so open to new technologies nowadays that it’s only a matter of time until eBooks take over. As an environmentalist, I’m all for saving trees and keeping our world green, and hope many people will embrace this development.
Do you think it is possible to write a made for film novel and if so what ingredients do you think it has to have?
Yes, it’s definitely possible. Obviously, the techniques of movie making aren’t the same as novel writing, but I dare say most writers pen a novel in the aim that it might be turned into a movie one day since film adaptations are all the rage right now. So they pay attention to the types of details and scenes that build the core of a good script. A first example that comes to mind is Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice. That book has ‘made for film novel’ written all over it due to its originality, creativity and general appeal, but also its clear plotline that is easy to follow.
The right ingredients depend on genre, subject and target audience, but I guess drama, a conflict that is new and different and can keep the audience’s attention, and a love interest are the three key elements that can be found in any novel to film adaptation. Another ingredient would be a plot that is not too complex and layered with too many subplots or characters so it can be oversimplified without losing its appeal.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that all books could make a great movie. But I do believe that contemporary literature has a stronger focus on clear plot elements and a faster pace than a century ago, meaning that many new novels would make an excellent movie if pitched to the right target audience.
Who are your literary influences?
I’ve always been a huge Tolkien fan and consider The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be the most spectacular works of fiction in history. It’s not the content or messages as much as the writing style and Tolkien’s ability to convey a sense of reality through his fantastic description. Tolkien’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but to me he was a literary genius and one of the most talented writers of our time. I used to study Tolkien’s long passages of description and wish I could put my thoughts into words like he did. Whenever I write a difficult scene, I tend to grab one of his books to flick through, and I find it helps me focus every time.
Another influence is Anne Rice. I just love everything about the way she writes, the way she can send shivers down my spine. Thanks to her, vampires will always be beautiful and terrible at the same time, dangerous beings who seek companions to share their century old knowledge and understanding of the world, beings who will see their transformation as a curse rather than as a blessing to elude mortality. This notion together with a tendency toward description and bringing in a darker side of beauty is something that I very much see in my own writing.
Would you describe yourself as a romantic and what do you think distinguishes good romantic literature from the cliched?
Well, it depends on one’s definition of romantic. I don’t dream of a white wedding and of a knight in shining armour. However, like every woman out there, I do like the odd romantic gesture, like a flower bouquet and gifts, to make me feel special. Who wouldn’t like a bit of attention? But I wouldn’t call myself overly romantic with a fairy-tale attitude toward relationships and a prospective partner, which I think I convey in my writing. My heroines are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Finding love along the way with a down-to-earth guy who loves and respects them is just a bonus and usually builds the backdrop to a story, which focuses on the heroine’s personal journey and other elements.
I like to read all kinds of romance from Jane Austen to Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts. I draw the line at Barbara Cartland. Not that she was any less talented than other romance writers out there. In fact, I think that lady had an amazing imagination, but I prefer romance intertwined with a bit of mystery so that the romance part is not overly pronounced.
I’m not going to slag off clichéd romance novels because for many women they fulfil a certain role and purpose in life. Besides, I believe all romantic literature uses some cliché, such as the evil ex, a big misunderstanding between the main protagonist and her love interest which ultimately leads to drama and a series of disastrous events, and probably the most common, the naïve heroine. The romance market, be it paranormal, young adult etc., is extremely crowded, and we’ve probably read it all before, meaning clichés are hard to avoid since romantic literature is all about love and relationships, but it’s how the protagonists get there that makes a reader root for them. So, what distinguishes good romantic literature from the clichéd is not avoiding clichés altogether but coming up with new perspectives and twists to give the book a refreshing angle and voice.
Rosemary Jackson in ‘Fantasy The Literature Of Subversion’ writes ‘The fantasy of vampirism is generated at the moment of maximum social repression: on the eve of marriage (a similar balance is established in Frankenstein, when the monster murders Elizabeth on the wedding night). It introduces all that is kept in the dark…’. What do you think that good horror literature brings to light in terms of what is repressed during the day?
I see the role of horror literature partly as an enlightening one because it focuses on making readers aware of topics such as death and, indirectly, growing old, which are seen as taboo and are often not discussed in our society. Particularly death is a topic we tend to push to the back of our minds because it emphasizes the fact that physical existence has a shelf life. Since mortality plays a huge part in any horror novel, the fantasy of vampirism tries to provide a solution to the fear of growing old and ceasing to exist.
Of course, anything that is dark in nature is mysterious and fascinating, appealing to us depending on our personality traits such as openness for experience. I see horror literature as a means of sensation seeking, hence a way of tension-creation to help us escape the mundanity of everyday life, particularly when we repress our need to be different and settle down for what we have.
One could argue that horror literature also mirrors repressed emotions and forbidden desires, but without the necessary empirical evidence, this theory remains philosophical.
Graham Greene once said that all writers have a piece of ice in their hearts. What do you make of his observation?
I do agree with one of the greatest writers of all times and his observations on emotional investment as a writer. Even though it’s not scientifically proven or backed up by personality research, there has to be some truth to it. We authors can detach ourselves for the sake of our writing, be it when we observe events, or when it comes to the actual writing process and creating characters and situations. I believe writers’ detachment is particularly prevalent in authors who write about difficult topics that require strong emotional investment such as crime fiction and drama where one can get very close to a character and then might end up causing them quite a bit of pain, which may trigger an inner conflict. Without some sort of defense mechanism, authors would probably suffer psychological damage when getting too close to a character or situation. When I started writing I used to be obsessed with some of my fictional characters, and still tend to dream about them when I’m really into a scene and story, but it’s getting better. So, some authors coping better than others might be due to individual differences, or a form of learned attitude. Either way, it certainly exists.
How much do you think the average reader likes to be frightened and why?
Well, it depends on the genre. Readers of horror literature and thrillers will probably be more keen on frightening elements than those of chick-lit. I’m someone who’s easily scared, so I’ll say a bit of a scare makes for an interesting, memorable read but anything that induces nightmares is too much. Of course, what some might find scary, others won’t. But, as said, it all depends on the genre and individual differences in taste.
Amber keeps hanging on to her cheating ex throughout the book and doesn’t want to give Aidan a chance. Why?
That’s actually a hint at the dynamics of abusive relationships. It’s something a great number of people will go through in their lives, and can take the form of physical, emotional or verbal abuse. In psychology, it’s well known that victims often find it hard to disentangle themselves emotionally because their self-esteem and confidence have been shattered and now they’re emotionally dependent on their abuser and don’t know how to break free from that vicious circle. I really wanted to incorporate that psychological angle into my writing and give Amber a bit of emotional baggage to struggle with because it’s such a common phenomenon, and one that is socially misunderstood and regarded as inconsequential.
The ex Cameron’s the abuser and cheater. He’s insecure, hence the need to boast and prove his worth by ridiculing Amber, and so he projects that insecurity on his relationship with Amber, making her doubt her self-worth. Throughout the book, there are several hints at Amber’s non-existent confidence, but Aidan’s commitment and loving attitude help her heal. People like Amber are emotionally scarred and find it very hard to trust. They also criticize themselves and feel inferior to others.
I hope this angle of the story will help young people, who suffer some sort of abuse, recognise patterns and habits in their own relationships in order to find the strength to break free.
Thank you Jayde for giving an insightful and fluent interview.
Jayde Scott’s website is here.