Interview with Joy Jarrett
by Sherry Perkins
About Joy Jarrett
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — interviewing authors is my favorite part of the Paranormal Romance Guild. The authors are fun and fascinating, just like the books they write. Joy Jarrett is no exception. She’s been to veterinary school (there’s a bit of a story there), likes a good, scary romance and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to writing or getting your books in front of readers! If you want to know more, here are the questions we asked of Joy:
- “A scary good romance,” is a phrase used to describe your novel, “Old Cravings.” It’s a blend between two book genres — a little romance and a lot of horror. What made you decide to blend the two? How did you balance the romance with the horror?
I do read romance, but without some exciting twist, I can easily get bored. I love romantic suspense, and often find myself wishing that the threat to the couple was something supernatural. This differentiates me a little from more traditional paranormal romances. Rather than the characters being part of the paranormal world, the paranormal invades my characters’ normal world. This is the difference between fantasy and horror. As an example, a traditional paranormal romance might be about two werewolves in opposing packs that fall in love, and that’s a fantasy world. I’d be more likely to write about a couple falling in love that discovers werewolves are attacking people in their town and have to save everyone—and that’s more horror. I looked at all the books I enjoy reading and realized it was a lot of thrillers. I hope I’ve created a supernatural thriller romance with Old Cravings. I could never find anything to read like that and really wished I could. So I wrote my own. I don’t want to be horrified when I read or watch movies, but I do want to be scared. (Think Stranger Things) I decided my paranormal romances would be scary books—fun horror that doesn’t cross too much into the horrifying. I think both horror and romance ask the same question though: Will they/won’t they survive? Either as a couple, or literally survive and there’s so much tension there. I balanced the romance in Old Cravings by making sure the supernatural threat to Piper and Dylan forced them together and made them reevaluate their relationship. And without giving too much away, in the end you’ll see the supernatural threat occurred because of their relationship.
- I understand you enjoy playing board games. What’s your favorite? Have any of the game strategies helped you with your writing or life in general?
I love Settlers of Catan and Agricola. My kids enjoy these games as well and I’ve always thought how good it is for them to think strategically and how that can translate to planning skills in life. I hadn’t really thought about how game strategies could help with my writing, but that’s an interesting question. I think strategy games like the two I mentioned could definitely help with writing and life in general, because both of them involve thinking ahead and coming up with a lot of contingencies. These kinds of games force you to be flexible when another player thwarts your next move, and so often, characters thwart a writer’s next move by taking on a life of their own in a story. It’s good to be able to think of alternative twists and plot trajectories when writing a book—or in life—because things rarely go to plan.
- It seems you’ve spent a good deal of time with animals, working in a pet store, a safari park and a veterinarian hospital, plus you have a degree in zoology. Did this help you to develop the main character, Piper, in “Old Cravings”? On a related note, is your main character semi-biographical or purely imagination?
I did go to veterinary school in Scotland for a short time before deciding against being a vet. I’ve always been fascinated by veterinary medicine and the career, even if I decided it wasn’t for me in the end. It takes a special kind of person to be able to balance the medical side, entrepreneurial aspect of running your own business, and helping both animals and humans. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of euthanasia involved in being a veterinarian, which is something I ultimately didn’t want to do. That takes a tough blend of being compassionate and thick-skinned, and that makes for an interesting type of character for stories. Working in various animal settings certainly helped me write Piper’s character. I wouldn’t say Piper is autobiographical though—other than us both attending UC Davis.
- You’ve travelled to Britain, visited some castles and other interesting sites. Is there a future story in there somewhere?
There are already several stories there that I’ve written! I absolutely love visiting castles and manors in the UK and have been lucky enough to stay in several castles and historic homes over the years. I’ve written two Scottish contemporary romances as part of a series set in a castle hotel that was partially inspired by my stays in three different castles in Scotland. I hope to publish those soon. I’ve also written another scary good romance style book set in an English castle with a safari park, which was inspired by one of my favorite places in England, Longleat. It’s a 500-year-old Elizabethan manor with an amazing drive-through safari park. Since I also interned in a safari park in Oregon years ago, I combined the two settings—with a supernatural twist, of course.
- Also, you’ve been a librarian. Wearing your librarian’s hat, do you have any advice for new writers, marketing or developing a fan base?
I work part-time as a school librarian and in a public library. Working in libraries has certainly shown me that people pick up a book based on the cover. I notice people making their selections in the new book display, and they tend to pick up the colorful covers first. Then I see them read the back cover. It’s shown me that the cover gets someone’s attention first, and the jacket blurb cements their decision whether or not to read that book. Also, the decision is typically very fast. So those pieces are critical. You get maybe thirty seconds to impress someone.
Once someone actually reads your book, you can hopefully develop fans, and that’s how you get more readers. I can’t say I know exactly how to grow that fan base, but I do know the one unforgivable sin an author can commit is to write a boring book. People read to be entertained and/or to make them think differently about the world. When someone tells me they didn’t like a book, the number one reason is that it was too slow or too much work to read.
I’m surprised how often people come into the library and immediately ask for reading suggestions without even browsing first. Even with libraries being free and presenting no financial cost, books still represent a big investment of time, and no one wants to waste theirs on a dud book. People are eager for recommendations and will listen to librarians or friends and family. If you can grow a rabid fan base for your story, they’ll hopefully talk up your book to everyone they know. It’s rare someone doesn’t take a book recommendation because everyone is always happy to get ideas for their next read!
FOLLOW Joy Jarrett ON THESE LINKS: