Friday, March 6, 2020

Author! Author! Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday when she's at 'ome
Good morning! I haven't done one of my Author! Author! interviews in quite a while, so this morning I'm excited to put aside my banking woes and introduce you to a terrific author of historical mystery (and intrigue), Jess Faraday.

I first became aware of Jess when I read The Affair of the Porcelain Dog (Ira Adler #1) back in 2011. I was immediately struck by her attention to exquisite detail, the refreshing lack of 21st century values and attitudes, and her ability to create memorable, three-dimensional, as in really interesting characters. I was thrilled when Blind Eye Books announced she was doing a new series with them. That series is now the wonderful Simon Pearce Mysteries.

If you're a regular follower of the my blog, you know I like to ask the hard hitting questions of the day. NOT REALLY. I like to ask goofy questions along with the writing questions because, honestly, I think you get a better sense of the person behind the promo machine. ;-)

So without further adieu, Jess Faraday.

JL - Hi Jess! I'm so happy to have you on the blog this morning. Instead of the usual TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, I like to ask authors to describe themselves as if they were characters in a book--except the book is your life story. So give us the book jacket description of the enigmatic émigré Jess Faraday. ;-)

JF - Haha I always feel dorky when I talk about myself, 'cause I'm actually pretty boring. But here goes.

Jess Faraday grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and spent much of her adulthood in Los Angeles. She worked as a high school English teacher, a Russian translator, and a lexicographer before realizing that she always hurried through her work in order to have time to scribble stories at the end of the day. Her first novel, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, was published in 2011, and she hasn't looked back.

She currently lives in Scotland with her family.

JL - I don't think that's so boring--I would kind of give my eye teeth to live in Scotland for a year--HOWEVER I'm disappointed you left out the meeting-a-handsome-and-dangerous-stranger-on-a- train part. But I understand. THEY MAY BE WATCHING. ;-)

What's the last piece of music you listened to? Did you sing along?

JF - The last piece of music I listened to was "Ca Plane Pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand, which people will probably recognize from any number of commercials advertising products to Generation X. I didn't sing along, but I did dance along =)

JL - I love that. :-D So...why historicals? Why mysteries? Why historical mysteries?

JF - It sounds like a cliche, but I've always felt drawn to the 19th century, especially in Britain and the U.S. Writing about it gives me the chance to dwell there for a bit.

My first novel-length scribble was a swords and sorcery story. The problem is, I don't read a lot of S&S. It's not my thing. So that made the job harder, I think, because I hadn't absorbed fantasy authors' techniques and genre conventions like I would have, had I been an avid S&S reader. Mysteries came a lot easier, as I read a lot of them and learned by osmosis what readers and publishers are looking for in that kind of a story.

I also find it fascinating to think about how people went about the business of life, love, making a living, and so on, given different technologies and social systems. It's easy to think that people in the past weren't as intelligent or as reasonable as we are, but given the same knowledge bases, technologies, and cultural influences, I'm pretty sure a lot of "modern" people would do things in similar ways.

JL - That's such a great point. And honestly, I think historical fiction feels most real when the author is able to do what you do so well: capture that universality. That shared humanness. Next hard hitting question:  Moriarity versus Irene Adler. Who takes home the tiara? How about Irene Adler versus Ira Adler?

JF - I think Irene Adler is the more interesting character, at least in the original stories. She's complex and has backstory. Moriarty, on the other hand, is intelligent and evil, but there's not really a lot more character development beyond that. Perhaps that's why recent TV adaptations have tried to flesh that character out a bit more. Moriarty was Holmes's equal, but the only one who ever *truly* got one over on the Great Detective was a woman, and I love that.

JL - I love that too! So tell us, what do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

JF - Beginnings are the best! Bright, shiny new ideas and limitless possibilities!

The middle is the worst, because that's when I start to realize the limitations of the work, and of my ability to produce it.

JL - Oh my God. Truthiness. ;-D Then what do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully realized main characters?

JF - It's important to remember that we're all human underneath our layers of age, gender, sexuality, race, education, class, etc. Instead of writing a character like *you think* this kind of person would act, step into their skin as a human being, and try to honestly assess how *you* would react, given a different set of limitations and privileges. It's difficult, and you won't always succeed. But it's honest, and honesty is paramount.

Also, never, ever, EVER attempt to write in dialect unless it's *your* dialect. Just don't.

JL - Why, Miz Jess, I do declare! Have you ever broken a bone?

JF - Not one of my own!

JL - (Now I wish I'd put in a follow up question. :-D :-D :-D) I'm enjoying reading your blog on your adventures in Bonnie Scotland. What would you say was your biggest misconception of the, er, auld country before you arrived?

JF - Aside from a couple of wonderful visits many years ago, I hadn't really spent a lot of time in Scotland, though I had spent considerable time down south. I won't say I had things wrong, but there were some things that hadn't occurred to me.

First, just because Scotland is (currently) part of the UK doesn't mean that it's the same as England. Culturally, it's quite different. On top of that, there are a number of regional cultures that are equally Scottish, but different from one another. The different waves of people who settled here -- Celts, Vikings, Normans, English, etc. -- have all left impressions that we still feel today. There's a lot of ethnic diversity from waves of people from outside of Europe as well, though, at least in the cities people seem very well integrated and get on very well with one another.

Overall, I would describe people as more community-minded and inclusive than in other places I've lived. Folk are generally kind and helpful, and there's a real effort, systemically, to help people to become and stay involved in society if they want to be. Inclusion of LGBTQ+ folk and racial minorities is also front and center here. There is a strong government campaign promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and racial and religious abuse are punishable by law.

Scotland is also very eco. Edinburgh gets its electricity from recycling food waste, for example. Scotland is also well ahead of the rest of the UK in becoming sustainably-powered and carbon neutral. And woe betide you if someone catches you littering!

On a lighter note, people really do wear kilts. It's mostly for special occasions, but I've also seen older gents walking around in their finery for no reason that I could discern, other than it pleased them to do so. And that makes every day a little brighter, IMO.

JL - I must concur. ;-) Anyway, I was reading an article about how women's sense of identity can be strongly tied to their hair (seriously, I read that) so much so that cutting their hair or drastically changing hair styles can be super stressful. When was the last time you drastically cut or changed your hair?

JF - Haha! About a month ago.

It wasn't intentional.

What I had envisioned was a chin-length angled bob with layers and stacked in the back. I explained this to the 16-year-old apprentice haircutter with the sleeve tattoos and shaved sides of his head. I showed pictures. To which he responded by saying, "You mean like mine?" "No," I said. "Nothing like yours." I showed him some more pictures. However, the idea must have stuck in his mind, because before I could say "Number 5 clipper head," he'd mohawked me on the left side. We both kind of sat there, horrified for a bit, until I said, "Perhaps you could leave it longer on the other side, so I'm not completely bald in the middle of winter." The poor kid glanced around to see if his boss was looking. For a moment I thought he might cry. Then I said, "It's all right. It's only hair. It grows back."  "Really?" he asked. "Really," I said.

JL - hahahahahahahahaaha

JF - In the end, I was mohawked on one side, with a big, layered flop on the other side, and half of a stack in back. It was *a bit* more daring than I would ever have attempted, but I kind of like it now.

I made sure to thank him in front of his boss and give him a tip. When it starts to go shaggy, I'm going back to do it again.

JL - Word to the wise. If your hair person ever says the words FIRE ENGINE RED to you, decline. FORCEFULLY. Like you, Jess, I also tipped GENEROUSLY for the assault. Which I suspect is another feminine trait.

What are you working on now?

JF - Right now I'm struggling with a novel that's a departure in a number of ways.

First, instead of a single first-person point of view, it's 3rd omniscient, with several main characters.

Also, there's an *actual* monster instead of a Scooby-doo type villain who's just after someone's money.

Finally, there are two romances -- a female couple and a male throuple. I've written m/m and f/f, but I've never done a three. It wasn't my intention going in, but sometimes characters *tell* you things. There's also a werewolf, but that isn't the real monster. Ugh.

I used to pretend I was an outliner, but this book has forced me to admit that I'm the pantsiest of pantsers. At least right now.

JL - Oh my gosh. These all sound right up my alley! But it is time now for another hard hitting question of the day. All time favorite dessert. Do you have the recipe?

JF - There was this little Italian restaurant in Pasadena that doesn't exist anymore. They used to serve a martini glass filled with booze-soaked dried fruit, topped with a very small amount of homemade vanilla ice cream that was so rich it was *this* close to being actual butter. That remains my all-time favorite dessert.

JL - Oh. My. Gah. YUM. Describe your writing process. 

JF - Initial rush of enthusiasm.

Scribble out an outline while finishing up the previous project.

Start the new project, realize the outline doesn't work, and pants it for a bit.

Get to about 10K and flail.

Try to outline again.

Rewrite the earlier stuff and flail some more.

Go out for a run.


Maybe start training for a race.

Try the outline again. Flail. Curse my choice of profession.

Pants a bit more and realize this book is AWESOME

Realize it's doomed but try to outline the next section anyway.


JL - LOL. Are you a full-time writer?

JF - Yes. I support myself as a web content writer and editor, while working on fiction as much as I can. It's all freelance, so I have quite a bit of latitude for scheduling.

Little known and highly depressing fact: viral web articles that you know you shouldn't click on but can't help clicking on anyway make literally five or more times more, per word, than painstakingly hand-crafted award-winning fiction. My highest-paid (per-word) piece of writing thus far was entitled "2018's Most Boopable Noses". I wish I was joking. It was a fun article to write, but I ask you.

JL - Yeah, I believe you. A life in the arts is not for the faint of heart. What's out next? Are we going to see more of Simon Pearce? Ira Adler?

JF - On March 10, all of the Simon Pearce stories that were released on KU are coming out in an omnibus in print and all e-book formats. The title is Shadow of Justice. I'd love to write more stories with these characters, but there's nothing contracted yet.

I kind of miss Ira, and have been fiddling with a novella-length book with him.

The next book after Shadow of Justice has the working title "The Fiend in the Fog," but I'm thinking about changing it. It's on schedule for 2021 from Bold Strokes Books. It looks like a monster story on the outside, but is actually about different kinds of relationships and coming to terms with one's own power and responsibility for it (oh GOD that sounds so pretentious. Sorry. But that's really what it's about.)

JL - Well, no, it kind of sounds like an updated approach to Frankenstein. It sounds fascinating. All these projects sound terrific.

Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!

JF -It is impossible to find decent Mexican food in Scotland. Either it's not decent, it's not Mexican, or it's not Food. You can get one, sometimes two, but never all three. Sometimes more than one of these is true. But they try, God bless 'em, they try. And they're not shy with the jalapenos, which *almost* makes up for it. On the other hand, fried halloumi seems to be most restaurants' favorite meat substitute, and how can you go wrong with that?

JL - Having been to Scotland, I can concur--and commiserate. Jess, thank you so much for stopping by the blog. Honestly, I'm a huge fan and wish you every success. Next time you're in LA, let me know, and we'll go find a decent Mexican restaurant. ;-)


  1. I always enjoy the Author Author interviews, especially when it results in a new author on my TBR. Thank you.

  2. I just read The Affair of the Porcelain Dog and am now exploring the other books.

  3. I'll be looking for that Omnibus. Very entertaining interview. Thank you!