Welcome to Rita’s Bower where readers gather to meet our favorite or soon-to-be favorite authors while sipping delicious drinks and savoring decadent treats. Serve yourself a plate and drink, settle back in a comfortable chair, prop up your feet, and welcome our guest author, Jax Garren.
Welcome, Jax. Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally a small town Texas girl, now living in Austin. I’m married to an amazing man who researches clean energy usage in homes. I used to be a high school theater teacher, but now I write romance novels and love it. My cat Morgan leFay, the most ineptly named cat ever as she is an absolute sweetie, helps me sometimes by adding creative punctuation when I leave the keyboard. In addition to reading, I love to spend time pole dancing (for exercise, not money), attending Renaissance festivals, playing the piano, and seeking out creative cocktails.
What does your writing space reveal about you and your writing style?
My desk is cluttered because I keep things I love around me. I have a Viking helmet with a garter hanging off its historically inaccurate horns. I love Norse mythology (as seen in the writing) and the garter is a souvenir from volunteering at the Texas Burlesque Festival to research How Beauty Met the Beast. I have a bunch of items—a Barbie, a photograph, an engraved card holder, a wooden clock, a clay pencil holder—that were all given to me by people I care about. I think that need for a connection to my kith and kin infuses everything I write. Everybody in my writing has an important part to play, and we rely on our connections to support each other when life is tough. I don’t write lone wolves. And I didn’t realize that until you asked me this question. Cool.
The other thing I keep is handwritten quotes that inspire me. I regularly turn to Daryl Morrison’s “Never sacrifice what you want most for what you want for the moment.” One of my favorite poems hangs right where I can read it whenever I want—Robert Graves “She tells her love while half asleep.” I love this poem because in my mind it’s about hanging onto hope in that dark moment when we decide to reach out one feeble more time…and it works.
Thank you for sharing a fascinating story about a writer and her writing. Was your journey to publication easy or difficult? Fast or slow?
There are people with quick, easy journeys to publication? Haha! I’ve been writing my whole life but let a professor in college discourage me from pursuing it. (Don’t listen to your professors!) They know not of what they speak! A few years ago—maybe more than a few; I haven’t kept count—I decided it was silly to keep writing and not at least TRY getting published. I joined RWA at the invitation of a friend of a friend and am so glad I did. My local chapter is amazing and full of wonderfully supportive women. I credit the support and education I got through RWA for my getting that first contract!
I agree about the importance of RWA chapters. Many careers have been launched by supportive members. Now, to your books. We’ll specifically discuss your most recent book How Beauty Loved the Beast which is the third book of the “Tales of the Underlight” series, but first, tell us about your series and the themes that run through it.
I love a good “fight the power” narrative, and the “Tales of the Underlight” give me a playground for that. The setting was inspired by documentaries like Food, Inc and Beer Wars and web projects like The Story of Stuff. I’m a theoretical anti-consumerist (which means I have way too much crap in my home to call myself a real anti-consumerist), and I love homemade crafts and local vendors. Individualism is as important to me as teamwork. In fact, I think two people who are different make a better team than people who are too similar. In my stories the couples who end up together are often very different, but are hard-working, reasonably honest people that you can respect.
What was your inspiration for the series?
Well, the initial idea came from having too much, uh, creative cocktailing with my sister and then watching reruns of the old CBS Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. Hauk and the Underlight sprung from there into their own world. Jolie is nothing like the beauty of that story, and obviously I’ve gone pretty far afield of that series in other ways, but the inspiration came from that night.
I loved Beauty and the Beast, but Hauk and Jolie are more equals, partners in an important struggle that flows throughout the series. Did you outline all your books in the series first or did they evolve as you wrote?
I had a basic outline. I usually know what the big climactic scene of a story is going to be, in function if not in detail, and build a logical series of events up to that. The idea for the climax of book three—the scene on the temple steps—has been in my head since early on in writing book one. When I finished the first story, I created more detailed outlines for the next two. There were a few things that did change, but I like having a general path mapped out to follow.
Often when a reader picks up a book out of sequence in a series, it can be a disappointment with a backstory dump or a haphazard introduction. That is definitely not the case with How Beauty Loved the Beast which incorporates well done transitions with no surprises. Instead, I placed the first two books in the series, “Tales of the Underlight,” on my TBR list. How did you manage it?
Oh, thank you! I tried to think about each book as a standalone novel. Characters always have a history that they take into a story. I tried to treat the backstory from previous books the same way I treated any other important events in the characters’ histories. I also know that, as a reader, I usually need reminders about who characters are or certain series of events from previous novels, so I figured that giving quick refreshers wouldn’t bother returning readers. I’m glad to know it worked for you!
Usually I zip through books for the story. With How Beauty Loved the Beast, I slowed down and enjoyed the writing. The characters and their conflicts, internal and external, are multi-dimensional. Certainly a book I could recommend to others. Without disclosing too much, tell us about How Beauty Loved the Beast.
Well thank you! Each of the titles is pretty self-explanatory. The first book tells how they met, the second an instance where she had to save him, and the third happens after they’ve decided to give a relationship a go and shows how they go from those first tentative steps to a lasting bond.
You did a great job exploring the concepts of beauty and sexuality in How Beauty Loved the Beast. Jolie was a hot redhead but Hauk, who was horribly disfigured, had a lot of issues—a source of conflict for them both. What was your inspiration?
One of the things I’ve always wondered about Beauty and the Beast is how the “beast” handled his transition. Retellings often (but certainly not always) focus on how Beauty overcomes her fear and learns to love him. But with Hauk, as a burn survivor, his scars are not something he’s using Jolie as a magical remedy for. He’s learning to be at peace with himself as a whole person, despite the tragedy. It’s a harsh reality that people do judge by appearances, but I think most of us don’t judge anyone more harshly than we do ourselves. A large chunk of everyone’s self-concept comes from the mirror.
I did a lot of research on surviving massive burns. The physiology and psychology behind it is intense. A lot of book three comes from that research. But also, my husband and I have been fostering children who’ve been through trauma. It’s a completely different kind of trauma, but there’s a visceral intensity to it that I think came through in the writing. There isn’t always logic or control behind feelings that come from traumatic experiences. They don’t make sense—and sometimes you KNOW they don’t make sense while you’re behaving erratically. It creates a feeling of helplessness for everyone involved. While I wrote the third book, my husband and I were working on developing trust between trauma victims and ourselves, and I think it’s a much more intense book because of that. Loving someone and watching them work through pain to find hope makes your heart ache. I think Jolie felt that way.
Your experiences certainly brought a depth of understanding and the role of grief in Hauk’s character. With three books completed in your series, you must know your characters really well. What is the future of the series? Will it be difficult to complete Hauk and Jolie’s and move on?
Future installments in the “Tales of the Underlight” will feature different heroes and heroines. I do intend to continue it. It’s been sad saying goodbye to Hauk and Jolie as point of view characters, but I’m happy to continue playing in their world. I love fairy tale stories!
Maybe we’ll see them as secondary characters. But speaking of moving on, what are you working on now?
Brayden’s story. He’s Hauk’s best friend who’s a hacker for the Underlight, and he’s developed a crush on Hauk’s ex. Their story is set several months after the end of How Beauty Loved the Beast, when Brayden’s family history comes to haunt him. There’s a reason he was born and raised in the Underlight, and it wasn’t simple idealism!
I’m also working on an unrelated project about a biker gang of valkyries trying to stop the apocalypse, but that’s a long ways from being ready for public consumption.
When I was completing my research for this interview, you were tweeting from RT. Did you enjoy the trip? What did you accomplish? Was it worth the investment in time, money, and effort?
I loved RT and will definitely try to go again! Luckily next year it’ll be a little closer to home for me, so that’ll make it easier. My favorite part was meeting people—readers, bloggers, other writers. Everyone I’ve met in the publishing industry has been so fun and really sweet. Writing can be a lonely profession sometimes, and it was great to get to be social!
Obviously you’ve jumped in with both feet toward building your career. You have an incredible website—maybe sexy, sophisticated grunge which reflects the character of your books. Well worth checking out. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Thanks! I am fortunate enough to have a best friend who’s a designer. She went to town and I was so excited about the results!
As far as advice goes…man, I don’t know. Everybody’s different. For me, when I started, I could tell a story, but I couldn’t get the words on paper to be as interesting or visceral as the idea was in my head. But that was something I got better at by studying craft and a lot of practice. Writing is just like any other profession; you can learn how to do it if you treat it like a skill and not a gift. On a similar note, patience is so important. Everything in this industry is slow, but I do believe that the people who keep working and keep trying will find success. So keep writing the next thing. Keep submitting. Keep learning. Luck happens when good work meets good timing, so the longer you stick to it, the more luck you will necessarily have!
How can readers learn more about you and your books and contact/follow you?
Facebook | Twitter | BlogTalk Radio Interview
Thank you, Jax, for visiting. Drop by again any time. The door to Rita’s Bower is always open to authors and readers who appreciate happily-ever-afters.
Happy reading, dear readers, until our next visit,