I spend a lot of time on Twitter and before that I used to obsessively read knitting blogs. Along the way I 'met' Stephanie Pajonas. She's an avid knitter who has become an avid writer. A few years ago, she decided to write a book, actually a series of books and then did it. I was one of her beta readers and her stories really drew me in! She recently began self-publishing her books and I knew I had to share Stephanie and her amazing work on my blog. I asked her if she'd be interested in participating in an author interview and she was! I hope you enjoy meeting Stephanie as much as I have! Our interview follows below:
1. Give me the title and genre of your latest books along with a quick description.
My latest book is REMOVED, Book One of the Nogiku Series, and was published in September, 2013. It’s New Adult Science Fiction Romance, and the first in a series of four novels. The story is about a young woman, Sanaa, who lives in a future post-apocalyptic domed city populated almost entirely by the Japanese. She is a successful and smart engineer, but she is taken suddenly from her job and tasked to help follow the main crime leaders of her city, the heads of the three major Japanese clans. During the course of her new job, she’s asked to also learn how to swordfight so that she may defend herself. Her new job is quite dangerous. She falls in love with her young teacher, Jiro, and, through him, becomes aware of secrets about her family and the city she’s lived in all her life. Discovering the truth about both her family and city will put more than Sanaa in peril. It will bring about a major change to the entire city.
2. What inspires you to write? And how do you keep the inspiration flowing?
I find that I’m an anomaly amongst writers. I don’t have constant ideas flowing through my head, but instead, I get one good concrete idea every so often and have to run with it. When I have that ah-ha moment, I really have to sit down and work on it right away. Even if it’s just jotting a few notes into Evernote. I try to relax and let the ideas come when they may because I rarely have an idea I don’t follow through on! And only one or two new ideas a year is all I can handle.
3. What is your writing process? Tell me about how you write and where.
I write mainly at home or out at places like Panera or Starbucks. The employees at my local Panera know me pretty well at this point! I write exclusively in an app called Scrivener (from Literature & Latte) that gives me the ability to collect everything I need to write in one place. I am not an outliner. I write by the seat of my pants (this is called being a “pantster”) mostly. For the last book I wrote, I sat down and wrote a brief description of what I wanted to happen, but I deviated from that for the draft. I like to sit, write, and see what happens. My first drafts are crazy usually but I love to revise. Revisions are where the magic happens. I typically write six to seven drafts before I have something close to publication.
4. You have two children, how do you fit in writing while also tending to their needs?
Luckily, my children are in school for a short portion of everyday, and I do write while they’re gone. I also get in some time every afternoon to write or take care of business correspondence while they play independently. If I need more time, like if I’m on a deadline, I will work in the evenings after they go to bed and/or I will wake early before they do. This past week I was revising book two of my series, RELEASED, and I woke at 5am everyday to get them done. I was a wreck by the end of the week, but the revisions were done, and the kids were still alive and happy! I consider that a win.
5. What advice do you have for anyone with children who wants to write?
If you really want to write then you have to carve out some time each day to just sit down and do it. Whether you work with your partner/spouse to get you that time (they cover for you, etc), or you hire a babysitter, or you learn to live on less sleep, you should find the time to put your fingers to the keys or pen to paper. If you can’t do any of those, how about just finding 10 minutes everyday to jot down ideas? That way, when the kids are older and a little more self-sufficient, you can open your notebook and find a wealth of ideas ready to go!
6. Tell me a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I designed the cover for REMOVED, and I will continue to design covers for the whole series this round. Like myself, my covers are also an anomaly within my category and genre. They don’t have people on them, and I did this for a few reasons. First, I’m an independent author and self-publisher which means that I have limited resources for stock images. My characters are Japanese and finding good stock images of Japanese (or even just Asian) people who fit their descriptions was difficult. It was next to impossible. So, Plan B was to use images that fit the themes of each book. Most of the photos are from my own archive of photos I took while in Japan in 2005. REMOVED’s cover has omikuji (paper wishes) tied to a tree on it, and they are significant to the events of that novel (New Year’s Eve and wishes that are made on that night). RELEASED’s cover has colorful paper cranes on it, which are also significant to the events of that book (a wedding and the need for luck and protection).
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
You would think that my favorite character is Sanaa or Jiro, my two main protagonists, but it’s really Mark Sakai. He has a whole wealth of background and history, and we only see glimpses of what he feels or knows. In the beginning of REMOVED, most readers don’t know what to think of Mark, but by the end, he’s one of your best friends. I know I spent many nights wondering about his past and how he came to be the man he is when Sanaa first meets him. I’m dying to write his story! I think prequels are in order.
8. How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing?
I obviously have bad guys in the books, but I find Mariko my least favorite character. She is challenging. A mother figure who obviously cares too much for her family. She makes some bad decisions in the second book, RELEASED, that will have ramifications for the entire series. Sometimes it’s easy to empathize with her and understand what she’s going through and other times I want to tell her that she’s making a big, huge, enormous mistake. She’s destined to make these mistakes though.
9. What other books do you have in the pipeline?
Book two of the series, RELEASED, will be published December 17, 2013. The only reason I was able to publish the first two books three months apart is because I have been working on them for two years. After this, I have a novella in the works for the series, plus the third book which has already gone through two drafts. In the spring of 2014, I hope to have my contemporary romance novel, a story about two very different people dating digitally long distance, ready for either self-publication or submission to traditional publishers. I haven’t decided yet what’s right for that particular novel. It is also the first book in a series I have planned for the characters that appear in the story. I expect to find at least three novels within that series.
10. How would a reader get ahold of your book(s)?
My books are available in a number of places. Amazon has both the paperback and Kindle versions of my books. They are also available as eBooks from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBookstore/iTunes. (note: Links are listed below)
11. You decided to self-publish your novels. Can you tell me why you decided to go that route and what you have discovered through the self publishing process?
I decided to self-published after a number of crazy things happened earlier this year. I had an agent who was submitting REMOVED as a Young Adult novel to publishers, and we were not getting responses or the kinds of responses I was hoping for. A lot of editors said that they liked the concept a lot but were publishing similar stories. So, since the Young Adult market seemed to be saturated since the publishing of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, I took back my novels from my agent, we parted ways, and I changed the protagonists’ ages to twenty-years old and up. This brought my series into a new and burgeoning category, the New Adult category, which concentrates on characters and life events that occur between the ages of 18-26 years old. I ultimately decided to self-publish because I have the skills to do so. I have 15 years of experience in web design and coding and felt I could put those skills to use self-publishing, and I have! It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed it.
12. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
As you know, I knit. Not as much as I used to, but I’m finding the time between drafts and revisions to get in a few stitches here and there. Before fiction writing, I was the editor of an online knitting magazine, Popknits, where I not only wrote and edited copy on the website but also designed some knitwear. I have retired from that profession now! I wish I had more time for it. I’m also really into astrology, and you’ll find it in every book I write. My favorite summer pasttime is hula hooping. I have a few videos on Youtube that highlight my meager skills, and I talk about my experience hooping on my blog as well.
13. Is there anything you'd like to add that I missed asking you?
I really love writing and putting my books in the hands of readers. It’s become a life goal now to keep writing so that people can keep reading. It’s a lot of work, but it means the world to me to hear that people have read my books and loved them, or even if they didn’t love them, it made them think. I hope to keep sharing with the world for some time!
If your readers would like to check out REMOVED before purchasing, I have the first two chapters (with two more to come) up on Wattpad http://www.wattpad.com/story/9758834-removed or they can get a sample from the Amazon Kindle page http://amzn.com/B00F4IE978
14. How about about a snippet from your book that is intriguing and tantalizing?
“Sanaa, this is Koichi Itō, and his son, Jiro, whom you’ve met before. As you have probably guessed, you will be learning to sword fight with them.”
Fantastic. A guy who is totally my type and any prospect of romance is about to be submarined by a business relationship, a teacher-student relationship. How the hell am I going to pull this off when I’ve already flirted with him once before?
Jiro is studying me, gauging me like Sakai often does. This must be a family trait. Looking at the three of them together, they are definitely related. They could all practically be triplets in their Nishikyō grays and solemn expressions. I sigh and turn to Sakai for reassurance as he lays a hand on my shoulder. This is not what I expected to happen today.
“Sanaa, I know your mother never cared for sword fighting, but, since you’re already more than proficient in karate, I figured this was the next logical step.” Sakai turns to Jiro. “Don’t think she can be easily defeated, Jiro.”
Sakai is boasting about my skills? I want to tell him to shut up before he gets me in trouble, but he seems sincere. “She has her father’s determination.”
Sakai’s eyes are hard on Jiro, and the two stare at each other stonily before Jiro gives in.
“Hmmm, we’ll see,” Jiro says, walking to the wall of wooden swords. Uh oh. I think I’m about to be tested. Too much talk.
He takes two of the smaller swords and tosses one to me which I fumble and drop on the ground. I am so unprepared my face practically bursts into flames. I reach down and pick up the sword, copying Jiro’s stance, but he hasn’t made a move to lunge at me like I thought he would. Instead, he is watching me stare at the sword.
“It’s real wood!” I exclaim. The strong grain weaves up the side, and I follow the wavering line all the way to the tip with my fingers. The sword is nicked and dented more times than I can count.
“We’ve had them for centuries.” Jiro smiles at me, holding his sword tip-down in front of him. “Passed down through our family for generations. Newer ones are available, but they’re all composite.”
I heft the sword in my hand. Light but sturdy. Surely fighting with a sword can’t be that different from fighting with your hands. What have I gotten myself into?
Where to Buy Removed:
Amazon (Paperback): http://amzn.com/1940599032
Amazon (Kindle): http://amzn.com/B00F4IE978
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940148646532
REMOVED on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18366156-removed
RELEASED on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18674881-released
Author profile on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7233209.S_J_Pajonas
You can also find Stephanie here:
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spajonasFacebook: http://www.facebook.com/SJPajonas