Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. She was recently published by Leap Books in “Beware the Little White Rabbit,” an anthology of twisted YA stories inspired by “Alice in Wonderland.” April 14, 2015. Her romantic, ghost story, “Breathless” was just released by Three Worlds Press as part of their Sea Mist series, and her short horror piece, “The Muse,” was included in Issue 31 of Sanitarium Magazine. Between short stories, she works on various novels, which span genres and age groups. Jessica has more books in her head than she knows what to do with and three completed novels she’s currently querying. But woman cannot live on words alone. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease a particularly ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.
First off, I want to thank you for including my story in your lovely magazine! It’s awesome to have a venue for quality flash fiction that is also free to readers.
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
Unofficially, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. A poem here, a story there. I started a novel in high school and then one in grad school, but never finished them. Officially, I’ve been writing for five years. I got the bug again, and for the first time, actually had the time to do something about it. I found the manuscript I’d started in grad school, cut most of it, and a year later, I had my first book, a middle grade fantasy. A year after that, it was actually worth reading.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Just don’t stop. If we love writing, if we can’t imagine not doing it, if we want to make this work part of our careers, we simply can’t stop writing. Of course, take this with a grain of salt; I’m still new at all of this too … My writing friends and I have a facebook page, and our motto is a quote from Maggie Steifvater (an awesome YA author, by the way): “If you fail in writing, you’ve failed once. Get up. Do it again. Wipe your nose if you have to, but for God’s sake, get up. You’re getting grass stains on everything.” That’s the part that’s hard. When just starting out, we’re all bound to get more rejections than acceptances (it took me nearly five years to get my first ‘yes’), and that can translate into self-doubt. But, the only way to truly fail is to stop doing what we love. The road to success is practice. Working past rejections translates into hours of practice, which will ultimately lead to success.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
I’m less about the actual resources. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of books on the craft and checked out other authors’ templates and stuff like that. But for me, the best “resources” have been the other writers I’ve met who’ve helped me (and I’d like to think I’ve helped them too). The support, the friendship, the sharing of ideas, has been the single biggest contributor to my first writing successes. Jason Sokol once did an interview for entheos.com (and I feel terrible, because I can’t remember who he was interviewing, aside from the fact that he was a motivational speaker). Anyway, this brilliant interviewee said that one of the best routes to success is to “get with” people doing the thing you want to do. It takes your mindset from “How on earth will I ever do this?” to “How on earth will I NOT do this?” Seeing others achieve what we want teaches the brain it’s possible for us too.
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I’m all about fun, escapist, and dark fiction. I love a good horror story (Stephen King, of course), some sci-fi (like Michael Crichton). I love snarky romance (Molly Harper). And authors who achieve the mash-up. Probably my biggest inspiration as an author are folks like Christopher Moore and John Connolly who combine paranormal elements, some really dark stuff, and laugh-out-loud humor into their books. I’ll state for the record that Moore’s book, “The Stupidest Angel,” is brilliant, and I wish I’d had that idea first.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
When I first started writing seriously, I thought most authors were spared from working a totally separate full-time job and could devote all their time to the craft. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like so many, I juggle quite a bit, so I have to make a deliberate effort to find time. I usually get up before work and write for an hour. I had a good span where I did that every single day, but now I commit to doing it 3 days and the extra 2 are bonuses. The rest of my writing time comes on the weekends, and I’ll admit, my house isn’t as orderly as it once was, because I pretty much spend all my free weekend time working on my stuff. The end of the workday is usually not a good time for me to write; my brain is way too fried. But I can occasionally get some work done in the evenings too.
6. Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
I started out as a total pantser, and that’s how I wrote my first two books. Both (the middle grade fantasy and a paranormal/urban fantasy) took one year to write. My third book (a contemporary romance) was very well-formed in my mind before I sat down to write, so I elaborated on that and came up with an outline. That process took about a month–mulling it over and then getting the outline down on paper. But once I sat down to draft, I wrote that book in a month. And thus, a plotter was born. For my fourth book, which I’m hopeful will be published later this year by Three Worlds Press, I took a month plotting as well. I wrote a synopsis, broke that down into individual scenes, and used those as my outline. I was able to draft that book in a month too. Plotting still gives me the fun of letting the story unfold naturally; the difference is, that part happens during the plotting phase vs. the active drafting. When I’m ready to write, all the problems are hashed out, I know where I’m going, and I can avoid the road blocks that inevitably arise when pantsing.
7. How do you deal with rejections?
I don’t think rejections will ever get easier. They sucked the first time, and they still suck now. Earlier on, I took rejections as a possible indication that I shouldn’t be writing. That’s the biggest thing to change over time. I’ve totally put an end to that. Over the years, I’ve developed a fool-proof, multi-step process for handling rejections. 1) See a rejection and be really bummed out by myself for a while (anywhere from an hour or two to a day or two). 2) Start the cognitive restructuring on the negative thoughts. In other words, use self-talk (and here’s a good time to go to that Stiefvater quote). 3) Tell my husband, who facilitates further cognitive restructuring (bless him). 4) Tell my close network of writing friends. They’ll be bummed for a minute for me, then kick me in the butt and tell me to send out another query or get back into my current manuscript. And that’s the best way to deal with rejection, put more work out there and focus on the current WIP. Nothing erases the sting of a rejection like an agent’s request for additional pages or acceptance of a story.
8. What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
I tend to bite off more than I can chew, so keep that in mind. For my other career, I’m a psychologist, so I’m all about setting SMART goals (specific, actionable, realistic, measurable, and timely). First off, I’m going to finish book #4 and get it to my editor at Three Worlds Press so we can start the official editing process. That will happen in the next week. I’ve got book #5 all plotted and about 8K written on that (a YA thriller), so finishing that book will be a huge priority. I have a short story submission I’m aiming for due later this summer, so I need to draft that. I have one short story accepted for an anthology due out this fall. The book is “Fright before Christmas,” by Leap Books; my story is called “The Carol.” It’s an anthology of scary stories for middle grade readers that take place on Christmas Eve. I’ll have a bunch of work to do with editors there in preparation for that release. After that, my next project will be to get going on the sequel to book #4 (the one I’m getting ready for my editor at Three Worlds). I have two other short stories out right now, and if one (or both … fingers crossed!) is accepted, I’ll have more work to do there as well. Oh, and I’ll also keep up with queries on my other books. I think that will keep me busy for the next year.
9. For the next five years?
For the next 5 years … boy, that’s a tough one to answer with a SMART goal. More books. More stories. More queries. More rejections, and hopefully a few more acceptances too.
10. Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
Thanks! Right now, I’d like to plug a few things. For horror readers, check out my short story, “The Muse” in Issue 31 of Sanitarium Magazine. My husband says it reminds him of “The Evil Dead,” and another friend said it put him in mind of “The Twilight Zone.” Both huge compliments I’m extremely grateful for. I also had a standalone story come out at the end of May: “Breathless” a short, romantic ghost story put out by Three Worlds. Finally, I have a story in the Leap Books anthology, “Beware the Little White Rabbit,” an awesome tribute to “Alice in Wonderland.” This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alice. And, of course, look out for “Fright before Christmas,” due out this fall.
Here’s a link to my amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Bayliss/e/B00VCE1D2C/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_7. And here’s my website: JessicaBaylissWrites.com.