If you’re even slightly familiar with the Sapphic Fiction genre, you will undoubtedly have seen or read something by Jae. She is the author of twenty-three bestselling romances between women who love women, such as Just A Touch Away, Wrong Number Right Woman, and Chemistry Lessons. She also organises lots of Sapphic Fiction events, such as Sapphic Book Bingo (which you can read more about here) and, starting today, Blind Date With A Sapphic Book. All 80 of the books included are either discounted, or offered to one lucky winner in a giveaway. So why not spice up your reading habits this February, literally, and see what Sapphic books hide behind the enigmatic squares on her website? Make sure to sign up for reminder emails because the selection changes every week!
I was lucky enough to interview Jae as part of my own February venture, #SapphicFictionFebruary. Every day of February, come back to my blog to read a new interview with a Sapphic Fiction author – to read the schedule, just sign up to my mailing list here, or enjoy the surprises as they come! Very few people do more for the Sapphic Fiction community than Jae, so I thought it was only fair that she got the first spot!
Without further ado, here is Jae’s interview!
So, Jae... introduce yourself! Tell us a little bit about you - who are you, and what do you do?
I'm an avid reader and writer of sapphic romances and have published 23 of them (not counting short stories and novellas). I'm one of the lucky people who get to write romances between women for a living. I just celebrated my 9-year anniversary as a full-time writer, and I can confirm that it's the best job in the world.
What made you want to sit down and write your first book?
Depends on what you mean by "book." I wrote my first (unpublished) novel at the age of 10 or 11. I grew up in a household with few books, and once I had read everything age-appropriate in the public library, I started writing my own stories.
If you mean first published book, that was Backwards to Oregon, which was first published 15 years ago. I've always been interested in history, and I was especially fascinated by the lives of women back in the 19th century--how they navigated the limitations and hardships they faced as women. I read about women who lived as men, either for a short time, e.g., the US Civil War, or their entire lives. That's when the idea for Luke was born. Such a complex, lovable character that you could either see as a butch woman, a nonbinary person, or a trans man.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I always start with my characters since they define the plot by reacting to what happens to them according to their personalities and backstories. Before I start plotting, I develop a character profile for both main characters, including their family history, previous relationships, childhood, strengths and weaknesses--anything that makes them who they are today.
That and the research I do on the setting and the characters' jobs give me a lot of ideas that make it into the outline.
Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and why?
After 23 books with 46 main characters, it's impossible to name just one. But I'll narrow it down to three: I relate a lot to Hannah from Just a Touch Away, who has aphantasia (the lack of mental imagery), as I do; to Annie from Something in the Wine because she's an introvert and a numbers person too; and to Holly from Perfect Rhythm because she's down-to-earth yet kind.
Oh, and I relate a lot to Anja from Paper Love too because she's the "no-frills" type who's happy with a simple life.
Okay, I think I really failed at this question :-) But making my characters relatable is the most important thing to me. I want them to be regular people--someone you'd like to hang out with in real life. That's why I relate to pretty much all of them.
Has your own writing ever made you cry?
Oh yeah. Laugh, cry, and tear my hair out. The book that caused most tears and hair loss is probably Just Physical. Jill's emotional journey was intense to write.
Does anyone you know in real life read your books?
Of course. My roommate and my best friend both beta read each of my books; my twin sister proofreads my German novels, and my oldest niece reads each book the moment it comes out.
Imagine your book, or one of your books, was made into a film. Who would play the lead roles?
To be honest, I always struggle with that question. If I ever had to make a decision like that, I'd ask my awesome Facebook reader group for advice. I'm terrible at remembering actresses--partly because I struggle with faces and can't picture my characters due to having aphantasia and partly because I don't keep up with celebrities.
So I would rely on my readers to pick actresses who could portray my characters believably.
When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?
I'm an avid reader, and I love getting lost in a good romance novel. This year, I've mostly listened to audiobooks. I take them for walks around a nearby lake or by the river (or, even better, at the ocean...but I haven't traveled since the pandemic began).
I'm also a big fan of board games, and I collect fountain pens and inks (Doing ink swabs is also a great thing to do while listening to audiobooks).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to being an author?
Learn the rules of the writing craft, but when it comes to the writing process, don't follow anyone's advice--find out what works best for you. Maybe being a plotter works well for you...or maybe you're more of a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants). Maybe "don't edit while you write" is good advice for you...or maybe it's not.
How about in general life?
Just do the best you can at any given moment; the rest is out of your hands.
What is a motto you live by?
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
How can people connect with you?
My hub is my website (https://jae-fiction.com), where you can find my newsletter, my reading order, free books, my blog with the Sapphic Book Bingo, and my social media. I also hang out in my Facebook group a lot: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JaeReaderGroup/
Finally a light-hearted one. If you were a sandwich, what sandwich would you be?
Oooh, great question. I love sandwiches. So... definitely one with a lot of cheese--something mild, like mozzarella, but then paired with a fruity-spicy sauce for an unexpected ingredient. And pickles. Put it all on whole-grain bread, and you have a sandwich that fits my personality and my taste buds.
If you enjoyed this interview, then make sure you’re following my social media accounts (@kblakemanwriter on Twitter and @katherineblakemanwriter on Instagram) to get all the latest updates! And if you want to support my own Sapphic Fiction journey while you’re here, my new novel The Summer We’ve Had is available now!