I am so excited to be sharing my interview with Sandra J. Jackson with you today!
I had the amazing fortune to meet Sandra at KaLiCon in October 2019. She always had a smile on her face, was open to questions, allowed people to fawn over her and did so all with grace. She was a truly unselfish author, offering smiles and encouragement and knowledge, and also questions of her own. I know it sounds weird, but to be asked as well as to ask is a wonderful, amazing ability, and Sandra's knowledge and curiosity was infectious. It truly was a huge honor for me to get to meet her.
Unfortunately, we sat on opposite sides of the room for the signing portion of the event, which probably saved her an earful, so when I asked if she'd be interested in an interview...well, I'm sure she wasn't "quite" expecting what I sent her. But she answered my questions with humor and information and I can't thank her enough for that.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Sandra as much as I have!
1. Why did you first start writing? What was the inspiration for your first book?
I think it was 2005 when I first started writing stories. Every time a new story idea popped into my head I’d start to write. After some time, I had 8 different story ideas ranging from a few paragraphs to several chapters. Then I came up with a ninth idea and decided that it was going to be the story I finished. The title of that book was Promised Soul.
The inspiration for Promised Soul came from several different things. I remember years ago watching an Oprah Winfrey Show where her guests shared stories of very young children who had memories of living another life. They knew things they couldn’t possibly know at such a young age. I was also inspired by my thought when I first met my husband that it felt like we had always known each other. Stringing those together with I’m sure a few other things became my inspiration for my debut novel.
2. Did you ever consider traditional/indie publishing? Was there a reason you chose the way you did to go about publishing your works? Do you have any insights for future authors trying to make the same choice?
I wanted to be a traditionally published author. I wanted the experience of researching publishers, sending query letters, and receiving rejections. I also didn’t have the time to self-publish and didn’t know where to begin. It all seemed so complicated, and I wanted someone else publishing my work. So, when I was first told about my first publisher, I submitted my novel and it was accepted. I have since switched publishers and it is more Indie publishing now.
As far as insights for future authors I think the most important thing I can tell them is to do the research. This goes for everything from seeking out publishing, to learning the skills of writing a book, to editing. If you don’t do any research this will show up in your writing. I’ve been a published author for five years now and I am still learning.
3. How many books do you have published now?
At the moment I have three books published. My fourth book, the final book of my trilogy, should be released some time this year.
4. Do you have any books in the works at the moment?
Yes, I just started working on a new WIP a few days ago.
5. Any advice you’d offer up-and-comers looking to find their place in the literary world?
I have said this in other interviews and it is still the number one thing I think an up-and-comer should do before they publish any book and that is get your name out there. I started out on Wattpad several months before I looked for a publisher. It was a great site for me to get feedback on my story and it helped me decide to seek publishing. Had I known sooner; I would have started a blog even before that. Building your author platform before you become an author is key.
6. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Well I work full time so a typical writing work day doesn’t start until after dinner. I usually sit with my laptop and work on either writing, editing, marketing, blogging, or other social media stuff – which ends up being a huge time suck. If I decide to write or edit first, then I will work on that either until I go to bed or until I am done with it for the evening.
I can write anywhere. It doesn’t bother me to sit on the couch and write while the TV is on, especially if I’m not into the show. Sometimes though, I will sit in my bed and write, or at the kitchen table, or the desk. I do like it though when I have those odd nights when no one else is home. Those nights I don’t turn on the TV and I go straight into my writing (or editing). If I’m editing, I don’t want any distractions and so I segregate myself to another part of the house.
As far as a daily quota goes, I don’t set any, even though I know I probably should. I just find it difficult to do when I only have a few hours a day to spend on all the writer things I need to do.
7. What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I love book trailers, and I have great fun creating them. I have trailers for all of my books which you can view on my website (www.sandrajjackon.com).
8. Do you hand write or do everything on your computer?
When I first started writing it was on my computer. Then I switched to pen and paper. I found the ideas flowed much better. At the moment, however, I am dealing with tendinitis in my right shoulder which causes flare-ups of my tendinitis in my right forearm and wrist. Because of this, I am writing my newest WIP on my laptop. I really hope I can go back to handwriting but at the moment I am trying to avoid the inflammation.
9. What was the hardest novel/novella/story you’ve written so far and why?
So far, the trilogy I have written was the hardest. As it is a post-apocalyptic story dealing with a virus, I have had to do a lot of research. And even though I took notes, it wasn’t always easy trying to remember what characters looked like, if I covered everything, answered the questions I left open in previous books. It wasn’t easy, and I don’t know if I will write another trilogy. As I write this though, I do have a completed manuscript which I set out to be a trilogy before the one that I just finished writing. So, there probably will be another trilogy in my life, either that or it’ll just be one long novel.
10. Do you plan out your books in advance or just go for it, Muse Delight You, as she may?
The only thing I plan is the ending of the book. Then I start the beginning with a very loose idea of the story, and as the characters develop, they eventually take over.
11. How would you best classify your writing? So, I always say I write Fantasy romance, with a way capital F there, lol. If you were trying to describe your books to someone, how best would you describe what you write?
I want my readers to feel as if they are a part of the story. I want my readers to think and not have to be hit over the head with information. I want them to use their imaginations. I want them to wonder “Is any of this real?” “Did this happen?” “Could this happen?” “Did that person exist?” I want my readers to discover. There’s too much instant gratification out there, too much “need to have it now.”
12. How do you handle writing both books and blogs and Facebook posts and so on and so forth and ad naseum!? Lol. Okay, I’m looking for help, lol, how do you manage your time so well?
And here I was going to ask you how you handle all of this. 😊 It’s actually really tough. There is sooooo much to do and social media ends up being more of a time-suck, as I stated earlier. I admire the authors who can take social media breaks for weeks to work on their writing. It is something I have considered doing, but I am afraid of missing something. In the past, I have used an editorial calendar to plan out my posts, and used tools like buffer and others (I can’t remember the names at the moment) to schedule posts to different social media outlets. These do work but it takes an entire day to plan out everything so I stopped. Someday, though, I might do it again. Procrastination gets in the way of time management.
13. What kind of research did you do for PROMISED SOUL?
I did a lot of genealogy research on ancestry.com (free version) as the past-life character for the main character actually existed. The ship she was traveling on from the UK to the US sank. I was trying to find out a little about her life before the ship to weave into the story. Unfortunately, I could not find anything. I also attended a psychic medium party, which was very interesting. Post-publishing of the novel, I met someone who performs past-life hypnosis and I did a session with her. That too was very interesting and might show up in a book someday.
14. If you could go back to your first book, would you keep it the way it is, or would you change it?
I have learned a lot since writing my first book. If I went back to it, it would stay the same for the most part but I know that there are some parts that could stand a re-write.
15. How long does it take you to write a novel?
Too long. Promised Soul took me two years, mind you I did not write every day, and sometimes I would go months without writing. The research for this novel (both for the story and in learning how to write) also took up a lot of time. I have since cut down my writing time to less than half of this now. I wish I could write faster but when you only have a few hours a day, it’s not that easy.
16. Can you tell me a bit about your series?
The Escape Series is a scifi, post-apocalyptic suspense series about a girl who wakes from a drug-induced hypnosis with no memories of her life or who she is, and to top it all off, she is introduced to a sister she doesn’t remember having who is also under the influence of the same drug. Over time her memories come back and she has questions as to where her parents are, what the virus is that seemingly wiped out the world, and how do they get home.
17. Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
No, all three books have something different to offer and so I like them the same.
18. Did you always plan on writing a series or were you surprised to continue to write it after the first book was done?
The first iteration of Playing in the Rain was a stand-alone novel that had a much darker premise. After writing it, I decided that it might not bode well with some and so I changed it. I added about twelve chapters to the beginning and then tweaked the rest of the book to match the new plotline. When I came to the end of the book, I realized the story was going to continue and my stand-alone was now a trilogy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, Sanda, and thank you, readers, for taking the time to get to know us a little better.
Make sure to check out Sandra's links below and sign up for her newsletter so you don't miss out on her upcoming new releases!
Don't forget to check out "Playing in the Rain - Book One of The Escape Series" which is a semi-finalist for the CYGNUS Book Awards for SCI-FI, a division of the 2019 CIBAs!