Interview with Janice Jarrell (the “Grandma Who Writes Hot Gay Romance and Loves It”)

Those of you that read my book review posts may remember me mentioning Janice Jarrell before.  Her book, Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One was one of the books reviewed in the July 2018 Book(s) Review(s) post earlier this month.  I bought the book on Kindle on a whim, read it, had so much fun reading it, and then slid into her Twitter DM’s and verbally accosted her.

Let me give a little backstory here…

I belong to the Independent Author Network.  You can see my page here.  Additionally, you can search their website and find lots of indie authors writing and publishing books covering every. single. genre.  You may find your next favorite book there!

Anyhoozles, because of this, and joining the community on Twitter, I happened to notice Janice Jarrell’s account for her book being shared a lot.  I thought this was an indie gay romance published by a young gay man because the account is named after the book, not the author.  At first, I just retweeted to help a “brother-in-arms” out and moved on with my day, hoping that he’d find his audience and become the next big thing.  I want all of my fellow indie authors to become the next big things.

Neither here nor there, but when it kept popping up on my feed repeatedly, I was like: “you know what self, you keep saying you want to read more indie books and give them love on the blog and in the reviews sections of websites, so why not this one?”  I’m not a romance reader–which is something important to know about me.  However, after buying the Kindle version of Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One and reading the first fourth of it, I was enamored.  It was just fun.  I can’t say that enough.  I was immediately swept up in the characters, the story, the writing–I just truly enjoyed reading this independent ebook.

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Janice Jarrell

Then I found out that this gay erotic romance was written by a 74-year-old grandmother who loves to write hot gay romance.  

Then I found out that she loves slash fiction and cosplay.

Then I found out she’s been writing slash since she was 12-years-old.

I immediately loved the book more–and I knew that this woman was someone that I wanted to know more about.  So, what else to do but DM her and ask her if I could interview her for the blog?  Without hesitation, she graciously accepted.  And she was everything that I had hoped for–engaging, funny, kind, thoughtful…I just really think she’s a special lady.  And I’m pretty sure you all will feel the same way.  So without further ado, I want to share the interview with you.

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‘Love’s Magic’ cover.

Me: I read your book on a whim. I’m not a big follower of the romance or slash genres, but I found Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One to just be so much fun and highly addictive—with a great plot encompassing multiple characters’ storylines.  How did you first come to conceive of the story?

Janice: Okay, well, this is long and boring. I first wrote David and Nate in a work called ‘Love’s Legacy’ which ended up being so freaking bad that I removed it from publication. It was clear to me that I was still writing fanfiction, so I started from scratch.  I wanted a story which featured David and Nate but I also wanted to bring in a couple new characters, and thus Colin and Joshua were born.  The subject of on-campus assault came from a more personal source. I was the victim of assault and wanted to explore the subject in more depth. The four main characters in Love’s Magic all had to deal with assault and abuse, each in their own way. No one of them handles it quite the same way the others do. Each of these four men is stumbling toward their own healing and eventually share the best of what they’ve learned along the way with the other three. I needed every single one of these men in order to tell the story that needed to be told.  They all saw the issue from a different perspective. But before they could find the healing they needed they each had to learn to see it through each other’s eyes. And their path to understanding was rife with misunderstandings…not to mention knock down drag out fights.

Me: All writers enjoy writing one (or a few) character(s) more than others. Which character from Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One is your favorite to write and why?

Janice: Oh, God. It just has to be Colin. He’s my favorite character and also unquestionably my most annoying character, both in Love’s Magic and in Love’s Trials, which is coming out on October 12th.  I adored that feisty Irishman from the moment he sprang, fully grown, from my brain. Cocky, arrogant, and utterly contemptuous of romance in any form, he was a hand full from day one. He didn’t seem to get that I wanted him to fall in love with Joshua. I tried to corral him, entice him, yank and pull him. But still, he resisted. Every word I wrote to try to lead him down love’s rosy path ended up sounding hollow and dishonest. It wasn’t Colin’s voice and I knew it. I had to try again because what I’d written was just wrong. I had to stop writing and listen to what my fiercely independent Irishman was trying to tell me. I had to stop putting words in his mouth and let him speak. And believe me, when he did, he had a lot to say. I discovered that this alpha-male Irish cop wanted to fall in love with Joshua, and in fact, needed to fall in love with him. But the many layers of defense that he’d built up around his heart was a roaring whirlpool that drowned out that need. He is not a one-dimensional character, and at first, I didn’t get that. His resistance to love and intimacy was multi-layered and breaking down one of those layers offered no guarantee that a completely different issue wouldn’t raise its head and slam the door to Colin’s heart shut tight. In other words, he’s a pistol. But a damned lovable one. I feel sure Joshua thinks so too. He is great fun to write!

MeWhat is your favorite thing about writing MM romance?

Janice: It fulfills the dream I had from the time I was seven-years-old. There’s an itch in your gut when you really want to write something and don’t even really understand fully what it is. I had that itch from the time I was a little girl. Writing my gay romance novels satisfied a yearning that, for years, I believed represented something wrong inside me. Something that made me different from everyone else in a way that was shameful and embarrassing. I know now that this perception was 100% wrong! And every line I write validates that knowledge. Besides, I just love my characters!! I love writing about them. I love putting them into new situations and giving them more problems to solve.

MeI noticed that you publish through Amazon/KDP. Have you attempted to go the traditional publishing route in the past?  What was your experience with that, and if so, how did it lead you into the independent publishing route?

Janice: I did attempt it and was soundly rejected. And at 74-years-old I just didn’t want to waste my time sending manuscripts to a hundred different publishers, then wait the three or four months it takes for them to get back to you. Then dealing with their editors, then waiting for…whatever. My best friend is an editor and takes care of all my work. I’m a pretty fair hand at formatting my manuscript for Kindle and Amazon takes care of all the rest. I may be a bit unique in that I don’t give a damn about making money from being an author. I’m retired with a good pension. I just want people to read my stories and enjoy them. I want them to love my gorgeous men as much as I do. So KDP was my fastest, easiest route.  If I want a printed copy of my book to hold in my hand or to hand out signed copies, I order it from ‘The Book Patch’ and have done so.

Me: When I first started reading your book, I thought I was reading the work of a young gay man—simply because it is a book about young(ish), gay men. But then I found out from your Twitter profile that you are a 74-year-old straight woman, “a grandma who writes hot gay romance and love it”, and I was immediately enamored.  I told my wife—”I want to be friends with and know everything about this woman.  She is interesting.” I know you started writing MM romance when you were very young (12yo), but can you pinpoint what it was that you loved about MM romance at such an early age during a time that this was seen as not socially acceptable and even illegal/obscene in some places in the U.S.?

Janice: Allen, I have absolutely no idea. Honestly! I had never even heard the word ‘homosexual’. I knew nothing about what gay men did in bed. Hell, I didn’t even know what straight couples did in bed. I was an ignorant country girl. But I did know the feeling that I got from the thought of men loving men and it was a feeling that was impossible for me to suppress or deny. And I followed that feeling to where I am today. And you’re right. It was considered illegal, obscene, just plain wrong! And that’s how I thought of myself in those early days. It’s impossible to describe the sense of freedom I felt when I discovered I was only one of the hundreds of thousands of women who love and write gay romance.

MeCan you remember what your first MM slash was about? Can you share some details about it with us?

Janice: Oh hell, yes. It’s a story called ‘That One Night’. I was writing RPS then. That’s ‘Real Person Slash’ because the characters are real, living people. It was very controversial at the time, though now it’s not such a big deal. And if you don’t believe me google ‘J2 slash’. The people were Sean Astin and Elijah Wood who played Sam and Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies. It talked about their first time making love. I wrote RPS about them for years. But believe me I was under no illusion – or should I say delusion – that they were, in fact, lovers. They were not. But they made damned good characters and I loved writing them. ‘That One Night’ is still up on ‘Archive Of Our Own’ under the author ‘Rakshi’.

Me: Do you still write slash fiction on the side?

Janice: Nope. I’m done writing in other people’s worlds and with other people’s characters.

Me: Did you ever encounter any prejudice, bias, or even violence when people found out that you had the hobby of writing MM slash/MM RPS slash? Or did you keep this quiet for a long time?

Janice: Are you kidding?? When I first started writing RPS I, and many others who also wrote in that genre, were ostracized by many others in the slash fiction community. We were told that what we did was wrong and perverted. We were criticized and berated. We kept writing anyway. This was in the very, very early days of slash fiction. There wasn’t much, if any, gay romance being written. Just us slash writers fighting against the system (not to mention other slash writers) to gain some level of acceptance from our peers. Now, of course, RPS is one of the most popular genres among slash writers. We early writers fought the battles they get to avoid, and I’m glad.

Me: I read on your blog that you got a death threat once for writing MM RPS slash. Do you think this was due to homophobia, someone upset that you were writing about a person they admired or a combination of both?

Janice: It was due to the fact that fandom of any kind breeds excess and craziness. I received a death threat from a group of nutjobs who were called the ‘Tin Hats’. In fact, they were the ‘Tin Hats’…the very first ones in existence. They believed–or pretended to believe–that Dominic Monahan and Elijah Wood were really lovers. And the fact that I was, one, a Sean and Elijah writer, and two, among those who loudly insisted that none of the Lord of the Rings actors were actually lovers in real life earned me a death threat. I got a death threat because I refused to confuse slash fiction with reality.

Me: Do you think homophobia is prevalent in the romance and slash genres? Do you feel it’s become/becoming more widely accepted?  What’s the biggest hurdle you encounter as it pertains to being an MM romance writer?

Janice: No, I don’t think homophobia is prevalent in the romance and slash genres. I really don’t. I think we have more love and respect for the gay community than ninety-nine percent of the general population. The biggest problem that I can see these days is having to read about (again with the excess) gay writers who go on rants proclaiming that women who write gay romance are homophobes. I won’t even comment on a theory so outright stupid. I think the guy’s just jealous because he’s gay and we write better gay romance than he does. *grins evilly* That’s just my theory.

Me: I’ve read several articles lately about how white authors shouldn’t attempt to write about people of color. As a senior, white, straight woman that writes MM romance, how important do you think it is that authors have a more diverse cast of characters?

Janice: I think it’s very important. And I say that as an author whose first novel didn’t feature a main character of color, though Joshua is Jewish. I regret that oversight very much and intend to rectify it.

Me: This could be my own preconceived notions, but it seems as though the romance genre tends to have the “happily ever after” endings.  Do you feel pressured to wrap things up in a pretty bow for your readers?  Do you think that they expect that?

Janice: I don’t know if they expect it. I know some readers will refuse to read cliff-hangers or novels where the MC’s don’t get their HEA. My guys get their happily ever after because I want them to have it. I put them through the wringer all during the course of the novel. Seems like giving them a happy ending is the least I can do. I don’t feel pressured. It’s just how I like to write.

Me: What are some of the most important elements for you to incorporate into your stories? Do you think of political or social issues that you feel should be incorporated?  Are you most concerned with the romance itself?

Janice: *laughs loudly* Wait ’til you read Love’s Trials. Since Colin’s a Sargent in the University of Virginia Campus Police Force, he was on duty during the ‘Unite the Right’ protests in Charlottesville, August 2017. And even if I had wanted to keep quiet on the political ramifications of that event, he wouldn’t have!! He has very strong opinions about that day and doesn’t keep them to himself. I love the romance. But our characters, at least mine, live in this world and have to deal with the same political and social issues as the rest of us. Of course I want them to comment on those issues.

Me: I noticed in Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One, Colin’s boss Lenny is not fazed by one of his sergeants being homosexual. This is kind of uncommon in a lot of the U.S. even today, especially in police departments in smaller cities and rural areas.  However, do you feel that it is important for writers in the genre to write not how the world is, but how it should be?

Janice: Well, in this case, it’s more about Colin. He’s been actively and openly gay since he was a young teen. He’s cocky, arrogant, and proud. You take Colin as he is or not at all. And he’s is also a damned fine police officer. He earned the respect of his superiors and his peers. And now, a decade later, I don’t think they see him as the ‘gay cop’ anymore. Just as Colin Campbell, a damned fine cop. And maybe that’s a fault on my part. Tell the truth, until you mentioned it just now it didn’t really occur to me to see Colin and Lenny as all that unusual. Perhaps it was a mistake not to feature that aspect of their relationship and explore how and why they came to respect each other as much as they do. Perhaps in another book…

Me: In Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One there are situations that deal with traumatic injuries, assault, government agencies, police work…how do you go about doing the bulk of your research in preparing to write these scenes?

Janice: Oh, God. I have pages and pages of research on campus assault, Title IX, university politics, being a professor at a large university, being a campus cop, statistics on rape, assault, statistics on how often assailants are actually prosecuted, victims’ rights, rights of the accused, etc…on and on and on. Some of it didn’t make for easy reading. But I read it. How did I go about doing it? Google. Any one of those topics will get you a thousand pages of results. Assault on college campuses is fairly common and sometimes gets a lot of press.

cosplay
“Cathy and I as Sam and Frodo with Danial Falconer, a member of the WETA team who made damn near every prop and costume in all three Lord of the Rings movies. This was a big moment for Cathy and me!”

Me: According to your social media and blog, you are a big cosplayer—and it seems that Lord of the Rings might be your favorite. What got you interested in cosplaying?

Janice: I first read Lord of the Rings when I was fifteen and Sam has always been my favorite character. That’s almost 60 years ago and I ALWAYS wanted to cos- play Sam. And since my best friend wanted to play Frodo it was kind of a natural progression. It took me forever to get to the point where I could actually cos-play Sam but doing it has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. My Mister Frodo and I have marched in the DragonCon parade in Atlanta, Georgia many, many times and it’s a fantastic experience. We’ve even won a contest or two.  Becoming Sam took a lot of money. Our costumes are as authentic as we can make them and some of that material – the elven cloaks for example – cost a fortune. They are the same cloaks that were worn by the ‘Lord of the Rings’ actors!

Me: An important question and this will probably ruffle a lot of feathers—but I saw that your friend Cathy cosplays as Frodo to your Sam.  So…isn’t it true that Sam is the real hero of Lord of the Rings—the heart of the story, and is wildly underrated?

JaniceNope. What I would say is that it is Sam’s and Frodo’s love for each other that is the real hero of Lord of the Rings. There’s no doubt that Frodo would not have made it to the top of Mt. Doom without Sam. No question at all. He would have died before ever reaching Mordor. But without his love for his Mister Frodo to inspire and motivate him, Sam would have never have left the Shire, and thus never gone anywhere near Mt. Doom. It is their love for each other that saved Middle-Earth.

Me: What is your biggest piece of advice for a writer, young or old, male or female, who wants to get into writing MM romance?

Janice: Just write it. I don’t know what else to suggest. Don’t just sit there thinking about it. Write it!

Me: You mention on your social media that your retirement years are becoming your most creative—and that’s truly inspiring. What goals do you have for yourself in your retirement years, writing or otherwise?

Janice: Cathy and I do a lot of traveling. We’re part of a walking club and we travel all over the country doing walks. I want to keep doing that for as long as possible. My goal? Still be walking at 90!

Me: Lastly, what can we expect from you in the future for Love’s Magic? Do you have other characters and stories you hope to share with your readers?

Janice: The sequel to Love’s Magic will be released on October 12th. It’s called ‘Love’s Trials‘ It continues Colin’s and Joshua’s story and it puts those boys through trials that you would not believe. Here’s a little teaser:  They fought their way past every obstacle and found Love’s Magic. They were battered by the ‘Unite the Right’ protests in Charlottesville but survived. Now they face their greatest trial. The one that shatters their world. Stay tuned!!!!

RAPID FIREThis is just to give the readers a better feel for who you are as a person—and for fun!

Chocolate or Vanilla?  Chocolate

Tea or Coffee? I love tea…but can’t exist without Coffee.

Romantic Scene or Sex Scene?  Can’t I have both? I don’t see romance and sex as being mutually exclusive. My sex scenes are loaded with I love you’s and lots and lots of affection. These guys don’t just want each other, they LOVE each other. Now that’s both romantic AND sexy!

Action or Drama? Drama…though I am a HUGE fan of action Superhero movies.

Television or Books? AAARRRUUUGGHHHH! Both! I can’t live without either one.

Favorite music genre?  The stuff from the 60’s. Well? What did you expect? I like some modern music, but when I turn on Spotify I’m listening to Cosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

RPF MM Slash you want to see more of?  Gay Sci-Fi and Paranormal! I may have to write it myself.

Cooking or Baking? Cooking

Favorite hobby (besides writing)? Weaving, knitting, crocheting.

What is your biggest writing regret? That I didn’t start writing original character novels thirty years ago.

Favorite Author? J. R. R. Tolkien

Perfect rainy-day activity? (you live in Seattle, so you should be an expert) Seattle has LOTS of days with no rain. Right now, I don’t think we’ve had rain in almost a month. And Cathy and I walk even in the rain. But when we don’t walk we watch our favorite TV shows (Supernatural!), knit, crochet and I weave. And I’ve been a gamer since I was in my twenties. I have a PS4 and a Nintendo Switch and I play TONS of RPG games.

Beach or Mountains? Mountains!!

Favorite Holiday? Christmas because I go to Michigan to see my grandkids.

And…what is your dream vacation? Go to New Zealand and visit WETA and the Lord of the Rings locations.

A Final Note From Janice:

Thanks so much, Allen, for allowing me to talk with your readers. I can be reached here:

Blog/Website:  https://bit.ly/2ImV9b8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janice.jarrell.5076

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2MeKhcL

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2IChQ7a

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Revolut35174972

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/c/boards/

Youtube: https://bit.ly/2NxuR56

I’d love it if everyone would join my ‘Jan’s Jazzy Jammers’ readers group on Facebook! These special folks will be the first to see teasers, excerpts, and videos for my upcoming release, Love’s Trials. Plus, they’ll be winning prizes from exclusive contests held only in that group.

Jan’s Jazzy Jammers:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/JanJarrellsReaders/

You can purchase Love’s Magic: Revolutionary Heart – Book One here:

Until next time…

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