Do you read Rebecca Jones-Howe books?
Welcome to my interview with Rebecca Jones-Howe where we discuss her incredible books and victories in publishing!
Hi Rebecca Jones-Howe! Please introduce yourself and name 5 fun facts.
I’m Rebecca Jones-Howe and I write neo-noir horror. “Neo-noir” is a genre of categorically “dark” literary fiction that blends in elements from other genres, such as crime, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, and — my favourite — horror. (For more on neo-noir, you can check out this article from fellow neo-noir writer, Richard Thomas.
While my work isn’t inherently “horror”, I do like to incorporate a lot of dread and tension into my work. I borrow quite a bit from the erotica genre as well, because hey, we all like a little salaciousness. Sadly, “sexy fiction” has a sad and shamefully cheesy stereotype attached to it. We all deserve to read hot fiction that’s also deep and introspective, so I hope I’m doing my part to fill that void.
My debut collection of short fiction, Vile Men, was released back in 2015. Since then, I’ve had a couple of kids, wrote a novel that I’m currently shopping around, and have started a new Patreon venture of new short fiction. I also blog regularly about my “writer lifestyle” on my website, rebeccajoneshowe.com.
Five fun facts:
- I very much enjoy SPAM.
- V.C. Andrews is one of my favourite authors and I write in-depth critical reviews of her catalogue in my “Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews” book review series on my blog.
- I love fashion and share my OOTD’s on my Instagram.
- My favourite holiday is Halloween.
- Other than writing, my other favourite hobby is crochet.
How did you feel when you published your first book?
Signing the book contract for Vile Men was exciting. I’d wanted to be a “legit” writer since I was a kid, so knowing that my work would be published by a real press and printed in a real book with my name on it was, well, a dream come true. The book was beautiful and the reviews were kind. The Globe and Mail even reviewed Vile Men, which was really really awesome. Having a published book really does help with exposure. I was a guest on a few podcasts. I was contacted by various people interested in republishing my work in various anthologies, so it proved fruitful.
What were the challenges you faced?
The small press that published my book ultimately went under. Sadly, mismanaged small presses are becoming rather commonplace in the publishing world. I was only paid once, nearly two years after the book was published, despite the fact that I was supposed to be paid every quarter. My book was never properly promoted.
Sadly, my small press author story isn’t rare. It’s become quite evident now that small presses aren’t exactly sustainable businesses, and while I’m not turned off entirely toward publishing via a small press again, my experience has tainted my opinion of small presses. You just never who who is honest and who is taking advantage of you.
What were the victories?
The exposure was good. I gotta laugh, because exposure for an artist is pretty garbage payment, but the NETWORKING proved useful. I’ve connected with other authors through the press that published Vile Men. I’ve connected with new communities. It’s not all horrible. Plus, with my royalties, I had enough money to splurge on an Olivia Burton watch for myself.
What was this book about?
My first novel is called The View From the Basement and it’s a psychological horror about postpartum depression and the struggles of new motherhood. Much of it was inspired by my experience after I had my daughter, but the novel also focuses on how becoming a parent changes one’s relationship with their friends who don’t have kids. It’s a bit of a psychological thriller / gothic horror hybrid. So it’s got the twists and the unreliable narrator, the creepy house and the haunting visuals. And yeah, a bit of sex too.
Now that you have an agent currently looking at your book, how is your situation different?
My dream is still to get published by a major press. Writing has always been my passion and ultimately my fantasy was always to “get discovered”, have a book published and have everybody talk about it. Maybe it’s lazy. Maybe it’s a Disney princess dream to “write the next Gone Girl”, but hey, that’s me.
How has this pandemic affected your writing and publishing process?
I won’t lie. I’m worried. We know this is going to sink the economy. It’s going to be bad. We’ve no idea how this pandemic is going to affect the publishing industry or for how long. Sometimes I wake up at night thinking, “This was a really shitty time to attempt to get your book published. You should worked harder and finished it sooner.” But this is just the beginning. It’s worth thinking about innovation and new ways. People need entertainment and us authors do have the means to provide it, via self-publishing.
I’ve been on maternity leave for a year now. During that time I managed to set up a good writer schedule. Mornings are for doing mom stuff, and then when my son has his afternoon nap, I put on a movie for my daughter and get some blogging done. I don’t do my fiction writing until after I put my kids to bed, and I usually stay up pretty late writing. The pandemic affected my return to work, so now I’m laid-off and I get to continue with my routine. It works. I’ve written plenty of short stories for my Patreon.
I just finished a free story about the pandemic that I’ll be sharing on my site on April 14th.
It’s called Coping Mechanisms and it’s about two Costco employees who start a vague dom/sub relationship in order to cope with the stresses of being essential workers. I found the writing process cathartic, being in this “new normal”.
This year has been one of learning the ropes of marketing. I use Twitter more. I’ve engaged with writers on Instagram and have joined the Ladies of Horror Fiction discord. Through there I’ve met several other writers who are amazingly supportive. There’s a lot to learn. I’m hoping I can build an audience and maybe self-publish to success one day. I want to keep all my options open.
What do you like about traditional publishing?
I really just want to write, so that’s why traditional publishing appeals to me. All I have to do is write the best possible book that I can and hopefully be “discovered”. My book gets a cover, gets marketed. I get a cheque and roll around in money, right? I mean, for the lucky few, this is the reality, but I know the truth about traditional publishing doesn’t live up to this fantasy. Still, it’s what a lot of us writers can’t help but dream about.
What do you dislike?
Making it in traditional publishing is really just a “right place, right time” scenario. Back when Twilight came out, I just couldn’t understand how such a lacklustre book could get published. Getting your book published by one of the “big 5” isn’t about “talent”. It’s about writing something that publishers know they can market. Which is why, after Twilight, we got 50 Shades of Grey, because the market read Twilight and was like, “Dammit, we need to publish this series again but WITH SEX!”
And then E.L James came to the rescue!
Now, I don’t want to disparage Stephenie Meyer or E.L. James for being poor writers. I love V.C. Andrews and she managed to figure out the publishing formula in the past, too. I’m happy for them. But these women are exceptions. The formula isn’t easily broken, and sadly, for a fledgling writer like me who writes well-written dark fiction, there can really only be ONE Gillian Flynn.
What do you like about self-publishing?
The main perk of self-publishing is that you get control of everything. Your book cover doesn’t need to look like the myriad of other psychological thrillers out there. You can make it your own. Brand yourself. You can market yourself the way you want to. I’ve always enjoyed creating my own promo graphics for my stories. I can write about whatever I want and cater to more specific audiences.
What do you dislike?
It’s hard AF. Not only do you need to know how to write but you have to know how to use Photoshop and how to properly utilize social media and build your own website and format your own ebooks. If you don’t know, or don’t have the time to learn, then you can pay other people to do it for you, but that gets costly. Self-publishing is grueling and I’m barely scraping the surface of it now.
I honestly don’t know if I have the drive to self-publish a physical book, but watching other writers successfully pull it off on YouTube is really inspiring. And hey, I need that inspiration.
What are your future goals as a writer?
Currently, I want to build my fan base. I want to blog more. Plan on spending the rest of this year writing short fiction for publishing and for Patreon and then writing my second novel in 2021. I want to learn more about marketing as well, so much of my focus this year has been on being active on Twitter and Instagram, as well as in various writer communities.
I’d love to be more active on YouTube as well, because the author community there is pretty active. There’s real wealth of knowledge on YouTube and I’d love to spend more time making videos and getting to know more authors. Right now it’s tough because I have two small kids at home and it’s hard to film and watch videos in this kind of environment.
Hopefully, when my novel gets published (either traditionally for by me), I’ll have an audience ready to read it.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your whole writing experience?
Everything is an opportunity. Often times when I get really down on myself, I think of how frustrated Sylvia Plath must have been, sending out manuscripts BY MAIL only to wait months and months before getting what would likely be a negative response. Modern writers have a wealth of opportunities out there, solely because of the Internet. Originally I just wanted to go the traditional route, but I’ve been exposed to so many other avenues that other authors have tried and succeeded in.
The writing community is so friendly and so supportive. It’s worth getting involved. I originally got started over at LitReactor’s writing workshop, wherein people can submit stories for feedback from other writers. It was an invaluable resource that linked me to a network if wonderful people who I’ve known for over a decade now. Through this network, I managed to get my name out there, to get published, to find readers. And I’ve found a lot of great reading material from them as well!
So if you’re a new writer, I urge you to take part and get connected. No writer can go it alone and because of the Internet, no writer needs to. We’re all here to help and support.
Any last comments that Rebecca Jones-Howe readers should know about you and your books?
You can get a free ebook with a few of choice short stories by signing up for my mailing list, so if you’re short on reading material and you like dark and sexy fiction, it might make your day. (https://rebeccajoneshowe.com/patreon-stories/)
I blog pretty regularly about books (specifically V.C. Andrews books), writing, fashion tips and general mom-related stuff. I hate affiliate marketing so you can always check out the blog for some honest content that isn’t jam-packed with Amazon ads. I do follow for follow with other writers on social media, so be sure to let me know where you discovered me and I will give you some Twitter/YouTube/Instagram love.
Thank you so much Rebecca Jones-Howe for talking to us about your awesome writing and valuable experiences. I hope you continue to create masterpieces! Keep in touch with her on her Website, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Goodreads.
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