Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I'm Allyson James (which is a pseudonym). I started writing as Allyson James when I decided to try erotic romance, mostly because I wasn't sure I'd be any good at it. If everyone hated my books, Allyson could quietly fade away. :) I was happy that my first book Tales of the Shareem: Rees did well, and the series continued to be popular.
About a year ago, I sent a paranormal (dragon shapeshifter) proposal to Berkley, and an editor there bought it for the Sensation line, which is very exciting. The first book of that series will be out in July.
In my personal life I love cats, have a sweet husband, live in a cozy house that we're slowly renovating, and love mucking around with my electric guitar. Oh, and I love to read!!
What's your favorite genre to read?
I love to read all kinds of things. Murder mysteries are probably my favorite, followed by slice-of-life stories with romance. I also of course love romances-historical, paranormal, and contemp. So I can't say I have a favorite genre, just favorite authors, like Charlaine Harris, Terry Pratchett, Sandra Hill.
Who or what influences you when you write?
Deadlines. :) Seriously, I am partly motivated to sit down and write because I know I've promised to finish something by a certain date. But once I get into the story I forget about the business aspects of being a writer and just get lost in the characters and their situation. Finding good characters that I want to know about is a wonderful thing. I want to spend time with them, and so I keep writing.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
I have breakfast at a coffee house with my husband, then stay there and write when he goes to work. I usually get about 1,000 words written there. Then I come home, do "business" stuff, like answer email etc, then I go back to writing. I knock off about six, but I take breaks throughout the day. You can only stare at a computer so long before your eyes cross. All in all I'd say I get in about four-six hours a day on good days. On a day when I have a million distractions only about one-two hours.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I don't call it writer's block, I call it "writer's attitude." I know I can sit down and write anything, even if it's crap. I can write 1000 words without thinking about it. But sometimes I just don't want to! If I'm not into the story at the moment, or I'm worried about something in my personal life, it's hard to make myself sit down and type.
One thing I do to trick myself is to go out to a coffee house or a library, (away from the Internet!), and not allow myself to leave until I've written X number of words or X number of pages. Every little bit you do, 500 words here, 500 words there, even a paragraph a day, gets you that much closer to finishing the manuscript.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
I'm excited that I'll have a series debut with Berkley Sensation coming up in July. The first book is called Dragon Heat, which is a dragon-shapeshifter paranormal, followed by The Black Dragon in November.
These books are set in San Francisco and contain hunky men who are shapeshifter dragons. I added lots of magic and a sprinkling of Chinese and Japanese mythology. They won't be as scorching as my Ellora's Cave books, but they're still plenty hot.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
I plan to continue my Shareem series at Ellora's Cave, and more books in the Dragon series if they do well.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
A man who has a good heart and a great sense of humor, but who doesn't take crap from anyone. A man who combines the best of both the alpha and beta heroes. He cares about what his lady wants and goes out of his way to do it without either trampling her or becoming her doormat. He's a very masculine man, very protective of the people he loves, but he also likes women, and not just sexually.
What do you do for inspiration?
For inspiration, especially when I'm burned out, I do things that stimulate creativity. I look at art, I read wonderful books, and I watch terrific movies. I'm very inspired by great authors-they make me love their books so much that I want to create something just as beautiful. Excellent books inspire me much more than books I can't get into. Likewise, completely stepping away from writing and immersing myself in art or music-creative things that aren't writing--stimulates my brain and helps the creative ideas come flowing in.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Suspense. But I might get there!
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I love research! I love to learn things, and to me, sitting on the floor of the library stacks with a big reference book in my lap is just fun. I like to read biographies and history books, like to listen to lectures from experts, like to surf the web for leads.
I write historicals under another name (Jennifer Ashley), so I'm always reading history-right now mostly Regency and Tudor. The Internet is a wonderful research tool, especially websites of specialty organizations, like the Naval Historical Society or people who know all about wine, or whatever. There's so much out there to learn! I usually let what I find on the net lead me to books and articles, books lead to more books, and so forth. Research is ongoing-I usually research at the same time I write.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I think deadlines help me. I'm not sure if my muse likes them, but deadlines do make me put my butt in the chair and get the book finished.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I have always had in my head, since I was about eight, that I wanted to be a writer. I knew I'd write a ms. and submit it someday. I put off "someday" because it's scary to actually commit to that step, until I took a class at the local Y by a woman who wrote a book called the "Sell Your Novel Toolkit."
The class cost about $10 or $15, and I'm not sure if that book is still in print, but the way the teacher talked, I realized I could do it! She was very inspiring-she talked about looking at publishing in a very business-like manner, and that helped take some of the mystery and fear out of getting published.
Of course, the day I went to the post office with my first ever submission, I was too terrified to drop the envelope in the slot. My husband was with me, and he took it out of my hands and mailed it for me. Good thing he was there! I think a lot of fear factor about publishing is that we (influenced by Hollywood and the media) surround it with glamour. Writing really is just a job, even if it's fun job that allows you to be creative.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I just start writing. I usually mull over the books a long time in my head (months to years) before I start the story. By the time I sit down, I've lived with the characters for a while and know the situation I want them to find themselves in. After I write a few chapters I can make notes about what will happen next (mostly to remind myself when I sit back down again). I let the story grow out of the characters and the situation. I do go back over the book once I'm finished with the first draft and cut anything that's unnecessary or fix where I decided to go a different direction.
I work a book like a sculptor carves something out of stone, roughing it out, then going over it until it's a nice piece of work. (Ok, I know nothing about sculpting, but this is what I imagine they do.)
What was your first published work and when was it published?
My very first published work was a short story for Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. This is the story that my husband had to mail for me. I actually sold it!
My first published book happened years later after much rejection. That was Perils of the Heart, by Jennifer Ashley, which came out from Leisure Books in 2002. It's been reprinted and still available.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
I keep my website ( www.allysonjames.com ) pretty much up to date (I update at the very least once a month, usually twice). I list all books I have out plus the forthcoming books, give a peek at what's coming down the road, and have links to my other personas. My blog is updated about the same rate as my website unfortunately-I don't have much time for blogging, though I try to post something once every week or so.