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Lillian: Today my guest on the purple crushed velvet couch is the wonderful New York Times best selling author, Jaci Burton. I have to admit to having a huge fangirl moment when Jaci agreed to let me interrogate her. Relax Jaci, I promise to be gentle. So far everyone I have interviewed has escaped unharmed.
Jaci: Totally relaxed here and eager to get started!
Lillian: So, firstly a huge thank you, Jaci, for agreeing to be my guest.
Jaci: Thanks for inviting me to be here! 🙂
Lillian: In preparation for this interview I went and checked out your website. There goes hours of my life I’ll never get back. You have been a very busy lady and you have some delicious book covers.
Jaci: Thank you! I’ve been extremely lucky in the book cover department, thanks to my publisher.
Lillian: For those people who have never heard of you maybe you can start by telling us a bit about the genres you write and why you chose them.
Jaci: In the the past I wrote in a lot of different genres, which you’ll be able to tell if you browse around my website. Right now, though, I write primarily contemporary romance.
When I first started out, I wanted to get a feel for who I was as a writer, which I strongly encourage every new author to do. You really don’t know who you’re going to be and where you belong until you find what you love. So I dabbled in different genres—everything from paranormal to romantic suspense to futuristic and fantasy. It took me a few years to decide I really loved contemporary romance most of all. I’ve been writing contemporary romance for several years now and that’s where I’m the happiest.
Lillian: How did you get your big break in publishing?
Jaci: I had always written very hot love scenes, which didn’t really fit the market I was trying to break into at the time. That’s when I found Ellora’s Cave, who was publishing digital erotic romance. I thought they’d be a good fit for me, so I submitted a book to them and they published my first book. It was a very exciting time for me because I felt they really marketed the kinds of books that fit my voice back then. Plus digital publishers back in the early 2000’s were the few publishers who allowed their authors to push the envelope as far as writing whatever they wanted to write, topic and genre wise. In 2005 I signed contracts with Berkley and with Bantam Dell which allowed me to expand my reach into traditional print publishing as well as digital publishing. Currently I’m writing for Berkley and very happy there. It’s been a thrill ride for me, for sure.
Lillian: I do have to admit to being a big fan of your Play by Play series. What inspired you to write books about sports heroes?
Jaci: I actually have the awesome Maya Banks to thank for the idea for the Play by Play series. I was going to propose a new series to my publisher, and needed to come up with a new idea. She suggested I write a sports series and thought it’d be perfect for me. I owe all the thanks to Maya for that idea. She’s kind of brilliant that way.
Lillian: Are you a big sports fan?
Jaci: I’m a huge sports fan and have been ever since I was a child. I was born and raised in St Louis, Missouri, which is a big sports city. My dad was a sports fan and there was always sports on television and on the radio when we were kids. My love for football, hockey and baseball grew out of being surrounded by it during my childhood.
Lillian: Just in case you can’t tell from my funny nasal accent, I’m an Aussie not an America, and added to that I really don’t do sport. American football, for the uninitiated, seems to be about spending as much time grabbing each other’s butts and standing around in huddles talking, as it does playing something that seems to have very little to do with kicking a ball. As for baseball, I know it’s a bit like the rounders I played at high school. The only thing I remember about that is if you daydream on first base you can anticipate not seeing the ball before it hits you in the face and breaks your nose. So, how do you manage to write the sports sections in your books so that they make sense to non American couch potatoes like me?
Jaci: And conversely, me being an American knows nothing about that whole rugby thing other than it seems the guys hug each other while turning around in a big circle, then try to beat the crap out of each other while piling on. It’s funny how sports differ in different countries, isn’t it? But hey, I do know soccer, which seems to be a universal sport!
As far as writing about sports, I try to keep in mind that not everyone who reads my books actually has an understanding or liking for the sport I’m writing about. Plus, I’m writing a romance, not a sports book, so while I might pepper the book with sports references or an occasional game situation, I don’t want the entire book to be a sports journal. But I hope the book has enough flavor and explanation that anyone who doesn’t ‘get’ sports will at least have an idea about what’s going on, be able to follow it and not get lost.
Lillian: Of all the characters in your Play by Play series I have to admit to having a real soft spot for Liz. How hard was it to take a kick arse take no prisoners sports agent and have her fall in love without changing her character?
Jaci: I love Liz. She’s undoubtedly my favorite female character in this series. She’s strong, successful in what has traditionally been a man’s field, which is a sports agent, and while she’s made mistakes along the way, she’s atoned for them and learned from them. Liz is very smart, so she takes in every new situation and adapts. As far as changing her character, I think everyone changes as they grow. I’ve put Liz in a lot of my Play by Play books—likely because I love and adore her so much. And I’ve continued to see growth and change in her character as she moves along in her relationship with Gavin. It’s fun to see that. But Liz will never really change who she is, which is a strong, dynamic character who works hard and loves fully.
Lillian: As I mentioned before the covers on your Play by Play series are works of art. I’m happy to admit that I’m so shallow I bought the Perfect Play so that I could lick the cover. The fact the story was fantastic was a bonus and I was hooked on your books for life. How much input do you have in the cover design, and how important do you think the cover of a book is to gaining reader’s attention?
Jaci: Thank you! And hey, that’s not shallow at all. Those covers are definitely lickable. 😉
I’ve been madly in love with the Play by Play covers since The Perfect Play landed on my desk. I give full credit to the Berkley art department for their skill and imagination in giving me the best covers I’ve ever received. As far as input, my editor and I discuss the concept of each book and how we might want the cover to look as far as the tone and feel of the character. But frankly, I give the art department free rein to create the cover as they see fit. I’m a writer, not a cover artist, so it’s not my field of expertise, it’s theirs. And so far, they’ve done an amazing job.
Lillian: Do you have to do a lot of research for you books? What is the strangest or most outrageous thing you have ever done in the name of research?
Jaci: Fortunately, I love sports and I love going to games. I have a pretty good understanding of the sports I write. Though, honestly, watching a sport and writing about it are two different things. There is a level of research you have to do to make sure you get the plays written correctly, and that each season is played during the right times of year, and you don’t have a player doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do in a game situation. So in that respect, I have researched each sport rather extensively.
As far as the strangest or most outrageous thing I’ve ever done in the name of research? Hmmm… That’s a loaded question. What won’t writers do in the name of research? I tend to ask people in various professional fields a lot of very strange questions. Once they find out I’m a writer doing research for a book, they’re generally very nice about answering those questions. When I was writing romantic suspense, I’m sure I worried the detective I was interviewing when I asked him questions about the different ways you could kill someone and how not to leave evidence on the body. But, again, book research.
Lillian: If Jaci Burton wasn’t a writer, heaven forbid, what do you think you would have done with your life?
Jaci: I actually had a full time career before I became a writer. I spent many years in the corporate world, in management. Daily reports, sales meetings, doing budgets and things like that. Quite boring, actually, and not nearly as exciting as being a writer.
Lillian: When you’re not writing what do you like to do with your spare time?
Jaci: I love to be outside whenever the weather permits. WE have a garden in the summer and we grow vegetables. We ride on the motorcycle and we travel. WE love to go to the casino and gamble, though we don’t win as often as we’d like to. I also love to watch TV and watch way more than I should, but I’m hooked on so many shows it’s like an addiction. Uh, I’ll just call it research.
Lillian: Is writing a full time occupation for you? And if it is how do you keep things fresh so you don’t start to feel like it’s just another job?
Jaci: It is a full time job for me and has been for several years. But since every book is a new adventure for me, with new characters and new situations, it’s like starting a brand new job with every book, so how could it possibly ever get boring?
Lillian: What does the future hold? What books do you have coming soon or in progress for us to look forward to?
Jaci: I just turned in Melting the Ice, Book 7 in my Play by Play series. This is Drew’s book and it’s all about hockey again.
Right now I’m working on Holiday Games, a Play by Play holiday novella that will release in November. Since we talked a lot about Liz earlier, I’ll tell you that it focuses a lot on Liz and Gavin’s relationship, but it also includes the entire Riley family. I’m having so much fun writing this novella.
Coming up in June is the next Play by Play book, One Sweet Ride. It’s an auto racing book and features Gray Preston, who I know everyone is going to fall madly in love with.
In July is the release of the Hot Summer Nights anthology, which features Hope Smolders, my novella introducing my new Hope contemporary romance series.
In September, Hope Flames releases, the first single title in my Hope series. I’m so excited about this new series and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
Now some questions just for fun:
Movie or a good book?
Movie. Followed by a good book (I know…I cheated on this one)
Sex or chocolate?
Sex. Followed by chocolate (I can’t help myself. I cheated again)
Hot or cold?
Definitely hot. I hate the cold!
Motorbike or sportscar?
This is a tough one. But I do love sports cars (Don’t tell my husband I didn’t choose motorcycle)
Football or Baseball?
Oh, come on. Don’t make me choose. But I do love football.
Leather or silk?
Leather on him. Silk on me. (Still cheating here.)