Jessica Dee Rohm!
Jessica, I thoroughly enjoyed your first three novels and want to get right into them with a few questions!
You write about strong, intelligent women, does that mean that there are “parts” of you in every book you’ve written so far?
There are parts of every author in what they write if they write honestly and from the heart. When people ask if my characters are autobiographical, the answer is NO. But my character’s observations and attitudes often reflect my own.
Now, let's see, from the back of your cover of your first book, you are "A lifelong writer and a serial entrepreneur, starting your career at the NY Times, then started Jessica Dee Communications, which grew to be the 16th largest in the country, then founded Foreign Managment, a real estate consultancy and brokerage firm catering to investors...etc., Well, now, we can be humble only so much, Jessica. I'd say you have been that "strong, intelligent woman" at least in your professional life, even if personally you have not done everything your characters have gotten into...I commend you on your professional success and like to point out to our young women that there are indeed women making it "big!" Soooo, I just had to throw that little background in before we get into more later...
The Secret Life of Sandrina M., is quite different from your other two and, in some ways, my favorite...how did Sandrina come alive for you?
I think of this as my mid-life crisis book. Since I’m happily married, I would never risk that happiness by actually having an affair…so my heroine has one! Ah…how we live vicariously through our characters! I wanted to write about that incredible “white voodoo” ceremony that I actually experienced when in Rio. Interestingly, lots of editors liked the story but had a hard time “liking” a woman (mother of two) who had an affair. So I rewrote the book and took the kids out.
That's interesting...sometimes I wish that reality was permitted a little more by those that have control. It seems to me that if the author is attempting to "teach" as well as provide entertainment, in any way, then that should not be stopped. In any event, I think the ceremony is one of the highlights for Sandrina's secret life and it was done in such a way that the sexuality was quite fascinating yet realistic enough for us to share in that time. Exciting scenes!
Much of your professional life shines through your work. Is that a true reflection of how you feel about working and a career?
My professional life provides the authentic backdrop for my fiction. In many writing classes, professors say “write what you know.” I know the intimate and intricate workings of several businesses thanks to a long and varied career so, yes, I rely heavily on that for fodder. My first editor felt that my unique business slant on conventional genres such as romance, mystery and erotica, gives me a point of difference from other novelists.
I totally agree with that editor...and, for me, they were perhaps much more familiar since I worked in facilities management and real estate activities, albein in a university environment. I've always loved to roam through buildings and so I enjoyed your travels and revelations about your surroundings so much!
Are you jet-setting to as many places as you write about, making all your readers envious about the various places we find in your stories?
I have been to every single place I have written about, mostly for business, which gives one a different experience and perspective than traveling for pleasure.
I just knew you were going to say that...most of my traveling has been for business as well, but you still get to view the surroundings. I've gone on a number of cruises as a companion on business trips...My most exotic was also in Rio; however, I couldn't get past the variety of surroundings...large hotels right next to pots of devastation in which the people who lived there tried to survive...certainly something I'll not forget and not anywhere near the voodoo activities you shared...LOL
Sooo...Where are you from?
Born and raised in New York City.
Hmmm, I would imagine that was a big assist in getting into the types of positions you've held. When did you start writing?
I have always written. I won a Newspaper Fund scholarship in college, my first job was at The New York Times, then I went into PR…just like the heroine in The Secret Life of Sandrina M.
Congratulations on your scholarship, which certainly would have been a big step forward for you. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Where do your ideas and subjects come from?It has always lurked inside me…just like Dexter’s “dark passenger.” Ideas come from my imagination…subjects from my work and life…characters are composites of many people plus fictional elements. I always say no one person is interesting enough to be a character in a book.
Interesting word, "lurked" almost like you weren't sure what to do with your desire to write. So, did writing come naturally to you or is it something that you had/have to work on?
I work on it every day.
Did you go to school for writing?
Yes. I have an MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville. (And an MBA from Columbia Business School.)
Do you see your future writing come from your life or from other people? Who were the people or person that inspired you to write?
I think from my life and other people. My mother is a painter and has always encouraged my creative side. My father is a businessman and told me to make money. I have yet to find a way to merge these goals!
Well, your schooling prepared you for both and after reading your novels, I would have to commend you for a great start in merging those goals!
How many different drafts of a manuscript do you go through before you publish?
At least four, sometimes ten.
I always like seeing an answer like this, especially when the individual has studied creative writing. So many new writers don't take the necessary time to work and rework their books once the first draft is completed!What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
The publishing environment is so hard today it is difficult not to get discouraged. All writers want to be read. Try to view rejections as a symptom of a changing business model and not a verdict on your writing. But it takes enormous discipline to turn desire into a novel. Think lump of clay/priceless vase.
What made you want to be a writer?
Oh, the usual…I love to read. I know no other way to breathe so much life into information. And…Watergate made me realize how words can make actions come alive on paper.
What do you do when you get stuck in writing?
I don’t get stuck. I read a lot when I’m working on a novel and often something I read gives me an idea that sparks a new direction.
How do you become knowledgeable about the topic you want to write about?
Study, study, study and read, read, read. And Google!
Have you ever wanted to quit? What did you do when that thought struck you?
Yes. I quit for four years. It is very defeating to work so hard and sell only a few thousand books. But then something piques my interest and an idea sparks and I start writing again.
What is your favorite part and least favorite part about being a writer?
When I am in the "zone" I am happier than at any other time of my life. The publishing process is brutal; rejection letters are devastating.
What has been your favorite story/subject that you have written about and why?
I really love Sugar Tower. The real estate industry is overflowing with colorful personalities and the timeliness of the subject, i.e. the great real estate bubble, accentuated the dilemmas and crises experienced by my characters. I also love The Secret Life of Sandrina M. Sandrina is so real.
Well, I totally enjoyed all three of them, your first being Make Me An Offer which included the very important topic of child sexual abuse from adult male friends and the whole sexuality issue within the work environment, which, for me, are also very real and important to portray in realistic fashion. I loved hating Alyson, even while feeling sorry for how she got into the mess she did!
What kind of environment do you prefer when you’re writing?
I love writing in libraries. They are quiet and dedicated to the love of books!
Well, you certainly would be able to write in my log cabin filled with books in every room...of course you'd have to accept having cats help you write when here! So where do you see yourself and your writing in 10 years?
I will continue to write and I hope to be publishing best sellers.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my fourth novel, The Eye Inside. A preview can be found on my website: http://www.jessicadeerohm.com
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment to date?
Finishing three novels. That is huge.
Do you belong to any interest groups?
Yes. SinC = Sisters in Crime and Publisher’s Weekly.
Can we find you anywhere online?
If you Google my name, Jessica Dee Rohm, you’ll find me all over the Internet or go to my website: http://www.jessicadeerohm.com
My three novels: Make Me an Offer, The Secret Life of Sandrina M., and my latest, Sugar Tower are available on all e-sellers such as amazon.com and bn.com.
How do you feel about social site marketing, is it beneficial to your present marketing?
Social networking has been great at developing name recognition and followers. Not sure yet how many books it actually sells. I still think selling books is largely word of mouth.
Do you see yourself continuing?
Nothing could stop me now!
Thank you so much for visiting Book Reader's Heaven, Jessica...My reviews for all three books are already posted (two immediately before this interview) so be sure to continue reading and learn more about her books! Great writing, great stories--strong female leads! The Best!