I’ll add to these as I get asked. You can ask me a question here.

About M.J.

What’s your favourite book/tv show/movie?

Asking me to pick a favourite book is like asking me to pick a favourite shade of blue (aka too hard). You can find a list of some of my favourite authors in another FAQ. A sampling of favourite books:

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
  • A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
  • No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Gate To Women’s Country by Sheri S.Tepper
  • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
  • Outlander/Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott

Some favourite TV shows:

  • Buffy
  • Firefly
  • Justified
  • The West Wing
  • QI
  • The Vicar of Dibley
  • Miranda
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Doctor Who/Torchwood
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Glee
  • Sherlock
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Smash
  • Elementary
  • Nashville
  • Suits
  • The Blacklist
  • Outlander

Some favourite movies:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean (all of them)
  • Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr one)
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Notting Hill
  • Catch and Release
  • The Abyss
  • The original Star Wars films
  • Serenity
  • The Cutting Edge
  • Iron Man
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • The Lion King
  • Casino Royale
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The King’s Speech
  • Walk The Line
  • The Avengers
  • Rush
  • Thor 2
  • Stage Beauty
  • Mamma Mia
  • Bull Durham

I’m pretty much a story junkie. Give me awesome characters and dialogue and perhaps a hint of romance and you’ll have me.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Well, at this point I still have a day job, so I do that. Hobby wise, I like yarny things (knitting, spinning, crochet) and sewing. Since 2014 I’ve been playing with sketching and watercolours which I love a lot. I also like to cook. Baking in particular. My Dad’s dad was a baker so I blame him for my love of flour and yeast and butter and sugar. If you’re interested in crafty stuff I post stuff on Instagram and my FB pages). I also recently started an Instagram just for my art. I like photography and would like to do more of that. I go to the ballet. Currently I don’t do enough exercise but when I do, I like to walk, do pilates, do Nia, swim and torture myself on the elliptical. I read a lot (but not as much as I used to). I play cat butler to my two cats. I hang out with friends, try not to spend too much time on the internet, make bad attempts at gardening and watch a lot of TV and movies (story junkie!).

Books

Are the Half-Light books steampunk?

No. The world of Shadow Kin and Blood Kin has a Victorian-ish level of tech because iron and silver are controlled and rationed and that has impacted technology. But there aren’t goggles and gadgets and some of those other cool things that steampunk has. The closest term for it is gaslight fantasy. Dark romantic gaslight fantasy.

How many books are there in the Half-Light City series?

Four. Shadow Kin, Blood Kin, Iron Kin and Fire Kin. That wrapped up the current story arc so I’m playing in other worlds for a bit. (Though it would be fun to come and play some more with the Half-Light City in the future).

Does Blood Kin follow on from Shadow Kin? What about Iron Kin?

Yes, it does. It starts not long after Shadow Kin ends. But the main characters of Blood Kin are different to Shadow Kin. Similarly Iron Kin takes up a little while after Blood Kin ends and there’s two new main characters. Fire Kin follows this pattern.

Why are your ebooks different prices?

I work with a publisher (Roc) for The Half-Light City series and the Four Arts and they set the price for the ebooks.

I self-publish The Wild Side series and because I don’t have all the expenses of a big publishing house, I can set the price lower.

How many books are there in The Four Arts series

At this stage there will be three. I’m currently working on The Unbound Queen which is Book 3.

How many books are there in the New York Saints series?

Five were published. Maybe one day I’ll get another idea about the Saints.

Writing

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a pantser. I generally have an idea of a few key bits of the book (and usually the ending) but apart from that I don’t really outline or plot unless I get stuck. I have written books where I’ve written the synopsis had to be written first but a) the writing of said synopsis is kind of torturous and b) the story changes anyway.

I do collage or set up a pinterest board before I write a book and I use soundtracks as well – both of these things help me ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the world and the characters.

How did you get published?

The way a lot of folks do.  I wrote a lot, submitted a lot, went to workshops and conferences, entered contests, found some awesome critique partners and kept at it. Most of important of all of that is the writing a lot. It takes a while for most writers to find their niche and learn to write a novel (novels are long…and hard to write!). I met my agent, Miriam Kriss, at a Romance Writers of Australia conference.  She actually requested my work through a cold read session she did there. I also submitted to other agents for both that book (and had done so earlier for my romances) but ultimately went with Miriam. She then took on the fun part of selling my books (for which I am very, very grateful). These days I do a mix of indie and traditional publishing.

How do you write?

I find my process changes a bit with each book but basically I write most days and try and meet a weekly page or word goal. I’ll write in order as long as I know what’s happening next. When I get stuck, I skip ahead to the next bit of the book I can “see” and write that then figure out how to go back and stitch things together.

I write a fairly short first draft, full of dialogue and talking heads, then have to go back and layer in more details.  It’s like the first time round, I can mostly hear the characters talking but the pictures that go with them are fuzzy. In revisions, I get a clearer picture, so can put in more details and fix what I got wrong the first time round.

As for actually doing the writing, I mostly work at home at my desk. I find it hard to concentrate in cafes etc but will do it if I have to. I do a lot of first drafting with Write or Die (basically doing writing sprints) so I can get the story down without stopping myself to much.  I use Scrivener and Word to help pull it all together after that. My home computer is a Mac. I also have a Macbook Air that I love beyond reason. I put together a soundtrack for each book and listen to that as I write, either all of the songs or one song on repeat, depending on what I need at the time.  There are songs in my soundtracks that I get pretty tired of by the end of a book. I don’t really do a lot of pre-writing, plotting or worldbuilding before I write. I’m pretty much of the “if you build it as you go, they will come” school of writing. Which does sometimes mean having to stop and figure stuff out as I go and sometimes having to circle back to fix things because I’ve stuffed something up world wise. The only thing I really do before I write, besides choosing the soundtrack music, is a digital collage which helps me get the mood of the characters and the feel of the book.

Do you have critique partners?

Yep, here are some of them

What tools/programs/stuff do you use to write?

I draft in Scrivener and then work in Word once I’m at the editing stage (editors like Word). Scrivener is the bomb is you are someone who writes out of order like me. I use Pinterest and Curio for collages and mood boards. Brain.fm for concentration when I’m not listening to soundtracks for my books. I also like Write or Die for sprints and Think for blackout distractions.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve written stories since I was quite young. The first one I remember was around age 8, something about a family of unicorns and their adventures! I first started writing seriously to try and get published around 2001. I sold in 2010. You can do the math on that one. When I first started writing seriously, I was writing contemporary romance and then my fantasy/urban fantasy love stole in and I started writing urban fantasy. My first UF finalled in the Golden Heart, won a few other competitions, and got me my agent. So I figured I was onto something. I sold my first fantasy series in 2010 and my first contemporary series in 2012.

Other

What’s with the weird spelling on the site?

I’m an Aussie, so I use Aussie english spelling and grammar on the site and the blog because that’s what my brain defaults to. I draft my books in US english and am often heard whining to my editor that I have to be tri-lingual in one language (there are many many differences between Aussie/US/UK English…it’s a confusing language!)

Coffee or tea?

My caffeine delivery system of choice is Coke Zero. Terrible habit but there it is. I periodically give it up but somehow we always end up getting back together.  Sadly, even though I think coffee smells okay, drinking it makes me feel sick. I will drink tea but am not really big on hot drinks. Particularly in summer in Australia. People say a nice cup of tea cools you down but I beg to differ. In winter I do like herbal teas. And am fond of chai (though not necessarily chai latte).

Do you have pets?

Yes, currently two cats, The Big Torti (who is 8) and The Formerly Tiny Torti (now bigger than the big Torti) and generally known as the Diva Kitten who is currently (at the start of March 2018) almost 17 months old. Both are girls. I generally have two cats. I grew up with dogs and love them too but feel guilty not being home enough for a dog…maybe one day. Previous cats who you may see referenced if you follow me on social media or poke around the blog archives were:

  • Sophie (aka The Fuzzy Girl), Grey and White domestic fluffy beast.
  • Tabasco (aka The Orange Cat) Mad sweet red burmese boy.
  • Jessie (aka The Grey Cat) Grey smoke tabby domestic fluffy girl.

 


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