Our Author Tells Us:
Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about?
I read The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s a nonfiction account of the tremendous environmental and human rights issues related to the ocean. Ian Urbina, a New York Times journalist, has covered the ocean for over ten years, and his story stuck with me. I envisioned what it would be like to spend your life fighting for the ocean, for our planet, out on these ships in third world ports of call, and then I thought about the adjustment of coming home. In a way, Tate’s entire story came about just thinking about youthful naivete that the issues can be resolved, and then how soul-crushing it would be to lose hope.
Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?
I’m not sure marine biology is a common career for characters in romance, so I suppose that makes it unique. But, in terms of age gap, the fact that it’s more than just an age gap, it’s also a philosophical and world view gap, makes it unique. She’s filled with hope, and they meet at a time when he’s given up. He remembers being like her, and that makes the age gap feel far more cavernous.
How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it?
It really depends. I tend to mull over ideas and daydream for quite a while. Once I pick a topic, I spend about a month doing research and plotting.
Do you have a set of notes or a notebook where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
I have an idea file, and I jot notes down in a notes app too, and I have a file on my remarkable. It’s unorganized. It’s not a system I would recommend.
What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?
For research, I’ll spend time in our local Barnes and Noble, on Google, blogs and I’ll read related nonfiction. If I can find people to interview, I will.
Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher?
My recommendation would be genre dependent. It’s a numbers game.
For example, romance readers are so heavily ebook (over 90% by some accounts), it’s hard to justify going the traditional publishing route to start (in my mind). Conversely, children’s books, for example, are still largely sold in paperback/hardback form in-store, so I imagine it would be well worth a writer’s time to pitch a children’s book, to find an agent and a publisher before ever attempting to build an audience, as publishers can be tremendously helpful in gaining in-store distribution.
To me, it comes down to what will a publisher bring to an author, and will they earn the 50-75% royalty share? Because contrary to what many agents and publishers might have authors believe, it’s not that hard in an e-book heavy genre to do it on your own. Furthermore, you’re pretty much cut off at the knees if you go with a publisher, meaning you can’t afford to advertise on your slim royalty share after taking on an agent/publisher. So, you’re completely dependent on that publisher advertising for you. For the big named authors, publishers will put weight behind the marketing. But, for the smaller titles, those authors could be taking a gamble, depending on their publishing contract. If an author maintains rights, they can adjust cover/blurb, do sales, explore marketing tactics at will. If a book falls flat on release, some publishers might just fulfil minimum contract requirements and move on to other titles in the stable.
In terms of building an audience and then approaching a publisher-
I don’t know. I’m not there yet. But, the same numbers game premise would hold true. The best business relationships are those where both partners benefit. So, if by building an audience an author is a lower risk for a publisher, and if the author gets to a point where they need a publisher’s contacts and expertise to continue to grow, then it would be reasonable for a developing author to approach a publisher.
Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
I’m in my second year of publishing, and it absolutely does not provide enough to live on. I’m still investing in my business, so I’d say I’m barely breaking even.
What do you read when you are ill in bed?
I love romance, and that’s mostly what I read. If I’m not feeling well, I might read an old favourite, but there’s a good chance I’ll work through my TBR.
What is your favourite genre?
Contemporary romance. I especially love second chance romance, friends to lovers romance, and the fake marriage trope.
In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?
What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?
I can safely say anything I wrote as a student is long gone. I’ve moved around so much, and not to give away my age, but a lot of what I wrote in school was on paper. In college, I had it on a disk- but even if I found those disks I don’t have a computer that could take them. I won’t find them anyway because I’m positive I tossed them. I’m not much of a saver. I don’t like clutter. I tried to save my mixed tapes (cassettes)- but one summer in an attic did those in.
What, in your life, are you most proud of doing?
Raising my daughters – they are truly amazing kids. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve done per se- we’ve just been lucky. But, without a doubt, spending time with them and watching them grow into strong, young women is the most important thing I’ve done.
Which is your favourite place to visit? Do you incorporate it into your books?
We visit Bald Head Island in North Carolina at least once a year, and it’s the inspiration for Haven Island. I changed the name, because, well, I didn’t want to repeat Bald Head over and over and I wanted a more appealing name. But, for me, that island feels like another land. The absence of cars makes it feel like it’s another country, rather than merely 15 minutes by ferry away from the mainland.
If you could be any fictional character, which would you be? And why?
Claire from Outlander. She’s a kick-ass medical doctor…and, why? Jamie. Duh.
Do you write at home or away from home? If at home, what does your space look like? Are you a tidy person?
I suppose almost everyone writes from home these days, right? When Covid hit, my husband took over my home office, so I now work in a hallway between the playroom and the room over the garage. The walls are painted dark and there are walnut doors behind me. I usually have a fairly messy desk. I do try at times to organize, but little post-its, and index cards and books, and glasses clutter the space within hours of my cleaning it.
Do you keep a timeline and character traits pinned up on your wall? On post-its?
If not how do you remember important items about your characters like height, weight, colouring, likes and dislikes etc?
I use character outlines in Scrivener, and I have notes in my Remarkable. I’ll use index cards for plot points and they go up on a wall. But in general, it’s easiest for me to check a file on Scrivener for forgotten details. Anything on my wall requires I put on my glasses in order for me to see it.
Should monsters /criminals be given a second chance? Can they be reformed? What is the best type of prison for them? (you can include paranormals here)
I believe criminals can be reformed. I don’t write paranormal but I’ll assume the ability to reform a monster depends on the laws of the universe. In terms of prison, I’m not sure I buy that’s a great avenue to reform any person. To me, prison’s most useful attribute is in its undesirability working as a deterrent to crime. But, that said, I suppose the best type of prison would be one that emphasized building job skills for life after prison.
Do you enjoy sailing? On a lake or the sea?
And what about tall masted ships- are they better than engines or? I do enjoy sailing. I don’t love the smell of gasoline engines, so yes, I do love sails, and there’s a romantic aesthetic to tall masted ships- although I’m not a skilled or knowledgeable sailor. I’d be better off in a kayak or paddleboard.
How many books did you write during Covid19/Lockdown?
From March 2020 to March 2021 I wrote four books. I pretty much stayed on schedule through Covid, and if anything, I found it easier to stay on schedule because other aspects of my life slowed down (ie kids sports, activities, family vacations).
What about ‘snark’? is it good or bad?
I like snark. But I do find in terms of beta feedback, I often have to curb it a bit.
How easy is it to write a good sex scene? And do you have to have experienced these things do you think, to write about them successfully?
Elle Greco has a podcast, SteamScenes, where you can hear authors answer this question. And the answers almost always vary to some degree. (I love her podcast btw & recommend it). Anyway, I think on some days it’s easier to write sex scenes than others (that’s my pov). And, I have to really focus on the characters and their situation and where they are in the relationship. It’s not just sex – it’s character development and relationship development.
And do I think you have to experience it? I’d say that you probably have to have had sex – but you don’t need to do all the stuff in a story – it just takes imagination, and maybe a little porn surfing. For example, I just listened to Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. It’s a male male romance and the sex scenes are off the charts hot. I don’t actually know those two women – they might have been male previously for all I know. But, my guess would be they haven’t ACTUALLY done everything those two men do in the book- and they did a damn good job writing it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isabel Jolie, or Izzy to her friends, is an Amazon bestselling indie author with an unquenchable thirst for a good, sexy love story. Izzy’s heart pumps faster for stories with strong heroines, down-to-earth realism, and an unexpected twist.
When she’s not writing or reading, she can often be found with a glass of wine in hand relaxing with her husband, daughters, and good friends lakeside.
Izzy fills her Instagram feed with funnies, inspirational “brain candy”, and anything that meshes with her mood of the day. #mood.