Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome Jamaica Layne

Hooray - we've got a new author to welcome to the lineup of Lust Bites: Jamaica Layne.

And she nearly died getting here ...

In now-traditional style we thought an interview was the best way to get the low-down, so here goes:

Tell us a bit about yourself, Jamaica!

I’ve been writing professionally for about 12 years, and wrote very unprofessionally (angst-ridden teen poetry, kiddie plays, etc) for basically my entire childhood and adolescence. I majored in English Literature in college and graduate school, and for a long time saw myself as a "serious" literary author writing dark, meandering work that nobody wanted to read. It wasn’t until I realized my writing talents are far more in line with popular fiction and playwriting that I began to find success.

Before trying my hand at novels, I worked as a professional editor and financial journalist in Chicago’s fast-paced LaSalle Street financial district, and also worked for a variety of software companies as a technical writer. I also worked as a freelance journalist on the side, writing lifestyle features for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, New Art Examiner, Cat Fancy, and many other publications. I also am a successful playwright, having had my plays staged professionally all over the US and world (New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Toronto, the rural UK, and elsewhere). I did all that writing under my own name, "Jill Elaine Hughes". When I took a stab at writing erotica, it was so different from all the writing I’d ever done in the past that I thought it best to create a pseudonym---another "brand", if you will. Hence, all my erotica writing is published under my alter ego, "Jamaica Layne."

So how did you pick your pseudonym?

I chose "Jamaica Layne" because I wanted to write erotica under a sexy "literary porn star" name. I chose Jamaica after the Caribbean island, with its sexy reggae music and tropical paradise, and Layne because I wanted to work the verb "lay" in somehow.

What have you had published in the erotica field? What’s coming out next?

Market for Love is the first erotic novel I had published, and it is due out from Virgin Cheek on October 14, 2008 in both the US and UK. I also recently signed contracts to produce six new erotic novels with Ravenous Romance, a very promising new US-based epublisher of erotica that was founded by several former publishing executives at large NYC publishing houses. I also have a new literary agent, Lori Perkins of the L. Perkins Agency (having fired my former one because he didn’t understand the erotica market). Ms. Perkins and her associates are working on getting several erotic and romantic manuscripts in my "backlist" published, and are also working with me to create proposals for future works. Right now, I have proposals out for an erotic memoir, as well as an erotic "police procedural" detective novel that involves a young Chicago female vice cop infiltrating a prostitution ring----and liking all the sex that undercover work exposes her to.

How and when did you start reading erotica?

I started reading erotica at a very young age----twelve or thirteen. My first foray into the genre was with D.H. Lawrence’s classic Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and it just went from there. My father and former stepmother were very into sex, sexuality, and free love, and they had bookshelves chock full of sex manuals, erotic coffeetable books, and erotic"trash" fiction (the "dirty books" of old-time porn shops) and I sneaked those books off their shelves and read them all voraciously. In college and after I became drawn to erotic "high literature"-----works by Anais Nin, Henry Miller, James Joyce, Catherine Millet, Margaret Atwood, and also to fantasy and science fiction with sexual elements----works by authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey, among others. I’ve also been a fan of the romance genre since high school, from the trashiest contemporary books all the way back to Jane Austen. When romance novels started getting sexier in the late 90s, I found them very tantalizing and read them by the busheful. But I never thought of taking a stab at writing erotica myself until fairly recently.

How did you get into writing erotica? You write in other genres too, don’t you – what do enjoy about each? Is the writing experience different?

I frankly started writing erotica because the novels I was writing in other genres that I enjoyed reading and writing the most (chick lit, contemporary straight romance, some fantasy and science fiction) just weren’t selling. I had an agent who liked my work a lot but didn’t know how to sell it, because the editors he sent it to kept rejecting it and saying it wasn’t "quite right" for regular romance or chick lit or genre work. Something was always missing, but we could never quite put a finger on what. I’d been reading erotica for awhile and on a whim, took a stab at writing it. I found that I really enjoyed creating complicated plots that were driven by sex scenes, and had a great time writing the sex scenes themselves. For the first time in a long while, I was really, really excited (mentally and physically) about what I was writing. But when I completed the manuscript for Market for Love my agent declined to represent it! (he said, "erotica isn’t for me.") I then proceeded to send it to Adam Nevill at Cheek on my own, and he bought it! Adam was very enthusiastic about my erotic writing and has become a mentor of sorts.

I asked my former agent to negotiate the contract for Market for Love, which he did, but I gradually came to the realization that if I was going to pursue erotic writing as a career, I needed new agent representation---preferably with an agent who understood the erotica genre well. That’s what led me to fire my old agent and seek out my new agent, Lori Perkins, who is arguably the top agent in the world for the erotica genre----she knows it in and out and has been selling it for years.

So I discovered I had a new talent! This erotic writing work of mine has really taken off, and seems to be the genre that I write best, because it’s certainly the work of mine that is selling the most----I’ve recently landed contracts for six books to be released over the next year, likely with more to come!

What are your favourite genres within erotica?

I like contemporaries the best, since that’s what I write the most of myself. I also like paranormal historicals, especially set in the Middle Ages and general timetravel plots. I write (and read) everything from general "vanilla" hetero sex scenes to ménage to moderate BDSM, always with the woman dominating. The novel I’m writing right now for Ravenous Romance, Knight Moves, is about a 21st-century New Jersey Turnpike worker who gets kidnapped by a time-travelling knight from the 12th century, where he makes her his personal sex slave in a huge harem he keeps trapped in his castle. But the heroine learns to make the best of a bad situation by becoming a much-in-demand dominatrix, and uses her newfound power to both have a lot of hot sex with a lot of hot sexy knights, as well as to free herself from servitude and return to her own time.

What are your writing rituals? Do you have a special time of day or place to write?

I try to write every day, which is tricky sometimes because I am the mother of a toddler. My husband and I recently bought a new home, which has a huge third-floor "studio" of sorts where I’ll be writing, and also has plenty of room for a playroom where my son can occupy himself safely while I work. If I can write 1000-1500 words a day, I’m doing very well. Sometimes on good days I can surpass 2000 words. Now that I am under contract to write so many books in such a short time, I’ll probably need to up those targets.

What's the person or thing that inspires you most?

I’m inspired the most by my inner storyteller. I have an almost pathological drive to write, and that drives me more than anything external from myself.

Who do you read purely for fun?

Graphic novels and comic books, especially Elfquest. I’ve loved that comic since childhood. And it was one of the first comics/graphic novel series to depict explicit sex in a positive way. I also love the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, as well as anything else that piques my fancy. I kind of go in phases. I’m in a Nora Roberts phase right now. I’m also a big fan of Sara Gruen, who I know personally through some writing orgs I belong to.

What are you working on at the moment?

In addition to the Knight Moves novel and the proposals I mentioned above, I’m also developing a series for Ravenous Romance called Vital Signs. This will be a series of five books all taking place in and around a small community hospital in rural North Carolina. The first book is complete and will be released by Ravenous in serial form beginning December 1. The series will release new chapters every week, much like a television series. I can best describe Vital Signs as a much sexier version of Gray’s Anatomy, except it’s located in rural America instead of Seattle.

What is your relationship with the wonderful world of blogging? Are you keen on techie web stuff?

I do a lot of blogging. I have a blog under my own name, where I write about my place in the publishing world as well as life in general. I also do a little blogging as Jamaica Layne on her myspace page. I’m not a super techie but I think I need to work on that, now that I have so many books coming out, I will need a more sophisticated Web presence. I plan to contribute to Lust Bites at least once a month.

Is there any erotic theme you haven't yet written about but feel you want to?

I haven’t written a straight lesbian erotica story (though I’ve written books with one-off "experimental" w-w love scenes). A playwright friend of mine is editing a lesbian erotica anthology for Cleis Press right now and asked me to contribute something, so if I can find the time around all my other deadlines, I will write one for her book.
What makes you angry?

Social injustice, lying, and bad government policy (which we’ve had a lot of in the US over the past eight years!)

What makes you happy?

Writing, being with my husband and son, exercise, and reading.

If you were somehow to meet your romantic/erotic hero ... What would happen?

I would probably drop dead of a heart attack from too many orgasms.

Cats or dogs? Werewolves or vampires? White wine or red? Tea or coffee?

I prefer cats to dogs, werewolves to vampires. Red wine, and green tea. I hate coffee.
Thanks Jamaica, and welcome aboard!


Jamaica Layne said...

Many thanks for the interview!!

Janine Ashbless said...

It's great to have you here Jamaica, despite you moving house, dicing with death etc! Having privileged access to the calendar I'm already looking forward to the Hong Kong post you've scheduled too.

Portia Da Costa said...

Fantastic interview, Jamaica! Nice to 'meet' you. :)

Olivia Knight said...

Welcome! I love the quote on your blog, by the way, -- "Ahhh, virtual me. Much more attractive than the real me." It sounds very exciting the way everything had suddenly rocketed for you; fantastic news. It's such a great moment when you change tack slightly and suddenly, instead of "No... no... no..." the universe starts yelling "YES! That's IT! Go girl!" I'm looking forward to reading all the juicy promo excerpts & seeing your cover widget whip around like a revolving door.

I’m not a super techie...

Lol - that's what I'm here for, darling. Me 'n Portia live to answer HTML queries & fidget with people's widgets.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Welcome to the mad house! I'm sure you'll fit right in.

Not that I'm saying your mad...

Me 'n Portia live ... fidget with people's widgets.

Am I the only person who thinks that sounds completely obscene?

Olivia Knight said...


It's just you.

Go wash your mind out with soap.

(Or you could look at Bicep's man candy, which will remove everything else from your mind...)

Madeline Moore said...

Yes, congratulations on your successes. It's wonderful to have you here at our coven, I mean haven, called Lust Bites.

Kate Pearce said...

Welcome and what a fascinating life you have! I understand how you found your way to erotica, I had a similar journey until I realized not only did I love writing it, but could make money as well! (a win win situation for a change)
Kids do make it harder to find the space to write both physically and mentally-I have 4 to contend with :)

Janine Ashbless said...

I don't understand how anyone with children can write. I had my nephew staying for a week and it was a full-on circus all day every day.

jamaica layne said...

sometimes it is a trial writing and mommying, janine (like today---no writing accomplished thus far). But I do somehow manage to get it done.

Kate----writing as much as you do with FOUR KIDS at home??? Now THAT'S impressive!!

Madeline Moore said...

It is hard to write with the kids about. I have to cover my screen sometimes, like a guilty cyberslut.
'Don't look!' One of my daughters has no interest whatsoever in any of it. The other was interested for awhile but now she's decided I write porn and it's a waste of my talent. (She's in the 'disapprove of everything' phase.) I'd die if they read my stuff. Let them get their ideas from 'Sex and the City' DVDs, like the rest of the kids!