We are moving ahead with our romance author spotlight. Setting the mood for Valentine's Day, so grab a nice warm cup of hot cocoa and curl up by the fire while you read on...
Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
Hi! I’m Jay, and I write contemporary romance, young adult, and sometimes paranormal/urban fantasy. I guess like most writers, I started with reading. Often I’d find books that I didn’t want to end, or endings that I didn’t like, or characters I loved that didn’t get to shine. Just some reaction or other, positive or otherwise, that drove me to start daydreaming bits and scenes. Eventually, the daydreams got too long and detailed I had to write them down. You made me laugh. I remember going to the movies once and loving the movie until we got to the end. It was pathetic. I was so angry I went out, bought the book, tore out the ending and re-wrote it. There's nothing wrong with a good ending that doesn’t end in tragedy. It was like, oh, yes! he finally gets it, they can now try to build a life together, and he gets struck by lightning putting out the trash :P
Could you tell us a little about your novel?
Blossom Among Flowers is the first novel I have finished (stories written on notebooks when I was a pre-teen don’t count). It’s about Hikaru Saito, a Japanese high school student who’d rather spend her days buried deep in her manga than pay attention in school. This gets her into trouble when she fails an important exam, and her teacher had to assign her a tutor in the form of a beautiful snob of a genius named Takeshi Hinata. They start a strict tutor-student relationship that develops into a tentative friendship, and soon, something more. I had to go look at your profile again because I was like ''Wait! Jay isn't Japanese, is she?"
Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?
I was addicted to Japanese comics (also called manga), anime, and dramas when I was a kid. I don’t have much time to indulge in them now, but don’t tempt me because I can easily get into them. Anyway, I was sad because the guy in this drama that I was rooting for didn’t get the girl. So I just started imagining someone like him as the love interest in this new story. It kind of snowballed from there.
What do you think makes a good romance story?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, because I’m trying to figure out what makes a romance cheesy to some but awesome to others. And I think it’s about relatability. Even if the hero is godlike and the romantic scenes are impossibly epic, as long as the reader can identify one way or another to the characters and to the story, it’s going to feel real. It’s going to make the reader swoon and believe. If the reader feels alienated, it’s not going to work. You won’t be able to make everyone think yours is a good romance story, obviously, but there will be readers who will love it, as long as they feel that the story is real. I like that! It makes sense. I had never read a romance novel until I started writing Emma. I wanted to see how other authors portrayed emotions...well my first reaction was ''Woman are not that dumb." My second was amusement at the cookie-cutter details of the man character that seemed to be repeated from one book to another.
How do you handle the emotional side of romance writing?
I get very attached, which is hard and makes it difficult to write something on a deadline. I need space to get into the characters’ heads, to ask questions about them, and know why they would do something. I have to hear them talk in my ear, because when that happens that means I’ve gotten to know them already. I get really immersed and I kind of get carried away. I think this is the first time I hear about this style of writing. Fascinating…
Which elements do you think are more important in this type of writing?
Humor, logic, and a good kiss scene. I particularly like rain/snow scenes.
Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I had no outline when I was first writing, so with Blossom it turned into this episodic thing that had no underlying story arc. By the time I realized it could go on forever, I’ve hit 160k+ words. So then I had to write an outline and start cutting. It was a very painful process. I write with detailed outlines since then. Now that’s one way to get an author to use an outline.
How much research went into your story?
A lot! Because I’m not Japanese, and when I was writing this, I hadn’t been to Japan yet. So a lot of the things in that story are exclusively from the anime/manga/dramas I’ve consumed. I had to fact check everything and make sure I was not disrespecting the culture. But it was a fun exercise. I’d do it again.
How does this book differ from what you have written so far?
Blossom Among Flowers is contemporary YA that reads like an anime/manga/drama. It’s really cool when readers give me that comment because that was what’s in my head when I was writing it. I have a New Adult romance series that starts with the novella Songs of Our Breakup, and it tells the story of an indie rock band and a Japanese celebrity. It’s about music, rock and roll, and moving on. Apart from the difference in genre, Songs is set in the Philippines, where I’m from, and has Filipino characters (apart from the one foreign celebrity).
How have the changes in present-day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
It makes me want to write more and write faster. I want to keep up because things change all the time. But I also have to keep telling myself to slow down a bit so I can enjoy the process. Sometimes my sister takes it upon herself to remind me of that.
How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
Oh boy, marketing, that elusive friend. Someone once told me marketing is not about selling, but it’s about sharing something you like with others who can like it too. I’m trying to keep that in mind when it starts to feel too much like work. That it’s about presence and interaction that will eventually (hopefully) lead to readership. I used to have a plan, but I got so stressed out about it. So now I just have a loose outline and a really supportive writing community. Doing this with fellow authors makes marketing seem less of a scary monster.
That’s a good way to go about marketing. It can be so overwhelming when you have to go at it on your own.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Loving your craft is a given, but I think it’s also important to love your story and your characters. You’ll be spending a whole lot of time with them, so you have to have a deep affection for them so you don’t give up in the middle of a crisis, i.e. harsh edits, heartless reader comments, writer’s block. Funny, but it’s like a relationship, isn’t it? Ha ha, I think it can be even more intense, lol.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I have a new clean read for release soon. It’s a paranormal/urban fantasy story called Majesty, and it’s the story of Andy and the ghost of her best friend Majesty. It’s about how friendship endures even death, and how loss and grief can bring you love, if you allow it. It was painful to write this book. It broke my heart a few times, but I’m glad I did it. Sounds very interesting :)
Jay E. Tria is inspired by daydreams, celebrity crushes, a childhood fascination of Japanese drama and manga, and an incessant itch to travel. She writes contemporary young adult and new adult romance. Sometimes, paranormal fantasy too. Visit her website at www.jayetria.com.
"As someone who appreciates Japanese culture and its people, Tria got every nuance on point. The dialogue, narrative, and expressions used in the story flowed in one cohesive structure." - Anne Plaza of WillReadforFeels
"This story is funny, full of romantic feels, and reads like you're watching a Japanese or Korean drama." - Ines Bautista-Yao, author of Only a Kiss and What's In Your Heart