Monday, September 17, 2007

[Interview] Jalena Burke

Jalena Burke writes short erotic romance fiction.

Her stories are all available as e-books. They include Me, My Next Door Neighbor and Bob (Forbidden Publications, 2006); One Sinful Night (The Wild Rose Press, 2006); S’mores (Phaze, 2006); The Red Apron (Forbidden Publications, 2007); Going Up (Forbidden Publications, 2007) and Make Him Beg (Phaze, 2007).

In a recent interview, Jalena Burke spoke about her writing.

How would you describe the genre in which you do most of your writing?

I write short erotica stories, what I call quickies, similar to the stories you might find in Naughtier Bed Time Stories by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd. They are perfect to read in one sitting. It's a hot genre, but also a challenge and I enjoy short stories.

Actually, I didn’t think I’d ever write in this genre, but when I read about how popular it was and signed up for some online groups, I thought I’d give it a try. I initially envisaged writing contemporary romance with little sex involved, but came up with my first erotica story one day while bathing, of all things. I grabbed a notebook, and just started writing. It was actually a lot easier than I expected. I do write non-erotica romance under a different name that I keep separate for personal reasons.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Friends I’ve met online. Fellow authors.

There are many writers’ forums online that I have found and from that, I have found critique partners and friends who I keep in touch with and who help motivate me.

Who is your target audience?

Lovers of erotica, and those who want something quick to read.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write.

One summer while visiting my aunt, who writes poetry, my sister and I both wrote our own versions to one of our favorite movies, Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Ever since then, I’ve been interested in writing but didn’t get serious about it until about a year ago, when I joined a writer’s forum online.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

To get my name out there because writing is the easy part but if readers don’t know about you, you can’t build a fan base and nobody will even try to read your books. It’s difficult to reach readers when everything is built online and it takes a lot of time management to schedule chats and such. Also, I have worked on building my own website, which is tough because I don’t know much html. So it’s a challenge, a good challenge because it has taught me a lot, but still a challenge.

It all takes a lot of time and a lot of self-discipline, but you have to know your strengths, your weaknesses, and your goals.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are that I am constantly reading and learning and I love to write. I believe that reading the genre is important to know how others do it, and I could never have too much to read.

My weaknesses are my inexperience, my modesty, and my getting in too much of a hurry because I want it now, when sometimes it’s important to wait.

I can’t beat myself up over things I’ve done wrong or things I didn’t do that I should, and that is a challenge in itself.

What are some of these things that you don't beat yourself up over?

If I don’t write this particular day, I can’t beat myself up over it, or if I sent something in and then realized it wasn’t good enough. And, honestly? Sometimes I try to beat myself up over the fact that I may have bitten off more than I can chew by taking up writing erotica, but my husband, who is always supportive of me, tells me it strengthens my writing to write in different genres. And I love it, or I wouldn’t do it, but it’s hard when I do so much of it myself, including the website maintenance yet continue to work full-time.

Do you write everyday?

Though I try to write something everyday, even if it’s just in my journal, I do tend to miss days.

I miss days because I work full-time and sometimes it’s hard to start writing after a long day in the office. I’ve been keeping a journal off and on for years and sometimes I’ll write what’s on my mind or how I’m feeling about something, sometimes I’ll write about a writing assignment I might have seen somewhere, and some days I just babble to myself about what happened that day or things I need to do. I have a journaling book I use, too. But I’m never consistent in my journaling.

When I begin a writing session, I usually sit down, open my file, and read over what I wrote the day before. Then, I just start writing, or go over any notes I may have made in a notebook throughout the day. I don’t need much. I don’t need music or quiet, just a decent chair and enough light.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Hmm… I can always take details of my own personal experiences or those of my friends and family to add characteristics, emotions or plots to my stories, but mostly it’s just fiction.

Is it possible to write something that's purely fictious?

Yes, I believe that you can write something that is purely fiction... either a figment of your imagination, or a “what would happen if” scenario. Of course you use certain experiences from your own life, but I can get into my character's head so much that I feel I’m experiencing what she’s experiencing, even if I never have before. It really is all a figment of my imagination.

Do you think there will come a time when the e-book will be as popular as 'the book'?

I think the popularity of e-books will continue to grow. Previously, I did not read e-books and now I do because of the convenience, the fact that I can have them now, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of books cluttering my shelf.

Also, it’s a techno world. Kids can text message faster than I can type, and most people have a PDA, cell phone, MP3 player or all of the above. If you ride the train or bus to work or are waiting for an appointment, it’s a lot easier to take out your e-book reader or PDA and read than it is to lug a heavy book around. It’s a lot more private, too.

I think as publishers grow and readers get online, e-book popularity will continue to grow, but I don’t think it will ever replace the book. We will always have books as well, just like we have CDs for music. It’s just a different way to enjoy something. I know many writers who love to publish for the e-book genre.

How long did it take you to write Make Him Beg?

Most of my books take a couple of weeks to write, then a few more to edit.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The sex scenes. Because it’s hard sometimes to come up with something new and different than the average missionary position. It’s also difficult when you wonder who is going to read this, if Mom’s going to see it, what everyone will think of you.

How did you deal with this conflict?

I have to let that go, just write, and put myself in my characters place. Forget about the people “watching”.

Which did you enjoy most?

The sex scenes. (Laughs out loud.) Getting past the sex scenes is a huge accomplishment for me, mostly because of those reasons listed above. If I can write a scene that really turns me on, then I know it’s good.

What sets the book apart from the others you have written?

Make Him Beg is by far the spiciest, with touches of male/male and female/female sex which is something I’ve never done, literally (laughs out loud) and something I’ve never written... I had an idea and I went with it. Any story I write, if I think it’s a good premise, is motivation enough to at least write.

[Writing the sex scenes for Make Him Beg] was difficult because I have been married a long time and have absolutely no experience in that aspect, I have honestly never even read m/m or f/f, but I liked the idea, and so did the publisher.

In what way is Make Him Beg similar to other things you have written?

It’s a short read, like all of my stories.

What will your next book be about?

I’d rather not say right now.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Most of the reviews, if not all, have been good, but I mostly enjoy receiving email from readers. When a reader tells me how much they enjoyed my work, that is the biggest achievement I can seek.

How did you get there?

A lot of hard work and self-sacrifice... It has meant giving up things, hobbies, free time that I could be doing something else. You have to sacrifice those things, give up going out with friends or vegging out at home and watching a movie, when writing is to be done.

This interview was first published by OhmyNews International.

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