Interview between author Emma Lee Jayne and Blogger Yael Waknin

With Yael Waknin

Yael and I met each other online when she reviewed Heart Smart and we struck up a friendship. Here’s a weird thing about being an author … you have this idea about how the story is supposed to go. But you never really know if you told it right. You have to rely on other people to read it and give you feedback and insight. So, when I was finishing up Smart Mouth, I asked Yael to beta read for and she graciously agreed. I thought for her blog, she could ask me some questions and I could ask her some too.

Emma‘s Questions: 

  1. Smart Mouth is the second book you’ve beta read for me, because you also betad for Hoax for the Holidays (my novella about Lily McPherson). Do you enjoy beta reading? (And … in case you feel like I’m putting you on the spot, it’s okay to say no!) If you do enjoy it, what do you like about it?

Yes, I do enjoy beta reading. When I beta read, I feel like I’m having a journey with the author and the characters.

I love reading drafts for a romance novel and feel my mind working and imagining where this story can go.

Working with you, in particular, has been very enjoyable and challenging because on the one hand I really like the book Heart Smart and on the other hand I was really scared to steer you in a direction too far from the world you created.

I know that not everything a beta reader will offer the writer will necessarily be accepted, but when the writer does take the notes to his attention and makes corrections to the book, it feels both really good and really scary.

Overall, beta reading is something I love to do because beyond the fact that I have studied the field, I have read so many books in the genre and I am in a lot of discussion groups about books, and I feel I have quite a few tools to give in order for the book to go won the right direction.

EMMA: See, this is why having beta readers is so, so, so important! Because as writers, we don’t always tell the story we think we’re telling. There are always things about the characters that we know that don’t make it onto the page. Sometimes, there are things on the page that the readers doesn’t really need to know … The only way to know if we’re getting it right is to have other people read it!

But, I do understand what you’re feeling. That’s how I feel when I give feedback to someone I haven’t worked with before. Thank goodness I do most of my critiquing with writers I know really well.

But no matter how you look at it, I think books are very collaborative. The writer and the reader are making a story together. I bring something to the table, but you bring your imagination to it as well!

  1. Tom, the hero from Smart Mouth, is a former boy band member. He was in a band called the Boys of Summer. You asked me if any of the other members were going to have books. So, before you read my answer, what do you think? Should any of them get books? And do you have any gut instincts about who needs to have their own book?

Unequivocally yes. I think every BoS member needs to have their own book because everyone interested me in a different way.

Drew deserves his own book so he won’t forever be the fuck-up – he needs some good girl that will make him change his way.

Josh deserves a book of his own because he is always calm and caring, and he deserves to have someone that loves and cares for him.

With Luther, it’s pretty clear. He is a single dad, and he needs someone to bring the love back to his life.

And Dallas, Dallas is the player that is so confident that one girl is never enough. He needs to be wrong and fall in love with someone that will make him forget all the others.

EMMA: Oh my gosh!  I love this breakdown!!! Yes, to all of this! That’s exactly how I feel about each of them. I’m excited to see how being in the band shaped each of them and how that plays out.

I know it seems like I should be in charge here, but sometimes you have characters who just show up, fully formed, and that’s how each of them felt to me. So I can’t wait to peal back the layers there!

 3. You and I have talked a lot about what an amazing job the narrators have done on my audio books. And, honestly, I can’t say enough amazing things about the narrators!

I have loved audio books for years! And Heart Smart was my first audio book.

Since I love audio books so much … what some of your favorites? (And you don’t have to mention mine!)

Also, do you think that one of the reasons you love audio is because English isn’t your first language?

Not that that *should* have anything to do with it! Because English is my first language and I still love them!

Though, because I have ADHD, I was actually slow to read as child.

Wow, audiobooks are true love, thanks to the narrators and the books they tell.

I have read many books and then listened to their audio virsion just for the experience itself, but in terms of preference, Kayley Lonring’s audiobooks will always be my first choice. In reading her books, I feel like it’s written like a script or a show, so when I hear the audiobook, I see the whole story and characters in my imagination. The dialogues are conveyed so well, and I do not think there is one book of hers that I have not laughed out loud. On top of that, your book Heart Smart will forever be my most-listened-to audiobook.

After listening to the Heart Smart audiobook, my approach to audiobooks changed.

At first, I used to listen to audiobooks to pass the time when I was doing household chores and couldn’t hold a book or when I was sitting with my child (when he was a baby and just slept or played by lying on his back). After listening to Hear Smart and enjoying it so much, I felt in awe of the narration and all the little nuances the narrators brought to the book. The way they know how to make me feel their feelings while narrating, I knew that my first preference would first and foremost be an audiobook.

There are such good narrators who bring the characters to life and really make me believe that these are not just characters but real people who tell their personal stories.

And that’s why I love Audiobooks.

EMMA: That’s totally how I feel about the audio for my books! The narrators did such a great job, it feels like the books aren’t mine anymore at all. And that’s really, very very cool!

I think I’ve listened to one of Kayley Lonring’s audios … but I’m not 100% sure. I do really love her books though, so I’ll need to buy those and listen to them!
Other romances, I’ve loved are Penny Reid’s Time, Space, and Motion … those were great.
And, this is sci-fi with romance in it, but I love, love, love the three books in the Illuminae series. Like, I can just listen to that trilogy over and over again!

 Yael‘s Questions: 

1. Did you think of writing a book about Gwen when you were writing Heart Smart?

Good question! Okay, so here’s the secret history of Gwen and Tom …

The very first version of this story is the third book I ever wrote! I loved the core story, but I knew it wasn’t ready, so I set it aside and just let it simmer on the back, back, back burner all these years.

Then when I was writing Heart Smart, I decided to dust Gwen off and put her in the lab with Max. She had always been PhD student in something science-y, so it made sense.

Of course, nothing about that original draft was savable. I never even bothered looking for it on my computer. I just started from scratch. But that core story of Tom having a long time crush on his twin brother’s best friend, Gwen, and then her mistakenly kissing the wrong brother … all that stuff was in the first version.

And… I’m just now realizing that the old Tom and Gwen story was my third book … Smart Mouth is my third book as Emma Lee Jayne! That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?


YAEL: I must say that the minds of the writers always fascinate me!

The fact that you talk about the characters as if they are flesh and blood and not the product of your imagination.

I, as a reader, also treat them as people I read their story and not just characters. I, as a reader, really feel in my heart and stomach all the journey and emotions along with the characters in the book, and I don’t think it’s fiction and that they are not real people. I mean, the fact that you wrote the story of Gwen and Tom, and it’s actually people who have been living in your head for a while, and you just couldn’t understand what the story they are trying to tell you. It fascinates me.

What’s more, this is what establishes my knowledge that I will never be a writer. I have no characters in my head.

As a beta reader or editor, I see the base of the story someone sent me, and only then do I manage to see the world around or at least I can see scenarios that fit the world that the writer is building.


2  -Was it challenging to write about Gwen with the vast knowledge she has?

A little, but probably less than you’d think. I actually have a black soldier fly larvae compost bin myself (and have for probably a decade). So once I settled on that topic, the rest came easily.

But … here is *why* I decided that was what she should research. Last spring, when I was working on the draft, I had lunch at a local restaurant with some writer friends (Kat Baxter, Cheryl Etchison, and Farrah Rochon) and Cheryl brought up compost and I started waxing poetic about maggots. I didn’t see it at the time, but apparently, there was a table of college-aged guys at the table next to us who looked like they were going to puke. The wimps!

That whole experience was just too fun not to use.

So that’s why Gwen studies maggots. And it seemed like a good fit with Max’s soil.

But, honestly, google makes everything easier, right?

Though, I did read *a lot* of scientific journal articles over the past year.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t take Google long to learn your searching preferences. So for about six months, Google thought I was really smart! Every time I searched up anything, my results were journal articles. At some point I was like, “No google! I want to buy new shoes! I don’t need to know how shoes impact knee joints!”


YAEL: This is also something that really makes me appreciate writers. You can read a newspaper article, experience an amusing/exciting/complex issue, or hear about some event and a whole world immediately opens up to you around that thing.

Just the thought of these abilities makes me smile and get excited.


3 – How did you come up with the idea of writing about twin brothers?

That is actually a question I don’t have an answer to. It was just always part of the story. I love writing about the nature of different relationships. Natural family verses found family. The family we’re born with verses the family we choose. But have value, but one is easier sometimes.


4 – Will there be books about BOS band members (please  say yes!)

I sure hope so!!!

(And, yes, I know it seems like this is something I should be in charge of, doesn’t it?)

But I think they all have stories to tell, I’m just not sure what those stories look like yet. Though, I will say, that moment in the book where Tom thinks “I wouldn’t mind if he hit on any other woman I know other than Bex.” … My inner storyteller perked up the moment I wrote that line. I was like, “Hmm … Tom, tell me more … Why does that bother you? What have you noticed that you haven’t realized you’ve noticed?”

So I think Bex has some romance in her future, but I’m not sure if it’s with Dallas or if it’s with one of the other guys

YAEL: I’m reading your answer, and I’m already excited about the book for Bex.

I can see her with one of the band members, and I can definitely see the conflict with Tom. When I read the book, I didn’t see it and now that you say it, I can see it. This is exactly what I said in an earlier answer, that when I get the base for a book, I can see scenarios, but before that, my mind is blank.


5 – Which character was more challenging to write? Tom or Gwen?

Probably Tom, because there were so many things I wanted to get right that I didn’t have personal experience with.

Tom is Latino, and he’s the first main character I’ve written who was Latino. I felt like it was important, because the Latino population is huge in Texas. It’s nearly 40% of the population!

So if I’m going to write books in Texas, I need to have representation. And, I’ve lived here for 40 years now. I know plenty of people who are Latino. But I was still nervous and wanted to do that aspect of his character justice.

And then I decided he had anxiety. So, again, I wanted to do justice to that experience. My daughter has a lot of anxiety. So  I know what it looks like physically, but still I talked to other people with that ADHA/anxiety combo.

Now, I have ADHD too, so some of that part was easy, but you still want to get it right.

I wanted it to be part of him but not all of him.

Here’s the interesting thing about his anxiety … almost as soon as I knew he was a musician I knew he had anxiety. (Sometimes these things are just there. They just show up and you know it’s right for the character.)

Anyway … I had this memory of some musician who had a panic attack during a performance, so he did the entire concert with his back to the stage.

I know I’ve read about that somewhere!

But when I googled “musicians who’ve had panic attacks” the list was so long, I never found that initial musician I thought of.

And, here’s the *really* interesting part… If you look at the boy bands, there is at least one guy in each of the boy bands with serious anxiety. And it’s one or more! So it’s a real thing!

For Tom, I channeled a lot of Jon Knight from NKOTB … And I’m not a NKOTB fan necessarily. But he’s been so wonderfully open and honest about his mental health. So reading and watching interviews has been so helpful!

But in general, writing a musician was very outside my comfort zone! I am not musical. Thankfully Austin has a lot of musicians, so I was able to reach out to folks I know and interview them. And I watched a lot of documentaries! I found Watch the Sound on Apple TV and This is Pop on Netflix to both be helpful. But, of course, those first hand interviews were so important!

YAEL: You see? I was sure Gwen is the more complicated character mainly because of the vast knowledge she has and her exceptional mind, and again you surprised me and said that Tom was more challenging.

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About the author

Ayla Asher is my contemporary romance pen name and Rebecca Hefner is my fantasy romance name. I have two author names to keep the sub-genres separate on Amazon and other retailers. I grew up in Western North Carolina but have lived in the New York City area for many years and really love it. I’m in my mid-forties and this is why I love writing about characters in their forties falling in love! I left my corporate medical sales job in 2018 and became a full-time author. I now have almost 20 books published under both author names combined and love meeting new readers.

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