Jacqueline Church Simonds

‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’ ~ Henry David Thoreau

Buy the books!

Tell me about your book.

THE MIDSUMMER WIFE, Book One of the Heirs to Camelot: The reincarnated souls of King Arthur, Merlin, and an anxiety-ridden priestess return to save Britain after a devastating nuclear attack, only to find an old foe: Morgaine.

After a nuclear attack on London that heralds The Time Foretold, Ava Cerdwin, the anxiety-ridden high priestess in charge of fulfilling a 1500 year old prophecy, must assist the heirs of King Arthur and Merlin in healing the devastated country. The descendants of Britain’s great men of legend have kept the myths and relics for 61 generations, but no one is quite clear on what they must do next. Nothing goes as planned: Ava falls for the wrong heir, the panic attacks are getting worse, the complex obligations of reincarnation are straining old relationships, and Morgaine and her henchwomen are trying to kill them. Somehow, some way, Ava has to make the Healing happen, or Britain is finished. THE MIDSUMMER WIFE, Book One of the Heirs to Camelot is an Urban Fantasy that combines Arthurian lore, love, and a race to a breathtaking finish.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

The ones coming out are:

THE PRIESTESS OF CAMELOT is the prequel of the series. It will be out in August

THE SOLSTICE BRIDE (Book 2) should be out in early 2019

MISTRESS OF THE ROSE MOON (Book 3) should be out next Midsummer Day 2019

What do I have in my drawer? A very serious social justice novel I wrote for my college final thesis, 2 sci-fi humor starts, one semi-plotted very serious very weird sci-fi book, and a book about a dog that I’ve started twice and abandoned.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Only idiots ban books. Period. If you don’t want to read a book, don’t. If you don’t want family members to read a book, tell them to their faces. If you think it is your business to stop people in your community from  reading a book – you need a hobby and should not be left alone with children and small animals.

When I was a little girl (I was 11 I think), a babysitter snatched TO KILL A MOCKEYBIRD out of my hands and told me it was a filthy book. She said she was going to tell my parents. She never returned, and my mother bought me 6 more books on social justice the next day.

(My parents and I are on opposite sides on the political spectrum, but your right to read what you want, and to vote for whom you want, are principles we hold strongly to.)

Tell me about a principal character in your book. What makes them memorable?

Ava Cerdwen, my MC, has an anxiety disorder that gives her panic attacks and causes her to suffer from agoraphobia (fear of being outdoors). She has a fairly serious agoraphobic attack in the book. Writing a character with an anxiety disorder caused me to have several anxiety attacks of my own—which I have experienced since I was 5 or 6.

Ava is doing the best she can, despite her anxiety issues. And that’s how it is for those of us who have anxiety. We do the best we can, one day at a time.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I self-published my first book, CAPTAIN MARY, BUCCANEER, back in 1999. Then I became an independent publisher (we put out 12 titles under our Beagle Bay Books imprint). So I’ve done the self-pub thing.

With THE MUDUSMMER WIFE, I decided I wanted to see how traditional publishing worked. I was rejected by about 60 different literary agencies. So I can’t really tell you yet how “traditional” publishing works. Outside of the fact I knew that it takes at least 2 years for the book to come out, you get little input into the cover, and marketing depends on what’s left over after the marquee authors in that line have all used up their marketing dollars.

I ended up going with independent publisher Vagabondage Press with their imprint Strange Fictions Press. The turn-around was quicker than the usual, they were far more receptive to my input on the cover, and are in general easier to work with.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I’ve met people (authors, journalists, and poets) who state that reading “pollutes” their work. This is twaddle. You MUST read—and read widely—to write well. You should certainly read a lot of books/poems in your preferred genre to see what the trends are. But you should also read a lot of stuff outside your story’s setting. You live in the world. Live it, read it!

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

Is there such a thing as a plotter/pantser? A Plonter? That would be me.

Each book I’ve written to date has taken its own course. THE MIDSUMMER WIFE started out as a frame tale (a narrative that has something to do with the main story and opens and closes (and sometimes appears in the middle of) a bigger narrative). The action of THE MIDSUMMER WIFE opened, appeared in the middle of, and at the end of, what has become the prequel to the series, THE PRIESTESS OF CAMELOT (out in August). So I had a narrative arc. I just wrote from Point A to Point Z (the end?). (Because of the way MIDSUMMER ends, I HAD to write a series!)

Book 2, THE SOLSTICE BRIDE, I started and immediately wrote 8 fully-realized scenes that happened throughout the book. I don’t mind telling you I had a hell of a time coming up with a story and arcs that connected all of them.

Book 3, MISTRESS OF THE ROSE MOON, I wrote an outline because it is a quest and you need to map out where you are going and where key events are happening. I just barely got the bare outline set down when the characters demanded I start writing them THAT MINUTE. Bossy little things!

I guess I like to lightly outline, and then pants-it from there.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are definitely secrets you will only find out if you read all the books in the series – and have a really good memory.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I do cross stitch. It keeps me from running in the streets. The biggest piece I’ve done was 3 feet by 3 feet.

What are you writing at the moment?

I am trying to decide if I should write a series based on the end of the prequel, or if I should do my sci-fi woman’s humor book. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do at this point. Right now I am marketing THE MIDSUMMER WIFE and writing a lot of guest posts and interview responses.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I’ve been in publishing for 18 years, mostly assisting self-publishers in getting their work to print. The two biggest faults I see in self-publishers are impatience and cheapness.

I always hear authors say “I just want to get it out there!” like it’s a bad gall bladder or something. Nothing great was ever slapped together and thrown out into the world. A good book, like any other great piece of art, needs time to shape and perfect. In the case of books (or short stories, etc), you need an editor to help you achieve your voice, your direction, and to save you from grammar and typo whoopsies. It’s worth the time involved to work with an editor.

Editors are not in it to make your book sound like THEM. They are in it to make your book sound the most like YOU. Their job is to refine what you have (mostly) achieved. There’s only so far you can go with self-editing.

And yes, editing (and professional typesetting/formatting and a professional-looking cover) will cost money. Would you launch a store without spending any money? No. Few authors understand that the minute you stop writing, you are engaged in a $3 trillion a year global business. My advice: if you don’t have the money right away, save up until you can afford it.

Traditional publishing does put authors through editing (and professional typesetting and cover design and marketing). But they are doing less proofing, so you will still catch typos. And the more famous the author, the more often l feel they should have had a developmental editor cut back the book. But those authors are getting millions in royalties and—and oh hey! You just got a check for $20 from Amazon for 6 months of sales.

[Disclosure: I am an editor, and my company provides publishing services that have produced award-winning books.]

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

That’s an interesting question for me, since it turns out different musical styles seem to affect my approach to writing certain material.

For instance, as I was writing THE PRIESTESS OF CAMELOT, I really couldn’t listen to anything other than Celtic-based music. I use Pandora, so I set it on Enya and things went from there. THE MIDSUMMER WIFE I listened to 1960s-ish folk-based music, so I created a Simon and Garfunkel station. For THE SOLSTICE BRIDE and MISTRESS OF THE ROSE MOON, I had stuff from the 1980s and 90s (I’m old, so…). I sometimes switch out to a Miles Davis station.

Jacqueline, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!