Josephine Myles is best known for her novels Handle with Care and The Hot Floor. She can be found writing most days, creating wonderful worlds that attract readers. Her novels keep the pages turning and readers wanting more.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
Like many, I began my reading and then writing fanfiction. In my case, it was Torchwood fanfic, motivated by my desire to resurrect a much loved character who was killed off in the show. I’d vaguely heard of Spock/Kirk slash at that point, but didn’t realise how big the whole fanfic community was.
A few months later I began writing original erotic fiction, and around the same time I discovered that there were original gay romances being published. I bought a few paperbacks, and quickly realised that this was the genre for me—both as a reader and a writer. I haven’t looked back since, and haven’t read or written any fanfic for years.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
It all began with erotic short stories—I’d been publishing those (including het and mmf ménage) for over a year by the time I’d finished my first novel. I think that was a great way to start out as it let me make all my rookie mistakes in relative obscurity, but to have also made all kinds of contacts and even gained a few fans by the time my first novel came out.
As for my fan base… I don’t know how I’ve grown it other than by writing books people want to read! I don’t think there are any magic shortcuts. I’m active on social media, but not excessively so, and only on the few platforms that I actually enjoy. I honestly think reader word of mouth is the very best publicity there is, and the only way to get that is to write books that readers love.
You write under a pseudonym. Why?
Josephine is my middle name, so that still feels like my name. As for the surname? Well, my real life surname is relatively unusual, and I didn’t want to embarrass my devoutly Christian parents by publishing gay smut using it.
Does being a native Englishwoman affect how you look at your writing, or the genre?
That’s hard to say, because having always been one, I have no basis for comparison! I can say, though, that writing very English m/m—both in language and in settings and characters—has always motivated me and is at the core of what I do. When I started out the standard advice was that I had to write American stories to have any success, but then I looked at JL Merrow’s success with Pricks and Pragmatism and decided that advice was utter rubbish. I wanted there to be more British stories available, and not just with a token British setting. I wanted to see our national character on page, with all its eccentricities, and I wanted to revel in our fantastic slang and turns of phrase.
Basically, I write the sort of books I want to see more of. It’s as simple as that.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
I honestly can’t think of anyone who I’d be bothered about knowing, and I don’t keep it a secret among friends and family. I suppose if my dear Gramps were still alive I’d probably keep it from him as I really don’t think he’d have understood. He was a very conservative, traditional upper middle class Englishman with Victorian values, but he was also incredibly sweet and loving. I’d have hated to disappoint him.
How much research went into creating Ben Lethbridge?
I didn’t have to put in as much effort as you might imagine, as my (then) brother-in-law had already been through kidney failure, various different types of dialysis, and a kidney/pancreas transplant. As a consequence, I already had a fair bit of knowledge of the medical aspects. However, I did trawl lots of websites and blogs, and devoured a couple of handbooks designed for people with kidney failure, including one specifically aimed at those facing a kidney transplant. I also had a nurse read over the manuscript before I sent it to my editor, so I could make sure that all the medical details rang true.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s a temporary escape from being female. Although I enjoy a lot of contemporary women’s fiction, sometimes I just want to read about characters who don’t share our biology. But at the same time, I most enjoy books that feature romance and plenty of character development. It’s tougher to find books like that written from a straight male perspective, so m/m it is.
What is it like to have regular feature posts on your blog? Does it keep you on track for writing?
I do enjoy blogging and the feature posts are a way of encouraging me to keep doing it regularly. What I’m careful with these days, is not to let it steal time away from my writing. Any blog posts have to be written after I’ve finished my daily word count, or at the weekends. I only have so much concentration available for writing, and it’s most important that my prime time for writing is spent on my books.
I do adore posting the vintage smut on a Sunday, though. Those posts are so much fun to put together, and I get a great response from my blog followers!
What are you currently working on?
I’m almost halfway through the first draft of Scrap, book 3 in The Bristol Collection. It’s going well, but I’m still not ready to share who the MCs are!
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I have to admit, I’m not all that good at writing down my ideas in the early stages. I tend to let plot ideas ferment in my head for at least a year before I find time to start writing them. My outlining is pretty basic—I use Scrivener for writing my first draft, and will generally set out some key scenes throughout the book, but have plenty of blank ones that I begin to fill in as I start writing and feel my way into the story.
My first drafts are fast and rough, so I have to get it to at least a second draft before I’m willing to show it to anyone else. That’s usually when it send it out to a few trusted beta readers. The third (and possibly fourth) draft comes after I’ve read through their feedback and decided what needs to change. Then there will be a couple of rounds of edits with my publisher, so what makes it to the final book has definitely been rewritten to the point of exhaustion!
One thing I find is that I tend to underwrite in the first draft, and while there might be odd bit that needs cutting, usually I end up having to expand on scenes and add a fair few new ones. Each draft ends up being added to by around 5000 to 10,000 words.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
Generally I can write the first draft in about three months, but it usually takes another couple of months to redraft and get it ready for submission. I wish I could write faster, but that just seems to be the length of time I need to do my ideas justice and end up with a book that’s rich in detail and humour. Every draft adds so much more depth, and I don’t want to short-change readers by skimping on the whole process.
Does having an amazing daughter influence your writing in any way?
She does tend to make it tougher to concentrate, but I love her anyway!
Actually, Daisy is my main inspiration. I’m now a single parent, so I have to keep writing to provide for her, and that really keeps me going on days when my motivation is low.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
I think anyone who has the urge to write should give it a go—what do you have to lose? (apart from your free time and sanity, that is…)
The most important thing for new writers to remember is that honing your craft and gaining an audience is something that takes considerable time and effort. If the money isn’t all that important and all you want to do is enjoy the process of writing, then sticking to fanfiction might be much more rewarding for you.
For those who are truly serious about writing as a career: read everything you can about the market and how to hone your writing craft, and consider taking some courses (either online, like Holly Lisle’s fabulous workshops, or a local creative writing class). Seek out mentors whose work you admire and pester them (politely) with questions. Avoid the dodgy supposed shortcuts to gaining fans, like paying for reviews and carpetbombing the social media sites with obnoxious “buy my book!” promo. And most important of all: keep writing!
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo publishes regularly with Samhain. She’s one of the organising team behind the UK Meet, an annual event celebrating GLBTQ fiction. She has also been known to edit anthologies and self-publish on occasion.
Website and blog: http://josephinemyles.com/