Jay Northcote is best known for her novels Not Just Friends and Nothing Serious. She has a way of creating characters that bring the story alive. No matter what she writes next, readers eagerly await the next story!
What was it that made you interested in writing m/m fiction?
I fell into it through writing m/m fanfiction. I loved reading it, fancied trying my hand at writing and it all stemmed from there. After I’d been writing fanfiction for a couple of years I felt the urge to have a go at creating my own characters.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I wrote my first original story during Nanowrimo in 2012 (The Little Things). I was lucky that Dreamspinner Press wanted to publish it, and they also accepted my novella, Nothing Serious. I got the two contracts a week apart.
I wouldn’t call my fan base humongous–is that metric, or imperial humongous by the way?–but I feel really fortunate to have found a readership for my work. I’m honestly not sure how it happened, I think there was a lot of luck involved as well as social networking and promo. I also had a lot of support from within the fanfiction community from people who knew and liked my writing from the stories I posted online. Many of the people who buy and read my original books now have followed me from there.
What was it like to start writing one day and never stop?
Crazy! But that’s how I roll. I’m a very obsessive all-or-nothing kind of person. I just hope the obsession continues. My family were a little bemused I think, but they’re used to me suddenly falling into new hobbies/careers/passions, so maybe it wasn’t as much of a surprise to them as it otherwise might have been.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction? How do you think they’d react?
My dad. But he already found out because I accidentally emailed him from my author email address with all my links in the signature. Oops. He actually took it way better than I was expecting, which was a nice surprise. I don’t think he’ll be reading my books anytime soon though, which is fine by me!
What was it like writing the relationship between Mark O’Brien and Jamie Robertson?
Oh, they were lovely to write. Especially Jamie, I adored him as a character. It was a really fun book to write because I just put all my favourite tropes in – first times, sexual discovery, a little bit of age disparity. It was kind of indulgent. I really did do that thing where people advise writers to write the book they’d like to read. In this case it seemed to work out pretty well. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea because there isn’t a lot of action and drama in it, but a lot of readers enjoyed the sweet, unashamed romance of it (and the frequent sex scenes).
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
I think there are probably as many reasons for that as there are women who like reading it. I’m not sure it’s possible to generalise. Personally, I identify with male characters and as a reader, I like to have two main characters to fall in love with instead of just one.
What inspired Not Just Friends?
Not Just Friends was based on a short fanfiction story that I wrote. I expanded and developed it and it ended up as a novel. I can’t really remember what inspired the original. I think I just liked the idea of a guy having a crush on his flatmate and pining over him. I like writing first love and sexual awakening so it was a good way to explore those themes (again).
Are you currently working on anything?
I have a work in progress that I’m hoping will turn into a novel. I had to take a break from it over the summer because we were away for a few weeks, but I’m planning on getting back into that and hoping to finish drafting it by December.
Tell me about your writing process. Do you write nonstop? Do you outline?
I definitely outline. Not in huge detail, but enough to know roughly where the story is heading. I also plan the characters and settings. In an ideal world I would write non-stop, but with other demands on my time (editing, promo, my other businesses, family etc) it’s hard to devote as much time as I’d like to writing. I try and write for at least a couple of hours every day Monday to Friday, and anything extra is a bonus. But sometimes I get a patch where I have the time and inclination and really get into my flow – then I manage to get things drafted much more quickly.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
Well, I’ve only written two novels so far. The Little Things took four weeks, but that was in the halcyon days before I had edits/blurb forms/cover spec forms popping into my inbox on a regular basis, so I was able to ignore the rest of the world and write like a demon. I was exhausted at the end of it though!
With Not Just Friends I paced myself a little better and I think that one took around six weeks of writing something almost every day.
What was it like writing The Little Things?
It was really exciting. It was my first project–for Nanowrimo as I mentioned above. And I was so determined to get it done. At the time I was totally focused on the writing, not worrying about submitting or publishing or what hypothetical readers might think of it. So I was able to concentrate on getting the words down. It was amazingly satisfying seeing the word count rack up and finding my way through the plot I had planned out. Completing it felt like such an achievement.
On a personal level it was quite cathartic for me. The novel deals with themes of loss and bereavement, specifically characters dealing with the death of their mothers. My own mother died twelve years ago and I was definitely drawing on my own experiences of grieving in order to write what my characters were going through. It was a pretty emotional journey.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance? How about for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
Write things that you enjoy writing and keep plugging away at it. If you want to potentially reach a bigger audience it’s worth researching which subgenres tend to be more popular. For a new author it’s harder to get noticed if you write a book that’s a niche within a niche. But equally, it’s hard to force yourself to write in a genre that doesn’t come naturally.
In order build an audience, I think you need to do whatever form of promo works for you. The usual advice is to pick one or two platforms and do them well and I think that makes a lot of sense. So if you’re good at blogging, blog. If you feel comfortable interacting on Facebook, do that. If you love Twitter, tweet. If Tumblr is your thing, use that.
But with all social media it’s really important to interact. Nobody is interested in accounts that constantly bombard their followers with promo and nothing else. Connect, talk to people, be courteous and have fun. There are readers out there who are always looking for new authors, but you need to be available for them to find.
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.