Meet Novelist Jamie DeBree

Jamie DeBree is a mild-mannered web designer by day, creating and developing web sites for local government. Late at night, however, she enters another realm where danger lurks around every corner—danger she’s dreamed up for her characters that is. Jamie spends her evening hours transcribing the movies in her head to the pages of her romantic suspense stories.

Jamie’s hometown is Billings, Montana, where she lives with her husband, who is great at brainstorming murder/body disposal methods. They share their place with two seventy-pound lap dogs, two goldfish, four fire-bellied toads, and one leopard gecko.

Reading, gardening, and watching TV are some of Jamie’s favorite activities. She and her husband are big Halloween enthusiasts. They set to work planning their theme and party months in advance. Jamie’s big into Nail Art and gives herself a manicure every week. She loves margaritas but hates mornings.

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Jamie’s favorite soda is Coca-cola®, so I’ve put a case of the virtual variety on ice. Jalapeño potato chips are one of her recent addictions, so I’ve got a ginormous bowl of them as well. Feel free to grab a cold soda and a great big handful of chips and join me as we learn more about Jamie and her writing journey.

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Jamie’s Journey Begins

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•When did your love of writing turn into a serious pursuit of publication?

I’ve been writing for a long time, but never really got serious about it until 2009. Before that, I’d been resigned to just self-publishing for my own gratification. I started writing a serial novel on my blog and connecting with other writers online, published and unpublished. I met authors who actually made enough money to give up their day jobs, and I started believing that I could do it too. That’s when I really got serious about pursuing traditional publication.

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•Which books, courses, and blogs have your found most helpful in your quest to learn the writing craft?

When I first started to explore the idea of becoming a writer, I read Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. It’s not a book on how to write, but rather, how to get over yourself and “be a writer”. That book was instrumental in helping me make the decision to write, and I still refer back to it when I’m wondering why on earth I’m doing this. Stephen King’s On Writing is another of my favorites – I find the advice logical and helpful, and the autobiography very inspiring. And of course No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty (the founder of National Novel Writing Month) was the book that helped me get to “The End” of my first full length novel. I’d highly recommend it as a starting point for any aspiring author who hasn’t managed to complete a draft yet.

I’m currently taking an online course called “How to Revise Your Novel” by Author Holly Lisle. I was floundering last winter having finally completed a couple drafts I felt were good enough to revise, but I had no idea where to start. I’ve admired Holly as a writer for a long time, and gotten a lot of great tips from the free articles on her web site, so I decided to sign up for her course and learn how to revise like she does, in one pass after the draft is written. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I’ve learned so much already that it’s been well worth the work and expense.

It’s really hard to choose just a few blogs that have helped me the most with learning craft – there are so many wonderful, thoughtfully written articles out there. A few of my  “must-read” blogs relating to the craft of writing are WordPlay: Helping Writers Become Authors by Author K.M. Weiland, The Literary LabAuthor Jody Hedlund’s blog , and Lady Scribes: Shh, I’m Writing a Romance.

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Jamie’s Milestones

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•One of the first milestones a writer experiences is reaching The End. You’ve done that. How did it feel? What did you learn during the creation of the story?

The first time I reached “The End”, and knew I’d finished a complete draft was nothing short of spectacular. I was excited, energized, and inspired. I felt like I could actually be a writer someday. I had learned discipline, and how to slog through the middle of what was undoubtedly a wretched story, and persevere to reach the end. I learned how to turn off my “inner editor” and just let the story flow out of my subconscious mind.

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•You wrote six more stories, three in one year (2009). That’s impressive! How did you accomplish that while working full-time outside the home?

I participate in National Novel Writing Month every November (last year was my sixth year), which is a challenge to complete a 50,000 word draft in one month (1,667 words per day). It’s incredibly motivating to be writing with so many other writers from around the world. I’m a night person, so I have set writing hours from 10:30pm to midnight six nights per week, and I tend to always have a document open while I’m watching TV earlier in the evening as well. When work is slow, I can catch a few words here and there on breaks, so the key is really just to take advantage of whatever time I can find. Some days are easier than others, of course. I can generally do around 800 words in a sitting comfortably, more than that if I really get on a roll.

In 2009, I wrote Her Private Chef from March to the end of October, then Desert Heat in November. I wrote Tempest, a serial novel for the blog between the end of June and the end of December (1-2 chapters per week). HPC took so long because I was just learning how to carve out writing time on a daily basis. I started with just 250 words per day, gradually raising my goal to a sustainable 800 words per day.

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Jamie’s Writing Process

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•I understand you underwent a transformation recently, converting from pantser to plotter. How did that come about? Has the transition been smooth or a bit bumpy at times?

I’m currently revising one of the drafts I wrote last year, and it’s a mess. The revision has turned into nearly a complete rewrite, and when I realized that, I also realized that writing a cleaner first draft would save me a lot of time on revisions later. I prefer drafting to revisions, so I decided to turn myself into a plotter in order to write a more cohesive story the first time around.

I’ve had my up’s and down’s trying out different methods of plotting to figure out which one would work for me (difficult, since I don’t like knowing the end of the story before I get there), but studying the “structure” of novels from so many different angles really helped me grow as a writer. The last draft I completed is a million times better than the one I’m rewriting now, and will be far easier to revise.

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•What does your actual plotting process look like? Do you utilize computer spreadsheets, or are you the hands-on sticky notes on poster board type?

I’ve tried just about everything from spreadsheets to software to notecards and storyboards. When it comes right down to it, simple works best for me. First, I write a synopsis of the story – just one page, outlining the basics of what I see happening (normally this starts with the original scene I got the idea from). That allows me to figure out if I even have enough “story” to write a book with or not.

Then I write a “scene outline” – one sentence equals one scene that includes the antagonist, protagonist, setting, conflict and a twist (ala Holly Lisle). My scenes naturally tend to be between 800 – 1500 words long, so I write enough scene sentences to get an approximate 50k – 60k words, and then I start writing. I move scenes around as I go, add, subtract, whatever needs to be done as the story unfolds. My outline is basically just a skeleton, and it keeps the story on track, but doesn’t confine my “pantsing” nature too much.

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•I saw on your website that you’re working on three projects simultaneously: writing the rough draft of Hearts on Trial, revising Her Private Chef, and publishing a chapter of Indelibly Inked, your serial novel, on your blog each week. How do you divvy your time between them?

Indelibly Inked is an interactive novel, where the readers get to vote after each week’s installment on what comes next. So I write the next installment of that every Thursday evening for posting on Friday – it’s posted in rough draft form (I do edit for spelling and obvious grammatical errors). I can’t plot it due to the interactive element, but I do keep an eye on the votes and think about where it will go next throughout the week. Sometimes it takes the whole evening on Thursday (particularly if I’m stumped on how to follow the reader’s requests), and sometimes it comes out in an hour or so.

I’ve been working on Hearts on Trial just in 250 word increments when I can take a break at work, and the revisions to Her Private Chef during the hour and a half I set aside for writing every night. I’ve realized though that I’m in a better frame of mind for editing in late afternoon/early evening, and I’m more creative during my late night time, so I’ve switched to working on the revisions earlier in the evening and the drafting during those late night hours. I’m anxious to submit Her Private Chef early this summer, so I spend the most time working on revisions for that. My goal is to have queries going out the door sometime in June.

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Jamie’s Social Networking Success

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•Name recognition is important, and you’ve been working on building yours. What steps have you taken? Which have worked best for you, and why?

Introverted by nature, I’ve become a “social bug” online. I’ve always found it easier to communicate in writing than in person. I’ve been blogging for six years now, and last year I joined Twitter and Facebook as well. I created a web site in January to act as a “hub” for all of my various online activities, and to showcase a bit of my work. I also joined the Absolute Write forums about a year ago, and while I don’t spend much time there anymore, I met a lot of great people there that I’m still in contact with through blogs and twitter now.

Blogging and twitter have been my most valuable tools in terms of building a name for myself. I use my blog as a means of connecting not only with other writers, but with potential readers as well – and I’ve been adjusting my content to suit that with good results, as far as I can tell. Twitter brings people to my blog, and also introduces me to blogs and other people I might not have found otherwise. I’m constantly putting myself out there, meeting new people and fostering new relationships whenever I can.

It’s not really the tools that are important in building name recognition though, in my opinion. It’s forming and fostering genuine connections with people no matter where you meet them. Talking to others, caring about what they’re doing and helping them when they need it is what ultimately creates a solid social network. I do my best to promote the work of others in my social network by recommending books and blogs, because I genuinely like those people, and I want to see them succeed. When the time comes, some of them will do the same for me.

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Jamie’s Journey Continues

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•What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?

Ideas are something that I’m never in short supply of. I have initial scenes laid out for two more romantic suspense novels – one a based on a Halloween display competition, a rebel heroine and a cop hero, and the other a cowboy/city girl romance. I also have a synopsis and partial outline done for a possible series (stand-alone books that all occur in the same small fictional Montana town). I’m considering starting a series for my next serial novel on the blog as well, though the idea is still just a seed at this point.

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Five Goals Jamie Has for the Next Five Years

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~ To get one or more novels published through traditional means.

~ To self-publish several ebooks.

~ To work up to publishing four books per year.

~ To attend a Romance Writers of America® national conference.

~ To streamline my writing and revising processes.

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Jamie’s Question for You

Which type of hero do you like best – the redeemable “bad boy”, the overly confident good guy, or the strong, silent type?

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Learn More About Jamie

Visit her website ~ http://jamiedebree.com

Visit her personal blog ~ The Variety Pages

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Jamie DeBree

Follow her on Twitter ~ JamieDeBree

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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20 Responses to Meet Novelist Jamie DeBree

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Jamie! It’s great to have you here. I’ve got a huge mouthful of those yummy Jalapeño chips, so it’s a good thing I’m typing and not talking. 🙂

    I read your question three times, and I don’t see my favorite type of hero in your list. The strong, silent type comes closest. I like a good guy–but not an overly confident one. I like my guys to have a tragic past that’s left them wounded. I don’t want them to be wimps; I’m all for manly men. But I like my heroes to have a vulnerable side that only the heroine sees.

  2. Laura Frantz says:

    Hi, Jamie! So glad to see you on Keli’s great blog – it’s one of my very favorites of all the ones out there:) I stand amazed at 50k in a month! Wow. I am really a slow writer, maybe because I love the creating so very much. And I’m having to become more of a plotter, like you, as it saves me heavy rewrites and from taking myriad rabbit trails.

    Love your hero question. I think I’m with Keli – the wounded hero with past hurts always touches me for some reason. And I’ve always been drawn to the strong, silent type like my husband. Still waters run deep, and all that.

    Sounds like you are on a wonderful journey and soaking up as much as you can and challenging yourself along the way. May you be abundantly blessed every step! Thanks for another great interview.

  3. Hi, Jamie. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us. I really empathize with that whole “reaching the end” feeling. It’s exhilarating. For me it seemed to open a floodgate I can’t close, so now I’ve got plenty of material for many books to come. I almost can’t get the story out fast enough. I really get to love the characters, too. I’m glad to see it’s possible to convert from pantser to plotter. I’m a complete pantser and I don’t think I’ll ever convert completely, but on my second WIP, I notice I’m planning out a few scenes here and there ahead of time.

    As far as a hero, I tend to agree with Keli, but I’ve noticed I really appreciate a character who can be strong but also witty. I can’t think of one woman I know who doesn’t list a good sense of humor in their top five traits in an ideal match.

  4. Sherrinda says:

    Hi Jamie!!!!! It’s so good to see you hear and learn more about you and your journey! I’m like you and am not big on revisions. I’ve only written one story, but just HATE doing the revisions!!!! Sad, huh? So….like you, I am going to make myself do some plotting next time.

    As for heroes, I tend to like the redeemable bad boy. Strong and silent is another good one (like Keli). They have to be manly in manly sort of ways! lol

    GREAT interview! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  5. Jamie D. says:

    Keli – thanks again for having me. Glad you’re enjoying the snacks. Careful, they’re addictive… 😉

    Strong, silent vulnerable…yum! LOL

    Laura – nice to “meet” you. It’s pretty amazing how motivating it is to know you’re racing towards 50k with writers from all over the world every Nov. Kind of forces you to just forget about everything else and just write. Obviously, I’m far slower outside NaNoWriMo. 😉 Another vote for strong, silent and wounded. I wonder if this is because we women like to fix/heal things?

    Angela – nice to “meet” you. 🙂 I find that the whole pantser to plotter thing is kind of a continuum…I sort of go back and forth until I find some sort of middle ground. And yes – I have ideas coming at me so fast I’m impatient to get one done so I can move on! LOL

    Ooo…a witty hero. Yes! Gotta have some humor in there too.

    Hi Sherrinda – good to see you here! 🙂 There’s got to be a way to get a draft down that doesn’t need so much revision…we’re going to figure it out eventually, I bet. LOL Good luck on your plotting…

    Redeemable bad boy – yeah, who doesn’t want one of those. 😉

    So far we’ve got a strong, silent, wounded bad boy with a sense of humor…anyone else getting the character creating wheels turning here?

  6. christicorbett says:

    Jamie,
    Thanks for the insight on becoming a “plottster” vs. a “pantster”. I wrote my first novel with no plan whatsoever and created quite a disaster for myself during revisions as a result. My next novel will be planned!
    Thanks for sharing such a great interview,
    Christi Corbett

  7. Kait Nolan says:

    The redeemable bad boy, duh. 😀

    It’s great to see another plotter convert! We should form a support group…

  8. Hi Jamie,
    It’s nice to meet you through your great interview–I’m a huge new fan of Keli’s blog site. I’m so impressed with all the things you’ve done to make an online presence for yourself. I can’t wait to visit your Website and blog. And, I’m impressed with how you’ve incorporated plotting into your process. I, too, am a NaNo-ite. I’ve only participated three times, but have five manuscripts. The ones I’ve started with NaNo are my favorites but definitely require the most revising when I’m done. I’ve been trying to make a little bit of pre-plotting work for me — but my right brain throws a hissy fit if I try too hard!

    The hero of my second book is a redeemable bad boy with a wounded past and a very droll sense of humor. He’s my favorite hero (of mine)so far. But I like the hero Keli described, too. Not a wimp, not over-confident but wounded and strong with a gentle side. Bottom line–I’m not really an alpha male girl; but pretty much anything else!!

    Congrats on the interview, Jamie and all the good luck in the world with your publishing goals!

  9. K.M. Weiland says:

    Ah-ha! You’re a web designer. That explains why your site is so lovely. Excellent interview. I’m honored that you consider my blog “must-read.”

  10. Jamie D. says:

    Hi Christi – and thanks for connecting with me on facebook too. I hear ya on the super messy novel draft. Hence my own shift to plotting. I think you’re really going to like how much plotting helps, though I have to warn you not to go *too* overboard on the plotting. It can be stifling if you box yourself in too much. 😉

    Hi Kait! Thanks for stopping over. And yeah, “Pantsers Anon” maybe? Wait, that could mean something entirely different…

    Hi Lizbeth…nice to “meet” you. You’ll have to look me up on the NaNo site – My user name there is “outofwords”. I’m always looking for more NaNo buddies. 🙂

    Your hero sounds delish…can’t wait to read more about him!

    Hey K.M. – Thanks for the lovely compliment on my site. Wanna know a secret? I only design sites “from scratch” for work. I started all of my personal sites with templates, and just modified ’em. Call me lazy… 😉

  11. J. Koyanagi says:

    Great interview, Jamie!

    Can I vote for the nerdy scientist? I’m a sucker for a person in a lab coat who offers intelligent insights. I always want them to get the girl/guy.

  12. Jamie D. says:

    Absolutely! LOL I wrote a hot, nerdy lab tech into my NaNo novel last year, actually. Good stuff, that… 🙂

  13. Hey Jamie! So fun to learn more about you and your writing journey. I’m amazed how much writing you get done on so many different projects. What an inspiration!

    From your list, I’m going to have to go with the strong, silent type. I like the ones that have a history and deeper feelings just waiting to come forth later in the story.

  14. RE: your question.. I’m sort of tired of Alpha males in romance. I like nice guys!

  15. Great, great interview! Thank you, Keli!

    Jamie, thank you for sharing your writing journey with us. Our paths are very similar, right down to the jalapeno chips and Margarita’s.:-) I love the panster to plotter Q&A. It’s good to know that you were once a panster and have been able to transform yourself. I am having a hard time with it. In my everyday reality, I am a very organized and methodical person, but when it comes to my writing, I have a real hard time with telling myself……..OK, now I will sit and write and I will write this section or flesh out that section of one of my characters. I’m a true panster. I believe in my Muse and when she tells me to sit and write, I sit and write. I can’t force it. I pray everyday that I can accomplish what I need to accomplish and meet my deadlines. I do, but there is always that tension. I really commend you for being so dogmatic in your scheduling and planning.

    As far as a hero……hmmm…….I want a “redeemable” bad boy, who is really good… with just the right amount of confidence; and who is strong and silent, most times. There! I hope that helped!:-)

  16. Erica says:

    Great interview! Very detailed, and as I know a lot about you ;o) I did learn some new stuff!

    Let’s see… I like the reedemable bad boy the most. But, whatever gives me the butterflies will work ;o)

    Great job!

  17. Diane says:

    Redeemable bad boy for me please! Once again I look to my heart throb, Wolverine. :O)

  18. Jamie D. says:

    Hi Cindy. 🙂 Strong and silent it is…we have a lot of those here in Montana. I do my best on the projects, although I do have my setbacks…

    India, I’ve been seeing that a lot lately – women are getting tired of “cave men”. LOL

    Hi Cynthia – thanks for stopping in! I’m pretty practical in my approach to nearly everything…I’m not a believer in the muse (but whatever keeps you writing is right for *you*). I do have a tendency to go overboard with the planning though, and sometimes I have to step back and “just write”. 😉

    Hey Er! Glad you learned some new stuff. LOL I totally agree with you re: butterflies…any guy who can jump off the page and make my stomach flutter is perfect…

    Diane – Ooo…Wolverine! Serious yumminess there… 😉

  19. Carol says:

    Great interview Jamie! Like Erica, I was able to add to my stock pile of Jamie info. 😉

    When reading, I prefer the redeemable bad boy, but when writing I lean more towards the strong, silent type.

  20. Quilt Lady says:

    I love them all depending on the mood I am in!

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