Book Box,  Writing Tips

Interview with Jessa Harmon

We interviewed Jessa Harmon, author of romance novel Imperfect Timing. This book is available for paperback and Kindle on Amazon, or can be chosen as a option in the Bound Together Book Box available now!

 Tell us a little about yourself. How did you start writing?

I’m a mother of two amazing children, a high school coach’s wife, and I also have a full time job in addition to being an author so I stay very busy! My current writing time is normally squeezed into daily 15 minute sessions with an amazing group of women writers I was fortunate enough to discover through Instagram. 

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I still have old “books” from as far back as kindergarten and I journaled regularly as a kid. In early middle school I wrote three stories in their entirety in a spiral notebook that I still have today. And very “on-brand” for me these were middle school romance stories. 

After that most of my non-journaling writing was within online collaborative writing spaces. If anyone is familiar with post-by-post role playing games those were something I was heavily involved in through college and early adulthood. I made a lot of great friends there and some I still keep in touch with today. A lot of us are still on our writing journeys which has been such a cool experience. 

What is your writing process? How do you come up with your story ideas?

I participated in NaNoWriMo several times in the last 10 years and in that process I discovered a few things about my writing process. 

The first is that I have an incredible knack for knocking out huge chunks of writing just in writing sprints. Especially when I’m doing this with a group of writers who expect me to show up! This is actually a saving grace for me since I have so very little time to write these days. A daily habit is difficult to cultivate but when you know people are counting on you it definitely helps.

As far as where my story ideas come from, this is a little harder for me to pin down. I hate to be the cliche and say these characters just show up and start talking to me but that’s honestly how it happens. My work is very character driven. Often they’ll show up and play certain “scenes” in my head until I feel compelled enough to sit down and write it out. I’m a pantser, too, so after that I just kind of follow their lead. I generally have an idea of where the story is going to end up, major plot points, but otherwise I just go with it. 

In my current work in progress, I’ve actually just added in a pretty important sub-plot and a new character that has given me the direction I needed to finish the first draft. 

What inspired you to write Imperfect Timing?

I actually finished the first draft of an urban fantasy novel back in 2016 that got stuck in the editing process and is currently in a huge binder on my desk just collecting dust. So Imperfect Timing really began as a challenge for myself, a way to prove to myself I could finish a book.

I was inspired to write this specific story, because I already had these characters so fully formed in my head. I’d written a good chunk of their journey already. 

I am a data nerd and a researcher so I dug into what it would look like to independently publish in the romance genre. I really spent a lot of time educating myself on the genre, reader expectations, etc. I already love and regularly read the genre but I always want to arm myself with as much information as possible! 

Once I was confident that the story I was working on was worth it I just dove in. It was a commitment to myself and my future as it’s been a dream of mine for a long time to be able to support myself and my family with my writing. 

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done for story research?

This was not for Imperfect Timing but for my long-abandoned urban fantasy novel. I did so much research into angel hierarchy and a lot of biblical depictions of angels for that story. It was definitely interesting and eye opening for me as a lot of what I discovered wasn’t exactly covered in what I learned as a child in church. It’s a project that’s still very much important to me and I hope to be able to get back to it someday!

Which authors influence your writing?

I’m not sure I can point to any specific author who influences my writing. I am an equal opportunity genre and author reader. I often say my favorite author is Stephen King because I’ve read such a huge chunk of his work but I don’t think my actual writing style is anything like his outside of my stories being character driven first and foremost. His book On Writing actually really inspired me to finish my first novel. 

Growing up I also read a ton of Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, James Patterson, and John Grisham. I also really loved His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. My mom was a big reader and so I often would pick up her books, maybe sometimes reading things that I shouldn’t have been at certain ages.

I simply love a good story, well-told. If someone can do that, I always appreciate their work.

Describe your ideal writing space.

My dream is to have a cozy, organized, uncluttered desk with just a notebook and a laptop. I’m hoping I can make that happen in my home office soon! My desk area currently has been low on the priority list since we moved into this house last year. 

What advice would you give writers who are just getting started?

My first advice is just to write. Sit down as often as you can and show up and just write. Contrary to popular advice, it doesn’t have to be every day. In fact I took on a challenge to write every day in August and I had to spend a few weeks recovering from that endeavor.

You can read all of the books on craft you want but ultimately growth comes from putting words on paper. Figuring out what does and doesn’t work FOR YOU. It won’t always feel good. Sometimes you’ll look at what you’ve written and it will be complete and utter crap. But in the words of Jodi Picoult: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

Finally, find your people. Finding a writing group has been the best thing I’ve done for my writing practice. I finished my first novel alone but having a group of supportive women around me has made all the difference in my work this year. I was very lucky that I found a place I meshed with right away but if you don’t, don’t get discouraged. There is a place and a community for you somewhere and you just have to find it. 

How do you beat writer’s block?

I don’t write chronologically. Even if I know the order of how things should happen, I know that to keep up my writing momentum I need to skip around a bit and write where I’m feeling inspired, otherwise I tend to get stuck. This leaves for a somewhat disorganized first draft but I’m able to get it completed more quickly and spend less time fretting about not having anything to write about.

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