Guest Author - Dianne Rosena Jones
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Tell us a little about yourself
Jovan Jones: Iím a 41 year old single mother. Iíve been single all my life. Presently I live in North Carolina working with beginning teachers and their mentors in a large school district. Even though Iím a writer, I never planned to be a writer. However, Iíve discovered that I love writing.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What is your latest book about and genre?
Jovan Jones: My latest book, Dancing with the Avatar, is the second book in a four book series about the two years I lived in Southern India in an ashram with a Hindu guru. I wrote the book as fictitious autobiography because it reads like a fantasy novel.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: How long did it take you to complete your book?
Jovan Jones: Ohhhh, thatís hard to say. I started writing the first time, years and years ago. I got 150 single-spaced pages into writing it (I used my journals from the time I lived in India to write it), when God told me to delete what I had, that it didnít honor Him. So, I deleted it and started all over.
When I started writing, I wrote the entire bookÖsome 800+ pages. I think I started writing my second iteration about 7 or 8 years ago. Also, very integral in why I began with this novel is that my middle school students, who would always hear my stories, kept urging me to write a book.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Describe your writing style?
Jovan Jones: I donít really know if I have one. I never really planned to be a writer so I never really worked to hone a particular style. Hmm, if anything, my style is stream of consciousness/just ďgo with it.Ē I just start writing and add more to it everyday. I donít really push myself or judge what I write. I just make sure I write a little something every day. And then I go back over the manuscript again and again, countless times, and I edit and embellish with each revisitation. I listen to God a lot and I donít go forward or push to the ďnext levelĒ unless He tells me to.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What motivates you to write and stay focused on your craft?
Jovan Jones: God! Iíd probably flake out if it werenít for Him. Everything about this book is because of Him. At time, Iíve read through Book 1 or 2 and though, ďWow!Ē because I canít believe it comes from me. I never planned to be a writer. I donít really have the ďstick-to-it-ive-nessĒ to see an entire book from conception to writing to publishing. I just do it because I know He wants me to. I get extremely distracted. And when I do, He starts hounding me to ďWork on the book, Jo, work on the book.Ē Thatís all Iíll hear in my head and itís so insistent, I canít do anything else but ďwork on the book.Ē
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: How does it feel to be Destiny Image Author of the Year?
Jovan Jones: It feels wonderful! I canít believe it. I often want to turn around, looking for that person who won it, and exclaim, ďWhoís Destiny Imageís Fiction Author of the Year? Where is she? Where is she?Ē I am incredibly humbled by the honor.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Jovan Jones: No, I havenít. I canít recall ever wanting to be one, actually. I was always a journalerófrom about the age of 11 or so. I have always processed my thoughts, my perceptions, what happens through a notebook. But, no, Iíve never dreamt of being a writer. Iím glad now that I am and I love writing. I canít think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon, than sitting in a coffee shop, my son reading a book, both of us drinking a mocha or something and Iím working on my book. Now, THATís joy!
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Do you have a favorite author of all time or someone who inspired you to achieve your goals as a writer?
Jovan Jones: Well, thereís tons of books that I love. I love Zora Neale Hurstonís Their Eyes Were Watching God. That book always tore me apart. I love JRR Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Iím a Jane Austen aficionadoóI love period works. In terms of writers, Tolkien and Lewis do inspire me as Christian writers. I feel Christian writers used to be so extraordinary and with a vision and scope that far surpassed their cultural and temporal setting, I want to be like that.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What other projects are you working on and release dates?
Jovan Jones: Right now, Iím working on Book 3 of the Descent Series. Everyone wants to know what happens with the protagonist, Maya, and her whatever-you-want-to-call-him, her ďsource-of-emotional-angstĒ, Narayanan. And then everyone wants to know what happens with Maya herself. But, Iím finding that promoting Books 1 and 2 takes up so much more time than I ever suspected, so I have a lot less time to write than Iíd like. I hope to get Book 3 done sometime this summer. No, I donít have a release date yet.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What were the happiest moments you have experienced while writing your latest book?
Jovan Jones: Just the writing of the bookÖall the times I write. I get so caught up in the characters. Even though theyíre real people and the situations really happened, when Iím writing, I get so caught up in the characters and story line and itís a wonderful feeling. Hours can fly by and Iím taken away into a fabulous story.
Hmm, my happiest moments are when Iím with my son and I have a few days free with nothing demanding on me. Weíll go to Barnes and Noble or a coffee shop, heíll read book after book and Iíll work on my book. We drink a bunch of mochas and macchiatos and lemon spritzers and just hang outónow THATís heaven.
Also, I LOVE the feeling of doing an excellent job! What I mean is when I have the time and am able to go back over the manuscript over and over working out kinks, discrepancies, grammatical errors, basically just honing and crafting the book. I love when I can give it the time and care it should get and I feel like Iíve produced my very best for God.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What have been some of your toughest obstacles as a writer?
Jovan Jones: My toughest obstacle is time. I work a great full-time job as an HR administrator in a large school system, so my days are consumed by my job. Also, Iím a single mom. Between the demands of my job and that of being a mom, I have very little time. So, my biggest challenge is carving and squeezing out time to work on my book. I find I take my lunch break to work on it and when heís doing homework, Iíll try to squeeze out an hour. Or Iíll wake up early to work. Oh! And add to that, promotingÖwhich I love but itís hugely time-consuming.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What do you want the reader to take away from reading your book?
Jovan Jones: I want them to see that my books are ultimately about Christís love and passion and ďwildnessĒ when it comes to us. My story is the story of someone who gets as far away from Christ as is humanly (and spiritually) possible, yet He dives into the darkest hell and retrieves her, a woman who doesnít even want to be retrieved and saved. Itís about how incredible and amazing and miraculous God is and gives a taste of how He who is everything touches and influences and interacts with us in our small little human world.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What advice would you give to first time writer about getting a publisher?
Jovan Jones: I would suggest several things: decide if they want to self-publish or go through a royalty publisher. Both have their pros and consóthey need to decide which avenue is most amenable to them. From there, they need to begin a methodical process. Get one of the guides to publishers and just start sending to the publishers (who are interested in their particular genre of writing) exactly what they ask of them.
Also, they need to remember itís a matter of odds and a matter of rejection. They will get rejected. But the more queries they send out, the greater the likelihood something will pan out. For myself, I sent out countless queries/proposals/etc. publishers. Each time I received a rejection, Iíd rejoice because I knew I was all the closer to my book being accepted.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Is there anything about your book you wish you could change? What?
Jovan Jones: Hmm, not really. The first book? I feel I gave it my very best in writing it. The second? I wasnít so methodical and meticulous because I was under a greater time crunch. If anything, I want to make sure that I am able to give this third book as much attention and time as possible. I want God to be pleased with what Iíve created.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years from now?
Jovan Jones: Can I dream a little? I would love to see my books take off and become big sellers. I dream of them becoming movies. Iíve had several people talk about how they could just see the movie. I would love to still be writing books, with several under my belt, and Iím writing full time, making a good living as a writer.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Are there any hidden talents that you possess that many of your readers may not know?
Jovan Jones: Hmmm, Iím a dancer. Iíve danced since I was 12óballet, modern, African, Caribbean, hiphop, latin, partner, you name itÖexcept tap. Never really got into tap. But, I danced professionally in Boston, while I was in grad school, for a short while. I LOVE dancing!!
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What are you passionate about other than writing?
Jovan Jones: Jesus! Iím a bona fide Jesus Freak! Iím passionate about sharing what Heís done in my life and my understanding and experience of Him. Iím passionate about my sonóhe is such fun and just a joy to me. Iím passionate about dancing, too.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: How where you able to visualize and verbalize the spirituality inspired characters in your book?
Jovan Jones: Hmmm, I think the way I ďseeĒ angels and demons come from what Iíve experienced and seen, what Iíve heard others say theyíve seen (especially kids, because their ďeyesĒ are so pure), what the Bible says, and what God gives me for inspiration. What I mean is that Iíve seen only one angel in my life. That experience has stuck in my mind like I canít explain. So, when I write about the angels, I recall what I had seen, what others have seen, and I put it up against the Bible. Luckily, what I had seen corresponded to the Biblical portrayal 100%, so I didnít have an ideological clash. As for the demonic, again I go back to what the Bible says about them coupled with what has ďflittedĒ across my mind when I was in India and deep in the stuff and what others had told me they had ďseen.Ē Also, while Iím writing the books, I spend a lot of time in prayer and just trying to hear what God has to say about what Iím writing. Iíd like to believe Iím hearing Him pretty well. If my life is ďoffĒ or if Iím not praying much or spending much time with him, I canít write very much at all. Itís as if I run into a huge road block. I consider it a good thing because Iíd like to believe Heís really speaking His thoughts through these books and Iíd hate to be wrong. Iíd hate to have Him mad at me or disappointed in what Iíve done.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Where can folks buy your latest book?
Jovan Jones: My books are available on Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. Itís also available from the publisher, Destiny Image Publishers.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: How can people contact you about book signings or speaking engagements?
Jovan Jones: They may contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Iím also on twitter as @JovanZJones and on Facebook as Jovan Jones.
Miss Jones it was a real honor to interview you. Thank you so much for making time in your very busy schedule to complete this interview. Iíve become such a fan of your work. I look forward to reading all the books in the Descent Series. I hope this is only the beginning and wish you nothing but success.