An Interview with Author of the Year Jovan Jones
Jovan Jones: I’m a 41 year old single mother. I’ve 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 I’m a writer, I never planned to be a writer. However, I’ve 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, that’s 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 didn’t honor Him. So, I deleted it and started all over.
When I started writing, I wrote the entire book…some 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 don’t 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 “go with it.” I just start writing and add more to it everyday. I don’t 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 don’t go forward or push to the “next level” unless He tells me to.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: What motivates you to write and stay focused on your craft?
Jovan Jones: God! I’d probably flake out if it weren’t for Him. Everything about this book is because of Him. At time, I’ve read through Book 1 or 2 and though, “Wow!” because I can’t believe it comes from me. I never planned to be a writer. I don’t really have the “stick-to-it-ive-ness” 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 “Work on the book, Jo, work on the book.” That’s all I’ll hear in my head and it’s so insistent, I can’t do anything else but “work on the book.”
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: How does it feel to be Destiny Image Author of the Year?
Jovan Jones: It feels wonderful! I can’t believe it. I often want to turn around, looking for that person who won it, and exclaim, “Who’s Destiny Image’s Fiction Author of the Year? Where is she? Where is she?” I am incredibly humbled by the honor.
BellaOnline African American Literature Editor: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Jovan Jones: No, I haven’t. I can’t recall ever wanting to be one, actually. I was always a journaler—from about the age of 11 or so. I have always processed my thoughts, my perceptions, what happens through a notebook. But, no, I’ve never dreamt of being a writer. I’m glad now that I am and I love writing. I can’t 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 I’m working on my book. Now, THAT’s 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, there’s tons of books that I love. I love Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. That book always tore me apart. I love JRR Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m a Jane Austen aficionado—I 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, I’m 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 “source-of-emotional-angst”, Narayanan. And then everyone wants to know what happens with Maya herself. But, I’m 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 I’d like. I hope to get Book 3 done sometime this summer. No, I don’t 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 book…all the times I write. I get so caught up in the characters. Even though they’re real people and the situations really happened, when I’m writing, I get so caught up in the characters and story line and it’s a wonderful feeling. Hours can fly by and I’m taken away into a fabulous story.
Hmm, my happiest moments are when I’m with my son and I have a few days free with nothing demanding on me. We’ll go to Barnes and Noble or a coffee shop, he’ll read book after book and I’ll work on my book. We drink a bunch of mochas and macchiatos and lemon spritzers and just hang out—now THAT’s 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 I’ve 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, I’m 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 he’s doing homework, I’ll try to squeeze out an hour. Or I’ll wake up early to work. Oh! And add to that, promoting…which I love but it’s 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 Christ’s love and passion and “wildness” 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 doesn’t even want to be retrieved and saved. It’s 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 cons—they 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 it’s 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, I’d 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 wasn’t 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 I’ve 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. I’ve 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 I’m 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, I’m a dancer. I’ve danced since I was 12—ballet, modern, African, Caribbean, hiphop, latin, partner, you name it…except 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! I’m a bona fide Jesus Freak! I’m passionate about sharing what He’s done in my life and my understanding and experience of Him. I’m passionate about my son—he is such fun and just a joy to me. I’m 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 “see” angels and demons come from what I’ve experienced and seen, what I’ve heard others say they’ve seen (especially kids, because their “eyes” are so pure), what the Bible says, and what God gives me for inspiration. What I mean is that I’ve seen only one angel in my life. That experience has stuck in my mind like I can’t 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 didn’t have an ideological clash. As for the demonic, again I go back to what the Bible says about them coupled with what has “flitted” across my mind when I was in India and deep in the stuff and what others had told me they had “seen.” Also, while I’m writing the books, I spend a lot of time in prayer and just trying to hear what God has to say about what I’m writing. I’d like to believe I’m hearing Him pretty well. If my life is “off” or if I’m not praying much or spending much time with him, I can’t write very much at all. It’s as if I run into a huge road block. I consider it a good thing because I’d like to believe He’s really speaking His thoughts through these books and I’d hate to be wrong. I’d hate to have Him mad at me or disappointed in what I’ve 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. It’s 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. I’m 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. I’ve 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.
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