Jamie is a non-binary kiwi who’s always been wondering ‘what if’? They write stories about ghosts, monsters, love, and how the world could be. Jamie grew up in Wellington but now lives in Auckland with their wonderful spouse and a round cat.
Author interview – Jamie Sands
When did you start writing, and why?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, I remember finishing my first ‘novel’ at age seven. It was a sort of superhero story about saving the world with my stuffed toys who had come to life. I’ve always loved to read and making my own stories so others could read them seemed like a natural next step.
At what age did you take yourself seriously as a writer?
I’m not sure I take myself seriously yet! But I started really trying to sell my work a few years ago after attending a Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. I started self-publishing when I was thirty-eight.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
The first ‘proper’ novel I wrote was a middle grade portal fantasy and it took me several years (and it will never be released.) My second novel, which I have released, was about ten years in the making, lots of stops and starts and life changes in there, but from first draft to hitting publish on Amazon it was about a decade.
What was your last book about?
My last book finished is about a witch living in Auckland city (where I live). He’s a librarian and he finds love with a ghost hunter; it’s part of a shared universe project with New Zealand authors that will start releasing in a month or so.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m in edits for the witchy fiction story and drafting a pirate story for one of my pen names. I’m up to the third act so it’s all the exciting plot stuff now, feels like running downhill.
What is your writing process like? Do you plot or do you just dive in? How many drafts do you go through before the work is final?
I use beat sheets and do a rough plan of the story structure, and then I dive in and have fun with it. My plans are very basic, like ‘this is the scene where Basil has tea and freaks out, and definitely doesn’t call Sebastian’. I think if I plan too much detail, I lose enthusiasm.
How many drafts depends on the book itself. If I feel less confident about how it’s hanging together, I redraft more, and if I’m in a shared project or something then there are more edits by necessity. Usually it’s my first draft, my second go over with my alpha reader, then another draft with beta reader edits, sometimes a developmental editor draft and then a final draft.
What do you struggle with most as a writer?
I struggle the most with time at the moment. I’ve had a 40-hour office job for most of the year and even through shutdown it’s been full-time remotely so finding time to write around that has been hard. The stress from the whole pandemic has been hurting me as well. I don’t find it easy to write when I’m stressed or worried, so finding time and emotional resiliency is my challenge for 2020.
What’s worked for me is not putting pressure on myself. So not telling myself I have to use every second of the day, or that I don’t have to achieve a certain amount of words a day or anything. Just taking it easy, reading, learning, resting and if I get words done than I’m extra happy.
Have you always had that struggle or has it changed over time?
It’s something that comes and goes. There’s always something taking up time or taking time away from writing, and I’m big on putting pressure on myself! It’s an ongoing process to learn to be better about it.
Do you prefer the term ‘writer’ or ‘author’, and why?
I like them both. I think I like writer more, just because it sounds slightly more romantic. I do like author though because it sounds more authoritative somehow.
Who’s your favourite author?
I don’t have just one. I like Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman very much. Also Patrick Ness, some Stephen King, Joe Hill, Nalo Hopkinson…there are lots I like.
What’s your favourite book?
I can’t choose between my babies! Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is a current favourite. I’ve also recently loved the Heartbreaker comics by Alice Oseman.
What’s your favourite book on the craft?
Probably On Writing by Stephen King is my go to perennial favourite. But I read an incredible book earlier this year called the Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass, which was pretty life changing. Also just finished Save the Cat writes a novel by Jessica Brody, which is a great beat sheet guide and I’m excited to apply it.
Same! I love On Writing! Ok, last question: What’s the best writing advice you were ever given?
That write what you know doesn’t mean that you’re limited to your actual real-life experiences. Your emotions can be projected onto wild scenarios, the people you’re familiar with can be transplanted into different worlds, and go from there.
I love that advice, Jamie. Thank you so much! I’ve always struggled explaining how ‘write what you know’ doesn’t mean what people think it means and this is a great way to make it clear.
Their YA ghost story, The Suburban Book of the Dead, can be found here. Their sweet gay romance series, which is set at a theme park, can be found here. The Witchy Fiction project and the pre-order link for Jamie’s book in that world, Overdues and Occultism, can be found here and here.
(Yes, I just order myself a copy. Witches AND librarians? Come on! I can’t say ‘No’ to that.)