Jamie McGuire paved the way for the New Adult (NA) genre with the international bestselling contemporary romance Beautiful Disaster. Her 2012 follow-up novel, Walking Disaster debuted at #1 on the New York Times, USA Today, IndieReader and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
Jamie has also written the Providence series. Her 2013 titles include an apocalyptic thriller, Red Hill, a novella, and A Beautiful Wedding (part of her Beautiful Disaster series). Her 2014 works include Beautiful Oblivion, the first in the Maddox Brothers series, also a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Her recently self-published Happenstance novella series, a USA Today bestseller, is set in her hometown of Blackwell, Oklahoma. Jamie now lives on a ranch just outside Enid, Oklahoma with her three children and husband Jeff, who is a real, live cowboy. They share their 30 acres with six horses, three dogs, and Rooster the cat.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Why return to self-publishing? What does being an indie author allow you to do that traditional publishing has not?
Jamie McGuire (JM): I had a great experience with Atria Books. I learned a lot from them and my experience there. Atria put my books on the shelves. That was something I couldn’t do at the time as a self-published author. I missed too many things about self-publishing, though, like control of my pricing, how my books were marketed, shorter time frames between releases, and being able to do things without asking like release excerpts from my novels. I worked harder marketing my releases with a traditional publisher than I did on my own, spending a lot of time doing things that didn’t really make sense to me. My latest self-published novel, Beautiful Redemption has hit #5 on the New York Times best seller list at a $5.99 price point. To me, it’s validation that what I’m doing, in my own time and pace, is working.
Print sales are down across the board, and I just wasn’t seeing my books on the shelves like I did in the beginning. It was a good time for me to return to my indie roots, and I was right. Beautiful Redemption will be on the shelves in Canada, and I hope that is just the beginning.
LK: Can you define your version of what it means to be indie?
JM: For me, it really boils down to total freedom. I am the captain of my own ship. Whether a title sinks or sails is on me. I have no expectations of or disappointments in others, only my own failures and victories—and there will be both.
LK: You’ve published numerous books about love, especially flawed relationships. How do you think your characters view love in a Beautiful Disaster vs. Red Hill?
JM: It’s really impossible to compare the two. Beautiful Disaster is a contemporary romance focusing on a college relationship. Red Hill is an apocalyptic thriller about familial love, and what lengths one might go to save that loved one. It’s difficult to worry about your love life when you’re fighting to stay alive, and that is reflected in Red Hill.
JM: So many things inspire me. A word in a song, being in the back of a taxi, in a plane, sitting on a park bench, or dreams are all inspirations for my books. Because ideas come to me far more quickly than I can type, I typically have an idea for several years before I sit down to write the novel. The characters and story take on a life of its own as I type. As I get to know my characters, their decisions change the tone of the overall story. I revise more than I used to, but my process changes with each novel. For Beautiful Redemption, I would read over the last chapter or two and revise, and then continue writing. Beautiful Disaster is the first draft with light copy editing.
LK: You have another book coming out in February, Happenstance 3. What makes this book different than your previous books?
The Happenstance novella series is a sweet YA about a girl who doesn’t take things head on like my typical heroines. Erin lives inside her own head most of the time. She’s soft spoken. I enjoyed writing about her quiet strength as she navigated high school and the bullying she experienced.
LK: You talk about your husband being a “real, live cowboy.” Are any of your characters based off him? Do you consider yourself a cowgirl in the indie community?
JM: I haven’t written about any cowboys…yet. I definitely see myself as a pioneer. I like to buck expectations for sure, and I despise doing what everyone is doing, even if I started it.
JM: I wrote my first book during radiography school, and I caught a lot of hell for it from all angles. From my instructors to my husband at the time, everyone told me to stop wasting my time with “that book” and to focus on my career in radiography. I’m glad I didn’t listen.
LK: How are you redefining romance in the New Adult genre? Talk about the voice of Jamie McGuire.
JM: Beautiful Disaster is one of the first successful New Adult novels. Along with books like Flat Out Love by Jessica Park, Losing It by Cora Carmack, Easy by Tammara Webber, Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines, and Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, it set the standard. I don’t have a lot of time, so I like for the books I read to keep my attention at all times. I set out to write my books in a way that make them nearly impossible to put down. When my readers say they’ve read my book in one sitting, that is the highest compliment they can give me. I want my readers to bite their nails, cry, and want to throw their Kindle across the room. I want them to feel everything the characters are feeling. If so, then I’ve done my job.
JM: Erin Easter is one of three Erins in the Happenstance novellas. They also happen to share the same birthday. Unlike the other two, Erin was raised in poverty, and is bullied throughout most of her childhood. I think anyone who has ever been afraid at school or made to feel worthless can relate, and I think her story plays out the way most teens in her shoes wishes theirs would.
LK: Can you tell us what Sins of the Innocent is about yet? What can readers expect from this 2016 release?
JM: Right now it’s a planned novella for Bex and Eden, two characters in the Providence trilogy. But my novellas seem to be getting longer and longer these days, so who knows!
LK: You’re teaming up with Teresa Mummert for the release of Sweet Nothing. Can you talk about this collaboration? How does the co-writing process work and who came up with the idea for the collaboration?
JM: I haven’t been this excited to write a book since my debut novel. The story is original, and sure to blow your socks off. Teresa and I have been friends for a few years. I had been thinking about co-writing for a long time, and I admire Teresa’s talent. I happened to mention my weaknesses as a writer would mesh well with her strengths and vice-versa, and that conversation spawned Sweet Nothing. Neither one of us are sure how it’s going to work. It’s dual POV, so it may be naive, but I think it’s going to be rather easy. I’ll let you know!
JM: Definitely seeing my indie titles hitting the New York Times and USA TODAY lists are rewarding. There are so many challenges, like finding the right freelancer for edits, formatting, and cover design, the competition is daunting, and troubleshooting the many issues that come up. But having a good team alleviates a lot of stress.
LK: What do you love about writing?
JM: I never thought I would be a writer, but now that I am one, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Being an author has liberated me in so many ways. I choose my own hours, I create entire worlds and lives, and then take a break when it’s time to take one of my kids to volleyball practice or dance class. I’ve traveled the world, and met so many amazing people. Writing has changed everything not only for me, but for my family. It’s easy for me, and it’s what I’m best at. When people say they were born for something, that’s what writing is for me.
LK: Why are relationships so hard? What have you learned from the great ones and the ones that weren’t for you?
JM: Relationships grow and change just like people do. Lasting love really boils down to forgiveness, because there are no perfect couples.