Jayme and the Sheriff: Until Death Parts Us, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
[She was previously interviewed about her first novel, Summer Solstice.]
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Jayme and the Sheriff: Until Death Parts Us?
GAYLE HAYES: It is a Romantic Suspense novel and $.99 at Amazon.com.
Jayme and the Sheriff: Until Death Parts Us is the sequel to Summer Solstice, my debut novel in which I introduced Paralegal Jayme Baker and Sheriff R. Bates Riggs. Summer Solstice follows the budding romance of Jayme and the sheriff as they work together to solve a series of crimes in the small tourist town of Port Owen, Montana. The sequel opens with Jayme on her way back to Oregon to give notice she is leaving her job to return to Montana.
Before she reaches Mansfield and the airport, Jayme is involved in an accident after a drunk driver crashes into the Brown family vehicle and leaves wreckage strewn across Highway 93. Sheriff Riggs arrives at the scene as an ambulance takes Jayme to St. Peter’s Emergency Room in Mansfield. He fears the worst and regrets letting Jayme leave Port Owen without a promise to marry when she returned.
Sheriff Riggs is haunted by the eyes of the mother and child who were killed in the accident and embarks on a new crusade to prevent death and injury at the hands of drunk drivers. He lobbies for a new bill to mandate a BAC machine in every Montana bar. At the same time, he is still waiting for a report on the rogue element that tried to take over his department and is supporting a Mission County Commissioner who is trying to defeat a popular new housing development in Port Owen. After he testifies at the legislature for tougher DUI laws and against a Sheriffs First bill that is popular with the residents of his county, Sheriff Riggs has a hair-raising encounter on MacDonald Pass. He has become a target. Will he discover who is behind the escalating incidents of vandalism and intimidation?
At the same time the sheriff’s determination is tested, Jayme must deal with the physical limitations imposed on her by the accident as she returns to her job in Oregon. She endures by focusing on wedding plans.
Jayme and the sheriff celebrate the wedding day of their dreams. They have delayed their passion for an entire year. Finally, they indulge their fantasies and satisfy their longing for each other during their honeymoon in the Island Holiday Honeymoon Suite by the ocean.
Still, all is not well. As the anniversary of her accident draws near, Jayme is haunted by nightmares that leave her with a sense she will not be around much longer. While they are on their honeymoon, the sheriff is once again the target of those who see him as a threat. Jayme and the Sheriff struggle to overcome their demons, real and imagined.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
GAYLE HAYES: My characters develop naturally with the story. For example, after the first incidence of vandalism at the sheriff’s home, he reflects upon his nemesis from grade school. Jimmy, the maggot, Maguire is not someone I knew. He came out of nowhere. I suppose that is the definition of inspiration. The maggot reappears two more times in the story. Again, I did not plan that. Once he surfaced, he became a part of the story, and so it was only natural that there would be other references to him. In Jayme and the Sheriff, the Mission County Commissioner, Clancy McCone and Representative Walter Wilson are close in age. Again, I just plucked their characteristics from thin air. I differentiate by elaborating more on one than the other. I try to give some physical feature that will help the reader “see” the character. McCone has eyebrows that are hedges of wiry growth. Wilson is a Vietnam Veteran who has a prosthesis where his left arm was and has developed a powerful right arm.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
GAYLE HAYES: My ideal reader is someone who misses the old-fashioned love story with admirable heroes and heroines in believable predicaments. Although I try to give enough description so the reader has a sense of place, I do not like to interrupt the action and dialogue unless necessary. This is not literary fiction. My main characters are older. Jayme is 45. Bates is 55. It may be difficult for younger readers to believe that older characters are still interested in sex and capable of adventure. One advantage of being my age, is I remember what it feels like to be 45 and 55. In my mind, my novels could happen. I have not created a fantasy universe. These are real people dealing with real problems. The challenge is to present that reality in such a way that it is believable but not boring. I think younger readers would be pleasantly surprised by my stories. Older readers will probably identify with the situations and characters. Although my characters are somewhat idealized, they represent values that are still worth emulating. Jayme and Bates disagree but make an effort to see the other’s point of view. They are passionate but control themselves until the time is right. Bates believes his position on BAC machines is the right one, but he makes an effort to understand where his opponent is coming from, too. I would like to contribute something worthwhile to the world as a person and as an author. People should be entertained by what I have written in Jayme and the Sheriff, but I hope they will change their attitudes about drunk driving as well.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
GAYLE HAYES: I have written everything from poetry to a humor column for the local newspaper. I have always been fascinated by the process of writing a novel. I majored in English, but I could not get the job done. Then I would see novels written by people who were not part of the “literary community” per se. It was frustrating. I realize now that I was so focused on the technicalities, my creativity was stifled. When I started my debut novel, I had no theme in mind. I started with one character, Jayme. She was looking out the window when Bates boarded the plane. The two characters began interacting. I channeled their dialogue. Then I just made sure that whatever I wrote followed logically. The characters revealed the theme to me. I practiced the elements of good story telling I learned at the university. In Jayme and the Sheriff, events are somewhat dictated by that first novel. I found myself more bogged down by the research I needed to do. I had to write the sequel to dispel my misgivings that Summer Solstice was beginner’s luck, and I had nothing more to say. The biggest challenge for me in Jayme and the Sheriff was writing the honeymoon scenes. I knew my readers deserved some passion after sticking with me for two novels, but I wanted to write the bedroom scenes tastefully. I enjoyed the scenes with sexual innuendo much more. My advice to new writers would be to put your characters in a situation where they have to talk to each other and let them take you where they want to go.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
GAYLE HAYES: Writing comes first. When I am working on a novel, I wear blinders. I don’t see the dust on the furniture. I try to get through the story, and then I catch up on personal chores while the story simmers. I wrote the first novel in six weeks and edited for six weeks because my writing was not tight enough. In Jayme and the Sheriff, I wrote and edited in six weeks. I know I will fix small errors as time goes on, but there comes a point where I just have to put the story out there and go on to something else. I am my own editor at this stage, so I need to release the story before I can see something that eluded me the first dozen times I read it. I won’t change the story substantially, but I will upload a corrected version when necessary.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
GAYLE HAYES: I did not read novels while I had a job. There was no time. When I finally had some time to myself, I was too exhausted to read a novel. Once I retired, I started writing myself. I don’t want to read anyone else’s work while I’m writing my own. I don’t want to use someone else’s ideas inadvertently. I keep thinking I will take some time off from writing and research current authors to read. Then I get excited about an idea for another novel. My initial inspiration came from Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, etc.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
GAYLE HAYES: I think of Gorky Park as a novel that I could not put down until I finished. I would like readers to feel that way about my novels.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
GAYLE HAYES: First, I sent out an email to everyone I knew with a description and cover. Then I sent a similar email to groups that I thought would be interested such as MADD and the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. I sent an email to the local newspaper. I have a blog. I am on Facebook and Twitter. I have posted at the Indie Spot and Boomers and Books. I am considering CreateSpace because my friends are older and do not have kindles. I think not being in print is somewhat limiting with an older audience. I just ordered some networking (business) cards so I have something to leave with people. I want to keep my books priced low so I can reach more readers. Because of that, I will have to sell a larger number of copies before I have the capital to advertise.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
GAYLE HAYES: Kindle gives an author like me the incentive to keep writing. It is the goal you keep in mind on days when the ideas seem to have dried up. You don’t need to make a financial investment upfront. Your work will sink or swim based on readers instead of the bottom line of a publishing company. Kindle is current. Jayme and the Sheriff includes a scene where the characters attend a function for the local search and rescue team that is going to Japan to help out after the earthquake and tsunami. In traditional publishing, that would be old news by the time the book was published.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
GAYLE HAYES: You have nothing to lose. You can always get published in print. Once you go through the formatting and uploading process once, you will see that it is not difficult. When I wrote my debut novel, I used the tab to indent each line. Somehow, on the Kindle Previewer, the lines were dramatically indented so that I thought it was a distraction. In the sequel, I only indented about two spaces. It seems to be okay on the Previewer. Once I have proofread for the last time, I save the document in the old Word 97-2003 format, single space, and go to draft view so I can insert page breaks between chapters. Then I check any special formatting, such as the wedding invitation and poetry I have in Jayme and the Sheriff. I do one last spell check. Once it looks right, I save it as a Web filtered document and it is ready to upload to the Mobipocket Creator. Amazon has terrific pages with simple explanations anyone can follow.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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