I’m so excited to have Jasmine Haynes, author of the Max Starr paranormal erotic mystery series, on my blog today! In this series, Max uses her newly acquired psychic abilities, a connection with her ghost husband, and the expertise of a hunky detective to solve several murders. The series is compelling from book one, with a flawed-yet-loveable lead character, and it gets even better with each book. I highly recommend it for those who love a little smut with their paranormal and enjoy reading suspenseful mysteries.
Dicey: Thank you so much for agreeing to interview for my blog. I am a big fan of your Max Starr erotic paranormal mystery series and look forward to reading more of your books. I wish I had millions of subscribers so I could tell more people about them. Please answer the following any way you like.
Jasmine: First, thank you so much for having me, Dicey. It’s a great honor to be here with you. And now to your questions!
Dicey: At some point while reading Desperate to the Max (book 3 of the Max Starr series), I realized I was reading several short mysteries within one long mystery. I thought it was brilliant how you placed subtleties throughout the previous books without giving too much away. Okay, okay. My question is—was this part of your master plan or did you let the characters dictate how the story would go? In other words, did you plot this series from the beginning to go this way or did it evolve as you wrote it?
Jasmine: The series actually evolved as I was writing it. I came up with the idea for Dead to the Max, Book 1, as a stand-alone book. But as I was writing it, I fell in love with Witt, and I began to wonder why Cameron had died. I just felt it had to be something much more than a mere robbery. I’m not sure at what point I decided that I would write five books; they just seemed to write themselves and tell me where they were going. In Evil to the Max, I didn’t actually know who the killer was until Max figured it out. I thought to myself that there would be a lot of “seeding in” I would have to do in revision, adding all the clues, but when I went back, I actually found that all the clues were already there pointing to who the killer was. That’s what I mean when I say that this series actually wrote itself.
Dicey: Remarkable! The way everything ties in together is nothing short of genius.
There is an abundance of explicit sex scenes within each book. How did you prepare to write each so that they were sexy and fresh? I noticed an acknowledgment to your mother about your books being “adult”. How do you feel about her or others you know personally reading your books that contain these scenes?
Jasmine: The sex scenes in the books are actually defined by the characters involved. Sex between Max and her ghost husband was very different from sex between Max and Witt, as was sex with all the other characters. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that Max “feels” the emotions of some of the murder victims and “witnesses” some of the things they do. So of course the sex involving these characters also was defined by who those people were. By writing to each characterization, the scene then became fresh and yes, sexy. Regarding my mother and other friends or relatives reading my books that contain sex scenes, I don’t have a problem with it. I do warn them that it’s very sexy, so it’s really “reader beware”. However, my mother doesn’t tell the ladies at her church what my pseudonym is, LOL.
Dicey: Some of the sex scenes would probably be considered risqué by many, but they didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I prefer the daring nature of them. Do you ever worry about going too far or offending readers? What would you say to someone who called the scenes “trash” or “too erotic”?
Jasmine: I’ve gotten several reviews on reader sites such as Amazon that do not like all the sex, but the whole story and series was based on sex. Sex was what made these people who they were, their sexual histories. Sex drove Max, it drove all the women who were murdered, it drove their killers. I think I’m very clear in the description/blurb of the books that this is an erotic series, plus I also state it in the front of each book, so I think there’s fair warning. And to those who call it trashy or too erotic, I just have to say that’s the way I write. I like to write hot sex, and I’m too old to be ashamed of it. I will say that there are some scenes of a sexual nature which are not intended to be “hot sex” but are intended to show the desperation of my characters. For those scenes, I included them because once again they were integral to my characters, to show why they took the actions they did, or felt those driving emotions I mentioned above.
Dicey: I saw those reviews and wondered what the readers expected. Your warnings are everywhere. Goes to show, you can’t please everybody, so write what you want.
This series contains characters with various professions: an accountant, a nail technician, a hair dresser, a phone sex operator, a hooker…I mean working girl, a few lawyers, a sexy detective, and more. What research did you do to make these characters believable?
Jasmine: The different professions were a lot of fun to write. The accountant, that was easy. I was accountant for over 20 years before I became a full-time writer. I had a very good friend who was a nail technician, another who was a hairdresser, one who was a lawyer, and I pestered them with lots of questions. As for the phone sex operator, I actually called a phone sex line and talked to the girl about what she did, how she got the job, what she liked and disliked about it. And I had to pay for the call, too! The hooker was harder. Honestly I just made most of that up, based on what I thought it would be like, what I’ve seen on TV and in movies. I made her into the woman I wanted her to be, not necessarily what was real. The sexy detective, I did do a lot of research. I belonged to a lot of mystery writer online groups. They had guests who were in the criminal fields. Also, one of my writer friends who wrote a lot of mysteries asked some of his cop experts the answers to some questions for me. I did a lot of reading, and I also had a book that defined cop terminology.
Dicey: Do you write fulltime? What does a typical day’s schedule look like for you?
Jasmine: I write fulltime now, thank goodness. I feel for those writers who have to work during the day and do the writing at night. I’m very lucky to have a husband who goes to work every day and brings home the medical insurance. The typical day for me is rising at 5:30, making my husband’s mocha, taking my 50 minute speed walk, then I tackle my promotion. That means Facebook, twitter, answering e-mails, commenting on blogs, writing blogs, doing interviews, and so on. Then I dig into the writing. If I’m writing a new draft, my goal is 2500 words a day. And I generally stop writing around four o’clock in order to fix dinner. I figure if my husband is going to work for me, I can at least make him a healthy meal.
Dicey: I had to pull out the dictionary several times while reading your books, which makes me think you have an extensive vocabulary. Do you speak the way you write? Did you have formal creative writing training or English courses? If not, what would you attribute your mastery of the written (and perhaps, spoken) word?
Jasmine: LOL, I do love words. I’ve always been a big reader, since the time I first started reading, so I gained a large vocabulary. I would have to say that yes I speak the way I write. So sometimes I use some big words, especially if they’re fun, like obstreperous. I just love that word. I took formal creative writing classes in high school; in fact, I wrote my first book for my high school English class. I took writing courses in college, though my major was business administration. After I graduated, I continued to go to night school for writing courses. In addition, I attended a lot of one-day workshops and seminars. The Romance Writers of America was hugely important in my craft work. One of my favorite writers, Robert Crais, said in a talk I attended that if you wanted to learn how to write, you should join the Romance Writers of America.
Dicey: Guess I better join the RWA.
It appears your books were previously released via a publishing house and now are self-published. What brought about this change? How have the experiences differed? Which do you prefer and why?
Jasmine: When the new self-publishing technology came out from Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., I asked for the rights back to the Max series. My publisher, LiquidSilverBooks.com, was very good about returning them to me. And I have seen good success with them. I think it gave the books new life and exposed them to a lot of new readers, which I’m very happy about. I’ve also gotten back the rights to some of my Jasmine Haynes books, a couple of my Jennifer Skully books, and I’ve written some new material just for self-publishing. However, I’ve recently signed another two-book deal with Berkley, who published most of my Jasmine Haynes material. Self-publishing versus going through a publishing house both have their pros and cons. With self-publishing I get the book out much faster, but I also have to do all the work myself, which includes having the cover image made, all the formatting, uploading, etc.
Dicey: I’m glad you were able to get the rights and control of your books back. Congrats on your recent Berkley deal!
What was your inspiration for the Max Starr series?
Jasmine: Okay, you’re probably going to laugh at this, but I was angry with my boss, so I created a character that I could hate. I’d also wanted to write about a psychic detective. And I love ghosts. So all these elements just started coming together. Once Max and Cameron came to life in my mind, the series wrote itself. In the first book, I needed a cop, of course, since there’d been a murder so I made up Detective Witt Long. Well, he took on such a huge personality that he just had to keep coming back for all the books. But he was originally intended as a secondary character as the cop who would interview Max after that initial murder in Book 1. Another example of characters taking on their own life and directing the story!
Dicey: If you could pick a celebrity face to represent your characters, who would they be for Max Starr, Detective DeWitt (other than Dudley Do Right), Bud Traynor, Cameron Starr, and Ladybird?
Jasmine: I think Betty White definitely should play Ladybird, Witt’s Mom! The others are harder. If he was younger, I would’ve had Kurt Russell play Witt. He played a character named MacReady in The Thing, and that’s how I’d want him to play Witt. He would be absolutely perfect, although he doesn’t look a thing like Witt! As for Max, a character on Dexter, a show I love, Dexter’s sister Debra, I would have that actress play Max. I think her name is Jennifer Carpenter. Max and that character, Deb, are very similar in my mind. Prickly, hyper, etc. Cameron, Hugh Jackman would be great for him. I just love Hugh Jackman! And now for Bud Traynor, it would have to be Malcolm McDowell. He can play such urbane yet pathological characters. He’d be perfect.
Dicey: Um… I LOVE Dexter too. Jennifer Carpenter would make a perfect Max.
You write under the pens Jasmine Haynes, Jennifer Skully, and JB Skully. How do each of these alter egos differ? Which persona do you prefer and why?
Jasmine: The only books I wrote as JB Skully were the Max books. As the Jasmine Haynes name grew, I started publishing them under that pseudonym instead, so basically JB no longer exists. She was hard and gritty, befitting Max. Jennifer Skully is my laugh-out-loud side, and Jasmine Haynes is the hot-and-sexy side. I don’t prefer any of them, I like them all. Sometimes I want to be silly and funny, and sometimes a bit more serious. And sometimes a bit of both!
Dicey: You have written so many books! Which one is your favorite and why?
Jasmine: That is always the hardest question. I love the Max series, because I pretty much channeled those characters and they came to life. I also love Fool’s Gold because the town characters so amused me. I patterned the setting after the little Nevada town that my brother-in-law lives in. And many of the situations that happened were stories he told me about. Open Invitation and Somebody’s Lover are also two of my favorites because they are so emotional. I actually cried while writing those stories. I’ve got the rights back to them and will be issuing them as individual novellas.
Dicey: What are you working on now, and when will it be released?
Jasmine: I’m working on several things. I’ve just finished the first draft of Twisted by Love, Book 1 in my Reincarnation Tales. I’ve also finished the first draft of a short sequel to my foursome novella, Kinky Neighbors. I’ve got to do revisions on those two and hope to have them out during August. Then I’ll be doing another book in the West Coast hotwifing series, probably for early fall release. And, as I mentioned above, I will be writing two new books for Berkley, which will be out starting in 2013.
Dicey: Jasmine, I may have gotten out of hand with this. Please excuse my excitement. Your answers will give me more insight as a reader and fellow, albeit more amateurish author. Thank you again! I wish you much success!
Jasmine: And I probably got out of hand with my answers, Dicey! Thank you so much for having me, and for enjoying the Max books so much. Readers can find me at http://www.jasminehaynes.com and follow me on my blog at http://www.jasminehaynes.blogspot.com. I’m also on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s been a pleasure!
Anyone interested in starting the wonderful Max Starr series can download book 1 for free on Smashwords for a limited time (apply the coupon code listed next to the book). Beauty or the Bitch, Double the Pleasure, and She’s Gotta Be Mine are also free right now. I can’t wait to read more of Jasmine’s books.