Interview with Jae

Jae author_heller

Jae is one of the most successful and well-respected authors in lesbian fiction.  I am so honored to have this opportunity. Jae, thanks for taking the time to chat.

My pleasure! Thanks so much for reading my books and for inviting me to be interviewed.

Your latest novel, Chemistry Lessons, is an adorable story of best friends, Kylie and Regan, who go on three dates to prove they don’t have chemistry. How does writing a friends-to-lovers romance differ from other romances?

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Most of my other romances are slow-burn romances—the characters meet as strangers at the beginning of the book and then slowly get to know each other, build trust, and open up to each other. In a friends-to-lovers romance, all of that has already taken place before the book starts. Regan and Ky have been best friends since the first day of kindergarten. They know everything about each other—or at least they think they do.

So the structure of a friends-to-lovers romance is entirely different from all other romances. The challenge wasn’t how to get them to trust each other but how to take them from best friends who hang out on the couch in baggy sweatpants and no bra to lovers. Where does that spark of attraction come from after knowing each other for 25 years? What suddenly changed? How do they navigate that new, unexpected aspect of their relationship while not losing their friendship?

Answering these questions in Chemistry Lessons was actually a nice change of pace and really fun for me.

You have written over 20 books and have so many memorable characters. If you could have a dinner party with just three of your characters, who would you invite? 

That’s really tough! I really want to invite them all, but if I have to pick just three: Steph from The Roommate Arrangement because as a comedian, she would have us all in stitches throughout the entire dinner. Then maybe Drew from Something in the Wine so she could pick the best bottle of wine for everyone to share (or maybe bring it). And then Dawn from Conflict of Interest because she’s so approachable, kind, a great listener, and someone to talk to during dinner.

Most of your books have characters with real jobs and who are not model thin. Why is it important to you to feature these characters in your books? 

When I look at all the awesome women in my life whom I love and admire, there’s such diversity in body types, jobs, and backgrounds, and I’m trying to reflect that in my books. I want to show my readers that they don’t have to look a certain way, be rich, or have a glamorous job to deserve love. I want my readers to be able to see themselves reflected in my books, no matter if they are shy or super confident, have love handles or a six-pack, work as cashiers or lawyers, etc. Every woman is beautiful in her own way, exactly as she is.

You have a new short story A Place to Call Home that continues the story of Luke and Nora. What do these two characters mean to you and will you write more of their story?

Backwards to Oregon, book number 1 in the Oregon series, was the first book I ever published, and that’s probably part of what makes it so special to me. I had a lot of self-doubts and concerns at the beginning of my writing career. Would I as a non-native speaker be able to write a story that readers enjoy? The feedback I got from readers was so overwhelmingly positive that I could put those doubts aside and continue to write.

But I think even if it hadn’t been the first, Backwards to Oregon would still be special to me. There’s just something about Luke and Nora as a couple that touches me deeply. They both come with so many wounds and scars from their family backgrounds and their life experiences that they decided love isn’t for them and have learned to rely only on themselves. When they start to trust each other and open up to love, it’s just beautiful to watch.

Getting to reconnect with Luke & Nora in “A Place to Call Home” was like checking in with old friends. I was amazed how easy it was to slip back into their dynamic, and I hope readers will enjoy revisiting them too.

You live in the sunniest city in Germany, Freiburg. Besides the sunshine, what do you love about where you live? 

To me, it offers the best of both worlds in a lot of ways. It’s an old city with cobblestones, medieval alleys, and Bächle in the city center, but it’s also a modern, liberal, and very eco-conscious university town with a lot of international students.

I live at the edge of the city, with a river, two lakes, and lots of beautiful nature within walking distance, yet I can also take the streetcar and reach restaurants, cinemas, and stores within 10 minutes.

Here’s a link to my blog if you’d like to see some pictures of the city:

If you had to travel two thousand miles, like Luke and Nora did in Backwards to Oregon, and had to take three other lesfic writers with you, who would you choose and why? We will give you a camper since covered wagons aren’t the best means of transport these days 😉

Ooh, great question! The first one I would pick is Chris Zett. She owns a camper, so she could be our driver since I don’t drive. We also get along great and can talk for hours, so we wouldn’t get bored. I would also pick Cheyenne Blue—she’s the outdoorsy type with lots of camping/camper experience, and she’s easy to get along with too.

The third person needs to be someone who can cook since I’m like Regan from Chemistry Lessons: My culinary skill is eating. Let me think…which of my fellow writers can cook? Maybe Aurora Rey. I’ve seen some yummy-looking pictures on her Instagram, and she has written several foodie romances, so I assume she could safe the rest of us from starvation on our journey.

In addition to be an award-winning author, you are also an editor. What do you enjoy about helping new authors as they begin their careers? 

As an editor, I try to not just edit—I try to be a mentor and provide new writers with ways to not just improve their current manuscript but also to improve their craft. I focus on teaching them things that they can use for all future books they will write, and I also give career advice if they want it.

I have always loved teaching and being a mentor. If not for my dislike of public speaking, I might have become a teacher.

Editing and mentoring fellow authors is also a great way to give back to the community, and that’s important to me.

What are you writing now and when do you expect it to be released? 

I just finished proofreading “A Place to Call Home,” which will be out at the end of October/beginning of November.

I’m also doing research for my next novel, a contemporary romance with an enemies-to-lovers theme. I don’t have a title yet, but the main character is a professional cuddler, who inherits a house…but has to share it with an aloof woman who doesn’t take her job seriously at all.

I know you have an ice cream obsession. What kind do you have in your freezer right now and do you have any other food obsessions?

Believe it or not, but I don’t have any ice cream in my freezer right now. Ice cream is mostly for celebrating awards or new releases—a treat, not something I eat every day.

My current food obsession is Flammkuchen. It’s a specialty from the area along the French & German border, where I live. It’s similar to pizza, but with a thinner, more crispy crust and crème fraiche instead of tomato sauce. Traditionally, the toppings are bacon and onions, but since I’m a vegetarian, I prefer it with pineapple, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

What are a few of your favorite lesfic books you have read this year?

Two of my favorite reads this year were Worthy of Love by Quinn Ivins, All at Sea by Cheyenne Blue, and Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. I also just re-read Jericho by Ann McMan and Ask, Tell by EJ Noyes, two of my all-time favorites.

Jae, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. It has been an honor. I have such respect for you, not just as a writer but more so as a human being. You are truly a treasure to our community, and I hope we can do this again! 

Thanks so much for your support and your kind words, and thank you for taking the time to come up with such interesting questions!