Author Interview: Jayna Baas (w/ More Fun Stuff!)
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
It all started on Goodreads. Actually, a great deal of stuff starts on Goodreads for me. #socialmediaforbooknerds From great reads like Strangers and Pilgrims and Shadow Road to even better friends - like Jayna!
Jayna Baas is an AMAZING author and an even better human being, and I'm here to share all about both her novel, Preacher on the Run, and her journey as a writer!
As part of the blog tour, there are also a bunch of other fun goodies as well (like, oh, I don't know, FREE STUFF), so stick around 'til the end! I'd hoped to write a review of Jayna's novel for the tour as well, but I'm sooooo backlogged with reviews right now that it's crazy, so you will be seeing it - I just don't know when. Suffice it to say that my review will most definitely be a positive one!
And can you believe it - I double-booked today, so this will not be the only interview you'll get to read! Later this morning, I'll have E.K. Seaver join us as well! (Seriously, guys, what is it with all the blog tours in September? I don't get it.)
Anyway, enough jibber-jabber. Let's get into the fun stuff!
GJ: What first inspired you to write?
JB: I’ve always made up stories—in my head before I could write, on paper after I learned how. So I don’t really know what inspired me; I just know I can’t not write. My grandpa loved words and always wanted to write a book, so I suspect at least some of it is hereditary.
GJ: What are some of the driving forces behind you and your writing now?
JB: My love of reading is a big influence. Since I’ve learned a lot from well-written fiction, I have a passion to use story as a tool to share truth. Also, as mentioned above, I can’t seem to not write. I don’t know if that counts as a “driving force,” but it’s what keeps me going when my book has me banging my head on a wall!
GJ: Can you name any authors who have inspired your voice in different ways? How can you see their influence in your writing?
JB: Davis Bunn had a lot of impact on my writing. In some ways, I find his style a bit dramatic now, but I remember his books as the point when I realized I can either just tell the story, or I can use the words to shape the story. His writing taught me about using fragments for dramatic effect and crafting tight action scenes. Jeff Shaara’s Revolutionary War novels have shaped the way I handle the challenge of narrating real history while still making it engaging. If I get stuck writing a battle scene, off to Jeff Shaara I go. Laura Frantz’s historical novels taught me a lot about seamlessly incorporating historical setting and vernacular into a story. I’ve also enjoyed some of Lisa Wingate’s work, although I think that influence would be seen more if/when I switch to contemporary fiction.
GJ: What are some of your most favorite books/genres—to read and to write?
JB: I read a lot of historical fiction, but I’m picky. My favorite is the kind that makes a real historical event or setting come alive, rather than books that set a generic story (romance or suspense or whatever) against a generic historical background (Wild West or Civil War or whatever). One that comes to mind, though I haven’t read it lately, is Tracy Groot’s The Sentinels of Andersonville. I like espionage and suspense, but not gratuitous violence, so I’m picky there, too. My favorite is Lion of Babylon by the abovementioned Davis Bunn. I also enjoy some contemporary fiction, a favorite being The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate (although that could be considered split-timeline). I like to write the same kind of historical fiction I like to read, but I dabble in contemporary and will probably genre-hop eventually.
GJ: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
JB: Read. Play in my vegetable garden. Make good coffee. Drink good coffee. Experiment with new recipes. Study freelance editing. Spend time with my family. Try to learn more about being a daughter of the King.
GJ: Tell me about your latest release—Preacher on the Run! It sounds so intriguing!
JB: I’ve always loved Revolutionary War history, and I especially love the stories most people don’t know about. The North Carolina Regulator Uprising set off all my story alerts. Since it was partly a struggle over religious freedom, it had potential for some great Christian truth. Since it involved plenty of confrontation, it had potential for a ton of action. I wanted to tell the story of what happened to people who stood up for what they believed. Preacher on the Run isn’t based on any one true story, but it’s definitely a “could have happened” kind of book.
GJ: And your other book, Not for a Million Dollars—what inspired it?
JB: Once upon a time, if I wasn’t reading about the Revolutionary War, I was reading about (or listening to) baseball. But I couldn’t help shaking my head over the ridiculous salaries players angled for. That led me to think, What if a major-league baseball team ditched all of its high-dollar players and went to the playoffs with a team of never-say-die rookies? I wrote the story entirely on a lark, and it languished unpublished for several years. Last summer, when baseball shut down and politics started overtaking the sport, Not for a Million Dollars seemed fitting again. I polished it up and released it just in time for baseball’s (very belated) opening day. Because it was an earlier project of mine, the writing style is different from Preacher on the Run. I’ve never really regained my passion for baseball since that delayed season, and Not for a Million Dollars remains highly improbable, but it’s fun to imagine. Plus the names—Freckles LaMarshe, Bucky Grimes, Mickey Crackjaw, Gypsy Traveler—were lots of fun, a throwback to my early writing days when I had a heyday with names. (I once named an early character Rory O’Sneedlebriar. How fun is that?)
GJ: What does your writing process typically look like?
JB: If I set aside time to write, it’s usually in midmorning, with a cup of coffee near at hand. I draft most of my work in longhand, with pencil, in a composition notebook. (I thought that was strange until I ran across an author who said drafting with pencil and then editing as she types gives her a “draft and a half.”) I start with a very barebones outline, which changes as I write. I think of it as my safety net, just in case I forget where the story was going. I edit as I go, which can be very frustrating sometimes, but I’ve tried more stringent methods and know I can’t stick to a detailed outline. The good news is, now that I know that about myself, I can be a little more patient with the stops and starts—I know the story will ultimately be better for them.
GJ: How do you research your novels?
JB: First I do a flyover, skimming through numerous sources to get the big picture of the subject I have in mind. That allows me to pinpoint the timeframe or topic I want to write about. I usually brainstorm summaries and start outlining at this point, so I have an idea of how the story might work. As I start the actual writing, I research in more detail, hammering out specifics of timing and events. This is where things can get sticky, as scenes I’ve envisioned within the big picture don’t jibe with the “little picture.” If I’m particularly stuck, I’ll do a flyover again to get some inspiration. In the editing/rewriting stage, I work on details like vernacular and settings. I use the interlibrary loan system a lot, but I also do weird things like setting my weather app to the region of North Carolina I’m writing about.
GJ: Which book was the easiest to write, and which was the hardest? Where did you stumble and second-guess yourself?
JB: Not for a Million Dollars was a “just for fun” story. So, while it had its difficult moments, it was far easier than Preacher on the Run, which is six times as long, deeply researched, and full of serious subject matter. With Preacher on the Run, I second-guessed myself regularly. Some of the hardest things involved giving my hero a strong internal arc, figuring out what to do with my bad guy, aligning the fictional plot with the historical timeline, and tying everything together when it felt like I had a million little storylines running around every which way. The bad guy gave me so much trouble that I wound up rewriting the entire climax sequence.
GJ: Out of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why? (Bonus question: who’s your favorite character?)
JB: I assume you aren’t including the fifteen or twenty I wrote before I started publishing, many of which will never see the light of day. ;) Preacher on the Run is my favorite right now, but that may change after I finish the sequel, Patriot by Night. Bonus answer: Alec Perry usually gets my vote, although Mitchell and Hank were a lot of fun to write, too.
GJ: What do you want, most of all, for readers to take away from your books?
JB: I want them to take away the truth—that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I want them to understand that life in Christ is so much more than just a moral to a story or a quick prayer in the face of impending doom. I want them to see Christians living out their faith and be encouraged to do the same.
GJ: What led you to self-publishing?
JB: I learned about self-publishing at a pretty early stage in my writing and never really considered any other route. Independent publishing is just that—independent—and I wanted to be able to have the last word on every step of my book’s release. Besides which, I knew a book like Preacher on the Run would probably appeal to a rather small audience, so traditional publishers weren’t apt to pick it up.
GJ: What are your thoughts for other aspiring writers on writing and publishing?
JB: Don’t publish until you’re truly ready, and don’t give up. I wrote a ton of stuff that I thought was my magnum opus, and I’m so glad now that I didn’t get the chance to click “Upload” and inflict my melodrama on the world. Self-publishing is a wonderful thing, but it means writers have to be their own gatekeepers. If you’ve taken the time and effort to write a book, don’t sell it short and release it before it’s the best it can be. That can be really, really hard work, but it’s worth it. So, to quote Churchill, never, never, never, never give up! Just write, knowing that even if this story isn’t The One, it will hone your skill. Also, take time to think through how you want to market and present your book. I went into Preacher on the Run without much of a marketing plan, and I’m trying to play catchup now.
GJ: Have you ever endured any discouragement as an author? If so, what inspired you to persevere?
JB: Have I ever been discouraged? Yes. What inspired me? Mom. Honestly, I get discouraged all the time, especially when I’ve just made progress and then hit a wall. And my mom really is my greatest cheerleader, as well as my Chief Brainstorming Consultant. Now that I’ve finished a book or two, I can take courage in remembering how I’ve overcome other obstacles with patience and God’s help. It also helps to have writer/reader friends who believe in my story even when I’m not sure I do.
GJ: What are your greatest aspirations for your future, be it as a person or as a writer?
JB: As a writer, I want to finish the trilogy that Preacher on the Run began, and I’d like to develop my craft to the point that it will support itself. As a person, I want to pursue my editing studies to a professional level, manage a happy home full of kids, and above all, be more like Jesus.
GJ: What has being a writer taught you?
JB: Authoring has made me extremely glad that I’m not God. It’s quite humbling—and awe-inspiring—to realize God orchestrates His plan through billions of people over thousands of years while I can’t even make my handful of made-up people do what I want. Writing has also taught me that when God wants something to happen, He can open doors. If He gives a gift, He’ll give what’s needed to use it. Which is why I always sign books with 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
About the Author
Jayna Baas (pronounced as in “baa, baa, black sheep”) lives in northern Michigan with a great family of real people and the family of pretend people who live in her head. (Yes, she does know her characters are not real. No, she does not want you to tell them she said so.) She is notorious for working on several projects at once and writing her series in the wrong order. She hones her craft amid loud southern gospel music and an embarrassing number of composition books, and is convinced God wired her to write—she can’t not write, even though she believes German writer Thomas Mann was correct in saying, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.” She enjoys writing and reading in a variety of genres, but her favorite story is this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Learn more at www.booksbyjayna.com.
About the Book
STANDING FOR TRUTH COULD COST HIM HIS FREEDOM.
It’s 1771, and Robert Boothe has spent the last four years leading the tyrant-hating Regulators against North Carolina’s corrupt British government. All he wants is a safe place for his little Baptist church to live and worship God. But the established church wants him to shut up. The governor wants him dead.
FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM COULD COST HIM HIS LIFE.
Being an unlicensed dissenter preacher has already made Robert a target. Then Colonel Charles Drake comes to town with one ambition: winning the governor’s favor, no matter what it takes. And Robert Boothe just might be his last chance.
YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE.
Snag Your Copy