Author J.D. Blackrose currently writes the Summoner’s Mark series for Bell Bridge Books and the Zombie Cosmetologist series for Falstaff Books. She has also written the Soul Wars and Monster Hunter Mom urban fantasy series for Falstaff Books. One of her short stories, “The Ghost Train” was published by Third Flatiron in their Spring 2019 and Third Flatiron Best of 2019 anthologies. Her work isn’t all darkness and monsters, though. Under the name Joelle M. Reizes, she co-wrote a children’s Hanukkah story “Courageous Candles.”
Daily Dragon (DD): How long have you been writing?
J.D. Blackrose (JDB): I wrote my first story when I was seven and continued writing all through school. Once I hit graduate school and got married and had three kids, all writing stopped until my mid-forties. Realizing that my kids were going to leave the nest made me want to get back to it. I focused on writing for publication around age 45. I love to talk to authors who are just starting after age 40. We all feel so behind, but that’s not true. We have a lot of real-world experience to draw upon for our tales.
DD: What was your first commercial publication, and what inspired it?
JDB: I can’t remember the first thing I ever got paid for, but The Soul Wars, by Falstaff Books, was my first published novella series that is now collected into one volume with that title. The novella’s plots follow each other so it reads like a novel. I was inspired by the fabulous Faith Hunter to write a vampire book in New Orleans but then I brought in a Valkyrie and made it my own.
DD: How did you come up with the idea of a monster-hunting mom?
JDB: I love John Hartness’ Bubba the Monster Hunter and I noticed that other authors, like Gail Martin and Eric Asher, were writing in Bubba’s universe. I told John that I wanted to do something as well, but that it would be “a little different.” LOL. Every other monster hunter carries big guns, but I thought, what if [Jess Friedman] didn’t use guns at all? What if she only used what was in the back of her Toyota Sienna mini-van? That led to a baseball bat, stain remover, and a batting helmet—basically household items and children’s stuff. She’s the only monster hunter with a husband and kids, so she has a lot at stake. I did give her a magic hatchet because she needed something cool.
DD: LOL, indeed! What’s her wildest adventure?
JDB: In the book The Devil’s Been Busy, we follow her through a number of adventures that eventually lead to a showdown with a vampire. She makes friends with a very special gorilla and a Phoenix, Blaze, makes a nest in her back yard with twigs and Christmas lights. Her world is very funny and weird, but her greatest adventure is her daughter’s sleepover and getting kindergarten snack to school on time after saving the world from a murderous zombie were-gorilla.
In the upcoming anthology Never Too Old to Save the World, (Outland Entertainment, Alana Joli Abbott and Addie J. King, editors), Jess meets a Jidra, a giant humanoid plant that’s eating people. The story is “It’s My Nature.”
DD: Where there’s a mom, there are kids. Was anything involving your heroine’s family difficult to write?
JDB: While the stories are absurd in many respects, they are also poignant. The ending of “It’s My Nature,” is surprisingly emotional.
DD: Your Soul Wars series goes in a very different direction. How did you settle on a Valkyrie as your heroine, and why did you pair her with a vampire?
JDB: As I mentioned, I was motivated to try writing a vampire because I’d read so many other vampire stories, including the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter. The Valkyrie came about because I wanted a kick-butt heroine with a snarky attitude and a chip on her shoulder. Valkyries shouldn’t be babysitting vampires. They have better things to do. Besides, I wanted to write a flying horse.
DD: Zombies are pretty common these days but not as cosmetologists. What was the inspiration for this series?
JDB: Ha! That is a funny story. I had this scene in my head. A medical examiner bends to look at a dead body. Suddenly, various cryptids jump out of the bushes and start pulling off arms and legs. “You don’t understand!” they’d yell. “He really does cost an arm and a leg!” In my mind, they were referring to a zombie investigator who served the paranormal community and insisted on being paid in fresh body parts.
The problem was that zombie investigators/detectives have been done so I needed something new. I was driving to work and I thought, what do I know well that I can inject into this story? I have a fascination with makeup tutorial videos, and I thought, “Cosmetology! Makeup!” I said the words “zombie cosmetologist” out loud and laughed and every time I said it, I still laughed. That’s how I decided to build a story around a zombie cosmetologist.
DD: Moving from darkest to lightest, how would you place your various series?
JDB: A Wrinkle and Crime is the zombie cosmetologist novella series in one volume, and it is light and funny, but like Monster Hunter Mom, it has poignant parts. I use the humor to entertain but also to highlight some serious issues. Waylon, my zombie cosmetologist, has a type of PTSD from being turned into a zombie against his will and now all he wants to do is find a way to truly die.
On the grittier side, although with a dash of romance, is The Summoner’s Mark series. Becs is a summoner who owes a demon a favor and she doesn’t know when he’s going to call it in, what he’s going to ask, or what he’ll do if she says no. When we meet her, she’s hiding out bartending in a fae bar, waiting for the demon to call in his chit. She lives in an apartment above a Chinese take-out place and has a mysterious and sexy upstairs neighbor.
DD: Do you have any advice for writers who’re still working toward that first sale?
JDB: Everyone asks this question because we all want a simple answer. There isn’t one. I’ll give two pieces of advice. The first is to be persistent. This is a shots on goal type of game. Keep working on craft and keep submitting or pitching. Don’t stop.
The second piece of advice is to attend conventions if you can afford to do so. This is how you meet people and make connections. If you can’t because of perfectly legitimate reasons such as health and finances, follow a few key authors, agents, editors, or publishers that you like on social media. Really watch what they are posting. Comment every once in a while. Maybe ask a question. Paying attention to what they are sharing may help you figure out your next plotline, your next submission, or your next target agent/editor.
DD: What’s next for you?
JDB: I am working on the next novels in The Summoner’s Mark series. Books one, two, and three are out. (Demon Kissed, Fae Crossed, and Hell Bound.) There will be a novella next, after book three, and then books four, five, and six. This series is an urban fantasy with a touch of paranormal romance and if anyone is interested, they can read the free prequel (Valefar’s Embrace) by signing up for my newsletter on my website. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. Promise.
DD: Please tell us why you switched gears to write Courageous Candles and what it’s about.
JDB: Courageous Candles is a children’s Hannukah book. My brother, Rabbi Joseph Meszler, wrote a book for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, called The Honey Bee and the Apple Tree and then we co-wrote the Hannukah story. He has another one for Sukkot, an autumn holiday, coming out called The Sukkah in the Storm. All from Prospective Press, Jason Graves, publisher and Kris Graves, illustrator. I’m toying with a Passover story now. The idea was to create a series of Jewish holiday stories for kids because honestly, there are tons of Christmas books and things like that, but fewer books for Jewish holidays, especially the ones that many people don’t know about, like Sukkot.
DD: Thanks for chatting with me.
JDB: Thank you!