Rae: First, if we were meeting at a coffee shop I’d be drinking a spiced Latte with Coconut Milk with chocolate drizzle, what would you order?
Jamaila: My favorite thing to order at coffee shops, bizarrely, is extremely fancy lemonade. I don’t drink coffee (gasp!) or tea (double gasp!) but I’m a sucker for a lemonade with an obscure fruit flavoring in it. Oooh, especially if it’s sparkling.
Rae: For readers who have not read your books, you write historical fantasy romance. Can you tell us a little bit about your books and what was the inspiration for your first one?
Jamaila: My books are like historical romances set in Regency and Victorian England, except there’s magic in them. Dukes mix with wizards, countesses with witches, and there’s a thriving magical community populating the same Mayfair ballrooms as your favorite debutantes. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy, and came to romance pretty late as a reader. I love anything with magic in it, and when I was reading all my favorite historical romances, I kept thinking how fun it would be if there was a fantasy element to them. When it came time to write my own, I knew I wanted to set it in my favorite time period to read romance in, and I wanted to feature a female thief and an awkward, vaguely nerdy hero. The rest flowed from there – and when that hero’s family got involved, it turned into a series.
Rae: As a mom I know how difficult it is to carve time out to read, write, and get “all the things” done without interruption. As a mom of twins, where do you find the time?
Jamaila: Ha! I don’t! Just kidding. I’m very lucky to be able to stay home with my children, but that also means that keeping my household running fights with writing for my precious free hours. Currently, my kids are in a short (very short) preschool program, which gives me a few hours a week that I can schedule out. I also freelance as a corporate communications consultant, so I have to try to be very careful to prioritize all of my tasks and give myself deadlines. Lists are my best friend. If you come to my house, you’ll find scraps of paper with lists written on them wafting about in the breeze like freshly fallen snow.
Rae: Will we see more books connected to your backlist or new characters and worlds to explore?
Jamaila: The Wizards of London are an ongoing series; the first three feature Thomas, Lord Westfield, and his two best friends. The next set of three books will feature the Edgebourne ladies, something my readers have been asking me about since Thomas’ younger sister first showed up to thumb her nose at him in book one. I also have a short prequel series set in the same world, with cameos by some major Wizards of London players, but featuring an unrelated hero and heroine. So in short, you can expect to see lots of new characters in my world. However, I’m also working on several other projects with a more contemporary flair that I’m pretty excited about!
Rae: When you write do you keep a file, book, or notes on your characters to ensure they don’t crossover into other stories?
Jamaila: I start writing every book by putting together a character sheet for each of my protagonists, with notes about everything from their appearance to their internal motivations. As the series has gotten longer, I’ve found that I needed to create a ‘series bible,’ which for me is an Excel spreadsheet with notable information about each character – like the color of their eyes, the names of their siblings, properties they own, and who they’re connected to. That’s helped me keep things straight, so that I don’t accidentally have somebody aging ten years in three months or the world’s shortest pregnancy, for instance!
Rae: Writing all the words is a challenge, do you have a writing ritual or secret location to get the work done?
Jamaila: I struggle with this, because I’m a massive procrastinator. I tend to only be able to write solid chunks of words if I can give myself a good amount of time to do so – not because it takes me a lot of time to actually write, but because I need to get all of the things distracting my brain out of the way first. It’s something I need to work on! I’m hoping to become one of those people who can whip out their computer or smart device and tap away for five minutes, then put it away and not be completely confused for the rest of the day. So far, it’s not going well.
Rae: Can you tell us how you tackle plotting your series? Is it on a massive board, sheets of paper or just write as you go with a simple outline?
Jamaila: I outline every book, and have a general idea of where the series is going. I also try to plan the series in ‘chunks’ of three. The first three books are out now, and they have a relatively complete storyline with lots of internal references. The next three books will be the same way – a storyline that sticks to the three books, not necessarily trying to stretch out over the entire series. Three is about as long as I can really effectively plan ahead! As I outline each book, I make sure to note down anything that might have bearing on what I have planned in a general sense for the other books in the trilogy. This lets me put in a few details that will become important later, even if I haven’t written the ‘later’ part yet.
Rae: There has been a lot of chatter on social media about planning and organizing to stay focused and succeed in personal goals for 2018. How do you keep it all from spiraling out of orbit between the family life and writer life? Are you a planner girl or digital calendar queen?
Jamaila: I’m both! I love a paper planner for my daily to-do list, appointments, and meal planning (I’m a huge fan of Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner!). But I also am a Google Calendar power user, because my husband and I have used Gcal to sync our calendars for basically as long as it has existed. We each have our own calendar, rather than a joint one, so we can turn on and off viewing of each others’ appointments if we need a clearer look at what we’re doing. So I plan out everything long-term using Google Calendar, and then on a weekly basis, I transfer anything that’s coming up into my paper planner as part of my to-dos. I also do a ton of planning using my phone, because with two small children, I’m rarely actually at my computer or near my planner unless I’m locked in the office, so digital planning is a must.
Rae: I love your foodie posts on social media, have you always had a fondness for cooking? Where do you find your recipes? I still get the handful of magazines and am constantly ripping out meals to make or sweets to bake. However, in an age of technology I find Pinterest to be my fast go-to for last minute ideas. Do you share your meals there?
Jamaila: I’ve cooked for as long as I can remember. My maternal ancestors were innkeepers in Poland; I always say that I come by my love of feeding people genetically. I do a lot of Pinterest meal planning! I’ve had a few Pinterest fails (who hasn’t?), but in general it’s such a good resource. When we moved a few years ago, I gave up a lot of my paper cookbooks. I kept the ones I really loved, and the ones that are really useful (you can pry my Fannie Farmer from my cold, dead hands), but I did a big purge because I really don’t use them much anymore. The only food magazine I still subscribe to is Fine Cooking, because I just love it. Everything else I’ll occasionally flip through digitally (did you know your local library probably has a digital subscription to your favorite magazines?? Libraries are the best.). I try to remember to post some of my meals and recipes on my blog, when it’s a particularly good one, but I’m the first to admit I’m bad about doing much more than an Instagram snap!
Rae: What can we expect to see on the bookshelves in the upcoming months? Where can readers meet you in person?
Jamaila: My first foray into contemporary romance, a Napa Valley-set story featuring a winemaker hero and an actress-turned-renovator and the TV show that comes between them, will be coming out in March. It’s co-written with one of my favorite people, my friend Rebecca Norinne, who writes incredible contemporaries. (If you haven’t read her rugby romances yet, GO GET THEM.) We’re super excited about it; we’re both into food and wine, and we’ve planned an entire series featuring heroes in the food and beverage industries, set in the cutest fictional small town you’ve ever heard of. Book one is called THE VINTNER’S VIXEN. I’m also hard at work on the third novella in the Anastasia Galipp series, featuring everyone’s favorite lady spy and her hapless wizard partner. I hope to release that in early summer. After that, I’ll be working on more Wizards of London books, and the next few books in the contemporary series. There are a few other projects on the back burners, but I have another year until my twins start kindergarten, so there’s only so much I can do!
As for upcoming appearances, I’m at Balticon in May in Baltimore every year, and am currently booking other commitments – if there’s somewhere you’d like me to be, feel free to reach out! And of course I’m almost criminally available on social media. Twitter is my favorite, but I’m also on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… you name it, I’m there!
Rae: Thank you for hanging out in the cafe today.
Jamaila: Thanks for having me! It’s been fun!
1. What is a must read book and why? SORCERY AND CECELIA OR: THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT is one of my favorite books, bar none, and it’s one of the few books in my own genre, historical fantasy! The characters are incredible, the story is engrossing, and bonus, there are two more books in the series. Lord knows I love a series. And my favorite thing: the backstory. It’s an epistolary novel, which means it’s written in the form of letters between the characters. But what the co-authors have explained is that it started out as something they did just for fun, because they were friends who were writers and both liked the idea. So they wrote letters back and forth, and got more and more involved, until suddenly they were devising secretive, clever ways to surprise each other with new letters, leaving them on snowy front porches without a footprint in sight, etc. It was only after they’d finished their game that they realized they had a novel’s worth of words!
2. What is one place that I should see if I visit your hometown? My hometown is Spokane, WA, and the jewel in its crown is a park called Riverfront Park, designed by the same designers who came up with Central Park in New York. Before the 1974 World’s Fair, the area in the center of the city was basically a rusty railyard, filled with junk. Somehow, they transformed it into an amazing park, with a river running through it complete with picturesque waterfalls over which you can ride in a gondola. (The town I live in now is Ellicott City, MD, and it has an incredible historic Main Street which was flooded disastrously a couple of years ago. It’s finally recovered, for the most part, and is absolutely worth your time if you’re in the area! Incredible restaurants, great shops, and a cool museum or two. Plus there’s a chocolate shop that handmakes truffles on site, I’m just saying.)
3. Do you take-in or cook? If so, what is your “go-to” dish? I mostly cook, although I’ll admit that there are plenty of nights when my children eat chicken nuggets and after they’re in bed my husband and I order takeout (there’s this really great Mediterranean chicken salad… but I digress). Generally speaking, I try to plan out our week’s worth of meals so that we don’t fall into the ‘what do you want to eat tonight’ trap. My favorite thing to make is a perfect roast chicken (for the record, stuff the inside with an entire head of garlic, a lemon, and some thyme, then brush the skin with butter, salt and pepper, and roast at 425 for about an hour). My husband’s favorite dish is my roasted salmon, with brown sugar, smoked paprika, and sea salt (the secret to fish in the oven is high and fast: 450 for fifteen minutes).
4. What is one thing readers would be surprised to know about you? I know an alarmingly large amount of things about Star Trek. When I was in high school, the Star Trek Encyclopedia was my bathroom reading. Also, I’m allergic to Cool Whip.
5. Hard Rock or Classical? Favorite Band or Artist? Can I combine them and go for classic rock? Unlike most of my friends, I’m not a huge music person. I primarily listen to the radio, and I don’t have any playlists, sorry! I came of age in the 90s, though, so most of the music that I know by heart is from then. My parents were also big into classic rock, so I can probably recite Eric Clapton’s entire back catalog.
6. If you had an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world for research, where would you go? Paris. I’ve been dying to go for ages, and keep trying to convince my husband that it’s totally reasonable to take a couple of toddlers on a trans-Atlantic flight and just hobnob in the street markets for a month or two. Thus far, he seems unmoved. I’d also love to go back to the UK, and just visit all the country houses. I have a thing for ridiculous real estate.
7. What is your guilty pleasure? Celebrity gossip. Go ahead. Ask me anything.
8. What are you afraid of? Cockroaches and fire.
9. Tats or No Tats? If tats, how many and what did you choose for your first one? I have one. When we were dating in college, my husband and I got matching tattoos on our shoulders, with kanji characters. His says ‘journey,’ and mine says ‘laughter.’ And yes, we did the research to make sure they said the right thing. And no, we had no idea that every single other person in the world would do the same thing a few years later. I’m hoping to get another one soon, with my children’s initials.
10. Organized or Free Floating? I’m an obsessive organizer. Luv 2 Plan. Maybe that should be my next tattoo.
11. Binge watcher or weekly viewer? Which show(s)? Oh my god, binge watcher. We just started watching the new Star Trek, after exclusively binge watching shows for ages, and it’s AWFUL having to wait! I don’t understand how anybody managed it. My husband and I recently binge-watched all of The Gilmore Girls, because we are extremely cute.
12. What’s on your playlist? Ha! Basically nothing. I mostly listen to the radio. If I have a playlist, it’s primarily songs from Disney movies so that my kids can sing along. Moana is a big hit around here.
13. What play or musical do you want to see next? I’d like to see Hamilton, which is probably the answer you’ll get from virtually everyone!
14. Are you a crafter? I’m a failed crafter. I have the detritus of a million abandoned projects stored in a room upstairs, which makes me an amazing mother, because when my kid insists she wants to make something she saw on Pinterest (yes, my toddlers are into Pinterest), there’s a very strong chance that I spent a bunch of money on the exact supplies she needs twelve years ago when I was sure I was going to make a completely different project and be a creative genius.
15. What’s your favorite TV show and why? My absolute favorite current show is The Librarians, which is on TNT and is a spinoff of a set of incredibly cheesy made-for-TV movies from like ten years ago starring Noah Wyle (he was on ER) (‘Noah Wyle-he-was-on-ER’ is how you have to introduce him, FYI). It is the greatest. I also love The Good Place, Grace and Frankie, and a few others. Oh! And my entire family watches the Great British Bake Off, which has resulted in a LOT of baking because when your four year old says she wants to make petit fours, are you really going to argue?
16. If you could pick a book you’ve read and make it into a movie, which book would it be (besides yours 🙂 )? I’m really bad at this kind of question, because I don’t actually watch a lot of movies! Buuuut, I’m thinking that Sarah Kuhn’s HEROINE COMPLEX would be pretty fab on screen! Oh! And I just read Alexis Daria’s TAKE THE LEAD, and it would be awesome, too. (It’s based around a reality dance show!)
17. What’s your favorite movie of all time and why? The movie I will always watch if it’s on (uh, not that any of us really have ‘if it’s on’ kind of lifestyles these days) is Notting Hill. Nobody can resist Notting Hill. It’s a fact.
18. Would you rather see a movie in the theater or at home on DVD and why? At home, times a thousand. Have you been to a theater recently? People are terrible. And you can hear them chewing.
19. What is the one thing you can’t live without? Probably my phone. Although, really, my answer should be ‘the cloud.’ The future is pretty great.
20. If you could invite 5 people to dinner (not friends and family – that’s too easy) who would be at your table? Where would you eat? Can all of them be Ina Garten? Oh, no, wait, Jeffrey has to come, too. Obviously we’d eat at Ina’s favorite bistro in Paris! Maybe Mel Brooks can show up, unannounced. There’s an amazing episode of the Barefoot Contessa where she’s making dinner for a mystery guest, and the doorbell rings and it’s Mel Brooks. And Ina is like “IT’S MEL!” like Mel Brooks coming to your house for dinner is a weekly thing, NBD. It’s probably my favorite episode. Followed closely by the time she made Alec Baldwin hand-pick carrots on a farm for her.
21. If you could try any career for a day, what would it be? Can I be Ina Garten? Okay, no wait. Is there a career where you lie on a couch and just, like, have good ideas that other people take care of the followthrough on? I’d be really good at that.
22. Person you admire and why? I bet you think my answer to this is going to be Ina Garten. But actually, no. I adore Ina, and she’s my fantasy BFF, but when it comes to people I really admire, I’m more realistic. You know who’s great? Suleikha Snyder. She’s an incredible writer, who’s super public about the issues facing publishing as a whole, and she’s also brutally honest about working through some tough mental health stuff. Also, she likes Star Trek and celebrity gossip, so… you know. Heart eyes.
Jamaila Brinkley writes historical romance with a hint of magic. Her Wizards of London series features thieves, duchesses, witches, and more indulging in mayhem and romance in Regency England. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and was a finalist in the Romance Through the Ages contest in 2015.
Jamaila came to romance as an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and found that her favorite historical romances seemed ripe for an injection of magic. Her favorite historical period is currently the Victorian era, and she’s never happier than when immersed in a multi-book family series.
Jamaila lives outside Baltimore, Maryland in a house that is perpetually under renovation with her husband and twin toddlers. You can find her blogging about romance, writing, parenting, cooking, and more on her website at www.jamailabrinkley.com, and posting pictures of her lunch on Twitter as @jamaila.