Today on my Scribbles Page I have the honor of welcoming Editor and Author Jason Huffman-Black. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jason for the last year and a half and today I’ve finally pinned him down for a chat.
To start, I just have to say I’m so happy to have you here. I’ve got a bunch of questions not only about your life as an Editor but as a fellow writer especially now that I finished your novel Snakes Among Sweet Flowers, which by the way was brilliant. However, before we get into that please introduce yourself, your writing, and your editing.
Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Jason Bradley. I’ve been editing for the past ten years, for several publishers and also freelance through Superior Author Services (click here for all the details). I get paid to do my favorite thing—read. Needless to say, I love my job.
I write under the name Jason Huffman-Black, with one novel, Snakes Among Sweet Flowers, published at Dreamspinner Press (click here for more about the book).
How about you tell us something that isn’t in your bio. Something that most people don’t know about you.
I’m 38 years old and live in Fort Worth TX with my partner. We have joint custody of our teenage daughter. I’m a submissive and a masochist. My partner is my dominant and the love of my life.
Thanks for sharing. Now, where to start. First, if you don’t mind, let’s talk about your writing. Tell us about Snakes Among Sweet Flowers.
Snakes is the story of Cam, an ex-con, who has moved to a small town to start over and hide out from old enemies. His plan isn’t exactly to go the straight and narrow, though. More to find some unsuspecting new victims for his scams. But in small towns, everyone knows everyone else as well as what they’re up to, and Cam soon realizes that makes his life of crime a bit more difficult.
Jackson is a member of the local law enforcement who immediately has his suspicions of what Cam has planned and isn’t going to allow it.
While the two are at odds from the beginning, they also find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other.
I’m not a big romance reader (or writer for that matter) but I have to admit this was wonderfully written and I could tell you put a lot of heart into this story and characters. So what inspired you to write Snakes Among Sweet Flowers? Where did the story come from?
Thank you. I’m glad that the emotion I felt while writing Snakes Among Sweet Flowers came through in my words. I’m prone to getting inspiration from songs. I don’t remember the song on the radio, but I was driving somewhere alone, one of my favorite thinking times, and the first scene of the book came to me as I listened to the radio. I had such a clear vision of Cam and his inner struggles. I went home and wrote that scene, then kept writing. I never planned the book out. In fact, I had no idea where it was going.
Wow, I would have taken you for a planner, especially since you’re an Editor as well.
No. However, I scheduled a time once a week to write and aimed to complete a chapter each week. Most of the time, I started writing without even knowing where my characters would be at the end of the chapter.
This story has many of my own personal struggles embedded within. I’ve struggled to come to terms with religion and parent issues. Since I grew up in Georgia, the characters, while maybe not directly modeled after one person, are familiar personalities to me. I think my grandmother stands out as a major influence to the side characters in Hog Mountain. Those side characters are my love letter to small-town USA.
That is very cool. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was near the end with the preacher, that was nicely handled and without given any spoilers was that part always intentional? For me it was one of the most emotional parts of the book (which rarely happens to me) did something like that actually happen or was that scene strictly your doing?
I grew up in the Church of Christ and it was not pleasant. Nothing like that scene ever occurred to me. More a fantasy of what could be, I guess.
That’s unfortunate. Nothing wrong with that kind of fantasy. I’m sorry you had to go through that.
Thank you. It’s made me a stronger person, and a more accepting one as well…I hope.
I have to ask, do any of the main characters Jackson, Cameron, or Grant reflect anyone in your life? Maybe you or someone you know? I’m asking because for me I know these guys. I’ve met them all in my life and I felt really connected to them.
You know, all three had some of me in them. And some of others. Jackson has a lot of Mark, one of my dearest friends, the blond good guy, idealistic Superman personality. Then again, some of the things he did, like going with his parents to clean up the church before services, that was direct memories from my life. Cam has a lot of Ethan, my partner, in him, but as I said, many of his struggles are very personal. And Grant! I have known so many Grants. I kinda wish I could write Grant his happily-ever-after because he deserves one.
Grant is definitely unique and given what I’ve read I can see how he could use a happily-ever-after.
Many of my readers didn’t like him and I can understand why. But Grant is a creature of his environment. He’s learned that even though most everyone assumes or knows he’s gay, he will be accepted as long as it’s never actually acknowledged. As long as he wears a thin façade of heterosexuality, everyone can turn a blind eye to anything that might conflict with that image.
He comes across as one of the snakes of the story, but he’s very much a victim, along with his family, and his cattiness derives from being well aware of how hypocritical people can be.
One thing I want to compliment you on in your writing are the ‘adult’ scenes, you handle them so well. You don’t drag them out for pages and pages showing all he mechanics of everything, which is wonderful for me, because I really don’t care about that especially as I read. I don’t need the help, I get the idea and I know how it all works. So was this intentional on your part? Keeping the scenes simple and to the point? Also, I want to commend you for keeping it real often times romance writers go so far to the extreme I have a hard time believing any of the adult scenes are based in reality. Thank you for that.
I’m feeling you on this one. I was actually asked to add more to one of the sex scenes. I only added a few lines, though. I know that some people want the super-long sex scenes that tell every move a guy makes and how many fingers they use to get them there. To each his own, but for me, that usually stops the flow of the story dead in its tracks. I want any sex scene to progress the storyline, not halt it. But I want them to be hot too. And I don’t think things have to be super graphic to be hot.
Definitely not. There is a lot to be said for the ‘fade to black’.
I agree. I have nothing against sex scenes, but I have an active imagination, so fade-to-black works for me too.
I know you have a few other works out there just curious at what you think I (and everyone else) should read next?
I have a free short story called I Am the Highway and then I have what I would call more of a scene for an event on Goodreads called Just Be. If anyone would like either of those, I can provide them. I’ve actually considered adding to I Am the Highway and publishing. Maybe someday. I also have a very short piece in an anthology titled Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open. Otherwise, I don’t really have anything else out there. I’m hoping to correct that in the near future. I’ve got several half finished manuscripts.
What are you waiting for? Get to it man. (Chuckles)
That’s the plan!
Now let’s move on to your life as an Editor. Tell us a little about that? What’s it like being an editor?
It’s wonderful. Like with any reader, there are definitely some stories I enjoy more than others, but there is a great pleasure in helping an author to make their story the best it can be.
People don’t always understand how much work goes into editing, care to share your thoughts on the subject. If you could wave your magic wand what would be the one thing you want all authors and readers to know about editing?
It’s important. Don’t rush. Don’t skimp. Find an editor who works with your style of writing and listen to them. That doesn’t mean accepting everything they suggest, but remember that rules are there for a reason, so consider the advice given. Argue your case when you disagree, but don’t get mad. Editors are there to help you.
I know it’s hard to hear someone criticize your “baby,” but use that criticism constructively.
That is good advice. You really need to trust your Editor, especially if you’re a new author.
I agree, but don’t be afraid to debate a change or ask why a rule is important to follow.
Do you have any tips or tricks you can share to help in the writing process? We all write every day, so are there general tips that everyone can use? And to that point what about authors what is the one thing you wish all authors would learn to make the editing process go a lot easier?
I think the main thing is to learn from your edits. Sometimes I over-explain the reason for an edit, but it’s so the author can understand and learn why they shouldn’t do a certain thing.
The most time-consuming work on an edit is when an author doesn’t remain firmly in one Point-of-View (POV) during a scene. Everyone has the occasional slip, but I’m talking about constant switches. Head-hopping, as it is called, is a bitch to fix. By choosing the POV character at the beginning of a scene and placing yourself firmly in their head, writing the scene as if looking through their eyes, you will save yourself and your editor a ton of work. Consider that the POV character can’t see their own face and that they only know the underlying emotion and motivation of their actions. Consider the personality of the POV character. Would they notice certain things?
If John is the POV character, he would not comment on the color of his own eyes or know that they sparked with his anger. John wouldn’t know what the person mumbled under their breath so no one could hear them. He can’t report that no one noticed the person peeking in the window, because John would have to notice it in order to report it in the scene.
I remember having to fix all that at one point in my first story. It was a pain in the butt to fix. Now, I think, I don’t have that issue… too often.
Any good writer will tell you that they have learned something new with each release and evolved. Don’t be afraid to change. Otherwise, we stagnate.
Now, as an Editor, what is your favorite type of genre to edit?
That’s a hard one. The most difficult to edit is probably historicals, mainly due to all the names/dates/random points that need to be checked. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, though. I do have a special place in my heart for LGBTQIA+ manuscripts. The world needs more quality books out there with diverse main characters. If there is a “gay agenda,” I nominate this as one of the primary bullet points. (I would also like to know what the other bullet points are, please?)
I’m still waiting to find out what the “gay agenda” is it seems to keep changing. Alright, we’ve chatted a bit about your writing and your editing, so when you’re not doing those two things what do you like to do? What do you do in your off hours?
Off hours? What are those? Ha!
Well, I’m an introvert who would rather stay home in most cases. I enjoy cooking and baking. I would say other than reading, that is my hobby. I bake breads and sweets and am always trying new recipes.
Oh, I love baking and cooking, well and eating. What’s your favorite things to bake?
I love breads! All kinds. I made loaves of apple cider bread to give as presents last year for Christmas. I also make small buns stuffed with meat and cheese. They are wonderful for packed lunches or even breakfast (especially my bacon and cheese ones) with a cup of coffee. And then there are cookies and muffins.
Our household is used to trying out new recipes for dinner too. I’m always finding some new recipe to try.
Video games, although I’m a spectator. My reaction times suck, but I adore the games so I watch and help and cheer. We are always playing something. Right now, it’s Metal Gear Solid 5.
And your Favorite game?
Maybe Resident Evil 4 but there are so many… Call of the Wild, the Uncharted series…
Cooking, Baking and Video Games what else you have for us?
I love antique oddities. Of course, since that takes money, and I am not a collector of that, I simply enjoy the ones I own. Not surprisingly, quite a few are books. Connected to this, I also love history. I feel like if there is a heaven, it will be a huge viewing room, where I can hold the remote that will allow me to work my way through the history of the world, learning all the secrets, explaining all the mysteries. And of course, there would be a bottomless bucket of popcorn to go along with it.
Yum…popcorn…I’d be there watching right along with you.
Awesome! What fun would it be to learn all those secrets and not have someone to share it with?
Just because it’s a fun ‘get to know you questions’ I have to ask do you prefer Star Wars or Star Trek Both?
Why choose one? To me, they are so different and each has their merits and flaws but are worthy and definitely treasures!
Now as far as the character I would want to know biblically… it would be the dreadlocked Wookie, Tarfful.
A Wookie. Hmm.
And on that note, any final thoughts for the folks reading this?
Life is so fleeting. Do what you love and make life better for those you come in contact with. Each day is a mission to rise above and be the better person. Keep reading and keep dreaming and keep writing! AND! Be good to yourself.
Nicely said. Thank you so much for joining me here today Jason. It was a real treat.
Thank you so much for inviting me. It has been my pleasure.
Well Scribblers that’s it for this week. Like Jason said go out and read and leave people in a better place than when you found them. Until next week have a great week. And remember you can like and share this Interview below by clicking on the ‘like’ button and ‘share’ button. If you have questions for Jason, leave them below and I’ll ensure he swings by and gives them an answer.
Jason Huffman-Black could be described as the porn star alter ego of the mild-mannered editor for several LGBT publishers. By day, Jason edits and writes in a cozy chair, while Mr. Huffman-Black travels the globe on such adventurous excursions as wrestling the one-eyed spitting serpent of Tangiers, ass-spelunking into the hidden tomb of King CockTut, and most recently, sharing a prison cell in a small third-world nation with a rather sweaty fur-covered hulk of a man named Javier.
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