Other Voices, Other Genres: Moriah Jovan

This summer I have a lot on my plate, so I decided it would be a good time to introduce you to some fellow writers I admire. My aim is to wander a little further afield and encourage you to make the acquaintance of writers in other genres: romance, sci-fi, horror, detective fiction, non-fiction.

In this first installment of the series Other Voices, Other Genres, please meet Moriah Jovan. Like all the writers in this series, I let her speak for herself.

 When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but not necessarily with pen and paper. I’m a bit of a night owl, but when you’re a child with some ADD going on and your bedtime is way too early, boredom sets in quick once the lights go out. So I would create stories in my head to put myself to sleep. Then there was church: bored. Then there were long car rides: bored. After a while, it was kind of a conditioned reflex. Also, I had an imaginary friend named Baby and I would talk to it ALL the time (I never did find out if it was a boy or a girl.)

What does writing do for you?

I am a firm adherent to the make-it-till-you-fake-it school of exuding confidence, which is to say, I don’t have much on a day-to-day basis because I’m constantly striving for more. I’m never happy with where I am in my life and I’m beginning to suspect that even if I reach my goals, I still won’t be happy.

Occasionally, my characters have, more or less, some character trait I feel I either lack or am not as well-developed in as I’d like to be. I find writing a character with a trait I’m trying to develop or perfect (provided it fits that character) serves as a bit of a roadmap.

Other than that, my life is utterly boring, and I try to keep it that way. That said, I’m a high-maintenance wife and mother who doesn’t like real-life drama, but pretend drama? I can do that. I CRAVE that. As long as I can write 100-proof angst, close my file, and the biggest drama in my house is that my 6-1/2-year-old son got into YET ANOTHER thing he wasn’t supposed to, I’m good with that. Bring on the angst.

Who do you write for? Who is your model reader?

I write for me. I write the kinds of books I feel have been missing from genre romance for a long, long time. Let’s take the old-time bodice rippers from the 70s and 80s, for example. Let’s put the “forced seduction aka rape” issue aside for a moment. The heroines in those were adventurous. They might or might not be able to kick ass, but they were able to rise above their circumstances to get what they wanted. Some of them were real bitches. A few of them had more than one lover. They went on grand adventures and accomplished feats of derring-do. Some of them did whatever they had to do to survive (sleep with somebody else than the hero, say), but sucked it up and didn’t fuss over how virtuous they might or might not be, or how ruined in society they might or might not be. They went everywhere and weren’t confined to England. They didn’t have to be likable or relatable or a cipher for the reader. They were women I would have liked to have had as mentors. You know, real Women Who Run With the Wolves. I haven’t found these women in romance in years.

My model reader is anyone who has the willingness to take on a doorstopper novel and understand that while s/he might not agree with the characters’ beliefs or choices, that those things inform their motivations, and are willing to accept them on that basis.

If you had to point to five books that changed  you significantly, what are they?

  1. the Little House on the Prairie collection (all of them)
  2. Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
  3. Atlas Shrugged (heh) by Ayn Rand
  4. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
  5. The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S Tepper

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?

I don’t think I could point to one. Those change with my mood or the day or what I need to focus on improving in my life. It’s like when my kids ask me my favorite color, they ask me what it is TODAY.

Laura Ingalls Wilder isn’t exactly fictional, but if I had to choose, she’d be it.

Are you more a plot driven or character driven writer?

My plots are really complex, but I’m a character-driven writer. I like to watch people. In fact, I wrote about it here: http://moriahjovan.com/mojo/people-watching

I like to ask them questions. I like to dig into their souls and find out what makes them tick. For somebody who LOVES to talk about herself a lot, I can pull an AMAZING amount of information out of people and they never notice.

What is your latest work? Where did the seed of the idea for the book come from?

My latest is DUNHAM, the fourth novel in a five-book series, out next year BUT! I’m serializing the unedited work in progress here: http://www.theproviso.com/dunham/ starting July 4, 2012.

It is the story of the ancestors of the people in the first three books. It’s a swashbuckler set during the American Revolutionary War with, you guessed it, a kick-ass heroine. She’s a whimsical privateer captain working for the Americans until something better comes along. The hero is a British earl with a chip on his shoulder, a need for revenge, and once he’s gotten that, a desperate yearning for some good farmland on the Ohio River. They meet, sparks fly, and spend the next year overcoming one obstacle after another to get–and stay–together.

The idea came to me while I was bored (natch) in a history class in 1991 when the professor told a story about how an American privateer fleet blew the British blockade at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve been sitting on it and rewriting it and re-rewriting it since then. I’ve got 170,000 words in the bag (I think it’ll end up at 225,000), but I’ve thrown out twice that many words in the intervening time. Things I liked in 1991 I didn’t anymore. Things I thought would work didn’t. Timelines had to be adjusted. But you know, in 1991, I didn’t like to kill my babies, throw out my words. I had some awesome lines in there I still think are awesome, but they aren’t appropriate. So it wasn’t until I could look at it and say, “This isn’t working and I’m not going to try to force it, so out you go” that I started actually getting some traction on the story. There are MAYBE 5,000 words there that are from the original sketch.

Do you have some plans for the next one?

The last book in the series is a post-apocalyptic novel, the granddaughter of one of the couples in the first three books of the series. It will mirror the historical, based on the fact that my privateer heroine (book 4) kept meticulous journals that fall into my post-apoc heroine (book 5)’s hands. She’s very young when the book starts (14) and is “married” at 16, and these journals from her many-greats-grandmother give her strength and guidance. The basic conflict is government-mandated polyandry, so my heroine is “married” to two men and she has to negotiate these relationships. It is not, however, a YA.

One last thought:

I don’t consider myself to be an erotica writer and, by comparison to current titles floating around, I’m not sure I write erotic romance, either. That said, my books are very explicit and, I’m told, quite hot. I’m like that one relative at Thanksgiving who mashes all their food together. You just can’t tell where one “thing” starts and another begins. But if someone in publishing said, “We’re going to make a new genre called SOAP OPERA,” that’s what mine would be!


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