Bright Lights #8 - Pippa Jay - Terms and Conditions Apply

I'm a huge fan of science fiction so, I'm delighted to have the colorfully coiffed Miss Pippa Jay swing by my blog. Pippa hails from drizzly old Blighty, knows her Sith from her Cybermen and is a published author of sci-fi with a little smooching.

Read on and find out more... 

Pippa Jay

Q - Hi Pippa, tell me a little about your new book Terms and Conditions Apply

Terms & Conditions Apply is a science fiction romance short with a somewhat controversial HEA. (Spartan says: HEA=Happy Ever After) I wrote it for an anthology call that unfortunately never went ahead, but the original owner gave me permission to use the premise and publish it. The story was a personal challenge as it specified 'hot' romance, and keeping my word count low was a struggle! It was also the first time I'd written something where I didn't get to chose the setting.


Q - You're the first of my interviewees who writes sci-fi (with a touch of romance), can you tell me a little about how you got into the genre?

I've always written and read science fiction. My parents were scifi fans so there was no escaping it as I child, although I'll admit I wrote more fantasy at first - until I saw Star Wars televised for the first time. Then I was hooked. As for the romance...I blame my two main characters in my debut novel. They got all smoochy on me behind my back!

Q - As a former resident of the UK, I'm aware of the healthy influence of shows like Dr Who, Blake's 7 and more comedic stuff like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. Did those shows influence you growing up or did you take your cues more from literary sources?

In terms of scifi, yes, those things had a massive influence on me. I've had my first book compared to Doctor Who by some readers, and I can't deny there wasn't some aspects of that influencing the story. But I would say my writing style comes more from my reading - Anne McCaffrey, Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, David Eddings - I could go on!

Q - You've got several projects lined up, is this part of an over-arching plan or do you just write them as they come to you?

I just write. I'm a total pantser, so I rarely plan anything. Although a couple of projects have been written either for sub calls or with a specific destination in mind, whether that's a publisher or an intention to self publish.

Q - Terms and Conditions Apply isn't your first published work. Have you found the process easier this time around or are you still finding the same difficulties?

Hmmm, some areas of it I find easier but other problems came up so I'm always learning something new. T&CA was my second self published work, but the first one I put a price on. With my debut novel, obviously my publisher sorted most things out in terms of formatting, getting it onto retail sites etc. Doing it myself involved a lot more work, and fun things like tax forms!

Q - What made you want to be published?

I finished my first novel at the end of 2009 and thought 'what now?' I could stick it in a drawer and forget about it, or try to get it published. I decided it wouldn't hurt to try, but the further I got into the process, the more I wanted to be published and the more determined I became. I wanted to share my story with everyone.

Q - With so many projects on the go and being a busy mum, how do you make the time to write? Do you set a schedule or grab the moments when they come?

I used to get up about 5am for some quiet time to write, then fit anything else around my family. It was tough. Sometimes it was like a battle between them and my muse, with me in the middle. Now youngest is at school full time I have more of a balanced schedule I can work to. I still have to fit the housework in somewhere though. Yuck!

Q - Do you have a favorite place to write?

Once upon a time it was at the main computer in our dining room. Now it's curled up on the sofa with my notepad pc on a lapdesk. Much more comfy.

Q - Do you read things outside of sci-fi?

I used to read a lot of fantasy, particularly Terry Pratchett, but this last year I've concentrated on scifi romance as that's where I write, plus some hard scifi. I've also bought some nonfiction on things that interest me or are related to writing - a book on knights, an encyclopedia of mythical creatures, writing advice, and the odd book on self promotion.

Q - Where do your ideas stories and characters come from generally?

Anywhere and everywhere! Honestly, the smallest and/ or weirdest things give me ideas. Books, films, science news, dreams, a bit of paper hitting my car windscreen - anything.

Q - The common mantra given to writers is "write what you know", does this apply to your writing in any way...since you have a sciencey background? Yes, sciencey is a word! (maybe)

Lol! I do stick with that mantra in most ways, although obviously I don't 'know' what it's like to visit an alien planet or use telepathy. You just have to take your personal experiences and expand from them. I don't use my chemistry knowledge a lot, but I've always been interested in science, which is probably another reason I write scifi. My stories are tech light - I don't want to weigh the reader down with lengthy explanations - but I use real science facts or new innovations as a basis for any technology.

Q - When you're writing, how much do you feel you have to adhere to certain limitations based on the genre you're writing in and how the book will sell to your audience?

If I'm writing scifi romance for a publisher, the industry requirement is generally 3rd person POV, and always a HEA/HFN (happily ever after or happily for now) ending. I prefer 3rd person anyway, but I had to cut a lot of omni POV from my debut novel. For the things I self publish, I don't feel that constraint so much, so those stories tend to be a little more controversial. I've also had to cut a lot of the purple prose I had a tendency for. It has changed my style over time, and in some ways I miss it, but I don't think it sells as well, unless you're aiming for classic fantasy fans who like the almost poetic style of Tolkien.

Q - Do you use Beta Readers? If so, could you explain what you're looking for from them?

I have a range of beta readers and crit partners, and I expect different things from each, depending on the person. For example, one like to write down her thoughts as she reads - her reactions to parts of the story. Another will just give her general impression of the story as a whole, while others might pick at the fine details. Generally I'm looking for their feelings on the flow and content of the story. Does the opening hook them? Does everything make sense? Any gaping plot holes? And is the ending satisfactory?

Q - How involved are you in creating the covers for your books?

For those with publishers, it's varied. For my first, I filled in a cover art form, but the final cover was nothing like I expected, and my editor had to press for the guy on the cover to have some tattoos, as that was an essential part of the story. I loved it though. For my upcoming release Gethyon, I was lucky enough that the cover designer I worked with also happened to be a close friend, so I was able to send her images and ideas (but I wasn't allowed any sneak peeks). The final cover was very close to what I had in mind. I did my own cover for my first self published work, but my editor and cover designer Dani Fine presented me with a new one that just had all the right elements (and no involvement from me) so I used that one instead. For T&CA I had a strong idea of what I wanted, and Dani matched it perfectly and improved on it.

Q - How does it feel putting your work out there into the world? Do you get nervous?

It's terrifying! And exciting. You have to brace yourself for the fact that not everyone will like it, no matter how well written and edited it might be. But generally my feedback has been good, which compensates for the odd negative review. If only a few people get some pleasure from my books, it's worthwhile.

Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with?

I've been told I'm great at world building and descriptions, and those are my favourites things to do as a writer. I've been working hard at action scenes, and I think I'm better at those now.

Q - What compels you to write, drives you to keep going, even on the days you'd rather just throw in the towel?

I just can't stop. And I'm incredibly stubborn. I've seriously considered not having anything else published, but I think I'd go mad if I didn't write at all. Oh, hang on, listening to the voices in your head IS mad... :P

Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing?

My hubs regards it as some kind of insanity that he hopes I will get over. I don't think he realises it's incurable. :D My kids used to complain 'Oh, mummy's doing her boring book stuff again', until my eldest's teachers showed an interest. Then suddenly I was cool! The two older ones are looking forward to Gethyon now, as I've said they can read that one - it's a YA scifi, and a couple of the characters are actually based on them. Most of my friends are impressed but because they've all known me before I was published, it doesn't seem to have made them all awestruck or anything, which is a relief!

Q - Now that you're a published author, do you think of yourself as a proper AUTHOR? Is that how you'd introduce yourself if someone asked you what it is you do?

Yes. Although I was a bit hesitant to begin with. Once I had my first contract, it still took me three months before I used it as an introduction, and when I did the person asked me what I wrote. Scifi, I said. What, like Twilight? she said. O.O

Q - What are your thoughts on the uses of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) for writers. Has it helped in your development as an author?

They've helped enormously, especially with my confidence (I didn't have any) and my knowledge. I met a fellow scifi author on Facebook very early on, and he really inspired me, and challenged my ideas about writing and publishing. I also met and friended a paranormal author who was incredibly generous with her advice and support. These days I hang out on Twitter a lot. It's a great place to chat with my friends, and a hugely useful place for information on anything you could imagine. Got a publishing/writing/technical question? Ask the hive mind on Twitter! As for using them for promotion...well, I try not to promote too much. They really are more a social and networking thing for me.

Q - Have you had much interaction with your readers? How have you found that?

I've had some, usually good. There's nothing that makes my day than a tweet or FB comment telling me they enjoyed my book. It inspires me to keep working.
Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books?

I adore Jaine Fenn and Neal Asher. But my three favourite books from last year were Even Villains Fall in Love, Unacceptable Risk and Ambasadora.

Q - Have you ever suffered from writer's block? If so, any quick cure advice?

I've got stuck. Best cure? Housework. Seriously. Or go for a long walk or a drive. But the housework seems to provoke my muse the most.

Q - How important is it for a writer to also be a reader?

I would say quite important but maybe not essential. I was always a prolific reader, but just lately I haven't had any time to read at all. Hoping to rectify that soon!

Q - Library or Bookstore?

Bookstore. I hate taking books back.

Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?

All the time. Currently my playlist includes The Rasmus, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, My Chemical Romance, Hoobastank, Elliot Minor and The Dirty Youth.

Q - How do you choose your next story?

It chooses me. Unless I see a submission call or I have a deadline. Usually I have several WIPs on the go and swap between them as the mood takes me.

Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey?

I always quote Galaxy Quest's Commander Taggart - "Never give up - never surrender!" Seriously, this is a hard business and you have to be determined, pig-headed even. Also read, write and research - three keys to making progress, especially the last. Always check out the people giving you advice, offering services, or that you want to submit to, to be sure they're qualified and/or reputable. Go to Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors for publishing info.

And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY?

Hades, I detest limitations! Er, book - A Wizard of Earthsea, one of my earliest writing influences. Music - a cover of Muse's Hysteria, played by my friends in essens:1. Dessert - um, anything chocolate, but it would have to be the killer chocolate brownies my husband makes. Person? If I can have a fictional one, then I'll take Keir from my own book. For one thing I know he's handy at living on a desert island since I made him do it.

Thanks for having me! No, thank you!! :0)

Please take a minute to check out Pippa's Links ~~>



Twitter: @pippajaygreen

Facebook: Pippa Jay - Adventures in Scifi



  1. Fantastic interview Pippa and Gareth!! Pippa, I enjoy learning new things about you. And, YES, you definitely do world-being extremely well! Ohh, you like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil?? Me too!!

  2. Awww, thanks Karen. World - building is my favourite part. And yep! Heh, let's go to a concert sometime*


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