Howdy my lovelies! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat showcasing author Isabelle Joshua
Isabelle Joshua writes suspenseful romance novels with strong women leads and interesting characters. Her characters are witty, complex, and they love intensely—they are known to steam up the windows with their heat. She loves a good story that captures her and doesn't let go. She hopes to create stories that captivate her readers as well.
Isabelle Joshua has been married for over twelve years and is the mother to five beautiful children. She wrote her debut novel in the last year of graduate school and spends most days at her desk writing, posting on social media, or watching funny videos.
Book blurb: The Swallow (Caged Beauty Series, Book 1)
Suspense. Passion. Deceit. More is uncovered than the terrorist’s plans when NSA Special Agent lures her target. Forced to work for the NSA, sexy Special Agent Kathryn Bryant has one last mission before she escapes her lonely life of espionage. This mission is unlike any other she's done because she has to reveal herself in more ways than one. Spending the week with gorgeous Alex Reed without arousing suspicion puts all her wits and training to the test. Kathryn has to move quickly to gain his trust and desire so she can steal the intel, but Alex puts the mission and her heart in jeopardy...
If you use a Pen Name why did you choose it?While I’m supremely proud of my writing, the legal profession is very traditional and the fact that I’ve written a romance novel may not garner anything positive for me.
I had to get another pen name after researching my first one as it was currently in use by another novelist, so I used the middle names of my three young children, Isabelle Reagan Joshua.
Why do you write? I wrote this book because I wanted to go to sleep. I laid in bed thinking about a particular scene so I went into my living room, got a notebook, and thought I’d get it out and be able to go to sleep. By 4 a.m. I wrote almost the first quarter of my debut novel. Ever since then, the voice of my characters need an escape and their stories demand that I tell them. I tried writing during my youth, but felt too constrained. Now I don’t care; I write what is interesting. When I write a scene and think, “God this is boring, I don’t care about what is going on,” I scrap it. Instead, I write what keeps me engaged as a reader. I love to read, and I want the juicy, good parts—not a page about the chair and table in the room.
When did you decide to become a writer? It wasn’t a conscious decision; it became apparent that I loved spending morning to night creating stories. When I can’t write, I record my ideas or scenes on my phone to be listened to later. It’s a great process of fleshing out what will work and what makes sense. I wrote many of my favorite scenes from the recordings I made.
What genre are your books? My current book is definitely a Suspenseful Romance, but it doesn’t follow the established Romance novel format of boy meets girl, they fall in love, there’s conflict, then they work it all out. And it isn’t Suspenseful as in there are people after them, I think it is just the pace and suspense of anything could happen to them. I have about five books in various stages, and I’d say the central theme is romance. I love to find romance in everything, so I definitely write it in every story. But I have some deeper issues running through my stories, in The Swallow the main character is forced to become a spy, in another one the main character is thrust into sex trafficking, one is freshly divorced, and one is widowed.
Actually, reading through the list I wrote above, a big theme is that I put women in situations that they don’t want to be in see how they manage or get out of it.
What draws you to this genre? Romance. The love story. I read romance novels. But I grew up reading whatever I could sneak off my mother’s bookshelf which was primarily Suspense, Thrillers or Espionage stories. So those genres also influence my writing.
How long does it usually take you to complete a book? It took me a year to write The Swallow. It would have been less time, but I had to stop writing because of my school work. I’ve been in law school, and I couldn’t keep putting off school so I had to stop for months.
I tend to write in spurts, when I have an idea, I write it down. If I wrote full time, then it would probably take just a few months or more because I hate editing, so I tend to procrastinate when I’m editing.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? As I stated above, I had this image and scene in my head that had to be written down. That is generally how each book has started. Although one came from a horrible day I experienced.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Part-time because I’m in school. I hope to one-day write full-time, but it doesn’t currently pay the bills.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? When I’m writing, I usually wake up, have my breakfast at my desk, and I write from morning until late in the day. I stay at home with my youngest, and I take breaks to tend to her, but if I am in the creative mode, I stop only because life forces me to. And sometimes life forces me to stop for weeks or months.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? Great question, I don’t know. I’ve read more about writing and try to incorporate things that I’ve come across that work, but I realized that I need to stay true to my voice. I actually cut a pivot scene after my first beta-reader read my novel and then when she read it again right before publishing, she called me right away to argue with me about why it needed to be in there. I wanted it there, and I hated cutting it, but I’d read and listened to some “experts” that said you shouldn’t include backstory in the first chapter. I happily put it back in. So I learned that I need to listen to my own instincts about the story.
Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? Usually music, but sometimes silence and more often that I would like I write while my children bicker in the background. For The Swallow, I compiled a playlist on youtube.com because I mention songs frequently during the story.
What have you written?
The Prequel To The Swallow (Caged Beauty Series)
The Swallow (Caged Beauty Series, Book 1)
Currently writing: The Bluebird (Caged Beauty Series, Book 2)
Working Title: Redemption
Working Title: Locked Out
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? The Swallow wasn’t written with an outline, and I’m not sure that any of the rest of the book in the Caged Beauty Series will be. Redemption was written with a sort of outline. I had the initial idea for the story and then started an excel document and took notes about where I wanted each chapter to go, but while doing it, I started writing out full scenes. The others are still in the initial idea phase, so I don’t have outlines for them.
Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I have an amazing friend that is a graphic artist, and I would have loved him to do my cover, but he’s just too good and too expensive at this point. Hopefully, I will one day be able to afford him. So I did the covers myself. I’ve worked in advertising and on books before but not from the design aspect, but I’ve learned a lot over the year.
My cover isn’t traditional for a romance novel because there is no half-naked man on the cover. I went through book covers of the books that I loved and let them inform my vision for the book. And I think it works because The Swallow doesn’t fit the mold of a romance novel.
How do you market your books? Tirelessly. I promote them on my social media pages, my blog and website. I did some Facebook ads at first, but it’s costly. I’m a new author, and I think the best marketing has been word of mouth. I have a great group of friends and family that recommend my book. I have many friends at school that have read them and tell their family about them. I recently got a message from a friend telling me her grandmother loved my book and she can’t wait for the second one.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures? My mother. She has told all of her friends about my book, and they bought them. I haven’t seen interest turn into sales as quickly as her promotion.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future? At this point, I’ve only done a little, but just as far as ROI, I’d say doing the ads on Facebook.
Do you find promoting your books challenging or enjoyable? Challenging. I’d rather be writing. But I love talking to readers, so if more of the marketing involved that then I would love it.
Any advice for aspiring authors? Don’t write for any other reason than for yourself and write what you want, not what you think will sell. And keep reading!
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?It’s in her title. Kathryn is a NSA Special Agent. She’s extremely intelligent, she loves figuring out solutions to problems, but she’s not happy luring her targets and having to get close to these men. She’s been trapped in this role by her ex-boyfriend, and she is planning her escape from this life. Until she meets her next target…
Where do your ideas come from? My crazy head. I’ve gotten ideas off of TV shows, songs, movies, or my life.
What is the hardest thing about writing? Finding the time.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Staying focused till the end. I get impatient and I want to finish it. I have other stories that I want to write.
Which writers inspire you? I love Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, but I definitely don’t write like either of them. I read Nelson DeMille and Ken Follett when I was growing up. I love classical literature, but I don’t read it as much as I read current romance. I am currently obsessed with Outlander, so Diana Gabaldon. But I don’t know how she can write 9 long books about that story. I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sophie Kinsella, and Kiera Cass.
What is the current book you are promoting? The Swallow (Caged Beauty Series, Book 1)
You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? The new story that I started writing last November is Redemption.
It is the story of a young woman working in a brothel and a man that she meets there. It begins three years after she was sold and forced to work in a brothel at the age of 15. He comes in as one of her customer, but he’s an undercover cop. He protects her and ultimately saves her. They are both the main characters, so the book follows each of them until they meet. It’s gritty, suspenseful but there’s also romance. I am really excited about it.
Sex Trafficking and Child Abuse is an issue very close to my heart. When it is published I intend to donate part of the proceeds to organizations that help the victims of sex trafficking.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why? My ladies. In The Swallow it is Kathryn. In Redemption it is Helena.
Who is your least favorite character and why? That would have to be in Redemption. I have some real monsters in that one. But they are usually unnamed, wretched men that hurt little girls for sex. Despicable.
Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school? I minored in English during undergrad, and I took a few writing classes in college, but really in law school, you have to write so much that writing a 100K word novel no longer is a daunting task.
Do you have any “how to write” type books/instructional you’d like to recommend? I am horrible at reading “how to” books and non-fiction, so I usually skip around in those types of books. The most help I’ve found is by reading articles, blogs, etc. But I don’t have one particular book to recommend.
If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast? Well, I love finding a face for my character, so I google actresses, models, actors, but I’m not sure if the person I chose visually would work for a movie. So I’d leave it up to the casting director. But my lead in The Swallow has always been Emily Blunt.
What is your next project? I’m working on The Bluebird now and hope to start back up on Redemption later this year.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Elizabeth Bennett, she is so strong and independent. She’s witty and speaks her mind.
What one person from history would you like to meet and why? It would be the fictional character, Jaime Frazer (Played by Sam Heughan in Outlander). Jaime Frazer is fiercely loyal, very funny, he talks a lot, he’s brave, he’s so caring and he loves deeply. And if you’ve watched the show, you can see why I might want to meet the incredibly gorgeous actor and how he portrays Jaime is perfect. I’m not fond of the Alpha Males that don’t talk and don’t share what they feel. I love that Jaime expresses his feeling for Claire.
If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be? End Sex Trafficking.
Who is your favorite author and which of their books is your favorite? I have to choose? I can’t. I love Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice but really I’ve read and love all her books. I love Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Villette. I love Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. There are so many others as well, but those were probably my first and longest loves.
Do you or have you sat down and read your book fresh off the presses as if it wasn’t yours? And if you did, what was it like? I read The Swallow right before publishing it on my Kindle. I loved it. I’d forgotten some of the parts, and because I rewrote it a few times, I couldn’t remember what made the final cut. Because I couldn’t edit, it made it easy to read it for enjoyment. I was proud of the work.
What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? Stay true to your voice and you know what is best for your characters and the story.
What is one thing you hate about being a writer? Editing. Once I’ve written it, I’m so done with it. But editing and rewriting is an important process. I’m just not great with grammar, but I surround myself with people who are. I tend to write as I talk, so when I went through my first draft, I had so many fragmented sentences it was ridiculous. You’ll probably see them in this interview because no one else besides me is editing my responses.
Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love/sex scenes? Not really, I like writing sex scenes. I find I maneuver my characters into sex scenes more than they should, so I sometimes have to cut them. I feel self-conscious when a male friend says they’ve read my book. Many readers that don’t write assume that the author is the character, and so if you’re writing the sex a certain way then that is what you like. My characters are wholly and distinct from me.
What are some of your favorite books and why? It is really hard to choose. I read almost 150 books this last year and there were so many that I loved for different reasons. I’m not stingy with my 4 and 5 stars. I put up my reviews 99% of the time even if I didn’t like it. If I didn’t review a book it is probably because I went directly into the next book and didn’t take the time. I tend to devour books.
From 2015, my favorites were:
Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich
The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
Heroes Are My Weakness, Call Me Irresistible, This Heart of Mine, Natural Born Charmer, Match Me If You Can, and so many more by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? Both are hard. I chose self-publishing really because I was impatient and didn’t have the time to send off to literary agents. At first, I wanted to be traditionally published but then I saw how much I’d have to do and my laziness won out.
Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published? Probably with people in the traditional publishing industry and maybe with readers. I don’t really know what’s self-published when I search for new books to read. I completely judge a book by its cover, and if the cover grabs me, I’ll check to make sure it has good reviews and then read the blurb. And I talk to my friends about the books they’ve read and loved. I think that is the best way to find good books. I don’t tend to choose books with half-naked men on the cover, but I’ve read some that are good. I mistakenly, at times, believe that the plot will be weak and just heavy sex. I want just as much plot as I do steam.
What book are you currently reading or just finished? Did I not already mention that I loved Outlander. I did and I read it, then watched the first season on Starz, then I read the next two books and then reread just the Jaime parts in Outlander. Before that, I read Me Before You (Great), Stuck-Up Suit (okay), and The Girl on The Train (oh my gosh, it was so suspenseful, and a great book).
What do your fans mean to you? More than I can express. I love hearing what they think of my book. Some will write a review or contact me to tell me what they liked or didn’t like, I love that interaction. I want to hear it. I love that they cried, or got frustrated, or some other emotion all due to my book. Once I’m told I usually have a huge smile on all day.
Is there a book you love you’d like to recommend to others? Anything written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Tell us something unique about you. I have a very loud and distinct laugh. My husband made it his ringtone.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to connect with readers.
Many thanks Isabelle for chatting! For more about Isabelle and her work, follow the links below: