M. Jay Granberry is first and foremost an insatiable reader.
Among her favorite things are classic fairy tales, smutty books where characters have heart, old lady sweaters (preferably chunky knit), gift baskets (giving not receiving), and charcuterie trays (green olives, smoked cheese, and Genoa salami).
She is a true Las Vegas native, the one in Nevada not New Mexico, and to answer the most frequently asked questions about growing up in Sin City…
No, she doesn’t live in a hotel.
No, she has never been a stripper although she does know some.
Prostitution is absolutely illegal in Clark County (Las Vegas)!
And what happens in Vegas does indeed stay in Vegas.
M. Jay earned a degree in words and stories, and after fifteen plus years of doing everything other than writing, she penned her first novel.
Giving a voice to characters, that are strong yet fragile, that are sometimes uncomfortably real, that express love in dirtiest ways with the sweetest sentiments is honestly a dream come true.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
Thank you for having me! The pleasure is all mine! I knew writing was my calling somewhere around the age of eight or nine. I loved words and reading but more importantly I wanted to be the one to create that experience for others. I told my momma that I wanted to be Mrs. Suess. LOL. As I matured I fell in love with the craft of creating a story and weaving a tale. As cliché as it may sound, that space of creativity is my happy place.
**sigh** That last one is a loaded question but the most frustrating part of writing for me has little to do with the process and everything to do with what it takes to get my book babies into the world. Bad reviews sting. Rejection from publishers and agents hurt. The expectation that I be plastic and leverage relationships to further my career is just not me, so it’s a crazy juggling act.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My first series, A Sin City Tale, is a rock star trilogy set in Las Vegas. They are interconnected standalones full of angst-filled sexy men, feisty women, and sex scenes that will set your eyebrows on fire. I believe in messy love. The kind that you’re not sure will work out in the end. I take all my characters through it and depending on who you ask I bring them out mostly unscathed on the other side. The third book in the trilogy, Exquisitely Yours is coming out mid-summer.
You can find me in all the places. Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Amazon. It’s easier to go to my website authormjaygranberry.com and click on the links from there.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I draw inspiration from EVERYTHING! People I know, places I’ve been, and experiences that I’ve had personally or experiences adjacent to friends and family. Let me put the disclaimer out there right now. No that scene wasn’t about you! LOL! I can hear a lyric from a song, watch a random interaction between people in the store, or read a Bronte novel and be equally inspired by all of them. I’m getting ideas all the time. I’m not that writer that can crank out story after story. I have to sit with the idea and let it percolate. I always start with the creation of the characters and I always write the climax first. I think the biggest thing about inspiration is being open to receive it.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
Schedule? I never met her. Is she nice? LOL! I write where I can and as long as I can. I have a mean case of carpal tunnel syndrome that is quite literally kicking my tail and a nine year old that wants my attention. I try to write around five thousand words a day.
I have a few upcoming series Tales Of The Naked City, The Las Vegas Renegades, and the All Eyes On Us trilogy. Naked City is about the grimy underbelly of Las Vegas’ organized crime. The Las Vegas Renegades is a new contemporary romance series set in the dynamic world of professional basketball, and last but not least All Eyes On You is part of my urban elites series.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
My first love in literature was the classic stuff. The first book that I read that really touched my soft gooey center was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I was a freshman in high school and when I read the line ‘If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn’t love you as much as I do in a single day.’ I died! I remember getting chills on my arms and thinking to myself that one day I’d have a love like that. I’m still waiting dammit but hope burns eternal!
You keep coming with the impossible to answer questions! I’m a mood reader so my favorite authors shift depending on the current direction of the literary wind. But off the top of my head I’d say, I’m a huge Steven King fan. I love any and everything by Judith McNaught. Shakespeare was truly brilliant. Eric Jerome Dickey was my literary equivalent of Love Jones. He depicted Black love the way I saw, real without people, that were flawed and broken, the struggle internally with expectation and self-recrimination versus external forces.
Lately I’ve been reading non-fiction. My latest two books were Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho, Short Stories by Columbus Short, and The Devil You Know by Charles M. Blow.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
The most significant thing that I’ve done thus far…maybe making the move to self-publish and promote. My degrees are in words and stories. Writing in academia is more often than not a nurturing experience. I was truly beat up by the process in traditional publishing. It made me question myself— my talent, my ability, my love for the craft—and then the seeds of doubt grew until I almost gave up.
The goal in five years is to hit all the major lists and have Barnes and Noble stores in the western region carry my books in store without a major publisher.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
Have I dealt with rejection? That would be a loud and resounding yes! I’ve had agents tell me I’m not Black enough for Black readers, or neutral enough for all readers and totally unmarketable because of that fact. I have readers say I don’t know myself or my story and I’ve had other fellow authors tear about my work in the cruelest way.My advice to maintain your sanity and creativity is (1) Don’t read the reviews! Reviews are for other readers not you. People have seven hundred pound balls made of steel when behind the screen of a computer. (2) Goodreads is as messy as any other social media platform. Choose when and how you engage. (3) Success doesn’t come overnight. The more you write the better you’ll get. (4) Study your craft. (5) Set your goals based on where you are in your journey not based on where other authors appear to be. (6) Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t do it. (7) Understand that you are unique and your story is necessary. If you don’t believe in you no one else will.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
The struggle is real when it comes to marketing and promotion. I feel like I market well. I struggle with social media. Bottom line it’s not my jam. I have an eye for the visuals but I’ve found it difficult to find directed marketing to and for Black readers. I’m actually thinking about starting my own company to do just that. I’m using myself as test study to see what works and what doesn’t. Wish me luck!
I’m still in the process of building my author platform. It doesn’t ever really stop. I’ll say that I’m getting so good traction lately although I still don’t see crazy numbers.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
I don’t mind reading my own work. I struggle with listening to the audio books though. It sounds way more filthy listening than it does in my head. Seriously, when I’m listening to a book to check for edits I cringe at parts like really M. Jay. Did you write that? LOL.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Not at all. Unlike other creative professions writers get better with age. The more general life experiences you have, the more people you meet, the more novels you’ve read, the more books you’ve written, the better you get. Many writers don’t find their stride until midlife and they begin writing as a second profession.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I have always struggled with my Blackness. It doesn’t look how other people perceive us to be. When I write I feel like I show up on the page for those people like me. The people that need to see themselves reflected in a hodgepodge of West Coast culture that doesn’t quite mimic other parts of the country or a more traditional Black experience.
When I write I have a conversation. It is bringing exposure on nuance to what makes me specifically, and people generally, tick.