Joylynn M. Ross, writing as BLESSEDselling Author E. N. Joy, is the author behind the “New Day Divas,” “Still Divas,” “Always Divas” and “Forever Divas” series, all which have been coined “Soap Operas in Print.” She is an Essence Magazine Bestselling Author who wrote secular books under the names Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY. Her title, If I Ruled the World, earned her a book blurb from Grammy Award-Winning Artist, Erykah Badu. An All Night Man, an anthology she penned with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Jackson, earned the Borders bestselling African American romance award. Her Urban Fiction title, Dollar Bill (Triple Crown Publications), appeared in Newsweek and has been translated to Japanese.
After thirteen years of being a paralegal in the insurance industry, E. N. Joy divorced her career and married her mistress and her passion; writing. In 2000, she formed her own publishing company where she published her books until landing a book deal with St. Martin’s Press. This award winning author has been sharing her literary expertise on conference panels in her home town of Columbus, Ohio as well as cities across the country. She also conducts publishing/writing workshops for aspiring writers.
Her children’s book titled The Secret Olivia Told Me, written under the name N. Joy, received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. The book was also acquired by Scholastic Books and has sold almost 100,000 copies. Elementary and middle school children have fallen in love with reading and creative writing as a result of the readings and workshops E. N. Joy instructs in schools nationwide.
In addition, she is the artistic developer for a young girl group named DJHK Gurls. She pens original songs, drama skits and monologues for the group that deal with messages that affect today’s youth, such as bullying.
After being the first content development editor for Triple Crown Publications and ten years as the acquisitions editor for Carl Weber’s Urban Christian imprint, E. N. Joy now does freelance editing, ghostwriting, write-behinds and literary consulting. Her clients have included New York Times Bestselling authors, entertainers, aspiring authors, as well as first-time authors. Some notable literary consulting clients include actor Christian Keyes, singer Olivia Longott and Reality Television star Shereé M. Whitfield.
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?
From all the way back to the days of elementary school journal and rainy-day writings, for me, I always knew writing was more than a love, passion, hobby, ministry, or a school assignment from teachers; it was a calling, indeed. Whenever my neighborhood friends were at my door trying to convince me to come out and play, there was always this stronghold the pen and paper had on me. It was a grip that kept me planted inside my room, rarely allowing those neighbor kids to prevail. Even as a young girl, what I’ve always loved most about being a writer is the power of the pen. Writing allowed me to create my own world, make it look like, sound like, talk like, walk like, think like whatever I wanted it to. Through writing, I have the power to not only create a world, but rule it with my pen!
Being a writer – being a creative – is sometimes a gift and a curse. With the voices of my characters constantly swirling through my mind, simultaneously with thoughts, ideas, and concepts for future stories, not to mention the voices of my husband and children filling up the capacity of my mental real estate, that can be one of the most frustrating things of all. If only the voices, ideas, thoughts, and concepts could social distance themselves before entering my mind.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Throughout my literary career, I have written under five different names, each name attached to a specific genre. I entered the literary industry writing women’s lit and erotica under the name Joylynn M. Jossel. I also wrote urban and street lit under the name JOY. I write children’s and middle grade books under the name N. Joy, Christian fiction under the name E. N. Joy, and, lastly, I pen writing and publishing resources under the name Joylynn M. Ross.
My street lit title, If I Ruled the World, earned a book blurb from Grammy Award-Winning Artist, Erykah Badu. An All Night Man, women’s lit anthology penned with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Jackson, earned the Borders Bestselling African American Romance Award. My urban fiction title, Dollar Bill, appeared in Newsweek and has been translated to Japanese. My children’s book titled The Secret Olivia Told Me received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. It was acquired by Scholastic Books and has sold over 100,000 copies.
I’m most known for my 14-book “New Day Diva”” series, which has been coined “Soap Operas in Print”, and for my latest work, Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success. To learn more about my books, including my writing and publishing resources, you can visit www.enjoywrites.com, www.joylynnjossel.com, www.joylynnMross.com, and www.pathtopublishing.com.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
When it comes to my works of fiction, I tend to write what I know (about myself, the situations and experiences I’ve found myself in, or someone I know has endured), I research what I don’t know, and then I make up all the rest. Inspiration can come from simply waking up in the morning, hearing an angry driver laying down on his horn and wondering what is causing his angst. I could be sitting at a red light, look over at the car next to me to see a couple who looks to be having a disagreement, and then wonder what that disagreement could possibly be about. Inspiration can come from an airplane flying overhead and me making up a story about one of the passengers and what they could be going to or running from. But for clarity, I’d like to add that I’m not the type of writer who waits for inspiration to write, the act of writing itself gives me inspiration. That’s what chauffeurs me from “Once upon a time” to “the end”.
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?
2021 marks 23 years that I’ve been in the literary industry. Earlier in my career, there were times when early morning was my preferred time to write; before my house came alive. And if the day got away from me, I’d sacrifice staying up two to three hours past bedtime, writing into the wee hours of the night.
I’ve learned a lot in these over two decades, but today I want to share with you only one of the things I’ve learned along my journey: Some writers have to find the time
to write, some writers have to make time to write, but it’s usually the most prolific and successful writers who simply use the time they have to write. Throughout my writing career, I’ve been all three. But once I started turning my book into a business and building multiple streams of cohesive literary income to sustain and grow my business, I became more of the latter.
So, what exactly does the writer who has to use the time they have look like? It’s the writer who is stuck in stand-still traffic for an hour because of an accident and instead of sitting there moaning and groaning, they write. The writer who shows up 10 minutes early for an appointment and uses that 10 minutes to write. The writer who has to run their neighbor to the grocery store and instead of going into the store and shooting the breeze with their neighbor, they sit out in the car and write. They write in the airport waiting for their flight to board. They write on the plane. They drop their children off for rehearsal and instead of going back home and then coming back and picking up their children, they stay in the car and write. They write on napkins while out dining. They write on the back of envelops on their trip from the mailbox. They write on store receipts before pulling out of the store parking lot. They write. They write. And they write. Whether their consistent, random writing produces one book every 3 to 5 years or 3 to 5 books every year, they write!
I’m a pantser when it comes to penning my stories, which means versus starting off with an outline and building my story from there, I just sit down and start writing by the seat of my pants. When I wrote for traditional publishers, such as St. Martin’s Press, as part of my contract, I was required to turn in an outline of my story. So, even though it’s not my preference, I have outlined my stories before. Even when I do sit down and just start writing, finding a place to plug in all my random ideas I wrote down on envelops, sticky notes, and receipts need to find their place within the document I’m flowing in on my manuscript. So, often that first draft can serve as my outline, giving me a foundation to take my notes and plug them into the chapters they belong.
When I’m working on a book, I commit to writing 750-1,000 words a day (not so much on weekends, as that’s God, family, and me time). After three months, I’ve got a pretty solid first draft of around 75,000 words I can go back and begin the rewriting and self-editing phases on. I’m already at 100,000 words for my next project, which is a writing and publishing resource titled Path to Publishing: Your Guide to Literary Success. I’ll be doing a two-week residency at The Writer’s Colony this summer to put the finishing touches on that piece.
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?
I was a reader long before I was a writer. As a school girl, Ramona the Pest, Nancy Drew, and those Little House on the Prairie books were my favorites. But then one day I got my hands on one of my auntie’s grown-up books, which was Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines. It was the first book I’d ever read with main characters that looked like me. With characters that walked, talked and thought like me. I remember sneaking the book out at night time and reading it while lying in bed. I was so deeply enthralled that I felt like I became that Black little girl who was lost, that’s how well developed the character was. I was so impressed by how the author pulled the reader into the book, allowing the reader to experience every emotion the main character went through. I closed that book after reading the final chapter and said to myself, “One day I’m going to write a book that does that to people.” I believe I’ve accomplished that with my work.
As a literary consultant, publishing coach, and editor by trade, I read for a living. So, it goes without saying that my favorite authors to read are my clients, aka Pathfinders, students, and members of my literary tribe and community. I host the “Pop-Up Publishing School” virtual meetup.com group. And one of the students blessed me with an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) of his upcoming book, The Soul of An Eagle by Edmond E. Frank. As part of self-care routine, whenever I take my self-care breaks throughout the day, I try to engage in a few pages of his book.
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?
I’ve won awards, made best-sellers list, been chosen as keynote and feature author for several conferences, events, book fairs, etc. I’ve sold out of books at book signings and received some nice-size book advances over the years. But the most significant achievement I’ve had as a writer thus far was when I put my pen down temporarily so that I could make sure aspiring authors picked theirs up . . . or that new and vet authors didn’t get discouraged and put theirs down. I truly feel like that’s part of my life’s assignment; to be a resource and vehicle to help others write and publish their books. In doing so, I’ve witnessed so many others achieve their literary dreams, visions, and goals based on the guidance, coaching, content, information, and resources I make it a point to share with them. That is so rewarding.
My success and achievements are based on the success and achievements of those I help win. That is today, tomorrow, and forever will be my greatest achievement; watching those who I am connected with win, while soaring beyond anything they could have imagined possible for their books and for themselves as an author.
In the next five years, my author assistance and literary service provider company, Path To Publishing, will not only be publishing my writing and publishing resources that will assist others with the writing and publishing process, but with its current MBA in Publishing Program, it will be the first African American woman-owned literary education and publishing institution with an author assistance and literary service branch that has a publishing imprint as well, in which also operates as a social enterprise; giving a voice to and empowering the underrepresented, marginalized, unheard and underserved writers to share their stories and build profitable book and literary businesses with their intellectual property.
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?
I self-published my first book back in 1998, and my second book a year or so later. My third self-published book eventually got picked up by a major New York publisher. But before it was picked up, it was rejected . . . several times. That was back when publishers actually preferred authors (mainly African-American authors) self-published their books first to see if there was, in fact, an audience for the book . . . if there was money to be made. If the author sold enough books and created a good enough buzz, the publisher would swoop in and take over the publication of the book; reprinting the book and providing the author a book advance. So, the rejection letters didn’t sting me all too much because while the publishers were saying no, the readers were saying yes. I sold 12,500 copies of the book I was shopping to publishers out of the trunk of my car. Eventually the buzz I created for my book got back to one of the Big Five in New York, and I was offered my very first book deal. What is so crazy about that was the publisher who gave me my first book deal was the same publisher who sent me my first rejection letter . . . for the same book!
Authors, if your ultimate goal is to find agent representation or a publishing house to put your work out, do not allow rejection letters to discourage you. Do you know how many authors, singers, actors, and dancers—who are now extremely successful—were passed on before someone finally gave them a shot? And do you know how many people probably regret not giving them a chance?
Do you know how many songs singers passed on, only to watch one of their peers make it go platinum? Or how many roles actors passed up only to watch the next person win an Oscar for performing that very role? Or publishers and agents who pass on authors who go on to hit the New York Times or win the NAACP award?
I’ve been an acquisitions editor for a publishing house, as well as an agent trying to get acquisitions editors to acquire my clients’ manuscripts. So, I know how it feels to pass up on something that I wish I hadn’t, as well as deal with rejection.
Rejection can equate to ejection; ejecting you to the right place, person, time, situation, and circumstance.
You keep striving, thriving, and putting in the time, money, and effort it takes to reach your ultimate dreams, goals, and desires. But more importantly, keep writing!
Your rejection now could become your celebration later . . . just like it was for me.
Regardless of which path to publication you decide to take, outside of learning the craft of writing, learn the business of it as well. Outside of wanting to be an author, know that being an author is a job, and that there is a job description that comes along with being an author. Instead of trying to figure out on your own how to navigate the writing process, the publishing process, or the literary industry as a whole, work with professionals who can get you to your final destination of literary success quicker than you can without them, because they’ve already been where you’re trying to go. Visit https://www.pathtopublishing.com/resources to download a list of resources to help you along your publishing journey, again, regardless of which path you choose to take.
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?
When I see the word juggle I also see the word balance, and it’s a little bit too wobbly and all over the place for my liking. When I used to try to balance the different aspects of the writing and publishing life, it was very much difficult. But it became less exhausting and frustrating when I went from trying to balance things, to managing things.
When I’m working with clients to help them compartmentalize their writing tasks and time, their publishing tasks and time, tasks and time with family and friends, as well as tasks and time for themselves, I use the word “manage/management”. I want them to operate on a more solid and consistent foundation versus trying to balance on the tightrope of life. I teach them to allow plans be the GPS to reaching their goals, and within those plans, to set specific dates and timelines. Even if they have to put an appointment with themselves on their calendar, then so be it. That makes it definite, versus an attempt to “hopefully fit it in somewhere.” I prefer not tossing around a million things, risking dropping the ball, then that ball end up falling through the cracks. Trying to keep your eyes on all those balls while tossing them about can be physically and mentally exhausting. Yeah, I may be putting my hand on each ball, but am I holding on to it long enough to make sure I’ve given it all the time it needs . . . that it deserves? I don’t want my children’s football game be something I just show up at (put my hands on the ball), I want to be present (nurturing and cheering on the entire ball game).
I’ve said it before that being an author is a job. Publishing is a business. Businesses don’t make money, people do. So, as an author, it’s your job to make money for the book business. That includes building an author platform in order to bring attention and awareness to you and your book. After having written under five different names in five different genres, it’s safe to say that after name two, I got the hang of things. LOL!
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?
The average author reads through their manuscript five to seven times before turning it over to someone else to read; be it a beta reader, professional editor, agent, etc. I always suggest that in addition to read their manuscript backward, that the author also reads it aloud. You’d be surprised at the mistakes you hear that you didn’t see. Once my manuscript is being professionally proof edited, I simultaneously read the proof aloud. And that, my friend, is the last time I lay eyes on my manuscript.
I do not like reading my work once it’s been published and, therefore, I don’t. As an author, I’m striving daily to become better at my craft. I’m taking courses, I’m reading books, going to writing retreats and workshops; you name it. By the time I’ve done my final proofread of my manuscript, it can be months before the book is actually released to the public. By then, I’ve become a better writer. Heck, even grammar rules have changed by that time. LOL! So, to prevent beating myself up with “I should have written it this way” or “I should have written that sentence in far fewer words”, I simply refrain from reading the book at all after it’s come off the printer.
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?
It is absolutely never too late to tell that story inside of you, to share that testimony within, and to deliver that message that can ultimately touch lives, change lives, and even save lives. Doing just that – writing and publishing one’s work – could be what their measure of success is. So, again, no, it’s never too late to become successful in the literary industry.
An exercise I do with the authors I work with as a literary consultant and publishing coach is to spend time having them define what literary success looks like to them. What financial literary success looks like to them. What making a living as a writer looks like to them. What their measure of literary success is overall. Because if you can’t answer those questions, then, one, you won’t know what success looks and feels like once you’ve achieved it, and, two, you won’t know how to get to your financial destination of writing and publishing success if you have no idea where you’re going – what/where that final destination is.
With so many resources available to assist authors along their literary journey – more resources these days than years past – this is the best time ever to get serious about writing and publishing a book. And because I know this to be true, because I know there are so many people who are thinking about writing and publishing a book but have no idea how to get started or where to get started, I created “The Ground Zero Self-Published Author” online course. Anyone interested in launching their writing and publishing career – regardless of age – can visit www.joylynnMross.com for a free introductory course.
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?
When I’m not operating as Joylynn M. Ross the literary consultant, educator and publishing coach, I’m an author. Under the name E. N. Joy, I wrote the 14-book “New Day Divas” series that is categorized in the genre of Christian fiction. Anybody who knows anything about the business of writing and publishing knows that Christian fiction doesn’t rank high in sales compared to some other genres; namely romance, which is one of the top selling genres. See, romance (not to be confused with a “love story”) has a recipe (formula) that includes a must-have ingredient. That ingredient is a “happily ever after” ending. A love story does not; it can be a story that includes romance, but can end tragically. Dare you try a tragic ending in a book categorized as romance and it could very well be the tragic ending to your romance writing career.
But this isn’t about romance stories versus love stories. It’s about the fact that when penning the “New Day Divas” series, I chose to write about the polar opposite of what sells best when it comes to books. I write about pain. I write about how to operate in pain. How to move in pain. How to love in pain. How to minister in pain. How to continue to help and bless others in pain. How to exist in pain. But more importantly, how to get healed and delivered from pain. But more importantly, how to walk in that healing and deliverance.
We may not all experience a happily ever after in life, but it’s inevitable that we will experience pain. I’m a witness to that, as I’ve endured great pain throughout my life, placing it within the pages of the books I write, and I count it as both a joy and an honor that God has used me and my own pain to empower others. Whether it’s the good, bad, cute, or ugly, I put all of me into the books I write. That’s why makes my books so genuine, relatable, and authentic. I call them characters for industry’s sake, but I’m actually writing about people. And yes, just like everyday people, some of the folks in my book are dealing with pain.
Between the moment we begin to experience pain and the time our healing and deliverance from that pain takes place, we must still be able to navigate life. To live and breathe while in pain. To not be stagnate and die (emotionally, mentally, spiritually) because of that pain.
I have watched those who had no idea what to do when the pains of life hit struggle to function. Sometimes it caused a negative shift in the atmosphere of every room they entered, including work and home. The good thing about home, though, is that our family and loved ones tend to show us more grace than a stranger would. But if you are a business owner, running a business, have a career, are a CEO, entrepreneur, etc., then you better learn how to operate and deliver . . . even while in pain.
I know this may sound cruel, but whether you got a divorce, your child is acting a fool, a friend or family member died, your dog ran away, your girlfriend cheated on you, you got a poor diagnosis from your doctor, evicted, living in your car, or what have you, some people outright will not care. Don’t get me wrong. Some will be very emphatic and sympathetic to your situation and circumstance . . . but they don’t have to be, therefore, remove your expectation that they should be. if you choose to allow your pain to make you distraught and dysfunctional, you have to realize that for others, life is going on.
You don’t have to look like what you are going through. You don’t have to perform like what you are going through. Just because life hit you doesn’t mean you no longer have a purpose (and assignment) in life. Doesn’t mean you can stop loving, helping, saving, working (in excellence) and ministering. So, if you have time to read any books in my series, please do. You can visit my www.enjoywrites.com author website to learn more. Those divas will surely give you insight of what it looks like to be in pain and not exercise your ability to still be beneficial to yourself and others. And they will show you what it looks like to be in pain and still allow God to use you the same way He should be able to when you’re not in pain.
All Books by Joylynn Ross