Earlier this month, Jade A. Waters released The Assignment, the first book in her three part series, Lessons in Control. Ethically speaking, I couldn’t review it because A. I helped beta it, B. She’s my best friend, and C. I am not at all unbiased so I’d probably just shout things like –> BUT IT’S SO FUCKING GOOD BELIEVE ME AND READ IT.
So, rather than do an (biased but TOTALLY accurate review), I asked Ms. Waters if she’d like to do an interview. She said yes so plans were made – plans that involved a pedicure and drinks over a long lunch. Sadly, I got sick and had to cancel for the first time ever in our friendship. Luckily, she didn’t mind typing in the answers to the questions because she’s awesome.
And so, without further ado, my interview with Jade A. Waters.
We’ve talked a lot over the course of our friendship about how the spark for The Assignment came from a very powerful personal experience. What did it feel like writing from that place? Did it ever feel like it was getting too intense?
Oh, that’s a good one, Malin. I mentioned over at Xan West’s place the other day what the actual spark for The Assignment was, and of course, as you know, there was indeed that powerful personal experience you just mentioned built in, too. I’ve referred to that often as “getting turned out,” and applying it to the book was…well, it was something. Honestly, I’m not sure I was aware that I was writing from that place until later in the process. I wrote the book in the aftermath of the breakup from that very relationship, and I poured all my energy/tension/pain into creating it…but it wasn’t until I went back in to edit that I saw exactly what you described. Add to that the fact that I’ve said Maya’s got a lot of me in her—her troubled past is a rework of my own—so I’d say overall it was both cathartic and challenging. There were periods in working on the book [and the subsequent series] that I was in real life working on my own demons from past experiences that so closely paralleled Maya’s. It was, in some ways, exciting and healing to rake her over the coals and have her work through similar issues. On the other hand, there were times I was like oh my fucking god why did I make her history so like mine because I don’t want to do this right now. They were extremely specific moments in the book—perhaps the spots you once mentioned to me you found “not hard…but real”—and so while I wouldn’t say it was too intense, it required some emotional stamina and fortitude. It was a good growth experience. And healing for Maya and me, both, I guess.
So, Dean and Maya. How has your relationship to those two crazy kids changed over the course of writing the three books? Do you feel like writing their relationship affected you as a person?
Ha ha. These kids! Having written the entire series, I kind of do look at them as a form of kids! Ushering them here, there, trying to get them to listen to what I’m telling them to do and yet watching them do whatever they want as characters tend to do (punks). J Initially, they were hugely connected to me. Maya was a lot of me, and Dean—while not the guy I just mentioned in your last question—had taken little specks of influence from him. However, by book two, Maya had grown and morphed tremendously. She was a real person to begin with, and then she was tackling all these awesome things in ways that inspired me. Dean, meanwhile, was no longer the man I originally pictured him as. He was growing, too, with several character traits that both excited me and would never work for me in a man in real life. That was interesting to work with…but also great for me in a growth manner. Taking them from the real life experience they were based on and progressing them forward, then even further, made them more complicated and intriguing. I think it strengthened my writing, too—and, perhaps weirdly, what I find attractive in relationships in real life.
However, while their progression developed them and me, I actually feel more separated from them now than I did at first. Maybe it’s because they ran their full course in my head? We have spent some good quality time together, these kids and me, for sure…but I feel like they made it exactly where they needed to be, and that’s good. That feels good.
What is it about Dean that made him super, dreamy appealing to you as a hero?
Besides his stunning dark features? (Because those usually win me over.) Initially, I loved that dominant edge. I found that sexy in the period I wrote the book, but I have long loved men who are a bit on the playful side, too. In fact, that is what appeals to me most in Dean, throughout the series. I like playful people. However, I also loved that he had his shit together. He knew what he wanted. He was direct. These are all traits that turn me on in real life, so I was happy to provide that as companionship for Miss Maya.
If you could have a little heart to heart with Maya, what would you tell her (bearing in mind that you’re kind of her mama, since you created her).
Ahh. This is such a sweet question! Hmmm. I think I would say, “Baby girl, you’re going to grow. You’re going to change. Sometimes, it’s gonna hurt. But you’re going to be stronger, and you’re going to find everything you’re seeking, in time, both in your heart and in your soul. Freedom—in every way? It’s yours. Just let your heart run free.”
I was fortunate to be one of your beta readers on this book, so I’ve seen it morph and change and deepen over the process of your writing it. Does it read, now, like what you imagined in your head? Or did it become something new and unexpected? Did the novel ever surprise you?
And I LOVE YOU to pieces for that! You were such a wonderful beta reader, I can’t get over how helpful you were. Thank you a million times over! As to the book, it’s so much better than it was when it started. I mean, I loved it to begin with, and then I had fabulous feedback from you and Tamsin Flowers, and it got even better. Then came my agent and editor (and more with my editor) and it’s definitely grown into a stronger book. I think it was always a little bit “deeper” than a light and fluffy erotic romance, for me, and through all the edits it’s grown more valuable in that regard, in my opinion. It’s richer, in many ways.
Your prose style is very dreamy and lyrical – was that ever a conscious choice, or did it develop naturally? Do you ever feel like your poetry colors your prose?
I love that you describe it that way! I feel that way too…and I’m not sure how that happened, but yes, I think it goes back to my early poetry, in high school, for sure. I was constantly writing about my pain with the boys I was dating (oh, the drama), and I had all these symbols I liked to use then—roses and petals and drowning flowers and such. (Like I said, oh, the drama.) In time it grew more flowy…somehow a bunch of water elements started getting worked in, and it came together somehow. I get a little trance-like when I write, and I like to feel like I’m getting swept along in my work, so I think that may be helping it translate to the page, especially with all the poetry writing.
Channing Tatum or Hugh Jackman? Now. Go. Don’t think. Gun to your head. Channing or Hugh?
NOOOOoooooo! I have to choose? Crap. Um….okay, Hugh. For sure. Channing has some AMAZING moves (we both saw Magic Mike 1 and 2, hello), but I’ve always had eyes for Hugh. He’s the whole package. Granted, I fell for him as Wolverine but then discovered his tap dancing song-singing goodness (also, those abs) and I’m 100% convinced that while he’s married, it’s his starter marriage. He’s obviously practicing for me. Jade Jackman sounds incredible, doesn’t it?
Maya’s relationship to Selby is really strong and very well developed. How important was it to you that their friendship occupy a healthy slice of the emotional real estate in this book?
I love my friends. I cherish you people to death. I am also extremely loyal to those I love, and will pretty much do anything for these people. So, Maya of course needed to have that connection to someone. Selby is a beautiful mix of a couple wonderful women I know, and I loved getting to play Maya—who’s had a rough go—alongside perfectly domestic and sweetheart Selby, especially with her innocent, vanilla past. Their relationship deepened in edits, too, thanks to some comments made by my editor, and I love how their connection flourished in later editions. Friends are important, and The Assignment couldn’t solely be about Maya and her romantic interest all the time. Oh, and fun fact—one of our rejections along the way was that the book seemed to have a lot to do with Maya and Selby. I laughed that one off, because I wanted her to be a whole person with rich friendships.
If you couldn’t paint your toenails blue, what color would you paint them?
Ha ha. I am pretty obsessed with blue toenails, aren’t I? (Which is funny since my favorite color is red and I refuse to paint my toenails red.) I guess purple? But the flower on the big toes is a critical piece, as you know!
You’ve told me that way high on your list of places to go is the Galapagos Islands. Why the Galapagos Islands? I’ve always wondered.
Really? That’s funny. I love tropical and/or island destinations. Always have, always will. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curaçao, Greece, Rovinj—these were places I went and treasured, that definitely surpassed Paris and most of my stops in Italy. I liked those trips, but I love the water, sun, and sky. I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that the Galapagos Islands were soon going to get blocked from tourism to preserve the animal life there, and I decided I needed to visit before that happened. I wanted to see the life and enjoy the tropical elements. You know what’s weird, though, about my tropical destination obsession? I hate being in direct sun because I burn too easily and run too hot, I am allergic to mosquitos (I get huge quarter sized bites and they love eating me alive), and I’m not a swimmer. So basically I enjoy these trips and have some definite moments of suffering, usually while under an umbrella on a beach for no more than an hour at a time. And covered in light fabric!
Okay, I know you don’t like champagne (I will never understand this) so what did you drink to celebrate the release of The Assignment?
I can’t even believe I didn’t drink anything but coconut milk lattes that day. How did that happen?! If I had enjoyed a drink, though, I would have gone for sambuca or a whiskey sour.
What do you absolutely love about this book? (I know how critical of yourself you are, so this question is really just a poorly disguised attempt to make you say nice things about you).
Jeezus. Thanks, lady, no pressure…hmm… Okay, I love that this book made me a stronger writer, and that I got to carry it farther than one single book. I love Maya’s growth—I feel like her path through both book one and the whole Lessons in Control series was inspiring (at least for me!). And I honestly love a couple sex scenes in there, a ton. Yes, I adore writing real people with real personalities solving real problems…but I do write erotica for a reason! I enjoyed watching Maya grow through her sexual experiences with Dean.
Oh, and that rain scene. You know how much I love the rain scene, and I will never shut up about how much I love the rain scene!
Thank you so much for having me over today, Malin, and for these beautiful questions—plus our beautiful friendship. MUAH!
For more on The Assignment, visit Jade’s official site. And to buy the sexy first installment in the Lessons of Control series, head over to the usual suspects, click and enjoy.