BellaBrown from Essence.com ranks Tilles up there with best selling author Zane, who Jessica Tilles says has given her a few valuable pointers about the book industry.
I had the distinct pleasure of asking Jessica Tilles some questions about her writing career as well as her personal life. Let me introduce you to Ms. Jessica Tilles…
Interview With Ms. Jessica Tilles
MJB: Many writers have alter egos that they use when they write. Do you have an alter ego? Who is Jessica Tilles the author? The person? Are they the same?
JT: Nope, no alter ego here. What you read is what you get, so to speak. Jessica Tilles is the most supportive, appreciative, unselfish and passionate person you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
MJB: How was Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC formed? Was starting your own publishing company your dream or something that just evolved?
JT: Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC was formed in 2002, after I wrote my first novel, Anything Goes. I did not enter into this business blindly. I knew it was quite difficult for African American writers to get signing deals, until they had proven themselves as profitable. Therefore, rather than receiving hundreds of disappointing rejection letters, I chose to self-publish. I researched, made mistakes, asked questions, and now it has evolved into a small press.
Now, make no mistake about it, self-publishing is not easy and it is very time-consuming. Moreover, who ever ventures into the business of publishing MUST have a passion for writing and the industry. If you do not possess any of this, you will sink before you can swim.
MJB: Describe your journey to becoming a best selling author? Were you ever rejected in the past by publishers or agents? If so, was it an extensive amount of times? How did JT keep pressing on?
JT: Marketing and promoting a book is hard work. It takes a cup of dedication, a cup of determination and a gallon of thick skin. My family, friends and former co-workers rallied around my debut novel, Anything Goes, and the word spread like a wildfire. Before I knew it, I had sold 2,500 copies in one month. By the time I released my sophomore effort, In My Sisters’ Corner, I had sold over 8,000 copies of my debut and requests for my titles were flooding Karibu Books and other bookstores.
I never submitted my manuscripts to publishers or agents. Going into this venture, I had done my research and spoke with several authors, learning how difficult it was getting signed. Therefore, I did not bother. At that time, I did not possess thick skin, so I was afraid of rejection and having my feelings hurt by someone who did not know me from a pot of beans.
I press on because of determination and being blessed with the gift of satisfying my reader’s literary palettes.
MJB: You are known for your raw, provocative, passionate, and honest storylines. Who inspires these characters? Do they possess some of your characteristics?
JT: I want my characters to mold into their own personas and characteristics. I try my best not to include any part of me in my novels, but sometimes I cannot help. However, this is not to say that I do not include any of my experiences within my novels. Most of my characters, however, initially start resembling someone I know, eventually breaking away from that initial mold and developing their own identity.
MJB: Who are some of your favorite writers?
JT: I love the writings of so many authors, not limiting myself I read them all. However, if I have to be specific, I enjoy reading anything by Eric Jerome Dickey and E. Lynn Harris, as well as James Patterson and Jackie Collins. Oh, and I like Stephen King too.
MJB: What are some of your favorite books?
JT: It is hard to pinpoint, because I love books period. My bookshelf overflows with books I have yet to read. However, The Coldest Winter by Sistah Soljah was an excellent read. I read it twice.
MJB: What inspires you to write? Is it the love for written expression or the paycheck at the end of the day? (I must ask.)
JT: It has to be my love for the written word and my passion for the business because there is no paycheck at the end of the day. However, if you work hard and promote the hell out of your books, you may be able to treat yourself to dinner at McDonalds. 🙂
Seriously, I cannot imagine doing anything else accept writing. I am behind my computer practically 20 hours a day. I sleep from 4am to 9am, sometimes until 10am if I am exhausted.
MJB: What has life been like for Jessica Tilles?
JT: I was born in Washington, DC. At the age of twelve, my parents moved the family to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which is only ten minutes outside of D.C. Yeah, we moved really far. *smile* I have four sisters, one brother and I am the baby. I attended Prince George’s Community College and then decided I absolutely loathed school. I quit school, against my parents wishes (hey, I thought I was grown) and jumped into Corporate America, where I worked for eighteen years.
In 2004, I went through a divorce, sold my home and received fifty percent of the proceeds, was down-sized from my employer of ten years, received a sizable severance, cashed out a hefty 401K, treated myself to a new wardrobe and got down to business, in that order. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason; our paths are laid out for us. Everything that happened in 2004 was supposed to happen. Had it not, I would have never leapt out on faith to publish and write full time. It has been a wonderful two fulfilling years of writing and publishing.
MJB: BellaBrown from Essence.com ranked you up with best selling author Zane. How did this make you feel?
JT: I have so much admiration for Zane. As I ventured into this business, I remember someone say, Find someone who is success and latch on. I did just that too. I have several file folders of emails filled with priceless advice given by Zane, received from different online writer’s groups. Therefore, I graciously accept the comparison. It means I am doing something right!
MJB: What is next for Jessica Tilles the author?
JT: I will release my sixth novel, Unfinished Business, in April 2007. Moreover, I will continue providing up and coming authors and poet the opportunity they crave and a vessel to become great writers.
Jessica Tilles’ titles are as follows: Anything Goes, In My Sisters’ Corner, Apple Tree, Sweet Revenge, and Fatal Desire. Tilles 6th novel Unfinished Business is due out April 2007.