I live on a small island off the coast of Virginia, surrounded by the serenity of the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. With an eye for visual detail, I've been a professional graphic designer for years, but my first love is writing, and I've been doing it most of my life. Though I've written four books and countless short stories, essays and poetry prior to writing "A Shot in the Dark", this novel is my first venture into publication. I'm currently working on the novel's as-yet-untitled sequel.
My love for writing really started with "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I was a very inquisitive child with a constant desire to absorb knowledge, a trait that has continued throughout my entire life. As a result, I started kindergarten a year earlier than I should have and was advanced enough to skip second grade, so by the time I hit 9th grade, where Harper Lee's classic book was required reading, I was only twelve years old. The first time I read the book, it unlocked a passion for the written word that has never left me. I still have that same copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird" that I read for English class in 1980, and I still pull it out about once a year and read it again. I do own a Kindle, and I do have nearby bookstores where I could pick up a new copy, but neither of those options are quite the same as reading that same worn and yellowed copy that sparked my life's ambition to be a writer.
I wrote my first book (and very badly, I might add), during that same freshman year of high school. It was handwritten on sheets and sheets of college-ruled notebook paper, tucked into a thick 3-ring binder. In actuality, it probably only equated to 30 or 40 thousand words, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that I had found my passion, discovered my gift, and knew that writing was what I was meant to do with my life. Just like my 1980 copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird", I still have that horribly written first novel in its 3-ring binder. I refuse to throw it away or even to pull it out and try to edit it. It's perfect the way it is, with its countless imperfections and overly dramatic passages and combination of blue and black ink. It's like my first child and no matter how awful it is, I can't bring myself to get rid of it.
After Harper Lee, I started to pick up every book I could get my hands on and read. My choices and ultimately my influences ran a vast spectrum of different writing styles and genres. The authors I ended up reading the most were Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and though other authors influenced me, those two were my cornerstones.
Now that my life is about half over, and I'm old enough and experienced enough to realize it, I've made the discovery in the past year that while a number of authors influenced my work, my greatest influences were the people surrounding me and the challenges life has seen fit to put in my path over the years. I now understand that, although writing style and voice are important, even more important to good writing is one's ability to tap into people: their thoughts and feelings and how they interpret into their actions. I've spent most of my adult life paying attention to people. I love to interact with them, will strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere and at anytime, because ultimately I learn from them and then I translate that understanding and those discoveries into building characters that my readers can care about. I've found that no matter how strong your story idea, if your readers don't care about your characters then they quickly abandon your story.
To learn more about me, to follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and to view a video book trailer for "A Shot in the Dark", visit my website at JayleighCape.com.