Author Feature: Jessica Tilles


The author and her works:                                             I was born September 1966 in the Chocolate City, also known as Washington, DC. When I was 12 years old, my parents moved our family to Upper Marlboro, Maryland where we called home.                                                                                                                                                                                                        I loved reading books. I read three to four books per week. My favorite spot in the house was the cozy corner of the living room sofa, curled up with a good book. One Christmas, Mr. Tilles (my ex-hubby and dear friend), gave me the best give ever--Homecourt Advantage by Rita Ewing and Crystal McCray Anthony. I cracked that book open on December 25, 2000 and by December 26, 2000, I was reading the last page. However, between the 25th and the 26th, something happened to me. I heard a voice that I'd never heard before. I recognized that voice, too! How can I recognize a voice I'd never heard before, right? I know. I thought the same thing, but I did. The voice said, "You can do that, too." I smiled and made a beeline to the basement, propped myself at my computer and within four weeks, I'd written my first novel, Anything Goes. That was one exciting and exhilarating ride. That voice? It was my grandmother--Esther McGee. I'd never met my grandmother nor spoken to her. She died years before I was born. However, something inside me knew that voice belonged to her, and no one can tell me differently. Thank you, grandmother. You were right. I could do it, and I did!    
It has been ten glorious years as a writer. In that time frame, I released: Anything Goes, In My Sisters' Corner, Apple Tree, Sweet Revenge, Fatal Desire, Unfinished Business, Erogenous Zone: A Sexual Voyage, Loving Simone and No One Has To Know (an erotic quickie eBook). My short story, "Julian's Grace" was published in The Triumph of My Soul (Peace In The Storm Publishing). 
Jessica's above works can be found on Amazon
Jessica is more than an author:
Did I mention I self-published my first book, and now I head an independent publishing house, Xpress Yourself Publishing? In 2006, I published fellow authors Bill Holmes, Kenda Bell and Michael J. Burt. Bill Holmes' debut novel, One Love, peaked at #4 on the Essence Best Seller's List in July 2007, followed by Kenda Bell's For Every Love There Is A Reason at #8 in August 2007. As the publisher of Xpress Yourself Publishing (now affectionately known as XYP), I am helping to mold the literary careers of talented authors, and I publish around 5 to 10 titles per annum. In 2008, I was honored to receive the African American Literary Award for Independent Publisher of the Year. I was also nominated for that same award in 2009. XYP is currently closed to unsolicited submissions.

I am listed in Heather Covington's Top 100 Literary Divas (Amber Communications). I am the Creative Designer and Owner of TWA Solutions (formerly The Writer's Assistant), a small, minority- and woman-owned business providing services to independent publishers and authors and small businesses in the areas of book cover design, interior book design, editing, web design, consulting and self-publishing services.

In addition to my many accomplishments, I am a staff writer for Black Men In, have contributed the article "Third Shift Blues" to Black Romance Magazine, and is the recipient of the Memphis Black Writer's Guild's Rising Star award, and the Jackson Mississippi Reader's Clubs' Outstanding Contributor to Literature award.

I am currently working on several literary projects. I have to keep busy! I still reside in Upper Marlboro, Maryland with my two dogs: Abby and Teddy.

The Interview:

Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell us your process.

I’m a panster. I will, however, become a plotter when I’m not sure which direction to go, or if the author’s enemy, Mr. Writer’s Block, pays me a visit. I’ve never been a structured writer. I like writing without thinking, if that makes any sense. I enjoy letting the characters introduce themselves to me and tell me how to tell their story.

Typically, when I sit down to write, I have no idea what or whom I’m going to write about, which is exciting for me. The first thing I do is search royalty-free stock images for photos that speak to me. Every image tells a story. From there, I conjure up the opening line and go from there.

I'm a pantser too! I've often done the same, trying to plot when I'm stuck, but then something speaks to me and I disregard my plot, lol. So when know how you write, but what is your preferred category and genre to write? Why?

I refuse to keep myself in a box. I write whatever genre strikes me at the time. However, I do typically stay within erotica, contemporary. Sometimes, I have no idea how to categorize the stories I write. When I sit down to write a book, I never think, Hmm, what genre shall I write now?

We are writer soul mates, I swear. I am the same! I stick to upper young adult romance, but the subgenres vary completely. Whatever the characters need. Moving on, we have had a conversation about this before--marketing. In your opinion, what marketing works best for you?

Grown roots marketing and building relationships. I know it sounds old school and like I’m running for office, but in a way it is. Just like a politician, you have to build your constituents. The Internet is a phenomenal tool, you just have to find your niche of using it. When I wrote my first book, Anything Goes, I realized I could travel anywhere in the country sitting at my computer. So, I virtually traveled outside the United States and made connections with book clubs in other countries. I connected with them by sending an introductory email or, at that time, commenting on message boards, and the rest is history. Many of those readers are still following and supporting me 20 years later.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Marketing is not a one-size-fit-all outfit. Not all readers are your readers. You have to find your readers. If you write erotica, find where the erotica readers hang out online. The same goes for sci-fi, romance, and other genres. Interact with those readers. Even if you haven’t put out a new book, don’t stop talking to them. You always want to stay in their literary sight. Send them a “Hey, how are you?” email. There was a time when authors sent bi-weekly or monthly newsletters to their email lists just to keep their readers informed of what’s going on their lives, what new book they’re working on, etc. Marketing is all about building relationships. I’ve built good friendships with readers. When you know who your readers are, I think the rest is easy.

This is the response I often hear: Find the readers. But what else have you learned through your publishing experience, particularly since you are a publisher as well? Aspiring authors would love to know the truth.

It is long, tedious work. However, if you want it done correctly, then you’re grunt through it. I’m an independent publisher. I’d always thought it best to follow the trends of the major publishers, and I still believe doing so. I don’t believe in rushing out a book just put out a book. I’m asking people to pay their hard-earned money to buy my book. The least I can do is to ensure they receive a great experience from the beginning of Chapter 1.

I completely agree. Quality is everything. Find Jessica Tilles through these links: