Interview with Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh

Jen: This week we welcome Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh to Romancing the Book. Ladies, will you please share a short bio with us?
Jeanie & Jayha: A kickass tag-team bound together by the pen, Jeanie (the shagalicious wordslinger) and Jayha (the ninja master of h*ll no’s) are forces of nature that will either leave you begging for mercy or begging for more.

We are women who have brains we aren’t afraid to use; feelings we aren’t afraid to express; and, middle fingers that we aren’t afraid to extend. We pen stories that push all kinds of boundaries and we don’t apologize for it. Our heroines are feisty; our heroes are hot, and our stories are one-of-a-kind adventures.

Jen: Tell us about your most recent release and where it’s available.
Jeanie & Jayha: We always have something out. Currently, we’re working on the next books in the Otherworldly series and in the Wild, Wild series. Our titles are available at

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Jeanie & Jayha: Laughing at your question to tell you our “call” story as Jayha is in her last year of seminary (don’t worry she’s not going to be a preacher; she’s going to be an advocate). Our call story is basically this: we both got tired of reading the same old type of story with the same old type of characters. We decided to amuse ourselves by writing a story that featured women who looked like us in temperament and style. Tired of the way interracial couples were portrayed, Jayha tackled the interracial genre; bored with the abundance of paranormal stories in mainstream publishing, I took up the pen and challenged myself to write a story that spoke to me.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Jeanie & Jayha: totally freaking crazy

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Jeanie & Jayha: We do a character profile, which consists of all their vitals (brief genealogy, where they went to university, what they drive, music they rock to, a list of their homies, etc)…and then we just go crazy on the page.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Jeanie & Jayha: I’m glad you asked that question. Hold on while we pull up the soapbox because this is an issue we are quite passionate about. As women of color too often we have read stories where it is blatantly obvious that the author knows nothing about the characters they created. It doesn’t just piss us off; it hurts. We take it for granted that everyone has come into contact with people from all walks of life, all colors, religions, etc. but unfortunately that is not true. Sometimes the only person of (insert race/ethnicity/nationality/etc) that your reader will meet in life is the one(s) you created in your prose.

We care about the characters we create, the prose we write, and the readers who read our words. Because we also write characters outside of our ethnic, religious, cultural group we do everything we can to honor the characters we create and make every effort to honor them, the communities they are a part of. We don’t get every detail just right but it doesn’t stop us from trying.

This is an abbreviated list of the research we do for EVERY book. Research includes: investigating the area they live, the neighborhood we are putting them in, the universities they attended (we like to feature HBCUs so we make sure to research the history of the university…did they have that major when the character attended, did the school allow women, was the school integrated), general salaries for the job they hold, topography (wouldn’t make sense for the character to drive a Bentley in an area consisting primarily of backwoods), native customs (including languages, religion, etc), meaning of the names we name the characters, history (what was going on during that time), etc.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Jeanie & Jayha: There are two challenging aspects: 1) finding the time to write between our full time jobs, full-time families, and the need to sleep, and 2) making every story fresh. The easiest aspect is wow, I don’t think there is an easy part.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Jeanie & Jayha: The most gratifying aspect is having a reader not only read your book but enjoy it and get what you were trying to convey.

Jen: Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting them go, or are you happy that their story is told and you can move on?
Jeanie & Jayha: We’re selfish. We never let our characters go. Though we have different series, our characters are all part of one big literary family and are subject to pop up in any given story.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Jeanie & Jayha: All of them are our favorites. Every book we write, if we don’t feel that way about the characters, we go back and either tweak it or completely rewrite it until we do feel that way about them. If we don’t love them, how can we expect readers to?

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Jeanie & Jayha: Every author out there…the good ones make us want to write prose that makes our readers respond as passionately as we respond to good prose. The bad ones make us put our foot in our prose to insure we never write stories that we are ashamed of.

Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?
Jeanie & Jayha: The readers who have given two unknown chicks a chance and who believed in us and convinced other readers to believe in us…before we got things like a website, cover art, and editing.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Jeanie & Jayha: Free time, ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sleep.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Jeanie & Jayha: World domination, and after that we are going to work on our children’s books and website for that. Children of color/biracial children need good books too.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Jeanie & Jayha: and then there’s our multi-author digs:

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Jeanie & Jayha: We’d like to ask your readers to give us a read.

Jen: Readers, Jeanie and Jayha are giving away some J and J swag (mouse pad, travel mug, that sort of thing) to one lucky reader. They only as that the winner be over the age of 18. So, to enter the contest, first you need to leave a comment or question for the ladies. Then to finish your entry, you must leave your email address in your comment or send a message to The winner will be chosen around Sunday, July 4.

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