How did you become a writer?
When I was 12, my 14-year-old brother passed away. I’ve never had a filter and spoke my mind as fast as thoughts formed. But losing my best friend so unexpectedly put a lid on my jar always overflowing with words. I’ve never liked journals because I felt like I’m speaking to myself, so I decided to write a poem for him. About how I missed him and how I was supposed to have happy thoughts when thinking of him, but instead I was scared of him. Of the silence caused by his absence. My poems grew longer every time I pulled out a blank page, and then… well, then dear old Edward Cullen suddenly happened.
I broke up with my high school boyfriend of three years over that vampire who didn’t even exist in real life. I decided that Bella didn’t deserve to have him, so I wrote my own five-page-long Twilight novel called “Twi-Moon.” Of course, “Edwardo” ended up with “Bell-Jean.” I know, really cool names—I ended up tearing the book to shreds after my best friend told me that it was practically plagiarism and I should never attempt to write in English again. Especially because half the time I switched back to Afrikaans, my native language, when I didn’t know the correct English word. I gave up for a while and stuck to poetry in Afrikaans until my high school English teacher was really impressed by an essay I wrote and encouraged me to look into careers involving creative writing.
Instead, I became an accountant because years of loss, trauma, and disappointment took away my ability to dream. I eventually quit my accounting job, came to America as an au pair, and met Peter, my husband. When my first was born, I fell in love with the name Adah, but felt that Mariëtte would be more special since it’s also my mother’s name. My daughter slept through the night at five weeks old and I found myself bored. Right? How can a mom be bored? Well, she was the most easygoing baby and I had a really small house at the time which meant very little cleaning. I wasn’t ready for another baby, but the name Adah had to be used.
THE NINE LIVES OF ADAH became a completed manuscript after two months, but something felt off. I changed it repeatedly up until I completely lost sight of the plot. That’s when it became clear to me that I was a plotter in September 2018. During October of 2018, I saw a terrifyingly beautiful tree that was supposed to be a Halloween decoration. I wanted to give that tree life so badly, so I gave it life and love from a girl in desperate need of validation. I had a polished manuscript in three months and six months after that signed with my agent, Stephanie Teater.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
There are so many we face daily. One is definitely time. I stay home full-time with my one and two-year-old, while also managing a group of au pairs (foreign live-in nannies) since I was one myself. I make it my job to see that they’re not taken advantage of in a foreign country and help them work through homesickness, as well as making the most of their year abroad. But, my crazy schedule will never take away my passion for writing.
My husband is super supportive and gives me the time when I need it. I write every day and it takes me about three months for a simple idea to become a polished manuscript. When I start, I don’t stop until it’s done. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to any sort of project — especially the home renovating kind. Being an author requires you to be creative. I advise writers to use that creativity to find the time to write.
But, my main challenge has been writing in my second language. You simply cannot translate directly. In my first language — Afrikaans — there are so many words that express the same meaning, but when I translate them, only one word seems to truly fit. I’ve had to not only learn to properly speak and write in English, but also adapt to a smaller pool of words. I educate myself daily by taking 15 minutes every night to read something about the English language or creative writing before going to bed. I don’t often get writer’s block, but when I do, I take that time to learn too.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
By being rejected. Writers, ya’ll know what I’m talking about. My antagonist desperately wants to be good, but her biggest mistake is relying on the love of her life to be her ticket to redemption. You simply can’t rely on others to be good or to feel fulfilled. When the ex-fiancé of my antagonist moves on and cuts her off for good, rejection causes her to do terrible things. She’s sly and manipulative, but also naïve. However, in the end, she’s still a person and everyone has good inside them. So, stay tuned and eventually read a novel all about her. SCARS OF REDEMPTION is about how she’s like a recovering addict, hiding in a small town, and craving to use her powers as much as her next breath in order to make her life easier. But sometimes the easy way out isn’t necessarily the best way out.
What are your current/future projects?
I plan for my current project to become a trilogy featuring the two main characters. After that, the third main character will have a fourth book all to himself. Then the antagonist’s story, SCARS OF REDEMPTION, will follow, and eventually another book will be written about a character that played a small part in the first book, BEAUTIFUL SCARS. I’m working on the final draft of the sequel, BURNING SCARS, right now.
The series is for new adults who enjoy reading “out of the box” paranormal romance. While I was querying for this series, I finished another book that will also be a part of a trilogy. It’s a young adult contemporary romance with sci-fi elements and is based off of my rebel years after my brother passed away.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
Yes, I’m a plotter. I wrote a piece about it after a few of my twitter followers asked me how I plot and write a first draft in three weeks. You can read about it on my blog and find the playlist links for each novel I’ve written or am currently working on.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It’s okay to dream, but don’t expect everything to work out exactly the way you want it to. Hard work pays off and dreams do come true. All I want is to write a line that’s worth being highlighted on the Kindle app. But, if you start expecting instant success instead of dreaming innocently, it will show and not always in a good way. People might not be replaceable, but novels are. Everyone is unique and everyone can come up with a good idea. It’s up to you to excel and not just leave it at that, but instead, invest everything you have into turning that idea into a masterpiece that readers will have no choice but to get lost inside of. Just focus on writing the book that will make you feel like you’re inside Narnia’s closet, and success will follow. And remember, critiques, rejections, and “it’s just not a good fit for me” are not signs of failure, but golden words that will push you to write to your best potential and even beyond that. You’ll even end up surprising yourself.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
Oh boy! How many characters can I use for this one? I’m on so many social media platforms. Email isn’t always the best as it can go to my junk folder.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jeanmaregag