Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Jo.
Man, I always have a hard time figuring out what to say that isn’t already in my bio… I’ve been telling stories since I was two or three years old, and started writing them down when I was five. I like to say that my imagination is too big for my head to hold it, so I have to write! I was a teacher for a number of years but have since stopped teaching and now write full time and talk to teens (and adults) about reading and writing. And I don’t have any hobbies… People always ask me what I do when I’m not writing, and the only answer I have is reading and watching TV. I should really get a hobby.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
When I was in grade 10, I played the head of the Salvation Army (the character’s name completely escapes me now) in my school’s production of Guys and Dolls.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
As I said, I started telling stories when I was two or three and started writing them when I was five, after I started kindergarten and someone showed me how to make those little squiggly letter things. My kindergarten teacher was one of my first supporters; to keep me occupied while she worked with my classmates, she let me read books from the classroom library and write my own stories based on them. I’ve known since then that I wanted to be published, because I thought it would be cool to see my own stories in books like the ones I read. But getting published came much later; my first publication was a phonics-based reading program in 2002, when I was thrty-two years old, and my first fiction project (which was under a different pen name) wasn’t published until 2009.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
Yes and no… When I was young, I hoped for fame and fortune from my writing, and I haven’t exactly had that. But I’ve reached readers and have had some contact me telling me how my books have touched and encouraged them, and I think that’s better than money.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
If I recall correctly, I jumped up and down.
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
Finishing the first draft. The story is out of my head and on the pages, so I don’t have to worry about how to get it out there anymore. Though finishing the first draft does mean I have to revise…
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I try to make time to read for pleasure, though I admit I don’t do it as often as I’d like. I read a wide range of things.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
I pretty much write every genre I’m interested in; I just follow the hopping plot bunnies.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
Where No One Knows is a young adult urban fantasy novel from Musa Publishing. The character of Kellan McKee first popped into my head when I was taking a bus home to Boston from Philadelphia; the phrase “If you have enough money, you can travel almost anywhere in the United States by bus” floated through my brain, along with the image of a young man running away. Or running to. When I was approached to try writing a novel with a transgender main character for Musa’s Pan imprint, that little brain floaty thing came back to me, and I wrote about Kellan, a female-to-male transgender teen who is on the run after accidentally using his psychic powers to set an attacker on fire.
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
More books, stories, and randomness. The next project on my list is a sequel to my novel Nail Polish and Feathers; the sequel is tentatively titled Shoulder Pads and Flannel, and it continues the story from the point of view of Moe Garcia, the boyfriend in Nail Polish and Feathers. I’m also doing a bunch of short stories just for fun, some of which are young adult and some of which are adult romance (which I write under a different pen name).
Anything you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this interview. I love hearing from readers, and I hope you’ll stop by my website, www.joramsey.com to leave a comment or find out how to contact me. I wouldn’t be a published author if it weren’t for the people who read my books, so thank you!
Jo Ramsey's most recent releases:
Where No One Knows
Kellan McKee has been forced to leave his home and is traveling to find a place to belong. Sixteen years old and transgender, Kellan has felt out of place in his family since his mother married Gene. Now Kellan must keep Gene and his friends from tracking him down to get “justice” for the man Kellan accidentally set on fire. Kellan has psychic powers, including pyrokinesis, and when he’s threatened he loses control.On the run, Kellan meets Shad, a young man who also has psychic powers, who steers Kellan to Boston where a group that protects psychic teens is ready to take him in. But will Kellan find a safe haven, or will he bring danger to his new friends?
For months, V.J. Josephson has kept a huge secret from his family and friends: he's gay. Between his mother's intolerance and his best friend/nephew Jamey's recent problems, V.J. doesn't dare to admit his sexuality. When he meets Landon Brooks, V.J. wants to stop hiding. Landon's exactly what he's been looking for. But will V.J.'s reluctance to come out end their relationship before it completely begins?
Nail Polish and Feathers
Sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has no problems with being gay. Despite his mother’s objections, he wears nail polish and makeup to school and pursues his goal of becoming a professional drag queen.
TV drag star Taffy Sweet gives encouragement and Evan’s cousin Holly tries to protect him, but school bullies abuse him so badly because of his sexuality and the girly way he dresses that he ends up at the hospital emergency room. After that, even his new crush, a closeted football jock named Moe Garcia, is unhappy about Evan's choice to live his life openly gay. But even in girly clothes and nail polish, Evan is a force to be reckoned with, and he soon shows the bullies—and everyone else—that beating a drag queen up does not mean the queen is beaten down.
Excerpt for Where No One Knows:
“Are you okay?”
I blinked and rubbed my face. An older woman stood in the aisle. Guys didn’t cry, so I couldn’t let her see how close I was. Never show weakness. One of the first lessons good old Gene taught me, even before I’d told everyone I was a guy.
“Yeah. Fine. Been a long day, and I’m kind of tired.”
“Where are you headed?” She leaned against the back of the seat beside her. “And is there really someone in the restroom? I’ve been waiting forever.”
“I’m going to visit some friends.”
I lied, of course. I didn’t have any friends. But visiting friends sounded better—and safer—than saying I didn’t have a fricking clue where I was going. Mom hadn’t given me time to figure it out. Just the money and a reminder of where the nearest bus station was.
“Some woman went in there a few minutes ago. I think she’s pregnant.”
As soon as I said it, I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. The woman hadn’t been showing or anything. She was been skinnier than I am. I only knew she was pregnant because I—well—because I did. A silver haze floated around her belly, but I couldn’t mention it. Normal people couldn’t see it. I had to act normal. Seeing things and “just knowing” were part of what had gotten me kicked out of my home.
“Oh. Then of course she might take a while.” The woman reached over and knocked on the bathroom door. A muffled voice answered. “I hope she’s done soon. I can’t wait too much longer. I’m old, you know.”
“You aren’t that old.” The neon number “60” flashed into my head. She had fewer wrinkles than my mom, though, and only a little grey hair mixed among brown.
“You’re young,” she said. “You think everyone over twenty is old. How old are you, anyway?”
“Sixteen.” I was old enough to travel on my own, which was what she was actually asking.
“You look younger. What’s your name?”
I tried to come up with a reason not to tell her. She wouldn’t be able to track my family down without my last name, and she’d probably forget whatever I told her anyhow. I hoped.
“Kellan.” I’d picked the name because it was close enough to the girl name on my birth certificate.
“Nice to meet you.” She held out her hand. “I’m Shelly.”
I cringed away from her touch. Physical contact always gave me too much information about the other person, and I already knew more about her than I should have. “I don’t mean to be rude. But I don’t shake hands.”
She nodded. “Wise. Fewer germs that way. Your family’s meeting you at the other end?”
“My friends are, yeah.” I had way too much practice in lying to be tripped up so easily.
Lying had been a fact of my life after Mom married Gene. Some truths weren’t safe to share.
The restroom door opened, and a pale, skinny younger woman walked out. She glared at the older woman, who patted her on the shoulder and went into the room. The younger woman staggered down the aisle back to her seat.
I turned back to the window. I didn’t want to interact too much with other passengers. Too much risk of them remembering me. I doubted anyone would come looking for me, but with Gene, you never knew.
I preferred not to talk to people. They asked too many questions sometimes, the way Shelly had. I didn’t like answering questions. I’d been raised not to lie, and even though I’d learned to do it when I had to, I always felt bad when I was dishonest. But this was a case where the truth might not be safe.
When the older woman left the bathroom, I pretended to be asleep so I wouldn’t have to talk to her anymore.
I was careful not to actually fall asleep. I didn’t want the nightmares.