There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people. Muhammad Ali

J. Hali Steele Interview Published on: 08, Dec 2018

Where did you grow up? What were your childhood dreams? When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania in a little city situated equally between Philadelphia and Amish Country so I had benefit of seeing cows roam fields thirty minutes in one direction or, depending on traffic, thirty minutes from a city rich in history in the opposite direction. My dream was to become a veterinarian as I love animals, cats in particular. This is probably why I’m fascinated with reading and writing paranormal stories about shifters of all types.

Thanks to my mother, I developed an early love of reading. Think I always wanted to write and share magical beings and places hoping to give readers the same joy I found in books.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing your first book? What challenges did you face while getting your first book published?

I wrote short stories growing up but had never shared them until the opportunity to attend a romance book convention came along. Seeing and talking with authors whose books I read spurred me to brush up one of the stories I had tucked away. Joining an on-line critique group helped hone my ability and it also encouraged me to submit my finished story to a publisher who saw potential and signed me to my first contract. I’ve never looked back.

If you could grow fur, wings, or fangs one day, what would be the first thing that you do? When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

If I had supernatural ability to shift into a furry body or grow wings, I’d love to live in a desert area where the sun always shined and I could explore each day until content. Ahh, to have fangs and be able to take sustenance and be immortal would provide such a rich history, lifetimes of love, and money, lots of money from living forever.

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand? Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

When I began writing I went through boxes of number two pencils and filled tablets with stories. Now I use a computer. Ideas come from all directions. A look on a stranger’s face, the way two people obviously in love gaze at each other, a picture, the way an animal moves. Everything is fair game in my imagination. I’ll usually come up with my blurb or a short synopsis first. As a story grows, characters develop and take over. The few times I’ve tried to plot a book, it goes off track quickly as personalities and storyline develops. Now, I start the story—my main characters finish it!

What inspired you to write the series "Dirty Rotten Vampires?" Which book in the series is the one you keep going back to again and again?

The characters from Dirty Rotten Vampires all have such great personalities. It was inspired by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. My imagination went bonkers wondering what would happen if these guys were portrayed as vampires. The story that sticks with me most is Love Me Madly. The vampire in that book found love a second time with a half breed demon spit fire and I truly enjoyed the chase she gives him throughout the novella and, though he captures her heart, in subsequent stories she keeps him on his toes! I also like Dare Me Once. The vampire of vampires has no qualms about taking what he wants. One line he utters tells you all you need to know: Because I can.

In case one or any of your books in the "Phantom Lure" series honor the big screen, which book would you like it to be? Why?

Ooh, should one of the Phantom Lure books be picked for the big screen, I’d chose Locomotive. It not only ties up loose ends, it brings to light just how devious the MC, Grange, can be. I must admit—I fell in love with him!

Which literary character in the "Disciple's Descendants" series do you most resonate with on a personal level? Have you ever changed the ending of a series based off the reaction of your fans?

Disciple’s Descendants has one story to go. It’s Gage’s story and he’s the one I’m most drawn to as a character. He’s written his story through each of the other books and has given me a tough time in bringing all the MC’s together as he reveals things none of them, or me, are aware of. I plan to wrap that series up early next year.

I’ve changed story endings but usually because I found a character changed drastically in some way. Fan reactions are extremely important but once I let a character go, I follow the path they take as they evolve and grow.

How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading? Do you have a library at home?

I have seven 8 ft. shelves full of books! I continue to buy them for 3-4 authors I expect I’ll keep no matter what but I’ve migrated most of my reading to my kindle and even on my computer. I find it much easier to hold a kindle then I ever did a book as I’m reluctant to damage the cover or back of a book to handle it with one hand. With my kindle, it’s read a page and press a button all with one hand!

If you’re writing about a city/country/culture you haven’t physically visited, how much research do you conduct before you start writing?

Research of places I’ve never visited is pretty in depth and I sometimes get carried away with my discoveries. For my vampire Triumvirate series—White Blood, I Won’t Stop, and Twice the burn—I spent time talking with two doctors I met at work about their culture in India and some of terms used were gathered through conversations with them.

Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up? If you could bring one of the characters in "The Triumvirate Book" to life, who would it be?

To see how I feel about real or related characters, read about Can’t Touch This below! As far as who I’d bring to life from The Triumvirate—Julius Talmane would be my choice. He’s so…so dashing, carefree, and non-judgmental. His sense of humor is awesome and his allegiance to his best friend and those he cares about is admirable. I just think he’d be an awesome person to know and/or love.

What is the secret to becoming a multi-published author? What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?

Secret to becoming multi-published? Hmm, I’d say the most important thing is to write and write. Do it from the heart and not based on what is currently selling. I write in various genres and readers are savvy. I think if you use something not familiar to your genre, as long as you build the world and keep characters true to that world, there’s nothing that can’t be written differently or with a twist from what is considered normal or expected for any given genre.

What is your view on co-authoring books? How was your experience of writing "A Changeling For All Seasons" with other authors?

A Changeling for all Seasons is a compilation of Christmas stories. Her Maine Stud and Scent of Love were both done after small, key plot points were provided. Each author had to pen their story keeping within limits of those points. I enjoyed working on them very much.

Name one book that you like most among all the others you have penned down. What inspired you to write "Can't Touch This?"?

Can’t Touch This may be one of my favorite stories, if not the favorite. I refer to it as my semi- autobiography where I’ve merged autobiographical information with a fictional theme. The characters in this book are based on things that happened in my life during a period of finding myself when I lived in California. Of course, there really aren’t wolf shifters but, dang, I wish there were!

What advice would you like to pass on to young writers of today that is unconventional but true?

Not sure if it’s unconventional but I’d tell aspiring authors not to be afraid to step outside the box. Tell the story that’s burning inside even if it’s one that isn’t on the beaten path, one that is far away different than any you may have read before. Tell your tale in your way then make sure it’s clean and polished before you submit to publishers.

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