5 Questions with fantasy author J.M. Butler (Jessica B. Fry)

I was recently able to toss a few questions J.M. Butler‘s way. We talk about the influence of her grandfather on her writing, the blessing that is Wattpad, and the headaches she experiences when she doesn’t write.

J.M. Butler hanging out.
J.M. Butler hanging out.

The strongest aspect of your popularity seems to be your presence on Wattpad. How’d you establish yourself there?

In a very long, roundabout and rather unintentional way. When I first signed onto Wattpad, it was more to see if I could find a larger community of writers to engage with (and I did!). I started off posting chapters to a Little Mermaid retelling (Mermaid Bride) as well as a Norse, Egyptian, and Greek mythology mashup (Ragnarok Unravels). I participated in the various forums and eventually began hosting writing competitions. I’ve always loved writing prompt challenges, and so I started hosting those and providing detailed feedback for the competitors whenever I could. I also began uploading other stories and interacting with my readers while also reading and commenting on other people’s books.

It’s rather interesting to look back on my time with Wattpad because initially I thought it was just going to be a fun escape, and I took it one step at a time. I’ve been on the platform for a little over two years now, and I’ve helped establish a few profiles, including the Fantasy_Community. I’ve won a “Watty” for Mermaid Bride, and I became an ambassador. In total, I’ve actually released over 18 full novels and over 20 novellas and short stories on Wattpad. Some have been taken down to allow for full revisions and their eventual publication, but others will remain up.

Your pen name is a tribute to your Grandfather, Jim Butler, who inspired you to keep writing. If he checked in on you today, what do you reckon he would say about your writerly endeavors?

I think he’d probably pick up the latest draft of Identity Revealed and ask, “So when are you gonna actually finish this, sweetheart?”

I was actually working on Identity Revealed (then just The Portal) on the last night I saw him. He read the chapter where my protagonist slips through time, and that was when he smiled and told me he believed in me. I was really quite young then, so it’s not surprising that I had to rewrite so much of it. I cut my teeth on it, and it has been rewritten over 25 times so it bears little similarity to that initial draft. Though the time slip does still happen.

But Grandpa would probably tell me to finish it up and let it go. Then he’d want to know what had changed and what was new and whether I wanted to go pick up a pizza with him. (And I would definitely say yes.)

J.M. Butler having a Leia moment
J.M. Butler having a Leia moment

You are a prolific writer and you keep your readers satiated with new material. How do you keep up the breakneck pace?

If I don’t write, I feel antsy. The longer I go without writing, the worse it gets. Sometimes failure to write even triggers a headache. Each day I set aside time to write, even if it’s just in a notebook or dashed off on a legal pad while waiting for a client to show up. It’s a rather useful addiction to have as an author.

However, Wattpad has exacerbated the addiction. I have a solid group of readers who regularly interact with the stories, asking questions, offering thoughts, and otherwise anticipating the upcoming chapters. Each morning when I wake up, I find new questions and conversations with people who want to know more about these worlds and characters.

I’m not yet at a point where I can write full time. So I have to juggle this between keeping house, running a law firm, and volunteering. The need to write helps me carve out time in between tasks while my readers and the community motivates me to push even harder and encourages me even when I feel like I’m drowning.

In fairness though, my level of productivity varies, and I’ve learned to be flexible. This last week for instance included my sister’s wedding, two jury trials, a cracked windshield, and an allergic reaction to ground bee stings among other things. So I’ve only managed to eke out a couple chapters total. It used to bother me when I couldn’t meet my quota, but now I’ve accepted that that is just how it is sometimes, and that’s all right.

On Wattpad, you curate your own list of good fantasy novels. If you had to suggest one that is similar in some way to your own work which would it be?

Ah, yes, I need to update that list with some more of the treasures I’ve uncovered.

Some of the best that I’ve found are Brittanie Charmintine’s Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them (hilarious tongue in cheek spin on teen drama, environmentalism, and coming of age), Amber K. Bryant’s Fold series (hauntingly sweet paranormal about a girl and a boy and other dimensions), Sarah Benson’s Born of Shadow (gripping Egyptian action adventure for teens and adults), and Emily Keys The Dragon’s Throne (high fantasy adventure with a fun spin on dragons and magic).

You stated on your website recently that there is an exciting announcement soon. Any hints?

Yes! I can share some of it now. My story, Why Yes, Bluebeard, I’d Love To, is one of the top 25 finalists in the Target and Simon & Schuster anthology competition, Once Upon Now. The other news I have to sit on a little longer, but hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it soon.

Thank you so much for this opportunity and for being willing to work with my schedule. It was a privilege to be here. I hope you have a wonderful day!

To read more on J.M. Butler please visit her Wattpad Page