Writing Jackals Wild was one of the weirdest and most satisfying things I've ever done.
Weird because I was suddenly inhabiting the mind of 20-year-old males and having awkward flashbacks to my own college days (like that time I fell on my face going up the stairs in the dining hall and this cute guy tried to help. Ack!).
Satisfying because it was the first time I had created something...I actually cared about.
Keeping It Simple
Jackals Wild is my first full-length novel, so I wanted to keep everything simple. I followed the basic structure of a 90-minute rom-com—which meant a fast pace, low angst, and a dose of heart at the end.
And yes, it's very easy to figure out who the "bad guy" is at the end, but the goal was not to write a groundbreaking novel or offer a "twist" or anything; the goal was to make a simple yet enjoyable story, which sometimes requires a bit of predictability (especially in the romance genre).
The types of stories and romances I enjoy often involve first love and that feeling of innocence, as well as the power of friendship and kindness. When I was younger, I loved Stargirl, The Truth About Forever, Walk Two Moons, The Princess Diaries—there’s just something so comforting about a young, innocent kind of love. That’s the kind of feeling I wanted to capture in Jackals Wild—but with college-aged characters.
Adam and Carter originally started out as best friends. My original plan was to write an erotic short featuring a guy who finds an NSFW video of his BFF. But then I decided to stop writing short erotica (see why in my previous post). Instead, the new goal was to turn this strange little premise into a full-fledged novel.
I wanted this new story to be something fun, something not-too-heavy, something feel-good. What better than a college setting, where everyone is still figuring themselves out amid wacky shenanigans?
Porn Star With a Heart of Gold
The porn star angle was something I've been wanting to explore. I don’t know any adult film actors personally nor have I ever met one, but I’ve wondered: What if I did? How would I react? Would I see them in a different way? People have their own reasons for going into the adult film industry, and I wanted to portray it in a healthy light.
While in the middle of writing and doing research for Jackals Wild, I came across an article about a former adult film actress, Belle Knox, who used her income from porn to pay her tuition at Duke. She suffered insults and backlash after one of her classmates outed her side job.
It made me think that while *most* people have no problem watching porn, it becomes a different story once a porn star goes to their school—kind of like a threat, as if the porn star was infiltrating their personal space in some way.
My initial plan was to keep things drama-free and have “Quentin” a complete secret from the rest of the student body all the way to the end, with only Adam and Carter knowing and their love growing from working on their private project.
But that would have defeated the purpose of having Quentin’s Room as a plot device in the first place.
After reading the article about Belle Knox, I realized that I needed to incorporate some of that same fallout in Jackals Wild—to show how gossip can affect even the most aloof person and to use it as the catalyst for Adam finding his confidence and defending the person he loves.
Another aspect of the story that became a little more serious than originally intended was the resolution between Carter and his father.
There are a lot of stories that involve emotionally distant parents, and I wanted to put a slightly different spin on that by creating a father whose motivations stemmed from fear of his in-laws due to a financial/power imbalance.
I got the idea for Dr. Ellison’s insecurities after hearing stories about people my parents knew who had married into money. The women who were “lucky” enough to get hitched to a wealthy family ended up being glorified maids to their in-laws and husband. There was a strong power imbalance rooted in money, and the less wealthy side was often in “servitude.” With Dr. Ellison, that attitude ended up straining his view of his own self-worth.
Do you remember the part where Carter tells the whole floor he lost his virginity? That really happened at a floor meeting my sophomore year. We were sharing what we did over winter break, and when it was this guy's turn, he confidently announced, "I finally lost my virginity!!!" I think he even went on to explain the where and the how (and probably horrified some of the freshmen), but all I remember was that one line 😁
When I was thinking up ideas for Jackals Wild, that particular floor meeting was one of the first things that came to mind and I knew I had to put it in the story. The floor meeting scene in chapter 3 where Carter annoys Adam with his random observations was my favorite one to write because some of my fondest memories from college involved my dormmates and becoming a sort of family with the people on my floor: writing notes on each other's whiteboards, knowing my neighbor's sex schedule, that one person who always burned popcorn in the communal microwave...
Other "fun facts":
- Jackals are tricksters in African folklore—which I thought was fitting for a college setting, where a variety of shenanigans are always taking place.
- While trying to figure out what to name the school, I searched for towns and villages in England. Since Bramburgh is supposed to be an "Ivy League" type of school, I wanted a vintage-sounding name. I came upon Bamburgh, an actual village in North East England. I immediately liked the sound of it and added the 'r' as a differentiator.
- Bramburgh being an elite college and also a top party school is based on USC and UPenn (which was, strangely, named #1 party school in America by Playboy in 2014).
- The several references to ghosts and demons are because I love horror. Anything with a haunted house/creepy kids/supernatural, I enjoy.
- I was originally going to write everything from Adam’s POV because I am not a big fan of dual. But most romance readers prefer dual, so I challenged myself to write from Carter’s POV—and he ended up becoming my favorite character. I think Adam would agree 🧡
- The concert scene where Adam thinks the drummer makes eye contact: that was me, 100% certain that I'd locked eyes with the lead singer from All-American Rejects during a concert my freshman year 😂
- My goal with Jackals Wild was just to write a funny story and bring people back to their college days. It was a nice trip down nostalgia lane for me, and I hope it made some people feel the same!
I hope this post gave you a bit of fun insight into my thought process while writing. It took me a little over three months to finish the manuscript, then another month to edit/proof. By the end, my brain had turned to mashed potatoes.
Update 2023: I've enjoyed developing and writing novels so much that I'm now transitioning to ghostwriting for authors of all genres, and I'm very excited!