When you see the cover of her books and when you actually get to read her books, you would not get the sense of where she is from. JJ Mcavoy’s first book was published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who are the same publishers that first picked up the famous book “50 Shades of Grey”. She writes crime fiction, romance, dark romance and romantic comedies (look for her in sports romance too in 2017). Her writing takes you into an escape from your reality, just like Shonda Rhimes does with her television series, JJ Mcavoy says she loves the ruthlessness of Shonda Rhimes’ work and her ability to tell stories that transcends all barriers, not about your race or background- that ability to weave narratives about all works of life and insert diversity into her stories without you realizing she is doing it.
As a young best-selling writer who uses the pen name “JJ MCAVOY”, for this interview, we go into unveiling the writer and get to understand her as an African Triumph, her experience starting out as a young female writer abroad and the inspiration she serves to her readers…
On Being From an African Heritage:
Every time I go to Nigeria, there is an inspiration for me to keep writing, JJ Mcavoy says. One of my favorite African writers that inspire me is Chimamanda Adichie, the author of Americanah. We don’t write the same genre but she serves as a big inspiration because we share the same heritage and I find her narratives very brilliantly told. I was born in Montreal Canada, and I have grown up in the States. My parents are Nigerians, they are Igbos. I see myself as part of the second generation immigrants that feels somewhat disconnected from their home country.
My parents always strived to be successful when they came to the U.S- they saw the medical field or professional fields as the only gateway to success. For my generation, I want more of us to be more creative, to become more movie producers, writers or directors.
One of the reasons I became a writer is because I was trying to explore my talent outside of just reading school books. The immigrant experience says you must have a qualified profession. I want to be part of the wave of young people that are branching out strongly into the whole of media. Being in America as an African, we can tap into the Hollywood, it is not conforming but rather blending cultures. We can be Nigerians but write about other cultures, become more diverse in our creative thinking.I don’t think because I am African that my sole duty is to write about Africa; by just being African no matter what I write I represent my culture. My stories feature African American women and other race, the stories aren’t inherently belonging to any one culture. I write stories that can fall into any race or culture. When you look back at movies or what shapes society, it is movies that aren’t linked to anything; If we bring in our point of view into “Americanized work”- it will help us spread and we can become truly representative.
As much as I love that my books are mainstream, I still want to write something about my heritage but I want it to be authentic. I connect with my stories. My readers tell me that when they read my books, they see themselves in it. Someone once told me that they thought I was Asian because they could read the book and connect to the story.
I am happy I did not use my real name Judy Onyegbado, it gave me freedom as a writer that I wanted. With my real name, people have preconceptions of what my book should be about but because of my pen name, people could just read the book as they want.
“What if you could do anything at any time, what kind of person would you be?” -That was the question that prompted me to explore my first trilogy-the Ruthless People Series…
Trying to wade the waters between Nigeria, Africa and being an Americanized person, I am still trying to figure out exactly where I am trying to go with my work – the next generation immigrant that isn’t directly linked to their home country, for instance, I understand Igbo but I struggle to speak it. The thing about my stories is that even though it is fiction, there is still an authenticity and I want that same authenticity when I do write a book that speaks directly to my heritage. In all, I want to show Nigerians in America that you don’t have to always go the original path like to be a doctor or lawyer. You can still be creative. For my American and widely spread international readers, I want them to see and appreciate my heritage (where I come from) but understand that we read and like books just like they do; I want to serve as that kind of bridge or connection…
The Writing Start:
I started right after high school when I was 19 but I didn’t publish until I was 22. I was writing poetry when I was much younger. I wrote the ten books within the span of two years. At that time I was in college living in the dorms. I cut down how much time I want to sleep, I didn’t party in college or socialize much with other people. I was writing in between classes, or even sometimes in class which I know I shouldn’t. I type really fast and I wrote at any break I had. I was always excited about the next chapter and the next, so I would write all the time. I spent average three to four weeks to write one book each, and during those times I was like a zombie. I didn’t even wear make-up and was just focused on writing.
I got my agent at the end of 2013 after sending queries to over 60-80 literary agents. My current agent Natanya Wheeler is from the Nancy Yost Agency. Four months after I sent that many queries was when I heard back from only four who requested the first three chapters, and then after that only two agents showed serious interest in publishing. My first book was published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Press. After I got my agent, we decided to indie-pub rather than the traditional route because of the flexibility and income potential. My agent really likes my work and is truly excited about every book we publish. I trust and listen to her because I know she is not just speaking as an agent but a fan.
If you ask JJ why she began writing, she would tell you- “They wanted to get their story out”.
Before I started writing, I would watch a show and get upset with the ending; I was always thinking of different endings to all these other stories. I started Ruthless People with trying to see how they end; the characters were in my head for a long time and I had to get it out. I never think of a story from the beginning to the end, I only think of the start or the end and how they make that work. I needed the stories to come full circle on their own . The characters are too much in my end- scenes that could go together or things they could say or do, and the only way to get them out is to write them. Right now I have notepads of scenes, it keeps coming in my head that if I don’t write it, I feel like I would have forgotten it.
Asked JJ, how do you know when the book is complete? She replied, when I can take a break and at a good point I feel I could stop. When I can take a break not to go eat but for two or three days without writing, then I know I have completed that book to a point where the characters feel fulfilled.
What does being a young published author mean to you?
She replied, Hard Work, dedication, passion for writing, and most of all to me- it means a personal success. I have achieved something I set out to achieve quite quickly than I thought possible. Each time I wrote a book, I am surprised at myself. Surprised that they buy it and they read it. There is an achievement level. It also means Perseverance, to send out 80 queries and not hear back takes perseverance, each time you kind of expect you would hear back and not getting any was as good as being rejected. I didn’t send out all 80 on the same day but over time, and to have kept putting myself out there regardless of the rejection letters that came in or the lack of response, required quite an amount of perseverance.
A total of ten books with her most recently released, titled “That thing Between Eli and Gwen”. JJ McAvoy gives us a glimpse of what these books are about and her thoughts behind each of them. We decided that she would narrate each novel in one sentence…
My reasons for writing lies in the “What If’s” ; I imagine, I always want to see if I could make some things possible.
Let’s begin with the most recently released, a one liner that describes each book or series?
“That Thing Between Eli and Gwen” : I would say- “The worst best wedding.” I wrote this because it is kind of a romantic comedy, made me laugh and was something funny for me to write.
“Child Star Series” ( has three books) : “Love in the chaos of Hollywood”.
I wrote it when the “50 Shades of Grey” craze was going on and their actors were being scrutinized by the public. This series depicts the life of actors behind the movies and how the role they take up puts them under public scrutiny. The actors becoming the characters- “I wonder what it would be like for an actor who is forever known by the role they play?”
“Black Rainbow” : “One night, which led to one week which changed a lifetime.”
Black rainbow was written after starting the Ruthless People series. I guess I wanted to see if I could write a romance crime related.
“Sugar Baby Beautiful”: “Not all love is created equal”.
This book, I wrote for a friend and I honestly can’t say why without spoiling the book.
“The Ruthless People Series” ( has four books and a short novel): “We were all fakers: liars, lying to people who were lying to themselves.”
I wanted to explore when two powerful people meet in a modern day and what would happen. I wanted to do a rendition of the mafia; to know if there could be love inside the mafia.
Tell about the designing cover of all these books : I designed all of the books cover myself so I could efficiently put what I imagined the book to be in my head down in the best ways the stories play out.
How did you want readers to feel after reading the book?
The books are supposed to be strangely empowering for the readers. These characters could do whatever they want however, the readers get a chance to live vicariously in these situations.
The connection to readers, how would you describe it?
The connection to my readers is a very personal one. For me to spend months and hours writing and to put it out; to hear someone say they love it- is the best feeling in the world. I definitely love my readers and I love hearing from them.
JJ McAvoy is truly a rare gem, taking us inside her world and head space of her creative process. A true young leader in her field to be acknowledged for her creative brilliance. She holds a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Bowie Maryland on September 17,2016, which is her next upcoming event. She is also set to tour next year starting from Berlin in July 2017. Her books are currently being shopped around for film and TV. Most of her titles are also available as audiobooks. When asked as her final question for this interview, her message to aspiring young writers, she answered: “JUST DO IT!”. It seems very simple she said, but that is the model I feel we should live up to; you can’t fail to do what it is that you want to with your life, so far as you do what you set out to do, you have succeeded. JUST DO IT!