Today, this super-smart scientist/writer/daydreamer extraordinaire is joining us to answer some questions about herself, her writing, and how to succeed as a writer. She’s also brought her book, A Hundred Kisses, and a killer excerpt.
What made you want to become a writer?
I am a daydreamer. I love art. I love words. I love to lose myself in the beautiful – be it another world or nature and art. My first role model was my mom, who would spend hours at her easel drawing and painting. She also incorporated poetry into her art. My elementary school art teacher was also an inspiration. As much as I loved to draw, I found myself pulled to the art of stories. It began as girlish fictional stories and teenager angst-heartbreak-filled poetry. This morphed into my love or romance in college. Even as I took a career path in science, the desire to write remained steadfast. And here I am.
What are your books about?
I like happy endings. Up until last year, I only wrote historical romance. I dabbled in a time-travel book (that one’s on hold). My next project is the prequel to A Hundred Kisses. However, people remark that you should “write what you know,” so I jumped genres completely for my latest manuscript (in the submission process), which is a contemporary mainstream women’s fiction novel inspired by personal experiences. I’ve also been working on getting some children’s picture books out there (with an autistic main character; again writing from life experiences). I also write for travel magazines. Perhaps I have too many ideas! But I’m enjoying dipping my fishing poles in a variety of pools.
What have you put most of your effort into regarding writing?
Aside from the actual writing itself… the things that have taken more time and effort include research, editing, learning the business, and honing my craft/skills. While writing the first few books (my “practice novels”), I spent much of my time learning the process, understanding the craft. There is no shortage of writer’s resource books on my shelf; some I still return to with each manuscript. Research is also par for the course, and I enjoy what I learn along the way, even if it doesn’t make it into the book. Learning the business is worth the time investment, too. That comes with plenty of networking and reading. Editing – the bane of most writers’ existence – is a necessary evil. And now, the next chapter in my writing journey has opened: marketing and promoting my book!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
It depends on the book [wink, wink]. My historicals are completely fictional (although real history is packed in there). Of course , here is a little of the writer in all her characters. Two very minor characters in A Hundred Kisses, Peter and Sham, are actually named from a town (Petersham) I drove through one day. My contemporary books tend to have more real-life inspirations. People I know. Family members. People who have wronged me or a loved one. Yup. No one is safe! I will say that I do love my secondary characters. On the querying road, I’ve had some agents say that they detract from the central story (of hero/heroine), where others have enjoyed their presence. I lean toward the later. In fact, the secondary characters quite often become leads in a future novel idea. I feel that a well-rounded cast brings life to a story.
What advice would you give a writer just starting out. Share three pearls of wisdom.
My three P’s:
- Patience. There is a lot of waiting in writing. It all works out on its own timeline, not ours. What to do while waiting (impatiently)? Write something else. Read. Research. Network. Do something to kill the time while you wait.
- Perseverance. Never, ever give up. No matter how many rejections or no’s you get, don’t give up if it’s your dream. I wrote 3 novels before the fourth one finally made it. It took me 19 years. Granted, there was some stopping and starting in there for jobs and early childrearing years, so it took a while. Rejections can hurt. Use them for good. How can you take that rejection and spin it to help you? (e.g. agent/editor/fellow author feedback on your writing/characters/plot – use that in the next manuscript or revise with that feedback in mind – that’s exactly how A Hundred Kisses came to be! I took the advice from an agent and ran with it.)
- Put in the time. This ties into #1. It takes time. There is no magic formula for writing success. I am still at the beginning of my publication journey. I put plenty of time into learning, honing, understanding. I am still journeying and learning. Like any career, it takes some time before you can truly blossom to your full potential. So this also ties into #2. Don’t give up.
Jean is a scientist, part-time education director, and a mom. She currently resides in Massachusetts and draws from her interests in history, science, the outdoors, and her family for inspiration. She enjoys writing non-fiction articles for family-oriented and travel magazines, and aspires to write children’s books while continuing to write novels. In 2008, she visited the land of her daydreams, Scotland, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. Jean enjoys tending to her flower gardens, tackling the biggest mountains in New England with her husband, and playing with her sons, while daydreaming about the next hero to write about…
Two wedding nights. Two dead husbands.
Deirdre MacCoinneach wishes to understand her unusual ability to sense others’ lifeblood energies…and vows to discover if her gift killed the men she married. Her father’s search for a new and unsuspecting suitor for Deirdre becomes complicated when rumors of witchcraft abound.
Under the façade of a trader, Alasdair Montgomerie travels to Uist with pivotal information for a Claimant seeking the Scottish throne. A ruthless baron hunts him and a dark past haunts him, leaving little room for alliances with a Highland laird or his tempting daughter.
Awestruck when she realizes that her unlikely travel companion is the man from her visions, a man whose thickly veiled emotions are buried beneath his burning lifeblood, Deirdre wonders if he, too, will die in her bed if she follows her father’s orders. Amidst magic, superstition, and ghosts of the past, Alasdair and Deirdre find themselves falling together in a web of secrets and the curse of a hundred kisses…
She sensed no colors in the murky, lifeless water, and it was freeing. All breath escaped her. Muted visions passed before her eyes—her mother, her father, Gordon, and Cortland. Just a moment longer, she thought…
Suddenly, a burst of warm light invaded her thoughts as air filled her lungs. Red-hot hands burned her shoulders and ripped her from her icy grave. She breathed life into her body. She coughed, gagging on the change.
Muffled words yelled at her.
Oh, God, so hot. His fingers were like hot pokers. Her head pounded as she slowly returned to the present. Heat radiated from her rescuer. Somebody had pulled her from the water.
“Hush, lass. You nearly drowned.”
His voice was as soothing as a warm cup of goat’s milk on a winter’s day. A red-hot glow emanated from his body. Never before had she felt such a strong lifeblood, and it nearly burned her. She struggled in his arms to get free. She blinked, only seeing a blurry form before her. “Release me!”
She splashed and wriggled, and he did as told. She clambered to the shoreline. Numb and shaken, she began to dress. It wasn’t easy as she fumbled with slick fingers to put dry clothes over wet skin. She instantly regretted her naked swim. She pulled on her long-sleeved white chemise first.
She faced the forest, away from her rescuer. He quietly splashed to shore. His lifeblood burned into her back. He wasn’t far behind, but he stopped. She refused to look at him until she was fully clothed, not out of embarrassment of her nudity, but for what had just happened. He released a groan and mumbled under his breath about wet boots. His voice was not one of her father’s soldiers.
When she put the last garment on, her brown wool work kirtle, she squeezed out her sopping hair and swept her hands through the knotty mess. She fastened her belt and tied the lacings up the front of the kirtle. Blood returned to her fingertips, and she regained her composure. Belated awareness struck her, and she leaned down and searched through her bag for her dagger. She spun around.
She gasped as she saw the man sitting on the stone-covered shoreline, his wet boots off. Confusion and the hint of a scowl filled his strong-featured face. She staggered back, caught her heel on a stone, and fell, dropping the dagger. Dirt and pebbles stuck to her wet hands and feet, and she instinctively scrambled away from him.
His glower, iridescent dark blue eyes, and disheveled black hair were not unfamiliar. Staring at her was the man she had seen in her dream—it was the man from the wood.