Updated on 28th December 2012
Tell us a bit about your family. I live in Seattle with my husband and cat—not sure which will be trained first. Might be a lost cause. Currently, my daughter and her four little boys live here, too, so lots of noise and hopping going on. We made monster cookies this afternoon and the kitchen will never be the same. This is not conducive to either page production or fitting into cute jeans. LOL. But they’re fun.
What is your favorite food? I always say strawberry shortcake but I’m originally from Idaho, so the real truth is I love potatoes just about any way you can think of. Yes, I make killer hashbrowns.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I come from storytellers on both my mother’s and father’s side, so it’s only natural that I’d be one, too. Also, I grew up on a farm in Owyhee County, Idaho, where my Hearts of Owyhee series is set. That area was perfect for someone who dreamed a hundred or so years in the past, especially since the culture hadn’t changed much. People ask me all the time about researching, and the truth is, I have to research far less than some of my sister WHR authors, so I was lucky to grow up there. The vernacular, the mindset, the manners, and just how daily life was lived are all part of my childhood. Lucky me!
When and why did you begin writing? I started writing after a bout of pneumonia laid me up for a month. The only books left to read were Romances and I refused to read one. But my daughter finally convinced me and I was so hooked, I started writing my own for fun. That book is well hidden from the public, but it was a grand adventure.
When did you first know you could be a writer? Probably when the first review came in. I thought she was just being nice but then I found out this particular reviewer rarely ever gives five stars and never gives pity reviews. So I felt like I earned my badge, and I’ve been working hard to better my craft since then.
What inspires you to write and why? I don’t know for sure. Great books inspire me. Poor books don’t. I’ve never had the “I can write a better book than that” moment that I’d call inspiring. But give me a book that pulls me in so much that I become the heroine, and I can hardly wait to get back to writing my own book.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? Two genres—fantasy romance and western historical romance. Fantasy is so fun because you can make a whimsical story world and do whatever you want as long as you follow your own rules. I love faeries, dragons, unicorns, sorcerers, and the works. Western historical romance is easiest for me to write because I come from the West and it’s who I am. Plus, I have a jillion story ideas that I’m just dying to write. And more keep coming!
Who or what influenced your writing over the years? I’m in a great critique group. In the beginning, we held classes, figuring that if we had to learn something well enough to teach it, we’d get a much more solid understanding of each craft element. It’s the best thing we ever did. There have been numerous authors who have been very supportive and taught me a lot outside our group as well. Romance writers are a lot of fun and wonderfully helpful.
What made you want to be a writer? I never did want to be a writer. My first heart’s desire was to be a television baseball announcer, but I gave up that notion by the time I was about ten. My mother wanted me to be a writer so obviously that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But sometimes professions choose you, not the other way around, and that’s what happened to me.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Actually doing the writing. I love creating characters and getting to know them. I adore plotting and plunking these people in ludicrous, dangerous, or exasperating situations. And of course, typing The End is the ultimate high. But the 90,000 words in between are a lot of hard work. You have to turn the crank every day.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Hearts of Owyhee series, Much Ado About Miners. The heroine in this book is the sister of the heroine in the first book, Much Ado About Marshals. In fact, she shot the hero in that book, so you know she’s going to shoot from the hip in this book, too.
Can you tell us about your main character? In Much Ado About Mavericks, the hero is Benjamin Lawrence, a highly successful Boston attorney who has to return to Owyhee County in the Idaho Territory to settle his father’s estate. He’s hoping a week will give him enough time to take care of everything, pack up his mother and sister, go back to Boston, and marry the boss’s daughter. The last thing he wants is to lose his heart to his father’s foreman, a beautiful redhead called Jake (Janelle Kathryn, shortened to J.K., aka Jake).
Jake O’Keefe has been on her own since she was twelve years old and is regarded as the best foreman in Idaho Territory. Her goal is to build her own horse ranch and to do it, she has to get clear title to the Circle J, which she can’t do if Ben sells off his ranch and hightails it back East. There’s no room in her plans for any greenhorn lawyer, that’s for sure.
How did you develop your plot and characters? First a situation and one character happens. I don’t know how, it just does. Then I ask who would antagonize both the character and the situation the most, and that’s how I get the love interest. Once I settle on the two main characters, I start filling out forms that I designed through the years, borrowing questions from just about every writer that ever gave me advice. After that, the characters marinate for a while, and then I channel them and write an autobiography. Here’s an example from the first book in the Hearts of Owyhee series, Much Ado About Marshals: http://www.jacquierogers.com/maam_cole.html.
When the characters are solid and I know them as well as I know myself, then the plotting starts. I use a form to plot out the bones. Not one word gets written until I know my characters through and through, and I have a destination. The actual story rarely ever follows my plot, but that’s okay. The destination is what’s important.
Why did you choose to write this particular book? Much Ado About Mavericks came about because I was daydreaming about the fun my sister and I used to have playing cowboys when we were kids. We had horses and thought ourselves quite accomplished riders. Truth is, I always wanted to be better—better at roping, for sure (never did get the hang of it), and much better looking. I was a good rider and an excellent shot, but of course you can always improve. Jake O’Keefe is what my ten-year-old self wanted to be like and I thought it would be fun to bring her to life.
Will you write others in this same genre? Besides the Hearts of Owyhee series, I have a Soiled Dove mini-series planned (a spin-off of Much Ado About Madams) and another book started, set in 1883 on the railways of Colorado, which could be the beginning of a new series. So yes, I plan to continue to write western historical romance. But I also intend to write both fantasy romance and traditional westerns as well, and I even have a YA fantasy started.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? No, other than an optimistic outlook. I write to give readers a little vacation from their daily stress. I want them to have fun right along with me, and be able to rest their brains. Yes, braincandy. I love that word. I love to read it and I love to write it. Enough people are dealing with serious issues that I feel absolutely no compulsion at all to add to the pile.
How much of the book is realistic? Much Ado About Mavericks, and all the Hearts of Owyhee books, are very realistic in terms of setting, social values, jargon, and life style. I grew up in Idaho with little outside communication—the Old West lives and breathes in Owyhee County to this day. Also, the women in Owyhee County weren’t shrinking violets. You can read more about the two strong women, Kitty Wilkins and Joe Monaghan, who influenced Jake’s character development. http://tinyurl.com/cvn654z
Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Oh yes. Bwahahaha. Some of my friends haven’t found out yet, either. I’ve used my childhood neighbors who played music for the Grange dances in most of the books, and my sister is in Much Ado About Mavericks. She owns the general store. My publisher and his wife are in Mavericks, too. (That was especially fun!) My heroes are all based on various aspects of the men in my life—my husband, my brother, and my dad. I have a notion of what a real hero should be like because I’ve always had good men around, and some not-so-good ones for comparison.
How important do you think villains are in a story? The villain makes or breaks a story, in my opinion. A hero can’t show any more strength than what it requires to overcome the villain, so in a way, the villain is the very most important character. I spend just as much time developing villains as I do the hero and heroine. Sometimes more, because it’s a lot harder for me. The villain I’m most proud of is Hannibal Hank Turell in Much Ado About Madams, but the villain in Much Ado About Mavericks was very challenging just because of the circumstances, and I was happy how he shaped up.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I no longer live in Owyhee County, Idaho, so I have traveled back several times to research and to smell the sagebrush. The alkali dirt and the hot desert air always inspire more stories. I’ve also gone to Colorado to ride on the steam train from Durango to Silverton in preparation for a manuscript in progress that I set there. But no, not much travel, unfortunately. I love to go museum-hopping in small towns but there’s not enough time to do everything I want to do, that’s for sure.
Who is your favorite author and why? I’ve never read by author, probably because I’m name-challenged and have a hard time remembering anyone I haven’t met. In fact, when I joined the writers’ world, I was shocked that others had autobuy authors. It’s something I’d never heard of. But if I had to pick an author, let’s go back to my college days and visit my Comparative Mythology class. We read Mary Renault’s A King Must Die and that book fascinated me so much that I read all of her other books except the last one. Mary Renault passed on and now I just can’t bring myself to read the last one because I know there won’t be any more.
What are your current writing projects now? Current projects are:
Much Ado About Miners (Hearts of Owyhee #4), April 2013
An untitled (and unsold) western romance set in 1883 Colorado
Faery Hot Dragon, a fantasy romance novella
A YA fantasy
A traditional western short story for a Wolf Creek anthology
A mini-series, Soiled Doves, a spin-off of Much Ado About Madams
And a western fantasy romance serial—yes, faeries in the Old West
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’m reading The Last Honest Seamstress by Gina Robinson. Great book. Before that, I read a biography of Louis L’Amour, and before that, The Handsomest Man in the Country by Nancy Radke, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? I’m excited that some excellent authors are now published. I’ve been reading their works for years and scratching my head, wondering why no one had picked them up yet. Some outstanding authors are Eilis Flynn, Gerri Russell, Ann Charles, Nancy Radke, Heather Hiestand, Joleen James, Judith Laik—all who have titles available now. Wendy Delaney will be published by next summer so if you like mystery, give her book a try. Some western authors whose books I enjoyed and are new to me are Troy D. Smith and Matthew Pizzolato.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? Get an ergonomic keyboard and make sure your workstation promotes good posture. Every author I know either has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or is gonna get it unless they take measures to prevent it.
Read voraciously in several genres. Learn point of view, not only the easy stuff—the advanced techniques. Reading is by far the best learning tool there is. Just about every article on writing emphasizes it and for good reason. I’ve read and re-read books—the good ones to see how they did it, and the bad ones to see what didn’t work. It’s important to read work that is poorly written as well, because you learn as you go. Contest judging is an enlightening experience for a relatively new writer. If you’ve finished and polished one manuscript, give judging a try.
What do you do to unwind and relax? I like to watch movies with my husband (if I get to pick them), go to baseball games, the rodeo, or drive on the ferry and go island hopping. I also love to travel to small towns and visit the local museums—the very best information is at places like that. At home, I like to bake and I like to watch other people do yard work.
Thanks to the blog host and Orangeberry Tours for interviewing me today. I appreciate the time and effort a good blog requires. I’d also like to thank all those who took a chance on the Hearts of Owyhee series, and I hope you enjoy the next book as well.
For readers: if you post your sincere opinion in a review, send me the URL and I’ll send you the first chapter of Much Ado About Miners (unedited). You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing your opinions and always strive to make my stories better. My hope is that I’ve given you a few hours of respite from the daily grind. There’s nothing like a smile to lift a person’s spirits.
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Genre – Western Historical Romance
(PG17 – one love scene, not graphic but onscreen)