Thursday, March 17, 2011

Girlfriends, Part 3 by Jeannie Watt

This week, Deb Salonen, Ellen Hartman, and Jeannie Watt combined their blog days into a threesome...welcome to Day 3 of the Girlfriends interviews.

Tuesday: Deb explains what prompted her to write a 9-book series set in a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I mean, seriously, girlfriend, how many people even know where South Dakota is?

Wednesday: Ellen answers those hard questions like...hockey? Really? You decide to write a sports-theme book and you choose hockey?

Thursday: Jeannie is quizzed about rattlesnakes and marathon running because...well, neither Deb nor Ellen get the running thing, but they're dying to hear some rattlesnake stories. (Who isn't?)


Good morning and Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's been a ton of fun interviewing and being interviewed by my friends, Deb and Ellen. 

Today I'm giving away a $15 gift card to either Amazon or Starbucks--your choice.  May the luck of Irish be with you.


Ellen: In "The Brother Returns," the hero, Brett Bishop, is a bit of a bad boy cowboy. When the readers first meet him, he's trying to remove a snake from the heroine's kitchen and he's afraid the snake will crawl up his jeans. When I read that, it was a surprising, but fresh detail and I've been in love with Brett ever since. Did you plan that this moment of worry would make the "bad boy" more loveable? Did you consider making him confront the snake with no worries?

Jeannie: Actually I planned that moment to add realism, since I have yet to meet a Nevada cowboy who isn’t leery of snakes. I’m sure non-leery guys are out there—I just haven’t met one yet. I think, since Nevada is rattlesnake country, it’s something mothers hammer into their young—stay away from all snakes. But you’re right about making the bad boy more loveable. He’d done a pretty rotten thing to his brother, so I had to make him as human as possible. The snake incident really helped the reader get into his head and see that he was a decent guy.


Deb: You’re a runner in a hot yet beautiful state.  What's that like?

I like the part after running the best

Jeannie: First of all, I never meant to be a runner. I fought it tooth and nail, but my husband coached cross country (six state champion teams), my kids ran cross country (members of those state champion teams), and eventually I ran, too (no state championships to date). I was convinced I couldn’t run because no one ever told me there were speed options. I thought there was only one speed. Fast. And I couldn’t run fast for more than a couple hundred meters. When I was in college, my gymnastic coach told us that anyone who couldn’t run a mile would be kicked off the team. I tried to run the mile, but failed miserably because I was, of course, trying to sprint that mile at breakneck speed. I  was quite possibly approaching the 4-minute-mile mark when I collapsed like a heap of quivering Jello on the track.  After scraping me up, the coach had mercy and did not kick me off the team. Probably because my team was like the Bad News Bears and we needed everyone foolish enough to be on it.

As to running in Nevada, I'm usually battling either heat, snow,  mud or snakes. There's only a few times of year when I can run when I want, where I want. Usually I run early in the morning to avoid the heat and I stay on the road to avoid the snakes.

Deb: Speaking of snakes, you must have stories of your own.

I do have stories. There was the rattlesnake that floated down the creek and docked next to my son who was playing in the water (that snake is toast). The two snakes waiting for me where I pump water out of the creek (also obliterated). The one my hairdresser killed with a rock in my driveway when she came to the house to cut my hair. (We have tough beauticians where I live.) There are many others, but in eighteen years, I’ve probably encountered only a dozen rattlers close to the house. My neighbor, on the other hand, lives in the adobe officer’s quarters of an honest to goodness frontier fort. It’s very old, as you can imagine. One morning she found a rattlesnake on her kitchen drain board. Compared to that, I have no good stories.

Ellen: You submitted to Superromance through the slush pile and you went through a few revisions before you sold. Can you tell us how that went?

Jeannie: My very first submission was rejected in late 2003, but the editorial assistant asked to see something else, so I sent the first three chapters of A Difficult Woman. A few months later, Kathleen Scheibling requested a full. She eventually rejected it, but offered to reread if I wanted to rewrite. I thought rewriting was a good idea, particularly since she’d pointed out some areas to address in the rejection letter. I resubmitted and several months later got a call (a call, not THE call) from Kathleen. I believe I babbled a lot as she discussed my book with me. This time I got an honest to goodness revision letter and revised. Kathleen became senior editor of Harlequin American around that time. Many months passed and I suddenly realized that my rejection had probably been lost in the mail months ago, and that I was waiting for something that was never going to arrive. I screwed up my courage and called Harlequin and, wonder of wonders, the person I spoke to knew of my manuscript! It was still under consideration. Three days later Victoria called me (Friday, January 6, 2006 at 9:55 PST—not that it’s etched in my brain or anything) and said that she wanted to buy my book. After the sale I revised again and learned a great deal about tightening my writing. I owe Kathleen and Victoria a huge debt of gratitude for all the direction they've given me.

Deb: You are a pony lover. Tell us about your ponies.

Jeannie: I do have a thing for ponies. I have three now—Dottie, Desi and Studly—but once upon a time I had thirteen. I would have kept every one of them, too, if my husband hadn’t noticed that we had a lot of ponies. We had two or three pony babies a year before I thinned the herd. There is nothing cuter than a pony baby.


Pony Bob with Mama Dottie and Aunt Desi

Dottie, Desi and me

Studly--who's not studly any more. I find this helps keep my herd at a manageable number.


Lightning Round

1. Favorite romance author.

One? Really? Okay, not counting the SuperRomance authors…Georgette Heyer, who introduced me to romance. But I also love Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series. And Sherry Thomas. And Rafael Sabatini. I can’t narrow it down to one. Sorry.

2. Favorite non-romance author.

Dick Francis. And a bunch of other people, but I’m keeping this down to one.

3. Idol or Dancing with the Stars?

Neither—it’s So You Think You Can Dance for me. I have an autographed picture of Mark Kanemura.

4. Something we'd be surprised to find out about you.

I’m just a bundle of surprises. Let’s see—I was an Idaho state gymnastic champion back in the day—vaulting and uneven bars. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Girlfriends Part 2 by Ellen Hartman

This week, Deb Salonen, Ellen Hartman, and Jeannie Watt combined their blog days into a threesome...welcome to Day 2 of the Girlfriends interviews.

Tuesday: Deb explains what prompted her to write a 9-book series set in a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I mean, seriously, girlfriend, how many people even know where South Dakota is?

Wednesday: Ellen answers those hard questions like...hockey? Really? You decide to write a sports-theme book and you choose hockey?

Thursday: Jeannie is quizzed about rattlesnakes and marathon running because...well, neither Deb nor Ellen get the running thing, but they're dying to hear some rattlesnake stories. (Who isn't?)

Jeannie: You are a hockey mom and your October book, Calling the Shots, involved hockey parents. Please tell us how much your fictional hockey world and real hockey world overlapped.

Ellen: While I was writing the book, I spent a lot of time standing around the rink complaining about how much I'd rather be home writing romance novels. Does that count as overlap?

Actually, I got the first nugget of the book when I noticed that the girls on my son's 5th grade team came to practice with their dads and then disappeared into the ladies room to put their gear on while the boys suited up in the locker room. When they were younger, the kids all got dressed together. I started wondering what that shift felt like for the girls and for their dads and from there, the book took on its own life.

Jeannie: I loved the scene where your hero gave the kids hockey tips. Are you a hockey expert? And is it true that Slap Shot is the best hockey movie ever made?

Ellen: First, you are correct. Slapshot is the best hockey movie ever made. (Insert dreamy sigh over Paul Newman.) (Insert warning about foul language and locker room scenes.) (Insert second dreamy sigh over Paul Newman in a hockey uniform.)

As for my hockey expertise? Let's just say no one is going to pay me to coach their future all-star. I wrote Bryan's hockey tips after watching a YouTube video which was made by an actual hockey expert.

Debra: You are by trade a technical writer. How has this affected your fiction writing?

Ellen: I still remember the editorial note I got to add exclamation points to sentences that needed them. I was SHOCKED!!! (Exclamation points are 100% outlawed in the documentation world.)

Debra: Do you feel a great freedom when you write fiction and can use adjectives as often as you desire or do you have to fight the tendency to stick to the facts and progress in an orderly fashion?

Ellen: I'm not much of an adjective person. I use them, but I don't love them. My love of order does come into play when I write romance. The most common reason I bog down in a book is because I can't make it logical. I know the fictional characters are in love and emotional, they're on the verge and prone to rash choices. I get that their lives are in a state of extreme change. But I need them to make sense.

It's all well and good to explain the motivation behind sensible, well-thought out decisions like saving for retirement and saying yes when offered a red velvet cupcake, but when we're talking secret babies, engagements of convenience, and sex in places other than a nice, clean bed...the logic can be difficult to find. It's worth struggling through because I think it's even more emotionally satisfying to read about characters who make well-motivated, but less logical, more dangerous decisions. You can really see how much risk they're taking for their love.

Jeannie: How much research did you do for the Drunken Breakdown scene in Plan B: Boyfriend? Have you ever taken part in this ritual?

Ellen: Did I research a scene in which the characters go out to a sketchy bar, drink too much draft beer, and say rude things about the cheating ex? Um...is my mom reading this thing? Would you believe me if I repeated the hockey tips answer and said I watched a YouTube video?

The real answer is I've never done exactly what Hailey, Charlie, and JT do for Sarah, but I have said plenty of rude things about my friends' exes. That's part of our job as friends, right? The tricky bit is making sure the ex is absolutely out of the picture before saying the rude things. It's kind of hard to "take back" a comment like "his eyes reminded me of a snake" if the couple gets back together.

Debra: Would you recommend this breakdown ritual to others? Are there alternatives for teetotalers?

Ellen: I definitely recommend the Drunken Breakdown, especially if you can end the night dancing with a guy like Charlie McNulty. Nothing wrong with that. For teetotallers? I'd prescribe a night out with friends, rude jokes about the ex, dancing with a handsome guy, and liberal doses of chocolate, ice cream, french fries or all three. My friends and I have said rude things about exes over sushi. The company is what makes the ritual work.

Jeannie: Your road to publication was a little different than that most of us follow. Would you tell us a little about how your first book, Wanted Man, came to be?

Ellen: I owe my career to Susan Gable and the North Texas Romance Writers. I had been working on my manuscript, Painted Love, (I still laugh every time I type that) and was pretty sure it was ready for professional feedback. I bought a critique in an online auction from Super author Susan Gable. She provided me with a tip that changed the opening of the book from fine to a bona fide hook! I entered it in the Great Expectations contest (North Texas RWA) and it came in first, winning $25, a lovely certificate, and a read from a Super editor.

I got a request to send the full manuscript in to Super. While the editor had my book, my life went crazy. My husband got sick, we sold our house and bought another in a chaotic transaction, my husband got sicker, I went back to work outside the home, my husband got sicker, and so on. Finally, about eight months later, my husband was on the mend, we were settled in our new place, my job was stable, and I got a revision letter from Laura Shin at Super. She apologized for the delayed response but if I'd gotten that letter any earlier, I wouldn't have had the time or energy to deal with it.

I revised the book (again!) and Laura said she'd like to publish it. I'd recently found an agent on the playground at the elementary school so basically my whole career is based on coincidence and serendipity of the type I'd be asked to edit out if I dared to write it in a book.

Lightning Round

Favorite romance author?

Tough question! I think I'll go with the romance authors I reread most often instead. This includes Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Favorite non-romance author?

Gosh, I read all the time and in all different genres, so this is tough. Um...Larry McMurtry? Guy Gavriel Kay? Cormac McCarthy?

Idol or Dancing with the Stars?

Neither. Oops. That lie was a pathetic attempt to conceal my pop culture addictions. The true answer is both. But I don't watch them. I read recaps and watch some clips the next day. My only true TV love is Supernatural.

Something we'd be surprised to find out about you?

I won a bronze medal in the McDonald's Employee Olympics. (Competition for best cooking, cleaning, and counter service.) I got points taken off for this fancy flourish move I perfected where I could flip 12 toasted bun lids onto 12 waiting hamburgers in one slick swoop. This break from the standard protocol cost me the silver medal. I've always thought I should have gotten extra credit for style. (I don't have a photo of my McDonald's days. This is from my next job, waitressing midnight to six at Mr. Donut.)

Don't forget...ask a question or answer one of the Lightning Round questions to be entered in the drawing for a $15 gift card to Starbucks or Amazon.
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