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« New feature: Spectacular setting | Main | Indie Tuesday: Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones by Joan Reeves »
Tuesday
Sep132011

Interview with Joan Reeves, Author of Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones

Joan Reeves is the self-published, best-selling author of books such as Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones, Romeo and Judy Anne, and The Trouble With Love. She recently took time out of her schedule to answer some questions for me, so make sure you check them out and get to know Joan a little better!

Kristyn: How did you get your started in writing? How did you decide to write romance?

Joan: I've always written from the age of nine. I still have some school papers on which the teacher taped a blue ribbon for excellence. Although my writing began early, I never completed a book-length work until my daughter was born. I was a stay-at-home mom and felt as if my brain was turning into Silly Putty. I had always loved to read so I decided to write a book. After all, how hard could it be? I learned the answer to that question in a very short period of time--it's one of the hardest things in the world if it's done right.

My first book was simply awful. I would have burned it, but there was a certain amount of triumph just in having completed a story from beginning to end. 

My second try won a rather prestigious writing competition for writers. Although the contest was not associated with Romance Writers of America in any way, I had discovered the organization a few years before and had become a member. I learned so much about writing and about the business of being an author from RWA, and that's what enabled me to write a manuscript that was judged as worthy of winning the award.

That book didn't get published, but writing it taught me a lot. By then, even though I knew how publishers pigeon-holed books, I'm hard-headed as my mom always said. I persisted in writing books that I wanted to write--which didn't fit those neat little slots editors wanted to fill.

My third book was about something I wanted to explore: why a woman would marry for money. I sent it to the late great Kate Duffy, not because I considered the book a romance even though there was a romance in it, but because I'd heard her speak at a conference, and I liked her blunt honesty. To my surprise that book sold to Kate's company which happened to be publishing romance.

So, in actuality, I guess I didn't pick romance; one might say it picked me.

Kristyn: What is your writing process like? Where do your ideas for your books come from? Once you have an idea, how long does it take to complete a book?

Joan: My process? *LOL* I guess it's equal parts craziness and consistency, if that makes sense. I start out with an idea, and I get a bare-bones outline of the story from plot point to plot point. I know who my main characters are and what drives them. I figure out the vital stats for them: birth dates, how old they were during significant events (internal and external) in their lives.

Then I start trying to flesh all that out, and that's when everything gets crazy. No matter how hard I try, I just can't write detailed outlines of the book, scenes, or character sketches, and all that so many experts say you must have before writing. I'm just too impatient. I want to know these people and see them in action.

So I start writing. I'll make notes when I read a previous day's work, but I try to keep going until I must stop. That's usually when I have about a fourth of the story done. Then I kind of take a step back, look at it, make more notes about things that need to be clarified or foreshadowed or changed, and even write more fully-realized character profiles.

Then I can take the time to briefly outline the next few chapters and go back to writing until I repeat that stop, analyze, plan process again. That gets me to the end of the book. I always liken it to driving by night when you can see only as far as the headlights allow.

The consistency I mentioned means I write every day when I'm working on a manuscript. If I can't write for some reason, I get cranky because I want to be at the end as quickly as possible. It takes however long it takes, but usually I can have a long work completed in 6 months although I will tinker with a book forever if I'm allowed to do so.

My ideas come from the same place as any author's: everything I've ever seen, heard, read, or experienced filtered through my conscious and sub-conscious. Since we're all different, that's why 10 authors can take the same idea and come up with 10 completely different stories.

Kristyn: Why did you decide to go the self-published route with some of your more recent ebooks?

Joan: I'd like to say that I sold that first book and became an overnight sensation. Too bad that's just not true. My writing just never fit into those little pigeon holes editors and agents, wisely labeled The Gatekeepers by many Indie authors. I was always told that my ideas didn't have strong marketing hooks. I couldn't even get my books read by NY. Right now The Trouble With Love and Romeo and Judy Anne are two very popular books I've published. I can't remember how many times each was turned down because they weren't marketable.

I'd followed the ebook revolution, and I knew that this was the opportunity I'd always wanted to get my writing in front of readers. Readers are smart. They know what they like. I hoped there would be enough who liked my writing that I could sell maybe a hundred books a month. Talk about low expectations! But I'd had my writing ego beaten into the ground by years of rejection.

Instead of a hundred a month, I sold 10,000 the first month. My books have been embraced by readers. They have made me a bestselling romance author. For that I'm eternally grateful, and I'll work hard to give them the kind of books they like--which is also the kind I like: books that leave you with a smile on your face. 

Kristyn: If someone asked you which of your books they should read first, what would you say? Why?

Joan: With the exception of the series I'm publishing, it really doesn't make any difference in which order my books are read. Currently, I have what I call The Lingerie Covers which are these books: Just One Look, Still The One, and JANE (I'm Still Single) JONES Jones.

I am partial to Jane because the fictional town I created is a stand-in for my hometown which is filled with eccentric people, a highly active gossip mill, and lots of southern friendliness.

I liked the Vernon Ladies Bridge Club that I created in the book. In fact, I like it so much that I'm trying to schedule time to write a Christmas story featuring the delightful blue-haired ladies of the club, many of whom remind me greatly of my late mother and her friends.

The Texas One Night Stands series has Book 1, The Trouble With Love, and Book 2, Romeo and Judy Anne available. The series, though connected, can be read in any order I suppose, but if you're linear like me, do them in the right order. There will be 2 more books in this series with Book 3, Forever Starts Tonight, being published next summer. 

Currently, I'm writing Book 1 of a novella series called The Good, The Bad, and The Girly. Book 1 is Old Enough To Know Better, and I should have finished it and published it this summer, but I've had several unfortunate circumstances arise from a dead computer to my daughter's medical problems, to the most recent wildfire at my weekend house where I'd gone to focus on writing and catch up. Well, between packing mementoes and being on standby to evac from the fire, that just didn't happen. I'll be having to again apologize to readers who email me and ask when that will be published.

Kristyn: Who is your favorite author, and what is your favorite book?

Joan: That's an unanswerable question. I know far too many authors of every genre to name any one as a favorite writer or to name a favorite book for fear of hurting someone's feelings. When asked this, which is fairly often, I usually list a few authors that I read on a regular basis, and I try to list different names each time to expose readers to new authors.

Here's my list today: Linda Howard, Elaine Raco Chase, Allison Kent, Cynthia Wicklund, Gerry Bartlett, Colleen Thompson, Nina Bangs, Cheryl Bolen, Karen McQuestion, Nina Cordoba, Shana Galen, AnneMarie Novark, Marie Force, Terri Reid, Laurel Dewey, Dean Koontz, Lawrence Block, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, and J. R. Rain.

Kristyn: Who has most influenced you as an author?

Joan: This may be a surprising answer. Three people influenced me greatly: the late Rebecca Guice, the late Kathleen Woodiwiss, and mystery author Lawrence Block.

Miss Guice was my high school English teacher, and she was a kind of modern day Emily Dickinson. She taught me how to write, and she taught me that there was a world beyond the small southern town in which I found myself. She was a woman of ideas who lost the great love of her life in WWII. She never married, but she guided the lives of many as they passed through her classroom.

Ms. Woodiwiss was one of the authors who started the modern historical romance revolution. Her first book, The Flame and The Flower, is held in great affection by millions of romance readers. She married sexuality with love to create books where there was no fadeout when the lovemaking began. Although I didn't care for her first book much, I thought her books A Rose In Winter and Shana were seminal works of romance. If you meet a Shana in today's world, you can know that the woman's mother was a fan of the book by that name.

Lawrence Block has written just about everything in his stellar career. One of the books he wrote and self-published was Write For Your Life. That book set me on the road to a career as a published author. I remember so clearly a "contract" he had in the book. The reader was to write the statement: "I am now willing to act in the presence of fear."

It may sound silly to non-writers, but it's terrifying to write something and then to let someone you don't know read it. I didn't overcome the fear of submitting my work. Instead, thanks to Mr. Block's book, I learned to act in the presence of fear.

Want to know more about Joan and her books? Check her out on her website: Slingwords.blogspot.com. Thanks so much to Joan for taking time to answer my questions and connecting with us!

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Reader Comments (4)

Awesome!!!

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Kristyn, thank you so much for the interview. I must apologize for being so long-winded, but I always enjoy talking about writing.

Best wishes,
Joan Reeves

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Reeves

What a great interview of a great writer and long time friend!

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElaine Raco Chase

Every time I read one of Joan Reeves's interviews, I learn something new and informative. It's always a pleasure.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Wicklund

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