Welcome to the one hundred and sixty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with “sweet contemporary romance” novelist Joselyn Vaughn. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Joselyn. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Joselyn: I’m a stay at home mom with two pre-schoolers and a toddler. They keep things pretty crazy. Before they came along, I was a reference librarian at our local library and always figured I would write someday. One day a friend and I were discussing an idea for a program at the library and it developed into a story idea. I went home for lunch and started writing. That eventually became my first published book, CEOs Don’t Cry.
Morgen: I love that; an idea takes shape so quickly. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Joselyn: I write sweet contemporary romances. I think it would be fun to write historical romances or historical fiction, but I don’t have the time for the in-depth research it requires to get all the details right. Maybe when the kids are older and in school, I’ll have more time. Haha.
Morgen: That’s funny. My mum’s retired and she says she never has any spare time. I think once you have a house and interests you can write off sitting twiddling your thumbs, not that that appeals to me. I’d get bored quickly. And I don’t blame you avoiding in-depth research, it’s one of my least favourites. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Joselyn: I have three books published to date: CEOs Don’t Cry, Courting Sparks, and Sucker for a Hot Rod. Hauntings of the Heart is coming out soon. I haven’t seen any of my books in stores except for my local bookstore, but the first two are in a lot of libraries, so it always fun to go online and see that they are checked out.
Morgen: 🙂 Have you ever seen a member of the public (whom you don’t know!) reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Joselyn: No, I wish! One of my critique partners did see someone reading one. That was pretty exciting.
Morgen: Oh wow. I take it they didn’t take a photo. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Joselyn: CEOs Don’t Cry was a finalist in the Greater Detroit RWA Booksellers Best Award, The USA Book News Best Book Award and the winner of the WisRWA Write Touch Readers’ Award. I don’t know if it has helped with sales, but someone from a television show contacted me to appear on their morning show. It didn’t work out (it was more that they were looking for me to advertise with them), but they did come across the book. So it does help with name recognition.
Morgen: That’s a real shame but well done on the other successes. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Joselyn: Yes. I chose it for privacy reasons, but it’s much easier to market “someone else.”
Morgen: It is. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Joselyn: Sucker for a Hot Rod is available as an ebook. Hauntings of the Heart will be too. The process and working with that publisher has been great. I was really excited to have a more affordable book out there. I am reading more and more ebooks. I’ve found it’s much easier to pick up and put down as I’m chasing kids around. And they can’t steal my bookmarks. 🙂 Although they have figured out that they can move things around on my iPod Touch screen. Slimy fingerprints aren’t so good.
Morgen: Or dog noses. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Joselyn: I got The Call while I was changing my daughter’s diaper. I couldn’t answer the phone because there was no way I could finish the diaper change and I couldn’t leave her on the changing table to run for the phone. I ended up getting to listen to the message on the answering machine over and over.
Morgen: For posterity. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Joselyn: Of course. You can’t write without getting them. Most of them have been form letters so they didn’t hurt too much. Recently I got some contest comments that were not very constructive and those hurt. I decided I wouldn’t enter that contest again and tried to put it behind me. I try to focus on the good reviews for that book instead.
Morgen: Not constructive is so frustrating. What’s the point? But then it’s like someone saying “oh that’s good” but not elaborating on which bit works (although I know which I’d rather have). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Joselyn: I just finished a manuscript about the bed and breakfast owner from CEOs Don’t Cry. It is called Hauntings of the Heart. It tackled some much more emotional issues than I’ve tried before, but the characters were so much fun.
Morgen: I love bringing back incidental characters. I’m embarking on a new anthology later this year and a previous character will be rearing her head in one or two of the other stories. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Joselyn: I wish. It usually depends on how tired I am after the kids go to bed and if they cooperate and go to bed nicely. That hasn’t been the case lately. I’m not a fast writer, so I rarely get more than 1000 words down a day.
Morgen: But even if it’s that, it’s good going. 500 words = 182,500 a year. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Joselyn: Writer’s block for usually happens when I don’t want to write what I need to work on next. It took me a couple weeks to tackle one of the emotional memories for Hauntings, mostly because I was intimidated by the scene and whether I could pull it off. And I needed a larger chunk of time to tackle it. I finally made myself sit down and do it. My critique partners say it works, so maybe the downtime helped me mull it out.
Morgen: It often can; think of something else and you’ll see what the problem was by not concentrating on it so hard. A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Joselyn: I do dread that question. I have no idea. The ideas just appear. They get fleshed out with my critique group into something more substantial. Usually I start writing, then something happens and it snowballs from there. In the first scene I wrote of Hauntings of the Heart, Minnie slammed the door in someone’s face and there was the story. Who was he and why was he there and why did she slam the door?
Morgen: That’s the fun for me, not knowing what’s going to happen and finding out as I write. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Joselyn: I get an idea and run with it. I like to see where it takes me for the first draft. For the second draft, I plot it out more. Sometimes I make a spreadsheet, although I have used a calendar too. This helps me see the whole story and make sure characters aren’t stuck with poison ivy for six months at a time. My critique partners laugh every time I pull out the spreadsheets. It does make it easier to sit down in the bits of time I get and work on what needs to be finished.
Morgen: I’m a nerd with tables and spreadsheets all over the place so I’m with you on that one. 🙂 You mentioned characters, do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Joselyn: Some people do all these complex character sheets and interviews, but my characters just appear. Their stories come out as I’m writing. They generally tell me their names. I had one character who said her name was such and such and I couldn’t have it be that, so I changed it to something else, but it never felt right.
Morgen: It’s like JK Rowling where (apparently) she wanted to kill off a particular character in HP7 but he or she (I think we’ll never know who) didn’t want to be killed off so she killed another… I don’t suppose he was at all grateful! Do you write short stories? If so, apart from the word count, what do you see as the differences between them and novels and why do you think they’re so difficult to get published?
Joselyn: I have yet to try a short story, but would really like to. It seems like you have to have a really tight story to have it be emotionally satisfying. I think it will be an intense experience.
Morgen: It’s what I mainly write and it is, I love it. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Joselyn: My critique group is awesome. They really help me figure out plot problems, character problems and see the things I’m missing in the story. One of them should just write ‘needs more emotional reaction’ on the top of every chapter. That seems to be my weakness.
Morgen: Oh dear. But at least you know and can work on it. Critique groups are fab aren’t they – mine spot things I’d never have twigged. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Joselyn: My first drafts are pretty bare-bones, so I have to do a lot of editing. My manuscripts can double in length from the first draft to the final one.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Joselyn: I write all my first drafts by hand. I am enamored with cute notebooks and the feel of a pen sliding across paper. I feel writerly and artsy that way. I am contemplating doing my next first draft on the computer in hopes that it won’t take so much revising. When I handwrite, the story flows very linearly. It’s not easy to go back and add details without drawing a lot of confusing arrows. We’ll see how that works out.
Morgen: Good luck. 🙂 Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Joselyn: I get more work down when it’s quiet or when the background noise is a dull mumble. I try to write during my kids’ downtime in the afternoon. They watch Bob the Builder or Angelina Ballerina and that is not conducive to writing at all.
Morgen: Unless you have characters called Bob and Angelina I suppose. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Joselyn: I have epilogues at the end of Courting Sparks and CEOs Don’t Cry. They worked there. I had one at the end of Sucker for a Hot Rod, but ended up dropping it. I didn’t need it. I think they really depend on the story.
Morgen: That’s what most interviewees say. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Joselyn: I love crafting a story and figuring out how it is all going to work out. I love the simple act of putting words on paper. Because my writing time is so limited right now, it’s frustrating how much time needs to be devoted to marketing and publicity. I wish I could say ‘Just read the book, okay?’ and get to writing the next story.
Morgen: You could but I don’t think it would get you very far. I notice a lot of authors touting their books (with some that’s all they do) but I think any more than 10% vs 90% chat / useful info. defeats the object; Twitter followers / Facebook friends would de-follow / friend then you’d have no-one listening. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Joselyn: Get a pen and paper and get your butt in the chair. There’s no other way you are going to be a writer unless you start writing.
Morgen: True. Practice makes published. What do you like to read?
Joselyn: I like to read a lot of things. It really depends on the mood I’m in. I recently read Atlas Shrugged, which was fascinating, but I had to break it up with some lighter reading. Authors on my auto-buy list are W.S. Gager (http://wsgager.blogspot.com) and Julia Quinn (http://juliaquinn.com), who both had new releases this summer. I lean toward contemporary and historical romance, historical fiction and literary fiction, but every once in a while I pick up something else. I read Hunger Games this summer and have to read the next books in the series. A very interesting story from a reading and a writing view. Anxious to see what the author does with it in the rest of the series.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Joselyn: Party tricks? Does changing a multitude of diapers count?
Morgen: Not being a mother myself, I’d say so… I wouldn’t have a clue.
Joselyn: When I’m not writing, I’m usually chasing or cleaning up after my kids. On the rare nights, they go to bed nicely, I like to go for a run. I’ve been able to do several races with my sisters this year and that has been really cool. I also like to sew. I’ve discovered reconstructing clothes – basically taking one or more items and converting them into something else. I’ve tried a couple t-shirts and have some other ideas. The last time I had a chance to sew, I had some issues with my sewing machine. It may have been haunted. (http://joselynvaughn.blogspot.com/2011/08/haunted-sewing-machine.html)
Morgen: I wonder if someone could have owned it before you? There has to be a story there… has your daughter forgiven you? Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Morgen: Ah yes, my two favourites (and LinkedIn). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Please do, folks. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Joselyn: Right now the possibilities are really expanding with indie publishing and self-publishing. Ebook backlists are really helping authors get and keep their work out there for their fans. It does put a lot more pressure on the author to market, market, market.
Morgen: Sadly so which is fun if not sometimes a little too time-consuming (when we should be writing). Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Joselyn: Thanks so much for having me. It was great chatting with you.
Morgen: Ah, you’re welcome… you can come again. 🙂
I then invited Joselyn to provide an extract of her writing and here’s a mini-excerpt from Sucker for a Hot Rod:
Bryce took a swig from his glass. Judi was about to signal a server to take their order, but Bryce stood and walked around the table. He knelt beside her chair.
A jumble of thoughts crowded and bounced through her head like children on an indoor recess.
Candlelight. Soft music. Fancy restaurant. He’s wearing a tie. He’s down on one knee. People are staring. That lady over there is crying.
Then the thoughts coalesced into one direction.
Romantic spot. Kneeling. Oh crap.
She focused her attention on him. He held a small velvet box in his fingertips. His fingers shook.
“Judi Montgomery, will you marry me?” He opened the box and a square cut diamond winked at her against the cushioned white satin.
“What?” She hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but it slipped out. This was a bit more than an oil filter.
Update July 2012: Since this interview, Hauntings of the Heart and a novella, The Warden’s Lantern, were released by Astraea Press. Hope you get a chance to read them.
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