Please help me welcome author Jean M. Grant to the interview chair today! Jean keeps very busy between her writing, reading, editing, reviewing, and all of the time and attention she needs to raise her kids. But let’s hear from her, shall we?
Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.
Betty: How many books have you written and published?
Jean: Five so far: 3 full-length novels, 1 novella, and 1 novel is contracted for a mid-2020 release. I have two more books currently in the writing/submission queue.
Betty: What genre(s) do you write in and why?
Jean: I write historical romance (with paranormal elements), contemporary romance, and contemporary women’s fiction.
Betty: What themes or motifs did you use in your recent release and why were they important to your story?
Jean: There is a central thread weaved into all my stories: journeys of hope, spirituality, and usually happy-ever-after. Or as I like to say: stories of heartache, healing, and hope. My women’s fiction usually has a romantic element, too. Even though I write across genres and sub-genres, I find that I focus on a central theme with each story. Each character has an emotional wound and backstory they must heal (in some way or another), and I always end with hope. This story deals with grief and parenting a special needs child.
Living is more than mere survival.
Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can’t lose another loved one.
Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ’s fear of driving and Reid’s military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ’s anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family’s present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.
Betty: Do you have a specific place that you write? Revise?
Jean: Anywhere I can! I have a nice old consignment and spend a good deal of time writing at it. I also take my laptop here, there, everywhere: kitchen counter, couch, bed, coffee shop, waiting areas, school pick-up line…With earbuds and music I can drown out distractions.
Betty: Do you have any writing rituals while you write? Did you have a special drink, or music, or time of day that you gravitated toward?
Jean: I am a morning lark. By evening I fizzle out. I enjoy having background music, quite often sans lyrics, to invigorate the muse within. Sunshine drives me; cloudy days can inspire, too, but sometimes suppress the muse, too.
Betty: What helped you move from unpublished to published? A mentor or organization or something else?
Jean: My 3 P’s: Patience, Perseverance, and Putting in the Time. I’ve written three now “filed-away as practice” manuscripts, attended conferences and workshops, met agents, researched the business end of publication and marketing, tended relationships with other authors, ramped up social media usage, and have honed my craft over twenty years. I believe it’s key to approach writing as a business, not a hobby. Ultimately it was a small press that took a chance on this new author three years ago. I’ve been with them ever since. My advice: never give up. Keep at it: the craft, marketing, and business end. There is always more to learn.
Betty: What do you think is your greatest strength in your writing?
Jean: I am in love with scenery and landscapes. I can be a bit purple in my prose on my first drafts, but I have an amazing critique partner who reins me in. I lean toward plot-heavy, forward-moving stories, but also focus on building my characters before I even set pen to paper.
Betty: What comes first when you’re brainstorming a new story: setting, situation, characters?
Jean: It used to be the setting, followed by the situation (plot), then characters. Now it’s probably still setting (I love exploring nature and traveling; the world is my muse!), but characters now come first and foremost. What are their goals, motivations, conflicts? What’s at stake? Their emotional wound? What makes them tick? I dig in deep first and do lots of charting.
Betty: Do you have a structured time to write or is it more fluid/flexible? Do you have to write between family obligations or do you set aside a block of time?
Jean: Nooks and crannies. Even though I left my career years ago when I had children, and then ultimately left a part-time job three years ago to pursue writing full time, I still find my time is not always mine. So I juggle. I write during the day, but I use every morsel of nook and cranny when I need to. In between errands or appointments, and have down time? Computer comes with me and I hang in a coffee shop. Vacation? Bring a manuscript to edit or book to review for another author. Holiday break? Take some time off, but also read/edit/revise/market a bit, too.
Betty: What is one recent struggle you’ve experienced in your writing?
Jean: Confidence (that always comes and goes). Marketing and the business of writing has been a big struggle. Authors these days are expected to do nearly all of it on their own. But, the world (and online market) is saturated with books and authors. How do we stand out? How do we garner reviews and new readers and establish our following?
Betty: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Why or why not?
Jean: Once. I usually am too busy in November, and I plan my writing around my own schedule. When I put my mind to it, I can guide myself through deadlines and wordcounts. However, like Twitter, Nano is a great way to meet other authors.
Betty: What are you reading right now?
Jean: I am on an audiobook kick. I just finished Crime and Paradise by Julie Howard (suspense, Women’s Fiction), on the heels of Dickinsen Academy by Christine Grabowski (YA Fantasy). Now I’m listening to A Thousand Years to Wait by L. Ryan Storms (YA Fantasy). I’m also reading When We Believed in Mermaids (Barbara O’Neal, Women’s Fiction). I read/listen across genres.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Jean: Romance and Women’s Fiction.
Betty: What are your keeper books? How often might you reread them?
Jean: Outlander! I love the new series they’ve created for TV, too.
Betty: When you’re writing, do you read in the same genre as your work in progress or something else?
Betty: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?
Jean: I write full-time, but I am a busy parent to two children, one with special needs. I am on too many committees (library board, church…) and volunteer with the school library.
Betty: What do you wish readers knew about the publishing industry?
Jean: The time that goes into writing, editing, waiting, and marketing. We pour blood, sweat, and tears on our pages. Reviews mean the world to authors. Liked a book? Please drop a brief review on Amazon so it helps the author get more exposure.
Betty: What advice do you have for new writers?
Jean: Spend time learning the industry in’s and out’s, and dedicate time and a budget to marketing. Also, an agent is not always the path to publication. I went with a small press. Hone your craft, take your time. Go to conferences, meet other authors, get into a writer’s group online and in person. Network. Your first manuscript might not be your first published, and that’s okay! Write and use what you know. Follow your passion and don’t let the market drive you.
Betty: Any hints of what you’re next writing project might be?
Jean: I’m finishing a women’s fiction novella as part of an e-book series put out by The Wild Rose Press over the next two summers. I just contracted the third book of my historical “hundred” paranormal romance trilogy. I’m also writing a new contemporary romance. Always have something in the queue…
Betty: What kind of writing would you like to experiment with? Or what’s a different genre you’ve considered writing but haven’t yet?
Jean: In Will Rise from Ashes, I have two POV characters, and one is in first person and one in third. I’d like to do more of that. I’ve also longed to write children’s books. That is a very hard genre to break into, and my skills are not refined for it yet. One day.
A fellow Outlander series fan! Hubby is also reading the series in addition to watching the Starz series with me. And I thoroughly enjoyed Barbara O’Neal’s When We Believed in Mermaids. I think we share similar tastes in fiction, Jean! Thanks for stopping in for a chat about your writing process and your stories.
A new year has begun and I’m looking forward to a several new releases this year and an appearance or two. Time to buckle down and work my plan!
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