My guest today is none other than the amazing Jean Joachim! Please help me welcome her to the interview hot seat with a nice cup of tea. Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her…
Jean has 69 books, novellas, and short stories in ebook, print and audio. She writes fulltime, never far from her secret stash of black licorice. An avid bird and dog lover, she has a fondness for chickadees and pugs. A music lover, especially classical, she has two grown sons and lives in New York City. She’d love to hear from you, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Jean: An article I read in a local newspaper made me curious about boarding houses back in the day when logging was king in Sullivan County, where I spend my summers. On a lazy summer day a couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Michael, who’s a history buff, and I decided to trek up to Long Eddy and nose around. Sure enough, many of the boarding houses in that article are still there! Over lunch, Michael filled me in on the history of the place and time. I was fascinated. On the way home, I suggested to my friend that we should write a book about it together. Two years later, we did. And that’s how “Abigail’s Journey” was born.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Jean: So much of “Abigail’s Journey” was new to me. I’d never written an historical romance before. In addition to the information provided by Michael, I dug in and did a lot of research on my own. Books, Google, you name it. I read a ton of background material so I could place myself in the time period and feel what it was like to live back then. I developed the ability to go back in time and plunk myself down in a different time and place, and limit myself to things that were real then. Being authentic is very important to me, so I was strict about what I included in the book. I found myself so steeped in the time and place, the story flowed.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Jean: I did struggle with one part of the story I felt I had to do. I can’t be specific because it’s a huge spoiler. But it was something I had never done before. I worried I might be making the reader mad. They might throw the book across the room, but I did it anyway, because the story demanded it. In the end, it was the perfect twist to take the story in the direction it needed to go. It did not get any bad reviews, in fact the reviews were glowing. I breathed a sigh of relief. Once again, the story dictates where it needs to go, even if the writer doubts the shift.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Jean: No doubt Martha Chesney, the innkeeper and grandmother was the most akin to me. Of course, I’m near her age and have grown children and one son married, like she did. I’ve also been a writer and businesswoman most of my life, so I could identify with her hard work running the inn. And we shared an outlook on life and a sense of humor.
I enjoyed writing characters of different ages and making sure they weren’t stereotypical. I think Martha breaks the rules as does her granddaughter, Lizzy, a child of seven. They keep the story fresh.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Jean: I did a ton of research. Michael is my summer walking buddy, so we discussed the book almost every day while we got our exercise. I also consulted books written about those days and did extensive research on the Internet. I looked up each and every food that they ate –what was available in the late 1700’s? And how was food made?
One interesting feature I discovered was that an oven was heated to a certain temperature, then loaves of bread were inserted. The heat stopped and the loaves baked slowly. This, like so many other things, was new to me. Did you know they didn’t have zucchini in the late 1700’s? Only squash. I found these details fascinating.
I even made a trip to an art museum where I viewed the paintings of the French aristocracy in the late 1700’s so I could study their clothing – for both men and women. Most of my characters didn’t have the money to dress like the French aristocrats, but the styles, colors, and fabrics were imitated in the Colonies. And how many pieces they wore and their hairstyles. I enjoyed the research as much as the writing.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Jean: I never keep count of drafts. I just write and revise until I can’t stand to look at it anymore! Seriously, you know when it’s at it’s best and is ready to go to the editor.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Jean: Three months. It took that long because my co-author is not a writer and I had to teach him a great deal about how a novel is created, structure, plot twists and so on. On my own, I would have written it in six weeks. When I’m in the groove that’s about how long it takes me to write a novel. I don’t regret the time it took. The book has been well received and Michael and I are quite proud of it.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Jean: I like to write early in the morning, when I’m fresh. I make a giant pot of tea and keep it warm. I can drink as many as six mugs of tea while I’m working. I need a quiet place with few or no distractions to focus on my writing. I get totally into the story in my head, living it in my imagination to do my best writing.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Jean: Oh gosh, yes!! My most overused are “just” and “that”. And when I think I’ve conquered those, new ones come along! It’s a never ending process to weed out the overused words. Thank God for good editors.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Jean: I got a classic education in American literature in college. Writers I most looked up to are long gone. They are Sinclair Lewis, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I’m also a huge mystery fan and admire the writings of many mystery authors, most notably Agatha Christie, Harlan Coben and Ruth Rendell.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Jean: I now have a small office in my bedroom. I usually write there. But I read and revise sitting on the sofa. Always with a cup of tea nearby.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Jean: No, I don’t. I write fulltime. This is a luxury for me and I enjoy it so much after many years spent in corporate America.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Jean: My greatest achievement, I believe, is that I keep coming up with stories and characters who are so different. I do marvel at the breadth of my imagination. I feel lucky to have a fertile imagination because I’m never bored. I can even zoom out in the dentist’s chair and mentally go into a story I’m thinking about. Now that’s a gift!
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Jean: Of course, I love a good romance first and foremost, but mystery comes a close second. I also enjoy a good biography because I can be nosy and like to peek into the lives of others.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Jean: I consider the fact that I am able to write, publish, and sell my books a huge success. I spent many years working at day jobs and not having the confidence to write. I had stories, but never believed I could be talented enough to put them on paper. I have published over 65 novels and novellas. If you had asked me twenty years ago if I could ever do that, I would have laughed you out of the room. Being able to spend my days doing the work I love is success for me.
Abigail Chesney has it all; a husband more loving than she could have dreamt, three healthy children, and a house on thriving farmland. She’s happy in her little world until it crashes down around her.
Losing almost everything tests Abby in ways she never expected. Can she learn to accept what she can’t change and trust strangers? Relying on help from the people of Fitch’s Eddy, a tiny Catskill logging town, Abby discovers her own strength. Will Fate’s cruel blows crush her? Or will love give her a new reason to go on?
Abigail’s Journey – travel back to Colonial America in 1786, with this heartfelt, sweet, historical romance, where the flavor of the past leaps off the page.
“Abigail’s Journey” is a genuinely original, deftly crafted, impressively authentic, and exceptionally entertaining historical romance…” MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
This sounds like my kind of historical romance, Jean! And I too had researched the foods available in the 18th century so am aware that zucchini wasn’t part of the diet. But they did import a lot of interesting foodstuffs from other countries, which surprised me. Thanks for stopping in for a lovely chat!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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