Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Friends with Jo Ann Ferguson

Please welcome, regency, historical, paranormal author Jo Ann Ferguson to Friday with Friends.

HWH: Thanks so much for being with us, Jo Ann. Lets get started. You write using several pen names: Regency; Jo Ann Ferguson, Paranormals: J.A. Ferguson; Historical, Jocelyn Kelley. Are there any currently in the works that I’ve missed?

JAF: Actually I’ve written quite a few historical as Jo Ann Ferguson, too. I did two quilting romances for Berkley as Joanna Hampton, and a Regency novella as Rebecca North. My “newest” name is Jo Ann Brown, which I used when I did the novelization for Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage from Lionsgate. I’m also using that name for mysteries I’m writing for Guideposts Books (A Time to Share will be out this late summer/early fall). Book 3, Sea Wraith, in the Nethercott Tales was recently released under Jocelyn Kelly and you have a new paranormal coming out soon under J. A. Ferguson, Under Her Spell.

HWH: Can you tell us a little about both?

JAF: Sea Wraith is the third book focusing on the three Nethercott sisters and their adventures with ghosts. Sea Wraith is Sian’s story and is set in Cornwall during the Regency period. Sian goes there to paint a mural for her older sister, but ends up meeting Wraith, a mysterious – and very sexy – man who may be a hero or a villain. Under Her Spell is set in Victorian England. The hero is looking to hire performers for a party where he hopes to introduce his mistress to his mother, so his mother has to acknowledge her. He hires the Amazing Nightingales, a sleight of hand brother and sister act, but Madeleine Nightingale is harboring a secret – she can do real magic. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned for the hero from that point forward.

HWH: Wooo....they sound interesting. I'll have to be visiting my book store soon! Okay, a writing question. I’ve heard writers talk about whether or not they should use a pen name. Since you use several, can you let us in on why and how you come up with your names?

JAF: I’ve chosen to use pen names when I write different types of books. I never planned to write Regencies as Jo Ann Ferguson. My plan was to write as Rebecca North (the heroine of one of my early historicals), but my real name ended up on the cover, so I continued with it. Otherwise, I’ve chosen a pen name when I’m writing for a line where the sell-through numbers may affect my other types of books. Kelley is a family name as is Brown.

HWH: Out of all of the genres you write, which is your favorite? And why?

JAF: That’s really tough to say. I write the books I want to read, and I read in several different genres. Usually my favorite genre is the ms I’m brainstorming, because it’s so much fun at that point and everything is possible.

HWH: What is the etiquette to approaching someone for research?

JAF: When I’m approaching someone to ask questions about a career or an avocation, I usually try to find someone in my network who knows that person and can offer me an introduction. I did that when I was writing One Knight Stands and I wanted to learn about quarterstaff fighting. I was fortunate to have a friend who could introduce me to a gentleman who does fight choreography for local and Broadway productions. If I don’t have a contact, I will send an email or a letter, saying that I’m an author and that I’m looking for specific information and asking if the person has time to answer questions. I never call cold. I have to say, I’ve gotten enthusiastic response to almost all my emails…and the information I needed. I always acknowledge my sources in the book and send them an autographed copy.

HWH: As a writer, I’m always interested in any tips for revisions. Do you have any?

JAF: The most important step for me in revisions is to spend some time away from the ms. I prefer two weeks, but sometimes I have less time. I’ll start something new and get caught up with new characters during that interlude. That gives me a chance to come back and look at the ms with clear eyes. A true re-vision. I also like to do revisions with distractions around, so I don’t get caught up in the story. It sounds strange, I know, but it works for me.

Thanks so much for being with us, Jo Ann. Please come back when your next book comes out. Please visit for more information on her and her wonderful books.

Jo Ann will be around today to answer questions and view comments. Don't forget to become a follower of Heroine with Hearts!


  1. Wow, Jo Ann. Thanks for being here today.
    I love your wording of "re-vision." Do you have critique partners? It sounds like you write fast, and I was wondering if they were able to keep up with you. Have you accelerated your writing pace over time?

  2. I had critique partners when I first started writing, but not for the past 10 years or so. I have a couple of friends who will read for me when I need another set of eyes. And my husband is always my first reader. I do write fast, and oddly, I find when I write faster, I write better. I become very connected to the characters that way.

    Thanks for posting!

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  4. Hi, Jo Ann.
    A really interesting interview, thank you!
    Your method of approaching someone as part of your research was very useful, but I also wondered how you found someone to write to you when you don't have an actual contact or an introduction from someone. I'm also interested in how you research the settings of your books e.g. Regency Cornwall?

  5. Hi JoAnn,

    Thanks for joining us today! Sorry I'm so late checking in...we had gorgeous weather here today in the Midwest and I spent all day outdoors enjoying it while it lasts.

    Great advice on revisions. It's always easier to see where things need to be tweaked if I've been away from a project for a while.

  6. Paula, I've found a very polite note introducing myself and my project almost always gets a response. Finding the actual contact is usually via web sites after a Google search. Almost every web site has a "contact me/us" button somewhere on it. When I contacted the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral to find out about a specific event in the cathedral's history, I went through the web site -- and was shocked to hear back in less than 24 hours. CADW, the Welsh heritage group, has been extremely helpful with my questions. In some cases, the experts' answers are simply, "we don't know." which works just fine for a writer, because then the writer can make the event fit her story. I'm a history snob, so I won't change history (except in a paranormal) to fit my story.

    My husband and I travel to England about once a year, so I have the advantage of visiting many of the places I write about. I talk a LOT of photos. Before we began traveling like that in 2001, I relied on photos and texts from the time period. One of my greatest compliments from my first editor was when she asked, "When was the last time you were in England?" and I hadn't gone there yet...and she'd studied there and knew the country well. So just plain research can help with setting the scene. If you go in person, my advice to people is "turn around and look what's behind you when you're looking at a specific site." At some point, my characters always look in the opposite direction and I need to know what's there, too

    I've got a couple of articles on resarch on my blog at if you ever want to wander over and page through to find them. They'd be under "writing tips".

    Thanks to all for questions/posts!

  7. Thanks for all your advice, Jo-Ann, that was great information about how to find out more about place and events.
    I loved your comment about being a history snob. As a historian by profession, I can definitely relate to that. I have no patience with so-called historical stories where there are obvious errors, and every admiration for authors who thoroughly research their historical background.

  8. A Postscript to this: I heard from a friend today who is writing a fanfiction story. She wanted to find out where schools in a New Hampshire town held their graduations in the 1980's, couldn't find this info on the internet so called a high school in the town. The woman who answered transferred her to the Principal who then talked to her for a half hour, telling her all about the town in the 80s, the political and social climate, the kids, graduation ceremonies, etc.
    Seems like it's definitely worth asking questions!