Welcome to today’s Friday Friend, Joanne Stewart.
Joanne lives in Seattle, Washington. She and her husband are celebrating their 16th anniversary this summer, and they have two boys, aged 12 and 17. They also have two puppies, a Lab mix and a Chihuahua mix – guess who rules the roost?
First of all, Joanne, how long have you been writing?
Oh geez. Since my kids were really little. So I think somewhere around eleven years now. I had to ask my husband to help me do the math. I recall the apartment we were living in, but not the year.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
This answer really depends on how you look at it. Technically, it took me ten years, but I took a long hiatus from writing, like five or six years, and only came back to it about two years ago. When I finally did come back, I picked up the last book I’d written, filled a couple of plot holes I saw, and decided, on a whim, to send it to The Wild Rose Press. About a month later, they offered me a contract.
Filling those plot holes obviously did the trick, Joanne! And how wonderful to receive a contract from your very first submission.
Do you outline yourstory beforehand or do you write from your head i.e. plotter v. pantser?
I used to be a pantser all the way. I could sit down with a basic premise and some characters and write gleefully. Over the years, though, as I’ve learned my craft, I’ve become a bit of both. Nowadays I need to know certain things about the story before I can write. A vague idea of the premise, some of the characters’ GMCs, but then I just sit down and write and let the story take me where it will. Usually means I get stuck a lot, and have to go back and revise scenes, but I don’t outline at all. I find outlining too much makes me lose my zest for the story. Plus the characters usually run off with my story anyway. In fact, I can almost guarantee it.
I know exactly what you mean. If I do too much ‘outlining’, my stories lose their spontaneity.
Do you have critique partners and/or beta readers? Why or why not?
I currently have two critique partners. I do prefer them. I’m much more comfortable knowing someone else’s eyes have seen the story. That way I can make sure that what I mean to say is making it onto the page and the story and characters are being perceived the way I’d intended. I’d rather my partner point out potential problems than risk losing an editor’s attention for something I might have been able to fix beforehand.
Very good reasons for having critique partners!
What genre(s) do you prefer and why?
I prefer contemporary and historical. I do read paranormals on occasion, but not much. For the most part, I want a fantasy. I read for escapism, to get caught up in someone else’s world for a while. Ever look up from a book and forget where you’re at for a moment? That’s bliss to me. But for me, the story has to have a touch of realism. It loses its power if I can’t imagine it truly happening. So a paranormal for me has to move me beyond my belief system and convince me that this could possibly happen. Which unfortunately doesn’t happen often. I like contemporary because I like putting myself in the heroine’s shoes and living her life with her sexy hero. Same for historicals, except I get transported back in time. Granted, the era I’m transported back to has been romanticized, but I’m okay with that. ;)
Again, I can empathise with this, as I like writing and reading about ‘real’ characters, rather than supernatural ones.
What, for you, is the best part of writing? And the worst?
The best: when the story takes on a life of its own. You know, when the characters are surprising you and taking you down a path you hadn’t expected, and you find yourself getting up in the middle of the night, because you can’t sleep until you write that scene down. It’s very addicting for me. I get very OCD when I write. That book and those characters are all I think about until the book is finished.
The worst: that part in the beginning where I’m just learning about the characters. It’s a proverbial open book and it can sometimes take me a while before I really get to know them enough that the story opens up to me. It’s very nerve-wracking. I panic in every book. I took that long break from writing, partly because I got a major bout of writer’s block. I couldn’t finish a story to save my life. And so whenever I get stuck at the beginning of a book, I wonder, “Is this it? Is this going to be my last book?” That’s probably more than you wanted to know, right?
You’ve put my thoughts into words here! I love the process of getting to know my characters and especially the time when they start to do their own thing.
What do you think makes a good romance novel?
Characters, hands down. Characters that come alive on the page and make me care. If you can make me cry, I’m yours.
I think you’re now reading my mind! I once said to someone that if my book made her cry (for the right reasons, of course!), then I’d know I was doing something right.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m in between projects. I just finished a full length novel and am in the process of cleaning it up to send it to my agent. I plan to start working the sequel to The Playboy’s Baby. Dillon’s brother Logan’s book. A romance between a younger chef who’s just found out he’s a father and widowed slightly older woman who’s trying to move on with her life. That’s all the characters have let me in on so far.
Tell us your five favourites: author, actor, movie, song, quotation.
Author – Diana Gabaldon.
Actor – can’t say I have just one favourite, but I was always fond of Robin Williams and Whoopee Goldberg, nowadays, I like Adam Sandler
Song—this one’s hard. My favorites change. Right now, it’s Adele, a toss up between her song, “Take it All,” and “Don’t You Remember.”
Movie—Hm. I have a couple. The Green Mile, and City of Angels. There are a few more, but those come to mind first. Oh, and Grease. I never get tired of watching that movie.
Quote—hmm. I’m not much for quotes. But I have one on my facebook page I came across a couple of years ago. It has a personal meaning for me. I understand how he’s feeling here when he says this:
"Ye know the fortress I told ye of, the one inside me?"..."Well, I've a lean-to built, at least. And a roof to keep out the rain". ~Jamie Fraser, "Outlander"
Tell us about your latest release.
They can't forget the past, but is it enough to create a future?
When an accident leaves her guardian to her six-month-old niece, Emma Stanton must return to her small hometown of Hastings, Montana to find the one man she's spent the last eight years trying to forget. She and Dillon had grown up together--he was her sister's best friend. But that hadn't stopped him from sharing a kiss with Emma that had followed her through the years. Now, not only must she break the news of her sister's tragic death to Dillon, but she must risk the only family she has left and tell him he's the baby's father.
Wealthy nightclub owner Dillon James has been used for his name and money one too many times, so when he comes face-to-face with Emma Stanton and her gorgeous lips, he's determined to keep things light. All he wants is to be the father his daughter needs, to make up for not being there for her and her mother. But spending time with Emma, as she shows him the ropes of caring for his daughter, is wearing down his defenses. Perhaps it's time he took a chance on love.
If only he can convince Emma to take a chance on him...
Twenty feet in front of her, leaning back against the waist-high bar, stood the man she’d spent all day tracking down—the infamous Dillon James. The man who would soon have the power to take away everything she held dear. He stood amongst a small crowd of adoring fans, all staring up at him with starry-eyed expressions, hanging on his every word. Judging by the playful glint in his eye, he loved every minute of it.
Dillon’s head turned, his brows rising in stunned surprise. His gaze locked with hers. He straightened off the bar, pulled away from the women vying for his attention, and moved in her direction, his stride long and loose.
Every step that drew him closer only increased the odd mix of emotions pounding through her. For two weeks she planned this moment, right down to what she’d say when she eventually found him. Yet not only had her throat closed up, her entire body trembled. Trepidation mixed with anticipation, excitement, and a good amount of fear coursed through her.
When Dillon stopped in front of her, her pulse settled on a quick, wild rhythm. At six foot five, he towered over her and made her shiver from the sheer size and power of his broad, sculpted body. God, she hadn’t seen him in eight years, yet he looked so much the same. The same dark hair—a rich brown, the color of espresso, sinfully thick and gleaming soft beneath the low overhead lights. He had the same square jaw and wide, sensual mouth.
The lithe nineteen-year-old body she remembered had filled out over the years. The dark blue T-shirt he wore was stretched taut over broader shoulders, the soft cotton clinging to distinctly thicker biceps. His dark jeans hugged the contours of his body, outlining the shape of his lean hips and long powerful thighs.
“Emma Stanton.” Dillon shook his head, a wistful smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “I thought maybe I was seeing things, but, wow, it really is you.”
“Hi, Dillon. Sorry to show up here like this.” Her stomach somersaulted. “I’ve been looking all over for you today. I went to your house this afternoon. Obviously, you weren’t there. So I went to your parents’. Your mother wasn’t at home, but your housekeeper mentioned that she’d seen Logan yesterday and suggested I ask him. Your brother’s back in town, by the way. Did you know?”
She caught the insanity flying past her lips a moment too late to suck the words back. A fierce heat climbed into her cheeks. Of course he knew his brother was back in town. Probably saw him every day. God, could this get any worse? She looked like a complete fool.
“It’s good to see you too, Em.” Dillon folded his arms across his chest, his mouth splitting into a wide grin.
I loved this story! And you know about making your readers cry? I only have to envision Dillon holding baby Annie against his chest, and I fill up. That’s an image that will stay with me!
You can buy ‘The Playboy’s Baby’ at http://www.amazon.com/The-Playboys-Baby-ebook/dp/B008RPKBMM
Find more about Joanne here: