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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Author Interview: Jean Hart Stewart

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jean Hart Stewart. Jean has four series currently out and a new book that's going to be released Saturday. Her new book is a change from her Celtic Druids and Mages. It's a historical romance called For Love is New. I asked her to tell us a bit about it.

"My hero and heroine not only have a hard time conquering individual guilt problems; the villain is the most evil I've ever written. Sadistic to the core and he's trying to get a huge sum of money to Napoleon to help him escape from Elba. I've always loved historicals and this is the most challenging book I've ever written. SO much research was involved, and every little detail had to be correct. But I loved the research ."

She's already working on another historical, but she also loves her Druids and Mages so plans to keep writing in both genres.

Her last paranormal romance was Quest for Love. The next in that series, Quest for Magic, is currently being edited. She is also polishing two more books in the Mage series.

"Also, a steamy free read called 'Shelley's Secret' will be released on the 31st," she shared. "It's the sexiest book I've ever written and all you'll need to do is go to my website or to Ellora's Cave to download it."

Jean told me that, for her, good writing consists of many things: a clear voice that captures the reader from the beginning, with not too many details thrown out at once; beautiful but not ornate words; a story that flows naturally, so the reader doesn't feel jerked around.

"Above all, a captivating story about characters you can love," she said, "if not in the beginning by the end of the book."

She tends to develop her stories gradually. She will have the protagonists firmly in mind, as well as the time setting. She'll also often set down the first and the last chapter.

"Then I do several weeks of research into the time period I'm using," she told me. "I try to have all my books in a slightly different period, so that's a challenge right there. The dreaded sagging middle of the book is what gives me the most trouble."

She has learned, however, that when her characters tell her something she needs to listen, because they will often tell her where to go in the story.

"Sometimes a character, even a minor one, simply takes control of my mind and swings the story in a way I hadn't consciously expected. First time it happened I was amazed, and that doesn't happen often. But that character was plain bitchy about getting his own way."

I asked Jean to tell us about her writing space.

"I have one writing space in the living room with a small lap top because I’ve got such a comfortable chair there. Then it goes to a big old desktop, my reliable workhorse where my records and the printer are. The lap top space is kept neat. We won’t go into the state of the desktop room."

With nearly twenty books written, Jean admitted she can't pick a favorite.

"Druid’s Daughter, my first published book will always be special. And Druid Redeemed, which got a lot of awards. Right now I’m delighted to have The Third Rose, my first long historical published."

The Third Rose is set in the Regency period of England, but as Jean says, "It's definitely not a regency."

"The hero and heroine have to overcome spies, break a code, come close to being killed, and fight their own reluctance to acknowledge their love. For some reason this one grabs my heart," she admitted.

On a personal note, I asked Jean to share with us her strangest habit.

"Going berserk if I’m walking with someone, we pass on different sides of a post, and he won’t say 'bread and butter' like he’s supposed to," she told me. "EVERYONE knows you both have to say that to keep from being separated forever. Don’t they?"

The strangest thing Jean's ever eaten was in the Orient.

"I don’t know what it was, but it wiggled too much," she said. "Tasted fishy and horrible. Come to think of it, I don’t want to know what it was."

Jean told me that she's very proud of her heritage, being one of the last direct descendants of the John Hart who signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey.

"The thing I like most about him is he was a little-educated farmer, and rose as a public official because of his reputation for honesty. Nothing at all fancy about him. I’ve also got a couple real blackguards, actually thieves, in the family tree. Maybe that’s why I like John so much."

One movie Jean particularly remembers crying at was one she saw when she was very young.

"The star was Lionel Barrymore and he portrayed a grandfather about to die and trying to preparing his young granddaughter for the separation. Wish I could remember the name of the movie. I’d just lost my father and I remember my sister taking me home, me still sobbing."

Finally, I asked Jean, "What's the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?"

"The one question I wish someone had asked me is what I’d do differently on the road to publication. I wasted a lot of time learning the ropes. Maybe what is needed is a book listing all the pitfalls a neophyte can blunder into. I think I’d investigate the publishing world more thoroughly before ever submitting a story, and I’d definitely have a website up and running before being published. I didn’t even know about the authors and readers groups on the internet, so I went in cold and made mistakes."
You can keep up with Jean on her blog, http://www.myspace.com/jeanhartstewart

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