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Monday, August 13, 2012

INTERVIEW: JOANNE STEWART

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes JM Stewart whose latest book The Playboy's Baby is now available.

Joanne was born in Queens, New York, but she only lived there until she was three. Her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, were all born and raised in New York City. Her parents, though, moved around a lot when Joanne was a child. When she was three, they moved to California.

"I’m told we live in Carolina for a while before we got there," she said. "When I was eight, my parents divorced and my mom remarried, and we moved up to Washington state. At sixteen, my mother divorced again and we moved to Philidelphia, Pennsylvania. That’s where my grandmother and my aunt live. Most of my family still lives in NY, though I do have an aunt that lives in Florida."

Joanne's first book began as a dream. I asked her to tell me about it.

"I remember seeing this teenage boy in a wheelchair, and just knowing that he had a story and I had to write it down. In writing out the story that unfolded, I found a love for telling the tale. For discovering the nuances of the characters and their situation. And I wanted to do it again. I was well and thoroughly hooked," she said with a smile.

So, she sat down and immediately started working on her next book.

"How many books have you written?" I asked her.

"This was a hard question! I had to go count them all," she told me, laughing. "Three or four of them will never see the light of day. But I believe I’ve written eight complete books. I also have several bits and starts as well. One novel I quit writing about 130 pages in, and I’ve got several first chapters just waiting for me to finish the book."

"Which is your favorite?"

"That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child." She laughed. "But… I do admit that I’m rather partial to The Playboy’s Baby. There’s a very sweet quality to the book that tugs on my heartstrings. I’m also partial to my latest work-in-progress, currently titled Love’s Healing Touch. It’s the first long novel I’ve written in a while. I cut my proverbial teeth on category, so my books are usually category length, between 50 and 60k. This one tops out at about 73k. It was a hard book to write. The hero and heroine have very dark pasts that come into play in the book. I put a lot of myself and my own dark past into this book, so this one is the book that’s the closest to my heart. I’m currently editing it to send it to my agent, but hopefully, someday soon, it’ll be published as well."

Joanne is a perfectionist by nature, and she can be pretty hard on herself sometimes. When she is and the "I suck" voice in the back of her mind gets too loud, it can suck the creativity right out of her. When it happens, sometimes she gives in and takes a break—she will give herself a day or two to not thinking about writing. She might read a good book (but generally is a different genre than what she writes—she's partial to historicals). Other times, she gets tough with herself and forces herself to start writing.

"Even if it’s total and complete crap," she said. "I find that when I refuse to give in, and allow myself to write crap, eventually, I push through it and it starts to flow again. But I’ve also learned over the years that sometimes, writer’s block means my characters are giving me a hint. They’re telling me I’ve taken the book in a wrong direction, usually something that goes against their character. When I go back and change that bit, it often clears up the block."

When it comes to the historical she loves, her favorite author is Diana Gabaldon.

"Her book, Outlander, really enthralled me," she explained. "I love historicals and I love time travels, but the author drew me so completely into this world that I got lost in it. The book is told from the first person, the voice of the heroine, Claire Randall, but every character in the book comes alive. Her descriptions make me feel like I’m there. She’s very good with accurate details, right down to the way the hero, Jamie, fights with his sword. She pulls me into the lives of these people and makes me feel like I’m there with them. And she makes me care. That’s good writing to me."

It's the characterization that makes Joanne either love or hate a book—if an author can draw her into the characters' world and make her care about them, she's hooked.

I asked her to describe her writing space.

"Ha. I’d be embarrassed for people to see my writing space," she admitted with a laugh. "I write on the kitchen table, which sadly, doesn’t get used for its intended purpose. Caddy corner to my computer is my husband’s laptop. Beside me is a back scratcher that always stays on the table. I have very dry skin and I’m forever itchy. There’s also always a box of tissues (lotion variety). I’m a chronic allergy sufferer. Usually a bottle of water, some earphones for when I want to shut out the noise and listen to music (so I can better concentrate on my current work-in-progress). If I close my laptop lid, I see the slowly growing stack of papers my husband piles on his side. Along with a couple of pens and a pair of nail clippers. It’s organized chaos, but it works."

"If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?" I wondered.

"I know this probably isn’t a popular answer, but I don’t believe in changing my past. I believe that my life is a culmination of my experiences. Honestly, I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes over the years. I’ve always wondered if I’d just relaxed and not panicked, if I’d have been able to do those requested revisions better. I might have tried to find an agent sooner. It’s all been a learning process for me, and I’m not sure I’m sorry I ended up here. I kind of like where I’m at. That being said, there is one thing I would have done differently. I would started on the social media aspects a lot sooner. You know, creating your online persona and developing a readership? I would have started that a lot sooner. I’m amazed by how much self promotion really goes into this and it would have helped a lot to have started some of this way before now."

Speaking of social media, when Joanne's not writing, she admits to a love for playing computer games.

"You know all those annoying games on Facebook people are always sending you invites to? I love playing those. Though, just for the record, I don’t send invites to people who don’t play. I’m very careful to make sure the people I send invites to actually play the game," she assured me. "Also like games like Diner Dash. I find them very mind numbing. When I play them, I have to concentrate solely on the game, so my brain gets occupied and I don’t worry about my writing. I think too much. I can never really relax and I can sit at my computer doing writing stuff until my back aches. I can be very OCD when I write. I don’t balance very well. And games and books are my way of shutting out for a while."

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I asked.

"This sounds so down to say this. This is normally a question I would avoid answering, for that very reason. The answer isn’t pleasant. It’s a side of myself I don’t show often, because I’ve found over the years that it tends to make people uncomfortable. So I tend to avoid the subject. But the truth is, I grew up in a dysfunctional home. I was abused as a child. So I never really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never really knew. Oh, I thought about being a teacher, or a veterinarian, the usual kid stuff, but mostly, I just wanted grow up and move out of the house. When I went to college, I had the hardest time then, too, trying to figure out what I wanted to major in. Life had always been about survival for me and nobody had ever asked me what I wanted. Course, nowadays I wished I’d majored in English and creative writing! lol In fact, I should add this to that question above about going back and doing things over. I wish could go back to college and major in English! Get a jump start on my career."

Joanne was feeling brave for the interview, because she agreed to answer another question that she usually avoids—what readers would be most surprised to learn about her.

She admits to being a very spiritual person—she believes in the unseen world, in things people sometimes refer to as "woo woo" or "new age."

"I communicate with angels. I also communicate with the dead. And saying that out loud, yes, I’m very aware not everybody believes in that stuff and I do worry people will think I’m crazy. Or delusional. In fact, I’ve been called both and more," she said. "You’d think that would make me naturally inclined toward paranormal writing, but sadly, it doesn’t. Most paranormal romances are vampires and werewolves. Alternate reality type stuff, usually a lot of suspense and action, and I don’t do any of that. My writing is very centered in the real world, and my plots are always emotional and character driven. So thinking up a paranormal plot that matches what I see in the market today is difficult. So, I do have the start of a book I hope to finish someday, but I don’t have a plot to go with it. Yet. I’m determined to change that someday!"

About the Author:
I started writing novels somewhere around eleven years ago. It started out as a dream I had early one morning that begged to be written down, and the more I wrote, the more story unfolded. That manuscript has since been lost, but I'm very grateful to the powers that be for starting me on this road. It's an understatement to say I love to read romance. There's just something about reading a good love story. It warms my heart and gives my soul a bit of hope. Writing them has become a passion.

Personally...I live in the state of Washington, in the rainy great Northwest! I'm married to my very own hero for sixteen years now. We have two teenage boys and two very spoiled puppies.

When I'm not writing, I'm usually reading, playing computer games, or playing with the dogs.

Find the author online at

Website: http://authorjmstewart.com
Blog: http://jm-stewart.blogspot.com/
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-JM-Stewart/129990420383155 Twitter: https://twitter.com/JMStewartWriter
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3159044.J_M_Stewart



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...

14 comments:

Debby said...

Nice post. I really need to read Diana Gabaldan. Everyone likes her.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Joanne Stewart said...

Thanks, Debby! I got her originally from my grandmother. I needed something to read and she gave me a used copy of Outlander. I like the first three the best.

Joanne Stewart said...

BTW--I didn't see it in the interview, but... one lucky commenter will win a copy of the book!

Christine Warner said...

Loved your interview...so great to learn more about you Joanne.

And I'm with you about changing your past...without that you wouldn't be the person you are today!

Congrats on your latest book...sounds like my kind of read!

Joanne Stewart said...

I personally love reading interviews on my favorite authors for that exact reason!

My sentiments exactly about the path. I kind of like who I am today. :)

thanks for stopping by!

maeclair.net said...

What an amazing, revealing interview. I'm so happy for all of your successes and wish you many more!

Enjoyed the tale of the way you write and I completely agree with you about characters. As a reader, I need to be emotionally involved. As a writer, I strive for character-driven fiction.

Your book sounds exactly like my kind of read!

maeclair(at)maeclair(dot)com

Sandra Dailey said...

Joanne, your interview blew me away. I read it two times. I'm nearly twice your age, but we have so much in common. Our backgrounds, our beliefs, our writing style, even our OCD. You're almost like my mini me. I wish you tons of success.

Joanne Stewart said...

Hi Mae! I admit I had so much fun with this interview. I feel like it's all hanging out there, but it was a blast to do.

I'm the same way as a reader and a writer. I don't need fancy plots. Simple is good with me. Just give me emotion. And as a writer, my characters take over my plots, so... lol

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Joanne Stewart said...

Sandra! I knew there was something I liked about you. ;) Isn't that funny how much alike we are? Thanks for stopping by and for the wishes! Very much appreciated!

Lisa said...

Playboy Baby sound good. Thank you!
Hugs!
Lisa
goosebooth @yahoo.com

Joanne Stewart said...

Thanks, Lisa!

Linda Swift said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. I relate to your love of character-driven books. Those are the books we remember. I also relate to your multi-use writing space. I think kitchens need to be used for something besides cooking!

Joanne Stewart said...

Hi Linda! I agree. When I remember a book, book, it's the characters I remember more so than the plot. I also agree about kitchens! Mine is definitely multifunctional! lol thanks for stopping by!

Joanne Stewart said...

Thanks to everybody who stopped by and left a comment. It was greatly appreciated.

I did a random drawing last night. Stuck the names in a hat, and had my husband draw one out. And the winner of the copy of the book is...Sandra Dailey! Congrats Sandra! And thanks again for stopping by!