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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Author Interview: Jackie Ivie

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to have Jackie Ivie. Jackie told me she’s always loved writing and creating, but didn’t consider she was capable of writing historical fiction, which happens to be her favorite genre, until a fateful night in November 1982. She was reading what she describes as a “not-so-memorable historical romance.” Finally she gave up in disgust and tossed it against the wall. Her husband looked up at her. “I told him even I could write better than that,” she remembered. “He said, ‘Oh, yeah?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ Then he said, ‘So, prove it.’” And, she certainly has done that.

Jackie told me that she knew she was an historical romance writer in 1985, once she finished that first book. “The I spent over nineteen years proving it,” she told me, “while I wrote more and more and worked and sought to make being a published writer a reality.”

She is currently working on a 14th century story tentatively titled The Knight and White Satin about a man known as the “King’s Champion.” When he fights, he’s like a different person. And about the only woman who, Jackie said, “can tap into his fairly sensitive self-esteem. She has the key to taking the champion down—and proving what a fraud he is, and he just knows she’s going to use it. Some day. When he least expects it.”

I asked Jackie about her writing style. Right now, she’s still working full-time (and gets up during the week at 3 AM). So, she can only write on weekend. She sleeps in until 4 AM and hits the keyboard. “With dogs along,” she adds. “And big cups of coffee on the desk beside me. I’ve been known to type 180 pages in one weekend jag.” When she’s on a roll, she told me it’s nothing for her to write for eighteen hours straight and it only feel like two. “I sit, and I envision, and it’s like a movie playing. I type as fast as I can just to get it down. I’m shocked at some of the stuff that comes out of my keyboard.”

There have been days, though, she’s had zero pages. So....what does Jackie do when she’s blocked? “Freecell,” she admitted. “It’s addictive, it’s painful to my right arm, but it’s mindless and quick (I play it VERY quickly, because I don’t care about the outcome or score) and it seems to trigger the ‘play’ button again on the movie I’m watching right in front of my eyes. I experience everything I write (to some degree). I sob. I thrill. I hoot. I snicker. I sob again. I’m probably weird.” As a matter of fact, she told me that because of the emotional involvement she has with the story, her hardest part of writing the book is “getting to the ‘angst-ridden, break-up’ scene. I can sense it coming for days, and start crying in the middle of the night before I even get to it, because I have built the most beautiful emotion between these two perfect-for-each-other people, and I’m about to wrench it apart.”

In her stories, Jackie told me that the characters probably come first. “Right from the opening line the hero and heroine are there; sometimes shadowy, sometimes rock solid, but there. Beautiful, flawed, courageous, fated for each other. Strong.” She also sees the characters as one of the important elements in good writing, specifically “believable characters that have believable emotions. To me, that’s what matters and that’s what I love.”

I asked, “Jackie, how do you develop your characters and plots?”

“Good question,” she said. “Totally unanswerable. I just write. I get the first line popping into my head and I start. I know I’m going for the hunk in the kilt. I know it’s going to be in Scotland. I know it’ll have some brawn and muscle and daring and loss and glory in it, and some sex and some blood and some pain…and I just write. I haven’t got the foggiest idea how to plot. I was asked how I measured my ‘Goal, Conflict and Resolution’ once – and if I used equal parts of all three. Gulp. My what? I told her that sounds like work. If it’s work, I am NOT doing it.”

Jackie has fun with her writing. She also has fun in preparing. She’s currently reading two books in the course of her research. The Complete Idiots Guide to the Crusades, which Jackie calls “a totally rocking historical research book”, and Filth, Noise and Stench in England. “How cool is that?” she asked me. “My kids call me ‘super geek.’ I probably am, but I have rarely been so entertained.”

Jackie told me she’s written about nineteen or so novels, and says she has a lot of “lessons in the art of writing” books. “Some of them just aren’t salable in their current incarnation,” she said. “Some aren’t something publishers are looking for at the moment. Which brings me to my favorite. I’ve titled it The Turncoat. I absolutely adore that book. It’s set in pre-revolutionary America, and then it moves to Spain and finally to England, where it ends with a castle, because I’m addicted to those as well. It’s got a mob-cap wearing revolutionary girl who thinks of herself as a plain wren, and an absolute hunk who falls for her and teaches her how beautiful she is. Unfortunately, he just happens to be a British spy, wearing a ‘turncoat.’ My agent is shopping it around if she hasn’t given up yet. I love it. Still. Totally.”

Her latest book, out this month, is A Knight Well Spent. “It’s about a medieval flower child and the massive tough warrior she runs across,” she said. “It was a ton of fun to write, it’s full of emotion and passion and angst and all of that, and I lived through all of it. I still do. That’s the fun of it. When I hear how I’ve made a reader weep and laugh, I know I’ve spread the fun. And that’s the best feeling.”

When Jackie’s not writing, she can normally be found doing some form of needlework. As a matter of fact, she’s addicted to it so much she hides her yarn and patterns from her husband (I hope he doesn’t read this interview). She told me, “I have more projects to do than I could live four lifetimes and accomplish. I stash them all over so my hubby won’t know that what he suspects is true – He thinks there’s no need to catalog-shop or do an internet search for more stitchery patterns. He believes I have enough projects to do. He is so wrong. I have patterns that I bought 20 years ago that you can’t find anymore. This gorgeous one of a fantasy scene with a ship and a mermaid and a all of it encased in a seashell? Well – it could suffer the same fate! I just love the original designs that use lots of color. I rarely buy the complete kit anymore. I have every color of thread and a huge selection of material to work with. And patterns are economical (besides…they stash easier).”

Finally, I asked Jackie what advice she would give to a new writer. “Find yourself a support group of other writers,” she said. “Ignore any of the nay-sayers. Believe in yourself. And then write. Write a lot. And most importantly, write what you love. Let all the emotion and passion and love and angst and desire and worry that you’ve experienced flow. Just flow. There isn’t any other reason TO write.”

You can keep up with Jackie on her website,

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