I invited CJ for a chat!
When did you know you were destined to be a writer?
I won a writing contest at age 12 and loved the brief “celebrity” status it brought me after blowing the $5 prize on candy dots to share with friends. As an only child, I read a lot and often made up imaginary scenarios. By the time I was feature editor of my H.S. newspaper and a teen columnist for small presses in Milwaukee, my avocation was set in stone.
What’s your favorite time management tip?
My new Amazon Echo is helping out with quick research questions. “When were chocolate chips invented?” When the answer was needed for scenes in The Accidental Wife, it took more time to check with Google and Wikipedia than simply asking Alexa--who also plays my favorite Celtic music while I write.
Please tell us something unique about you we can’t learn from your bio.
A few come to mind: I hate eggs. Never eat them. Fear of heights once gave me second thoughts about riding on a ferris wheel, so I jumped off as it rose 8 feet. Trying to control this fear, I once climbed a waterfall in Jamaica and bent over backwards in a tower to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland.I may also be a magnet to animals—wild and domestic. Dogs and cats seem to show up to be adopted or fed. With two of our four adopted children, we also adopted & trained two wild horses from the BLM, and with domestic horses we gave riding lessons for 15 summers. Horseless now, I currently feed a small herd of deer, their wild turkey friends, birds, and critters that lurk in the woods surrounding our hilltop home.
What’s your favorite part of writing?
I love to write dialogue and dialect when necessary. My characters sometimes write their own smack, even waking me from a sound sleep to force me to write down what they say. I love the input!
Do you make up settings or use real places and why?
So far, I’ve had boots on the ground at every setting in my books. Research was my favorite excuse to explore Ireland and Wyoming for The Accidentals and several other states and historic sites for other books. Sponging up senses and photographing sites always creates a descriptive flow that hopefully pulls readers into the story SETTING-- which is a character by itself.
If you could live in one of your stories, which one would you choose and why?
Since my series heroine is the redheaded image of me, I live in her shoes. Her slip in time to 1886 Wyoming in The Accidental Wife was truly virtual time travel for me. Besides learning to live with less and depend on nature, Jessica the transformer-- who challenged diversity-- was transformed herself by the power of love and simplicity in one hot Wyoming summer. Forced by necessity to cook on a woodstove and bathe in a creek, she used her wit and knowledge of the present to “invent” things that weren’t science fiction to her. In 1886, chocolate chips were still 50 years shy of being invented, so she added broken bits of a chocolate bar to cookie dough. (Each book features a historic recipe shared in my newsletters or given away on recipe-card swag. For my own “Meet the Author power-point presentations,” I offer tea and fresh-baked “Accidental recipes.”
What stories do you have in the works right now?
In book three of the Accidental Series, Jessica and Robbie—her gorgeous time traveler husband—find their contemporary Irish honeymoon begins in peril. After Robbie realizes their historic B & B is actually his boyhood home still operated by his family, the couple uncover secrets and scandals set in motion when he emigrated to America in 1883. With a foot in two worlds, can Robbie right wrongs and alter history at the expense of his honor and Jessica, the soulmate he bridged time to find? Look for The Accidental Heiress in 2019 and perhaps another anthology, including some of my favorite award-winning stories wrapped around a holiday theme.
What motivates you to write?
Beyond oxygen, I'd say it is emotion and social diversity. A good story that NEEDS to be told is always within discovery...filed in memory with a NEED to share.
What makes your stories unique?
In the first three Accidental books, a strong but conflicted red-haired heroine and a green-eyed hero with a past may not seem terribly unique, but throw in some time travel, rugged settings and social diversity and you have more organic conflict and suspense. Animals are always included in an unconventional character line-up, along with plot twists, buckets of emotion and unimpeachable research.
If you met one of your heroines in person, what would be the first question you ask her?
Do you agree well-behaved redheads rarely make history?
Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Winning--and sometimes losing--writing contests and awards always inspire me to learn, create and take the novel journey to a higher level. Family sagas, stories from history, a movie or series with characters that move me emotionally also have greatly influenced me. I was starstruck and very inspired after meeting Diana Gabaldon twice at Writer Conferences years ago. Reading her wonderful 1000+ page Outlander books is an entertaining writing course in itself. Boots on the ground at all my settings also inspire me to the details I need to bring a story to life because I do believe setting is character, too.
What advice would you give an author new to the publishing world?
Learning what you didn’t know that you NEED to know can be daunting. Find a good editor, create a platform and website, and learn everything you can about navigating social media. Once you learn that marketing is key to success, learning to navigate with insight and speed will eventually give you more time to write! Curry relationships with other authors and reading groups. For me, attending Writer Conferences at the beginning of my journey was like getting a degree in Publishing 101. I learned about the changing winds of the Industry, found confidence to pitch my work, traded stories with newbies and was inspired by best selling authors. New authors are swimming in an ocean of minnows, hoping to avoid being devoured by bigger fish. PERSISTENCE and PATIENCE is key to discovery and survival which can lead to success.
What is your secret guilty pleasure?
So many! Turtle Sundaes, back rubs, and watching a great movie with a score that inspires and transports. Of course with kleenex and plenty of buttered popcorn!