|J. L. Wilson|
J.L.: First off, thanks for letting me blog here -- I always enjoy bopping around the web, blogging at various spots. It gives me a chance to 'meet' new folks.
I'm from the Midwest and have traveled to (and lived in) a lot of different places. My husband and I are moving in a month or two to a new home, not far from my hometown. So I've come full circle, I guess. I work full-time as a technical writer for a multi-national corporation and I can telecommute. I really enjoy my Day Job, so it's all worked out very well for us to move at this time. And, luckily, we sold our current home without having to put it on the market -- it's a long story and one that will probably show up in a book someday. Suffice it to say, I'm relieved we didn't have to maintain a pristine house for showings, since 'pristine' is a condition with which I am not acquainted!
Caroline: Um, what was that word again? When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
J.L.: I like to work in the garden and my current house has extensive flowerbeds. I'll spend this summer enjoying it, since we're moving to a new place later in the season. Then I'll get out my garden books and start planning a new garden for the new house. Looking forward to it!
Caroline: I love roses myself. Without much water, we have to rely on xeroscape plants. Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?
J.L.: I confess to loving electronic games, especially on my iTouch. I like Angry Birds, Gemmed, Tiny Wings, and Cows vs. Aliens. I find that when I'm blocked on a plot point, I can haul out my iTouch and play a game or two, and when I turn back to writing, I've found a way around the problem.
Caroline: No games for me; don't need any more distractions here. How long have you been writing?
J. L.: I wrote my first novel in 3rd grade, but I didn't get serious about trying to be published until 2004. That's when I joined my local RWA group and started learning about writing. I finished several novels, discovered they were terrible, rewrote them, submitted, and signed my first contract in 2006 -- after receiving a LOT of rejections. Now it's 20 books later, and here we are.
Caroline: You've certainly racked up an impressive list of publications. Are you a plotter or a panzer?
J. L.: I don't plot much. I usually have a good sense of a character's arc for the book, and a sense of the arc of the book. I write in individual chapters, so I have an arc for each chapter as well. I've found that writing in chapters keeps me on target in the book. Each chapter has around 13-17 pages. Each book has around 17-20 chapters. So I know that by the middle of chapter 1, I want to introduce the central conflict. By the middle of chapter 5, I want the hero and heroine to have met and figured out their conflict, and so on. I write every day, usually for at least an hour or more, and I often jot notes while at work. I try to keep my current work in progress always fresh in the front of my mind.
Most of my books have a 'theme,' too. For example, in CANDY, CORPSES, and CLASSIFIED ADS, Molly has to learn to trust again after JT broke her heart. In HUMAN TOUCH (the first book in my paranormal series), Isbel and Cyrus overcome societal bias about human clones.
Caroline: I especially love your cozy titles and beautiful covers. Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?
J. L.: For my time travel series (the History Patrol), I do the research ahead of time because that's crucial to the story. My characters travel back in time to resolve reincarnation issues, and they're usually sent to a particular historical event to observe. So it's essential that I get that history right.
For my contemporary mysteries, I do a smidgen of research ahead of time, but I find as I write that I usually need to do some more, so I do that when I need to.
Caroline: What advice would you give to pre-published authors?
J.L.: I think there's 2 bits of advice I'd give:
1. Define success for yourself and set realistic goals. Do you want to be published with a major New York house? That will require a certain kind of writing and a certain kind of discipline. Or do you just want to finish that book and see it out there in the hands of readers? What publishing house can help you with that? Or should you self-publish? Once you define what your 'success' will be, you can determine your path. And ...
2. Keep learning. There is always more to learn, always more to try. Each author can keep learning, changing, and challenging him/herself. If you keep learning, you keep the writing fresh and fun, and that's why we should be doing this: because we love it.
Caroline: Great advice. Please tell us about your latest release.
J. L.: My latest 'release' is 3 releases, back to back in April, May, and June. It's the "Deadly Landscaping Romances" series, books that feature Cassie Whittington, a 50-something woman who was laid off from her job and decided to pursue a new career, one in the horticultural industry.
When she stumbles on a body in the greenhouse, life gets VERY interesting, especially when her new boss, Sam Barlow, is initially suspected in the crime. Then her life takes on more complications when she finds out her ex-husband, Charlie, is still in love with her. Cassie and Charlie have a complex past relationship -- Cassie's father killed Charlie's mother when Cassie and Charlie were children, and that murder has brought them together and ultimately tore them apart. Cassie isn't sure how she feels about Charlie or Sam or which man would be right for her. And it takes her 3 books to figure it out -- while stumbling over a few bodies along the way!
Adding to the mayhem is the fact that Cassie inherits a boatload of money from Charlie's grandmother, which sets her at odds with other members of the Whittington family. It also affects Sam's feelings for her, because he doesn't want to be accused of being a gold-digger.
This series really let me examine a lot of issues: how we all relate to money, our ideas of status and self-esteem, and the dynamics of family--whether they're blood relatives or not.
The three books are LILACS, LITIGATION, AND LETHAL LOVE AFFAIRS; FOXGLOVES, FANCY FUNGUS, AND FATAL FAMILY FEUDS; and DAISIES, DEADLY FORCE, AND DISASTROUS DIVORCE DISPUTES. See my web site (http://www.jayellwilson.com/) for more details about the books, as well as purchase information for the digital and the print versions. My web site also contains links to my various blogs and the places where I guest blog, and excerpts for all the books.
Caroline: Give us just one excerpt to let readers know your style.
J. L.: Sure, I'll include one here from the first book.
Cassie Whittington, a 50-something ex-IT professional, is finishing a college degree in horticulture when she finds a body in the greenhouse, her new boss is suspected of the crime, her ex-husband Charlie wants back in her life, and she inherits a few million dollars. Her life is taking twists and turns she never could have imagined!
I looked up, belatedly realizing some words were being spoken. The lawyer droned through a series of bequests to friends then she came to the family, her eyes darting from Livvie to John to Becky. When her gaze came to Charlie, it lingered slightly and I hid a smile. Many women had that reaction to Charlie.
“To my granddaughter, Olivia Whittington Carlyle, I leave my collections of china and crystal so she might have a suitable means to entertain her friends.”
Livvie smiled and raised her martini glass. “Thank you, Grandy. I appreciate it.” I think she was even sincere.
“To my granddaughter, Rebecca Whittington Stark, I leave my diaries and scrapbooks which chronicle several of the disappointments I’ve endured in my life. I hope she will learn from them.”
Becky appeared faintly amused but her husband looked put out, as though he’d expected something more substantial from the old lady. I suppose whenever a rich person died, the vultures all started circling.
“...grandson, John, I leave my shares in his design company, which I purchased years ago to assist him in getting his start in business.”
I hid a smile. The shares were next to useless because John owned the majority of the stock in the company. I suppose it was nice he would have 99.9% of the stock, though. A look at his face told me he, like Becky’s husband, expected far more from this day and from the old lady who died.
The lawyer cleared her throat. “To my beloved grandson, Charles, I leave two of my prized collections: the one of Hummel figurines and the other, my collection of software stock.” She raised her eyes from the paper and looked at Charlie, two bright spots of pink color standing out on her pale cheeks.
There was a silence in the room then the import of the words soaked in. “Stock?” John demanded.
The lawyer looked at him, her eyes cool and distant behind her businesslike dark-rimmed glasses. “Mrs. Penningford had an impressive portfolio.” Then she smiled at Charlie, giving him a look of conspiratorial mischief that made me grin. The look vanished almost instantly behind a brisk façade.
Charlie squeezed my shoulder. “I always told her the future was in technology. I guess she listened to me.”
The lawyer looked at his hand on my shoulder and her face seemed to flatten, her faintly Asian features stiffening. She nodded briskly, her eyes going back to the papers she held. “Your grandmother had a nice portfolio with Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, and Nintendo, some of which have had stock splits over the years.”
John looked like he was struggling not to scream. I peered up at Charlie. “Nice to know she took your advice.”
“And to my granddaughter-by-proxy, Cassandra Roberta Wheelock Whittington, I leave the balance of my estate, including my homes in Shorewood, Minnesota and Naples, Florida as well as the cabin on Lake Vermillion in Northern Minnesota. Cassie’s friendship has been a constant joy in my life for almost fifty years, since she came to live with us as a small child. I always enjoyed our Saturday afternoon tea, which she never missed regardless of how busy she was. I’ve valued her love and her friendship deeply. As a provision of this bequest, I ask that Cassie allow Betty Burke to remain in the home in Shorewood as long as Betty so desires and if Betty chooses to leave, that Cassie sees to it Betty is provided with a proper home and retirement income.”
I turned my head slowly to stare at the lawyer, my jaw sagging open. “What?”
“What?” John’s shout was certainly louder than my whisper.
Livvie started to laugh, the giggle soon turning into a guffaw. After a second Becky joined in. Charlie was grinning and I knew he wished he could join his sisters.
I looked around the room, my eyes huge. Betty smiled and Charlie's father looked bemused. “That’s not right,” I said weakly. “There must be a lot of money there. I mean, it’s not right. I’m not her family or—”
“The estate was probated at approximately fifteen million dollars.” The lawyer smiled briefly at me then looked at Charlie. Some message passed between them then she looked at me again. “Of course, we’ll need to deduct the items she left to other family members. And the real estate isn’t included in the estimation because of market fluctuations and...”
I didn’t hear the rest. Grandy Theo left me fifteen million dollars? My ears were buzzing and I was dizzy, the room spinning around me.
Charlie leaned over. “I think you can afford to buy that Jaguar now.”
Caroline: I can't wait to read this series. Two of the new Deadly Landscaping Romances are available from The Wild Rose Press now and the third will be available in June at http://tinyurl.com/3csywb3
J. L.: Thanks again, Caroline, for letting me hang out. I enjoyed answering your questions!