Cate: I’m happy to welcome Joanna Aislinn to the Author Spotlight. Joanna, will you please share a short bio with us?
Joanna: Wife/mother/occupational therapist/avid reader since she was old enough to hold a book puts fingers to the keys whenever she can. For a reader, often the next logical step is writing, which I believe is true of many authors. Read enough stories and sooner or later you think, “I can do this.” Once I happened across my first local author’s booksigning, the notion was suddenly ‘doable’ and not so far-fetched. I also knew I had the fundamental skills to get started. I already had story ideas running around my head and even had a chapter written at the time. How to books, in-person and on-line critique groups, and later a writers’ association, helped me begin the process of honing and refining craft. (That never stops.)
Cate: Kudos to you for following through on your dream. Tell us about NO MATTER WHY and where it's available.
Joanna: NO MATTER WHY is my debut. It’s a sweet romance, a first-love story. It’s available in digital and/or print formats at: The Wild Rose Press, Barnes and Noble (online only), Amazon, Alibris and Lybrary.com. All the links are at my blog: http://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/buy/
Cate: Exciting! Debuts are very special. Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Joanna: Five years after finding her brothers murdered, trust and stability are empty words to Carrie Norwell. The walls with which she's barricaded her heart are virtually impenetrable to anyone looking to get close and offer the loving family she wants more than anything.
That’s what Billy Jay Eldridge wants to offer the right girl. He’s managing a store but toys daily with more dangerous career aspirations. When shy, quiet Carrie joins his crew, he sets out to know her better, clueless that his life’s calling will be the biggest obstacle to getting her to accept from him what she needs and wants most.
Here’s an excerpt: http://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/read-an-excerpt/
Cate: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Joanna: I simply wrote the story. Theme came later, after I slapped a title on to an excerpt/contest entry. The only words I could think of were Regardless…No Matter Why. Two manuscripts later, I still have trouble identifying theme, but I know it’s there and will find me when the time is right.
Cate: Any specific inspiration for your characters (an actor/actress or personal hero)?
Joanna: I read (and reread) one particular historical romance at least three times. No matter what the heroine threw the hero’s way—and she was definitely mean in the way she guarded her very damaged heart--he was as wonderfully perfect; understanding and forgiving as one could ever want yet still believable and alpha as could be in his strong, steadfast quiet way. Billy Jay Eldridge is a bit pushier—thinks love can conquer all with his ‘lasso the moon’ attitude, borrowed from It’s A Wonderful Life’s George Bailey. I like to think Billy Jay almost too wonderful to be, yet still believable. As per the situation that brought him and Carrie together, part of it was inspired by a friend’s story, who met and soon married her (first) husband in a similar setting, right about the same age as my characters.
Cate: I have a soft spot for George. How do you pick the character’s names?
Joanna: Some I like (Carrie), Billy Jay was inspired by another character I liked very much once upon a time. Most I make up as I go along.
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Joanna: They certainly live in my head, lol. Scenes play in my head constantly. During first draft, I’ll get the idea for a scene or an incident, usually starting with a conversation between the characters. (I often write dialogue first then go back and add description, sensory details, reactions, etc). In revision, scenes will jump up randomly. I’ll hear then play with parts of the conversation or tweak the action. Whenever I drive, walk or do anything that doesn’t require concentration, my mind will wander to my current WIP.
Cate: What's next for you?
Joanna: Getting up the nerve to submit the query for the sequel and figuring out where a spinoff is going, lol.
Cate: Go for it! At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Joanna: I wrote my first piece at thirteen—a fan-fiction, though I didn’t know it at the time. My friend’s dad read it but was so negative in how far I needed to go to revise the piece I quit. Still, my mind always played around with scenarios to television shows I loved, adding my characters to create hero/heroine situations even when there were none. Exposure to a romance author at a women’s retreat taught me those thoughts were story seeds. After I had my second son, the itch to put down at least one of my stories grew. What should have been parts of that grew into NO MATTER WHY. After taking second place in a contest, I submitted and was fortunate enough to get the contract. Funny, when I stop and think about it, how hard it was to put those first words down. Now, it’s up there with breathing.
Cate: Describe your writing in four words.
Joanna: I aim for emotional, spiritual, relatable and palpable.
Cate: Ooh, I love those. So evocative. Do you have a writing routine?
Joanna: On the weekends and during the summer, I always get up before the rest of my family (husband and two boys, tween and teen), exercise or walk and then go for that first cup of coffee. Depending on the day, I might have up to two hours to myself. After checking e-mails, I’ll get to writing. Lately, though, promo has been taking up a huge chunk of my time. I enjoy it, but wish it didn’t dig into the time (and mental energy) which before I dedicated solely to crafting the story.
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?
Joanna: Besides the promo? Getting that next story off the ground and finding a way—as a pantster, darn it—to give it shape and direction. Most rewarding? I love starting with a blank page and watching a scene come together, following the arc of its development and realizing I’ve come to the perfect place to end it. Kind of like the splints I used to make in the clinic: I’d start with a flat piece of plastic. By the time I heated, shaped and tweaked it, it had shape and a reason to be.
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Joanna: My readers are so kind, so wonderfully supportive and have said many nice, nice things. Two things, though, stand out. One friend talked about liking books about ‘everyday people.” At the time, she had now idea I wrote, but she gave me confidence in my characters, who were—and are—exactly that. My absolute favorite though, is very simple. A friend read a draft of Billy Jay and Carrie’s first kiss. “I was there!” was all she said when she put down the paper.
Cate: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Joanna: Laura Ingalls Wilder (The Little House Series) and Lynne Austin (Candle in the Wind, Hidden Places) immediately come to mind. I recently read Lisa Dale’s Simple Wishes and thoroughly enjoyed that, too.
What am I reading now? Ironically enough, I just finished one of the worst-written stories that ever landed in my hands. As I paged through it, I kept getting on my own nerves for continuing on. I realized—even though I wasn’t crazy for the characters—that I cared enough about them to see them through to the end. This experience confirmed what we as writers are told all the time: when it boils down to the bare bones, characters are why most readers read.
Cate: How do electronic readers impact authors, people and/or the environment in general?
Joanna: A great question. I don’t own an e-reader yet, but I’d like to. As much as I love a print book, I like the portability of an electronic book and the fact that I don’t need to wonder where to store it or what to do with it when I’m done. On the flip side, I love the feel of a book in my hand. Also, simply leaving a print book at school or putting it in a donation box creates the potential for exposure or find its way into the hands of someone who desperately needs an escape.
Print-on-demand makes a lot of sense to me, especially with all the new software supposedly coming that provides a customer with a beautiful print copy on request. Wouldn’t retailers save tons of money on books that weren’t sold and therefore returned to the publisher, not to mention how many trees wouldn’t be sacrificed?
Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Joanna: www.joannaaislinn.com, www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com and lately, at different blogs; anyone who so desires can follow my growing blog trail! Check my blog for a list of appearances.
Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Joanna: What would you like to see more of from me, both in stories and at my blog?
Cate: Readers, Joanna is giving away a digital copy of No Matter Why to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner on Friday, February 26 at 3 PM EST. Don’t miss your chance – comment away! Be sure to leave your email address so Joanna will know where to reach you.
Thanks again for being my guest today, Joanna. Best of luck with No Matter Why.