Welcome my guest author today -- Jackie Braun. Jackie She sold her first book to Silhouette Romance in late 1999 and started writing under the Harlequin Romance banner with the release of her third book in 2004.
Today's release, MR. RIGHT THERE ALL ALONG is Jackie's 25th published novel -- yes, you read that right! 25th! And today she answers interview questions about longevity in publishing and her own writing style. Plus, we've got an excerpt AND a giveaway!!
MR. RIGHT THERE ALL ALONG
Jackie, you worked as an award winning journalist for 17 years before leaving to write full time. Can you talk a little about that transition?
It wasn’t as difficult as I expected from a creative and time-management standpoint. I had a 3-year-old at the time and was already very good at multitasking. The big transition was getting used to not having a regular paycheck. That was hard -- going from getting paid every week to wondering when the next check would come or, in the case of royalties, how much it would be. I did a lot of freelance for the newspaper still, including writing a weekly column. I invoiced them monthly. So that helped. The really big help, though, was my husband. He’s in charge of our household budget. If you could see the Excel spreadsheets he keeps to determine where every penny goes, you’d be green with envy. The man is a god. (And he has a cute butt!)You worked for 5 years as both a full time journalist and a full time writer. As an author struggling with this very problem – day job and writing – what tips can you give for maintaining sanity while progressing as authors?
Ah, you assume I maintained my sanity. Ha! And double ha! Seriously, I got up early every day – we’re talking 4 a.m. There was no other way around it.This is your 25th book! Happy Anniversary! What are the key character elements writers need to stay successful in this business for that long?
Gosh, I’m not sure I know. I will say I wasn’t willing to fail or give up. Life has a way of raining on your parade. During the time I wrote those 25 books I lost my brother to cancer, my grandmother, my mother-in-law to cancer, my dad and my father-in-law to cancer. My husband and I built a house. I left a career and became self-employed. We adopted two children, including a so-called “special needs” toddler from China. My husband was diagnosed with cancer and beat it. On and on and on … People talk about writer’s block, but when you’re a professional writer, you don’t have that option. You just write.Your books often contain humor. I’ve found humor very difficult to write. Is there a trick to writing humor?
I don’t know. My husband and I like to laugh. We find it preferable to the alternative. I can remember times in our marriage when it felt like the world was falling apart and laughter saved us. So, in addition to writing about people’s struggles, humor just naturally leaks into my stories.What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Believable characters even when they are doing the seemingly unbelievable. Readers need to relate to your characters.How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
Nope. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
Immense satisfaction and pride.What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A room of your own and quiet time to work.What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
I’m able to be home with my kids. This makes me crazy during deadlines, especially in the summer, but it’s worth it. My boys are 6 and 11 now. I’m going to blink and they’ll both be grown and gone.How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. Some books all but write themselves, in which case we’re talking two to three months. Others, four or five months.What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write every day. I currently do about 24 hours a week of freelance as a journalist. Since the deadlines for that are pretty much daily, I fit my book writing around that.What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know that I have one.What do you like to do when you're not writing?
In the summer I like to poke around in my flowerbeds. I love gardening, even though it’s a constant battle to keep the bugs and critters from mowing down all of my perennials.What does your family think of your writing?
They are really proud of me. I’m blessed to have such great support.What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
Sometimes my characters take off and do something I wasn’t planning. I always follow their lead.Which is your favorite of the books you have written?
“In the Shelter of His Arms.” It came out in 2005 and was named Harlequin Romance of the Year by RT.What do you think makes a good story?
Believable characters, great conflict and an emotional payoff for readers.What are you reading now?
You mean besides children’s books with my kids? I’m reading “Bed of Roses,” the second book in Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet series.What new author has grasped your interest?
None at the moment, but then my TBR pile is overflowing.What are the hardest/easiest scenes to write?
For me, the hardest scenes are love scenes. The easiest, those that include humor.What are your writing strength/weaknesses?
Really? You’re asking me that? I plead the Fifth.Who are some of your favorite authors and what really strikes you about their work?
I love Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, LaVyrle Spencer (Gosh, I wish she hadn’t retired), Jennifer Weiner, Liz Fielding … Again, it comes down to characters for me. They all write amazing characters.Can you share a little of your current work with us?
When she spied the invitation amid the pile of bills and junk mail, Chloe McDaniels's lips pulled back in a sneer. She'd been expecting it, but that didn't make her reaction any less visceral.
Tillman High School's Class of 2001 was set to celebrate its ten-year reunion.
Chloe did not have fond memories of her New Jersey high school. In fact, she'd spent her four years at Tillman ducking into bathroom stalls and janitors' broom closets to avoid the unholy trinity of Natasha Bradford, Faith Ellerman and Tamara Kingsley.
She'd known the girls since grade school. They'd never been friends, but neither had they been enemies… until the start of their freshman year when, for reasons that had never been terribly clear to Chloe, she'd become their favorite target.
Somehow on that first, already awkward day of high school, they managed to attach a "Kick Me" sign to the back of her shirt just before the start of first period. It was the last time Chloe ever accepted a friendly back slap without taking a gander over her shoulder afterward. As cruel pranks went, it wasn't terribly original, but it was effective. She'd taken enough sneakers to the seat of her favorite jeans to feel like a soccer ball.
Then, between third period and lunch, Simon Ford had happened along.
"You might not want to wear this," he'd said simply, removing the sign and handing it to Chloe. That was his way. Understated.
Good old Simon. He always had her back. Or backside, as the case had been. They'd been friends since his family had moved into her family's apartment building at the start of third grade and their friendship continued to this day. Thinking of him now, Chloe picked up the phone before realizing the time. It was well after five on a Friday. He was probably out with his girlfriend.
Chloe realized she was sneering again. Well, it couldn't be helped. She didn't like Sara. The long-limbed and lithe blonde was too…too…perfect.
She glanced down at the invitation. Perfect Sara would never find herself in this position. Perfect Sara would have been the homecoming queen and the prom queen and the every other kind of queen at her high school. Unlike Chloe, whose only class recognition had come in the form of "curliest hair" and "most freckles."
Yeah, that was what a girl wanted to be remembered for, all right.
Her gut told her to ball up the invitation in a wad, spit on it and, with expletives she knew in four languages, send it whizzing into the trash can. Her heart was a different matter. It was telling her to reach for a spoon and the pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream in her freezer.
Diet in mind, she went with her gut. Sort of.
She lavished the invitation with every foreign epithet she could think of before heaving it in the trash. But, while she bypassed the ice cream, she booted up her computer and downloaded a recipe from her favorite cable cooking show, Susie Kay's Comfort Foods. If it was all but guaranteed to clog the arteries and contribute to heart disease, Susie Kay made it.
Tonight's dinner selection was a case in point. Macaroni and cheese with not one, but four kinds of cheese and enough butter and calories that Chloe swore her clothes fit tighter just reading the ingredients. Not good considering she was already wearing her fat pants.
Actually, the pants were elastic-waist exercise gear that she didn't exercise in but instead reserved for days when she felt particularly bloated. Today was just such a day. Strap a few cables to her and she would be right at home gliding down Sixth Avenue like one of those huge helium balloons in the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Even so, that didn't keep her from making the mac and cheese and eating half of the six servings.
The wine she poured for herself was an afterthought. She'd been saving the pricey bottle of cabernet sauvignon for a special occasion. This definitely was not it, but three glasses later, she didn't care.
Chloe set the wine aside and went to her stereo. Music. That's what she needed now. Something with a wicked beat and a lot of bass. Something she could dance to with reckless abandon and maybe work off a few extra calories in the process. She chose…Celine Dion.
As one weepy ballad after another filled Chloe's Lower East Side studio apartment, her willpower wilted like the water-deprived basil plant on her kitchen windowsill. Again muttering foreign curses, this time aimed at herself, she fished the crumpled invitation out of the trash. When the telephone rang, she was still sitting on the kitchen floor smoothing out the wrinkles.
It was Simon.
"Hey, Chloe. What are you doing?"
Anyone else—her older and uber-chic sister, Frannie, for instance—and Chloe would have felt compelled to come up with some elaborate reason why she could be found home alone on the official start of the weekend.
Since it was Simon, she confessed, "Drinking wine, wearing Lycra and listening to the soundtrack from Titanic."
"No ice cream?"
How well he knew her. Despite her best intentions, the mint chocolate chip was next on her list. "Not yet."
"Want some company?" he asked.
Did she ever. She and Simon always had a good time together, whether it involved going out or just hanging out. Still, his question surprised her. Wasn't he supposed to be with his girlfriend tonight? She liked thinking he'd throw over Perfect Sara to be with Comfortable Chloe. Liked it so much that she immediately felt guilty. She was a terrible friend. To make up for it, she would share her ice cream and what was left of the wine. "When can I expect you?"
"Right now. I'm standing on the other side of your apartment door."
If he were a boyfriend—not that Chloe had had one of those in several months—this news would have sent her into a panic. Her apartment was a mess. For that matter, so was she. Her red hair was a riot of curls thanks to the day's high humidity. And what little makeup she'd applied that morning was long gone. But this was Simon. Simon, she reminded herself, after a glance down at her unflattering attire had her wanting to flee to her bedroom and change.
It was sad to admit, but he'd seen her looking worse. Much worse. Such as when she came down with the chicken pox in the sixth grade or the time in high school when she'd succumbed to salmonella after her cousin Ellen's bridal shower. Aunt Myrtle made the chicken salad, which was why, henceforth, the woman was only allowed to bring paper products or plastic cutlery to family gatherings. The coup de grace, of course, was last December. Three days shy of Christmas, the guy Chloe had been dating for the previous six months dumped her.
Via text message.
And she'd already bought him a gift, a Rolex watch, which she couldn't return since the street vendor who'd sold her the incredibly authentic-looking knockoff had moved to a new location.
So, now, she flung open the door, feeling only mildly embarrassed by what her hair was doing, by the mac-and-cheese stains on her shirt or the fact that her lips had probably turned a slightly clownish shade of purple from the wine she'd enjoyed.
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