Hi, MJ, and thanks for joining us today! Can you tell us a little about your background?
Thirteen years ago I finished my first novel. It’s taken all this time to sell, with lots of highs and lows in between. I’ve had tons of rejection letters, I’ve finalled in a number of contests, including the Golden Heart. I’ve had an agent, been orphaned by an editor who had been enthusiastic about my work. I’ve had revision letters and I’ve learned a lot that is translating to stronger first draft writing these days. In real life, I’m an elementary teacher, a wife and mother to a 16 year old. I’m lucky to have a lot of support here or this twisty road or I never would have made it to this point!
Wow, what a journey! So tell us about your latest writing project or published title.
Hot Shot was a two time Golden Heart finalist. It was the book that got me my agent and the enthusiastic editor and the bulk of revision letters. It’s the story of a wildland firefighter, Gabe Cooper, who’s recovering from the betrayal of his wife and distrustful of women, and reporter Peyton Michaels, who’s trying to discover what makes a hero.
When Peyton Michaels signed on to write about everyday heroes like her deceased husband, she never expected she’d be running up a mountain with a wildfire nipping at her heels. She never expected to put her life in the hands of hunky Hot Shot Gabe Cooper. And she sure never expected to fall in love with another man who put his life at risk every day.
Gabe Cooper has had enough of women who want to make him into someone he’s not. Peyton may see him as a hero, but he’s just a man doing a job. So he saved some Girl Scouts and pulled his crew out of the fire. It’s no more than any other man would do. But the pesky reporter won’t leave him alone, and the more time he spends with her, the deeper she gets under his skin.
Because Peyton’s husband was killed in the line of duty on the SWAT team, the last person she wants is a man who risks his life every time he goes to work. But when she and Gabe are trapped in a blow-up on the mountain, she not only sees what a hero Gabe is, she finds the charge that makes him go back year after year. She has to overcome her fear of losing him and he has to dig deep to find what it takes to become her hero before they can find their happily ever after.
Sounds terrific! Now that you've weathered so many ups and downs in the business, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
Work hard, work smart, and never give up! Story comes first, but craft is important, too.
Ah, good advice. What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
I like all kinds of books – I recently rearranged my TBR by genre. Romantic suspense outnumbers the rest right now. I love Nora Roberts, Virginia Kantra and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
Right now, promotion is the most difficult. I’m in the middle of a new book which I love and I just want to work on that, but I’m also trying to participate on promotional listserves. Some days I come home to 700 emails!
I can definitely appreciate that challenge! How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
This is my eternal struggle. The thing that suffers most is the housekeeping, naturally. I get up early to write, go to work, come home and do email, take my new (used) laptop out in the backyard to write till dinner, then recharge it and take it back to the couch after dinner to watch TV or movies and write more. I do not sacrifice TV ;) I wonder if Tivo can be considered a writing expense?
Oh, I think you should look into that! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like playing in the dirt with flowers, and I bought some fabric to make a new skirt and pair of pants, but the fabric remains untouched after over a month!
Thanks for a great interview, MJ! Readers, make sure to check out her website and her blog ~ you might just find a new favorite author!