In WHEN WE WERE SHADOWS, Janet Wees shows how to explain the Holocaust to a child


When We Were Shadows, for middle-school students, is based on the true story of a Jewish boy and his family hiding from the Nazis in WWII in Holland. It traces his journey at the age of 5 from Germany toWWWS_cover8 - front cover Holland in 1937, where the family thought they would be free of the persecution happening to Jews in their home country, only to have their haven invaded by the Nazis 3 years later. The story describes how the family fled from one hiding place to another, aided by people in the Dutch Resistance, until they found refuge in a hidden village in the Veluwe forest. For 18 months they lived in fear of discovery, and were assisted by local villagers and the Resistance, and trying to make the best of their situation. After the village was attacked, the boy and his family had to take on new identities and continued to hide until liberation in Zwolle by the Canadians in 1945.

The story is told through narratives and letters, and is actually one long letter from a grandfather to his granddaughter when she becomes old enough to know what happened during that time. Within the long letter are narratives from the grandfather, recalling his memories, and old letters from him as a boy to his Oma (hiding elsewhere)describing the family’s experiences to ensure she knew they were safe. His letters also acted as a reminder that he was still alive and he could reflect on what he’d experienced.

In 2005 and 2007, the author visited the The Hidden Village memorial site in Holland, near Vierhouten. She sat in the reconstructed huts and tried to imagine living in those conditions for 18 months in constant fear for her life. As a former teacher, she knew about children’s interests in history and decided that North American children needed to hear this story.

Research found the name of a woman from Holland who’d been in hiding herself, and who knew someone who was curator of the museum for The Hidden Village. From the curator she got the name of a man who’d lived in the village the whole time. Off to Amsterdam she flew to interview the man-who-was-the-boy. For four days she listened, recorded, laughed and cried with her new friend, went home and began to transcribe the notes and tapes. Nine years of writing, editing, revising, submitting finally came to fruition with the acceptance of the manuscript by Second Story Press in 2017. The book is scheduled to be released April 3. It can be ordered online and in bookstores in Canada and USA. It is being translated into Dutch and will be for sale in Holland after the beginning of June.

Praise for When We Were Shadows

Excerpt from CM Association Reviews, University of Manitoba, by Carmelita Cechetto-Shea, Library Consultant for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada:

A question that always creates much discussion and debate is: “How do you explain the Holocaust to a child?” Introducing children to such a horrific topic is often difficult, and a gentle approach is often a good way to introduce the topic without inflicting the details of what humans do to other humans. Instead of dwelling on the atrocities of the Holocaust, experts recommend the introduction of books on acceptance, courage, and loyalty, exactly what transpires in the When We Were Shadows. Written in the language appropriate for the intended readers (ages 10-13), Wees has shared a true story of a young boy dealing with life at an adult level, trying to remain a boy, but realizing that his youth is no longer typical and carefree. It is clearly written and designed to be used as an educational tool for children; there is also a teacher’s guide for the series available online. When We Were Shadows is a perfect choice for school libraries, whether as a stand-alone read or as a curriculum resource for teachers. When We Were Shadows will inform readers, young and old, on the journey of a young boy during the Holocaust, but ultimately it will inspire all to discover how the human spirit can triumph over evil. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”

Interview with Janet Wees

Why do you write? 

I write to express how I feel to politicians, friends, family; to make corporations more accountable. And I write to teach, to share my experiences with newer teachers. This book was written for children so they would continue to learn about how the Holocaust affected children their age. As well, this person re-lives his experiences every time he makes a speech or talks to a classroom, so this was one way to alleviate some of that for him.

As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about your_MG_9788 Janet Weesself and/or the writing process?

The steepest learning curve has been the publishing process. But before that, as all writers know, I didn’t let many people read my writing for fear of rejection. I set myself a publisher rejection ceiling of 12 as apparently that was how many rejections JK Rowling had. When I reached my 12, I took a different tack. I learned that I had to admit what I thought was good, really wasn’t good enough. I started letting people read and give feedback. I learned that I had to put my sensitivity on the back burner if I wanted to produce something readable. And lo and behold, I didn’t cry at criticism, I didn’t get defensive; I built on it. I also discovered that I could not just write; I had other things in my life and part of those nine years I traveled and volunteered and did social activities. Sporadically I got back on the trail and took a five day self-directed writing retreat in Banff and got involved with a mentorship program. That’s when everything took on a new life, and basically it was the beginning of this book being published. I actually took advice and listened and analyzed and saw what needed to be done. No more defensiveness over fear of rejection.

The most interesting part of the writing process was that what I had pooh-poohed in the past, when I heard someone say that the character took over and wrote the book for you, or the story took you along and wrote itself, was true! During those four months in mentorship, I would sometimes write for 7 hours straight, interrupted only for lunch when I remembered. It was as if I was the boy and I was living his life. I found myself drained after those four months and I couldn’t remember doing much else. But as I wrote I knew it was going in the right direction; I listened to my gut.

I also did something that is not very often recommended. When I didn’t hear from publishers who said they would let me know in 3 – 6 months, or would return the submission in a SASE, I contacted them and asked if my not hearing from them meant rejection. Three (THREE!) publishers said they could not find my original submission and to send it again! And I did that, and one of them ended up buying my book! I learned not to be shy about having chutzpah.

At what moment did you decide you were a writer? 

It happened when I was 13 and I entered a contest in a movie theatre magazine. The question I needed to answer was “Why are movies the best form of entertainment?” It was open to USA and Canada. My entry was fourth and I won a 12 piece setting of stainless steel flatware that I still use! My dad was upset because we had to drive 60 miles away to get it out of Customs. It was then that I realized words have power and effect.

What does your writing space look like?… like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?

My writing space is a loft in my townhouse. I use a desktop (iMac). My desk is a mess but I know where everything is located…most of the time. I can’t write in noise but when I have a problem concentrating I will go for a walk and try to clear my mind. My mentor taught me to treat my writing like my job ie. get up, get dressed as if going to work and set up the times. So I never write anymore in my housecoat. I get dressed and usually start in the morning before other distractions happen. Sometimes I need to use an egg timer because I forget to eat. And I need to stand up and walk around every so often.

Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?

All of my educational journal articles were about a program I developed for gifted students with learning disabilities, so I could write from knowledge. Magazine articles also came from travel experiences and personal experiences. This novel, my first, came when I visited the memorial site for The Hidden Village in Holland, in 2005. It “grabbed” me. Two years later I visited the site again and sat in the reconstructed huts and wondered how the people felt. Even though I was retired I knew that children would want to know and read about this part of history. As a teacher of gifted students, I knew this was the kind of story they would read because of their own sense of social justice and their high sensitivities.  I began to research it and contacted a woman in New Jersey who had a contact in Holland who knew a man who was a boy who had hidden in the hidden village. I got his phone number and called him to interview him on the phone. He said, “We cannot do this on the phone; you must come to Amsterdam!” So I went and spent four days in his dining room, laughing, crying, listening, writing, recording and becoming friends with the man. He told me at that time (2008) to fictionalize to fill in gaps. He also said to make it an adventure but as I wrote it I soon realized it’s not the kind of adventure that is written in most books. He now says it was NOT an adventure. So this novel is based on the stories he told me around his dining room table. The first draft was more narrative and too adult a voice. I completely revamped the format and used letters as the vehicle to tell the boy’s stories, even though in real life he never wrote letters to his Oma. It gradually became a story of A boy instead of THE boy .

How much time do you spend writing each day? 

It has taken me over 9 years to bring this book to fruition, but I didn’t write everyday. At first when I was transcribing my notes I was at it every day. And when I was involved with the mentorship program in 2015 for four months, I wrote 3 – 4 days a week for at least 4 hours per day, sometimes more. I think I had to put in a minimum number of hours. My eyes begin to bother me and I sometimes needed to take breaks. I also write 400 letters a year so I spend some time each day or a number of hours one or two days per week writing letters.

If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?

If I were not writing, I would be reading or being outside. Sometimes I feel compelled to write (ie. letters to the editor), but now I choose to write because in the past when I felt compelled, I never had the time to follow through. Now that I am retired,  I like to write children’s picture books, but I don’t rule out another novel about WWII and Holland.

What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?

The most revealing mistakes I made this time were factual errors such as assuming that a tent would have a zippered opening, when in fact they used ties and pegs in the 1940’s. And I used luggage trolleys with which I was familiar as an escape route but in fact, they didn’t exist at that time either, so I had to change the method of subterfuge. I did a lot of research about the plants and trees to get accuracy but completely forgot about the tent and trolleys. I also made a mistake with glasses and how close a person would look at a book if they were near or far sighted. I learned so much about not assuming based on my life.

How would you like your books to change the world? 

I would like my audience of middle-schoolers to remember and understand the experiences of my protagonist so that it will never happen again. Children learn empathy through books; they feel with the characters and hopefully it becomes ingrained. I remember the first time I read about Dr. Tom Dooley and his experiences in Viet Nam and how he connected with people he was trying to help. I think his work as a doctor in the jungle inspired me to be in a helping profession. I became a teacher. Putting his politics aside, I feel he changed my world as I knew it then.

What lessons have you learned about marketing your work? 

I have learned to be shameless about marketing. Word of mouth and social media are probably the most affordable and fast spreading. I send bookmarks in letters so the recipients can share them, made up business cards with links to pre-ordering, posted photos on Facebook. I have learned that people seem to be enamored with authors. I find that so interesting, to be treated like some celebrity when I don’t feel any different. This happens in coffee shops or on the bus when I engage in conversation with strangers.




Read about THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS, everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II


GENRE: Historical Fiction

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

AtomicCityPBThe girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.


Three randomly drawn readers will receive a digital copy of the book. Enter to win a copy of the book – a Rafflecopter giveaway:

AUTHOR Bio and Links

Janet Beard authorphoto1Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard moved to New York to study screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Her first novel, Beneath the Pines, was published in 2008. Janet has lived and worked in Australia, England, Boston, and currently, Columbus, Ohio, where she is teaching writing, raising a daughter, and working on a new novel.

Buy links:




Welcome to KPFA Women’s Magazine host Kate Raphael who discusses her writing journey with me!

After being interviewed twice by Kate Raphael on KPFA Women’s Magazine program, I turned the tables and invited her to share her writing journey on my blog. Her second interview with me will be aired on 1/8/18.

Kate Raphael is a long-time feminist and queer activist, mystery novelist, and office worker. She is a founding member of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) and San Francisco Women In Black and a member of the editorial collective of the quarterly queer newspaper, UltraViolet. She is a former board member of San Francisco Women Against Rape and was a 2004 LGBT Pride Parade Community Grand Marshal. Kate’s interviews with Syrian and Honduran feminists have been broadcast nationally. Click here to read her blog.

What started you off as a writer?

I was a nerdy, lonely kid and so I read constantly. Being transported to another place or time, being able to experience life as someone else through an engrossing story, was such a magical experience for me, that of course I wanted to be able to do that all the time. And pretty early on, I’m not sure how, I was exposed to the romantic image of the poet or writer. Being a writer meant you were deep, and made social quirks and awkwardness okay – instead of just not marking you as a misfit, they set vivtoria secret my 07you apart and made you special. You could also be an artist, but I have zero artistic ability, so I had to be a writer. But I also always loved words. I love what they can do, take a random collection of things and give them meaning, and if used well, create a powerful emotional response.

How do you fit it into your extremely busy life working 40+ hours a week for a law firm, hosting a popular radio show (Women’s Magazine) on KPFA, pursuing social justice as an activist, and marketing your books?

It’s extremely difficult. I’m over scheduled and irritable a lot. Sometimes I can weave things together, like doing marketing/social media tasks, writing leaflets or preparing for radio interviews during slow times at work, using my show to surreptitiously promote my books, and of course, my books and my radio work are part of my activism. Also, of course, sometimes I prioritize one thing over another for a period; during the first few months after a book’s release, I can’t do as much activism as I can at other times, or do as many radio interviews. But that’s good, because then I realize I miss those things and come back to them with new energy after a break.

Why did you choose the murder mystery genre?

First, I love reading mysteries. I love the pacing and the puzzle solving. So I decided to write what I would want to read. But also, the mystery genre is very well suited to exploring and exposing social issues, situations that are fraught with injustice and complex power dynamics, such as those in Palestine. I love writers like Tony Hillerman, who wrote about the Navajo reservation in the southwest, and Walter Mosely, who writes mostly about Black people in Los Angeles. They use mystery to teach about freedom struggles in a really nuanced way, and I felt like I could try to do that for Palestine. Plus, it had not really been done in the way that I am doing it. There is no other feminist mystery series that I know of, set in Palestine, with a Palestinian woman as protagonist. And there is an audience. Global mysteries are a thing, there are book clubs that read them, there is a sub-genre of mysteries with lesbian content, which mine also have, so I hoped I could use the genre to get information to people who would not otherwise pick up a book about Palestine. And to some extent that is happening, although maybe not as quickly or widely as I had hoped.

Have you written in other genres? Poetry? Short stories? Articles?

I am probably the world’s worst poet. Which is too bad, because I really look great in a beret. I don’t write short stories much, although when I first started writing fiction, I did, and I think they were not bad. And I wish I could because novels are such a huge commitment. But I don’t love short stories as a reader, I find them not that satisfying, somehow, like I just get to know the characters and then I have to say goodbye to them. I don’t think you can write well in a genre you don’t read.

I do like to write nonfiction. It’s probably my favorite thing to write and to read. I have been a print journalist, so I can write in the objective news style (not that anyone is actually objective) but what I really like to write are personal essays. I write them as blog posts from time to time, but I haven’t figured out how to find readers. The things I am interested in are very eclectic and idiosyncratic in some ways, so I don’t exactly have a niche. Probably the most popular thing I ever wrote was this piece about Finns in the U.S., that was motivated by a line in a book I read. Everyone who read it knew some Finnish person they sent it to.

When did you start publishing?

I published my first novel in November 2015. Before that I had just published a few essays in anthologies and magazines.

What connection do you personally have to Israel and Palestine?

I grew up in a very Zionist Jewish family. Support for the state of Israel was absolutely unquestioned. But, it was also a family that was committed to social justice. So there was a contradiction there, and eventually, I was forced to reckon with those contradictions. In college, I was active in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and Israel was South Africa’s primary supplier of arms at that point. So that was one thing that pushed me to question what I had learned about Israel, and then in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and oversaw a massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon – somewhere between 800 and 3500 civilians were killed. From then on, I knew that whatever might have been the motivation for settling in the region, the idea of a Jewish state in the Middle East is a disaster. The more I have learned about how the state was established, the more convinced of that I have become.

In September 2000, Palestinians in the West Bank began a series of demonstrations against Israeli rule. Within one week, the Israelis fired one million bullets at primarily nonviolent protesters, injuring thousands. This became a sustained uprising known as the Second Intifada. In 2002, I went to Palestine as part of an international mobilization to support Palestinian nonviolent resistance, and I ended up spending eighteen months there, over a period of three years. During that time, I was arrested several times, and spent about six weeks in Israeli jail, before being deported in early 2005. Shortly before I left, I glimpsed a scene that gave me the idea for Murder Under the Bridge.

MURDER UNDER THE FIG TREE-FINAL COVERHow did the main characters in your two published works, Chloe and Rania, come about?

Rania just popped into my head. I sat down to start writing a mystery and I thought, well, if there’s a murder, who would investigate it? And I started writing a Palestinian policewoman. She took shape quickly – I knew she was very small, wore glasses, covered her head but was not very religious, had a son, had been an activist from a young age, and tends to chafe against authority. She borrows attributes from a number of women I know but is definitely not based on anyone.

Chloe – well, I had to have an international protagonist also, in order to use the stories I had accumulated during my time there. But somehow, in trying not to make her too noble, I seem to have imbued her with all my worst qualities. So I think of her as kind of the comic relief, she means so well but is a bit of a bull in a china shop. Yet she has a big heart, and I think that comes through.

Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?

Absolutely my favorite recurring character is the Israeli policeman, Benny Lazar. He’s based on a real person who is one of the more annoying people I’ve met in my life, but he’s also a bundle of contradictions. He’s the law in a huge illegal settlement in the West Bank, but he considers himself a leftist, he is sympathetic to the claims of the Palestinians, and he’ll help them as long as it doesn’t jeopardize his career. I think Benny really epitomizes the complex juggling act of life in Palestine and Israel. Plus he is a larger than life personality and has quirks that lend themselves to broad comedy.

Do you neglect personal hygiene or housekeeping to write? Or vice versa?

I neglect housekeeping (not so sure about the personal hygiene) most of the time. When I’m supposed to be writing is the only time my house is clean.

Do you see yourself continuing to write mysteries or do you want to branch out at some point?

Before I went to Palestine, I was working on a novel about political interns. This was just after Chandra Levy had disappeared, she had been working for a congressman, Gary Condit, and also had an affair with him. That was shortly after the whole investigation involving Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and I was thinking about what it meant that Jewish women were at the center of our two big political scandals, which was an aspect of them that no one seemed to be talking about. I actually took the manuscript with me, thinking I might have time to work on it while I was there. Ha ha.

I would still like to get back to that project. The ideas it was exploring still seem important to me and I haven’t read anything else that grapples with them in a satisfying way. But I don’t know how quickly that might happen. I have three more books in mind in the Palestine mystery series, and I also have another crime series in mind. So the literary fiction might have to wait for a benefactor to discover me so I can stop working so much.

Greetings from Kate Raphael to Women’s Magazine listeners! Despite dire predictions regarding the future of KPFA and Pacifica, as of now we are still here, and on New Year’s Day 2018, I’ll be bringing you an hour of funny and smart women.

Comics Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Karinda Dobbins, Maysoon Zayid, JADE (Just Another Disabled Entertainer) and Nina G. join me to talk about the highs and lows of 2017 and beyond, what they’re looking forward to in 2018 and what it’s like doing comedy as women whose multiple identities are so often under attack.
It’s wild, it’s witty and it’s informative.
And special guest Eryn Mathewson, former producer of Women’s Magazine and now director of ESPN’s Rhoden Fellows Initiative, shares insights from the world of sports journalism and reflects on the continuing importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Tune in Monday at 1:00 pm (you should be up and getting your second cup of coffee by then!) on KPFA 94.1 FM in Northern California while we still have it and online anywhere and hopefully forever at

Interview with guest author Meg Dendler, who has just published a new book—BIANCA


Bianca_kindlecover_6-21-17Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess, published, 12/1/2017

Genre: Middle Grade

Editions, ISBNs, and Pricing:

Paperback 978-0692920411 $9.99

Hardcover 978-0692938294 $24.99

Ebook 978-0692938300 $2.99

“Princess Bianca rules, in every way! This tale of intrepid discovery and determination will delight young readers and will dare those who deal with the dragons of self-doubt, frustration, and bullying to step out and challenge those menaces to a duel.”

New England Children’s Book Review—Listed as a Favorite

Great reviews of Bianca

Books are available at the following outlets:

Description of Bianca:

Princess Bianca had never set foot outside the castle walls. Not once in her over-protected, pink, fluffy life. But when a dragon was spotted in the land and fear spread that the monster had conquered the king and his brave knights, Bianca realized that it was her duty to protect her kingdom. She will have to prove that she can be braver and stronger than anyone believed because the threat outside the protection of her castle tower was more dangerous and magical than she ever imagined possible, except in a fairy tale.

Serenity Mountain Publishing

Springdale, Arkansas


Interview with Meg Dendler

When did you first write a story? What was it about?

The first story that I really remember writing was actually a picture book version of The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess in fifth grade. It was not very good at all from a grown-up perspective, and the plot was diametrically opposite from the plot of the book I have now published, but it won a merit award at a contest through the University of Illinois. I have no idea how many other winners there were, but it was a huge deal for me. Someone in the program did a puppet show of the story. I have vivid memories of that. During the rest of the school year, I wrote sequels to the story and shared them with my classmates, who were delighted and very encouraging. All of that told me writing was something I was good at. I usually credit that with being the time I decided I was a writer.

What feeds your process?

I much prefer to write first thing in the morning. The further I get into the day, the more life intrudes and my head gets cluttered. I’ve also learned that a whole day can get away from me before I know it, so I try to get the writing in early. I’d love to say that I write every day, but I don’t. Not even close. The business side of being an author is also demanding. It is a balancing act. What works for me is to set deadlines. If I want the next book to be published on a certain date (I generally do one a year), when do I need to have a first draft done? When will it need to be to the editor? I have learned to back that process up along the path of publication and set goals and deadlines. Meeting those keeps me on task. I often hole up in my office near the end of writing a book and just pound it out. First draft are the bane of my existence. I despise writing them. But I love having them done and starting to mess and fuss and edit and revise, so the first draft has to happen. There is never any music in my office. That would just distract me. I’d start choreographing in my head or something. Too many years as a dancer, I suppose. I work in silence. And I always write at home and at my desktop computer. I don’t think I would be productive at all in a public place. I’ve done some drafting on paper and note-taking in restaurants over the years, but that was mostly out of necessity for being stuck in that place and wanting to get some work done. It’s never my first choice. If an idea comes to me at an odd time of the day, I jot it down for later. I rarely expect to remember it. I have manila folders in stacks with ideas for specific books and ideas for books I haven’t started yet. Sometimes I pick up a note and have no idea what I meant when I jotted it down, but most end up going into something along the way.

What genres do you write in?

The majority of the time, I write middle-grade fiction. At least that is what I am currently focused on and publishing. But I have a YA biography in with a publisher for consideration right now and a picture book under consideration with a different editor. I have a few other picture books in the drawer waiting their turn for revision and attention. One of my published books is women’s paranormal fiction, and a book I’m currently working on is a memoir of our five years running a guesthouse. I guess genre is where the book ends up, but I just try to focus on the story. That will lead you where it needs to be for the reader it is designed for. Who is the audience who will enjoy that particular story? Once you determine that, then you can adjust and focus as necessary to meet that reader in the right place to have your story be for them.

Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?

For my Cats in the Mirror books, the ideas came from the cats and dogs themselves. Deciding, in jest, that our insane cat Kimba must be an alien led to the short story that led to the middle-grade book that led to the whole series. It just kept growing and expanding. My adult novel, At the Corner of Magnetic and Main, was sparked by a visit to a kitschy diner that was located literally at the corners of Magnetic Road and Main Street in our town of Eureka Springs. A writer friend joke that it would be a good book title. I played with that idea for a bit and realized that it would have to involve ghosts because that is something the town is known for. That idea grew and grew and became a book I never intended to write at all. My newest book, Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess has been brewing and shifting and been rewritten in various forms since fifth grade, but I love the final version and the message it has to share. I have no idea where the original thought for the story came from, but I suspect that my love of the Dragonriders of Pern books has influenced my female character as well as my dragon. Even in fifth grade, I may have already been exposed to that series. My mom read them to me when I was about that age.

As people learned about your books, what unexpected things happened along the way?

When I first started going to events and sitting at booths and tables with my first few cat books, readers made it clear they wanted a dog book. I’d hear that question several times at each event. “Don’t you have one about dogs?” Nowhere in my plan was there a dog book, but I do have a dog and he is part of the Cats in the Mirror series. The cats call him The Big Black Beast. And if I thought about it, Max did have a story of his own to tell. He had run off one evening and spent the night on his own in the Ozark Mountains around our house. There was a story there. So I tried writing it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers did too. One mother told me her son has read Max’s Wild Night nine times. That’s about the best it gets for an author! I assumed that would be the end of it, but then my older daughter (who is a dog fanatic and trains them for a living) insisted that her dog needed a book as well. Dottie’s Daring Day was suggested. I have found that’s about all I need. Give me a great title like that, and I’m off and running. I highly suspect there will be another dog book before I’m done.

How do you start a novel/story?

Sometimes I have a general idea about how the story is going to go. I sort of know that C, J, K, Q, and V are going to happen as it unfolds. But I don’t always know how it will all fit together. What I will often do is start with the scenes I know. I’ll write C and J and then see how I feel about it. I’ve often ended up with weird chunks of story that all have to be tied together to make sense. Some of what I originally planned may have to change, but that’s okay. If I waited until I understood every second of the story, I might never start. It would be too frustrating. I just have to jump in and poke at it a bit and let the characters tell me about themselves and where they want to go. I usually know how it will end. Especially with the cat series because they have to work together and lead into the next one. There’s a bigger story going on when you deal with a series. I know things that will happen in Book 10. So then I have to decide what it will take for the characters to get there and what will be a part of each smaller storyline along the way. I jot down ideas and make notes and write until it flows and makes sense. With kidlit, you have a very limited word count. Maybe 30,000 words for the whole story. You can’t mess around. You have to know the plot points that are important and get to them directly. Maybe that’s why I start there.

What does your writing space look like?

I work “old school” at a desk with a computer. My laptop is only for fun and games. I love my desk. It belonged to my grandfather, so it is pre-1900. Besides being this massive wooden structure with beautiful carvings, it has all kinds of side trays that I can pull out to put books and notes on. It’s fantastic for a writer. Because I work as an editor for other writers along with my own writing, I have a private office in our house that is only for my work use. No TV or anything like that. The one frivolous thing in there is my Disney mini-plush collection and my storybook stuffed animals. They surround me. I freely admit to talking with them when I get stuck in a story. They don’t answer, but it helps me process. There is usually a cat or two in the room with me as well, and Max (our dog) likes to lie across my doorway to protect me while I work. I try to keep things tidy with “in” baskets and folders. There is usually a stack of papers that are more urgent “to do” items. The running of a publishing business involves a lot of paper! In general, I’m a very organized person, so I try to keep my writing space tidy.

What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

For me personally, the first draft is the hardest part. Even if I know exactly what is going to happen, I have the hardest time sitting down and getting myself to do it. After reading The War of Art and Big Magic I found that I’m not alone in that problem. It’s just a resistance to creativity and productivity that is out there in the universe. I find that idea annoying—a resistance to creativity— and it help me to fight against it. Once I have gotten a full first draft out, that’s when the fun starts. That’s when it gets interesting and exciting because I’m making it better and better and getting closer to being done. I love the editing and revising process. Maybe that’s why I devote time to helping other authors as their editor. That’s the part where a book comes alive.

Do you travel to research your books?

Resized Headshot 2014

I definitely did specific research for At the Corner of Magnetic and Main to include real things and places in Eureka Springs, but I also fictionalized the town to suit my own needs. For Dottie’s Daring Day, I came up with the idea of having the book be something a child could walk through from beginning to end. It is set in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the real Dottie lives with our daughter. From the moment Dottie gets off her leash, you can figure out where she is on the Razorback Greenway Trail and follow her journey down the trail, across Dickson Street, onto the University of Arkansas campus, and around and into the stadium. I walked the route many times and found things to work into the book. Dottie and my daughter made the trip with me a few times as well. The big drawback to that reality attempt is that things and landscapes change. When I was on the verge of publication—the book was formatted and in final edits and touchups—the university decided to blow up the front of the stadium and rebuild. Okay, I realized they probably decided that months or years ahead of time, but the demolition took place days before publication for me. I had a whole scene that took place in that space that was now a big crater of dust and rubble. All I could do at that point was add a comment in the “author notes” section at the back and move forward. I have some story ideas for a cat book that takes place in Italy. I should definitely travel to research that one!




Where would your dream book signing occur?

Well, I suppose it would be at some massive SCBWI event, and I would be sitting next to Sharon Creech and Lisa Yee and Natalie Lloyd, and they would think my books are delightful and amazing. That would set me for life.



Check out this exciting guide for fantasy and sci fi writers on how to create imaginary worlds!


Randy_Ellefson_2013-0265_300dpiAUTHOR Bio and Links:

Randy Ellefson has written fantasy fiction since his teens and is an avid world builder, having spent three decades creating Llurien, which has its own website. He has a Bachelor’s of Music in classical guitar but has always been more of a rocker, having released several albums and earned endorsements from music companies. He’s a professional software developer and runs a consulting firm in the Washington D.C. suburbs. He loves spending time with his son and daughter when not writing, making music, or playing golf.

Creating Places universal buy link:

The Art of World Building Podcast (launching a week before the tour)

The Art of World Building Website:

Author Website:

FREE eBook:




NOTE: The book series has a new podcast where even more details are discussed. This podcast is free to listen! Follow along here:

Randy Ellefson will be awarding an ultimate world builder’s package to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click here:

BookCover_CreatingPlacesCreating a unique, immersive setting one place at a time.

CREATING PLACES (THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, #2) is a detailed how-to guide on inventing the heart of every imaginary world – places. It includes chapters on inventing planets, moons, continents, mountains, forests, deserts, bodies of water, sovereign powers, settlements, and interesting locales. Extensive, culled research on each is provided to inform your world building decisions and understand the impact on craft, story, and audience. You’ll also learn how and when to create history and maps. Experts and beginners alike will benefit from the free templates that make building worlds easier, quicker, and more fun.

Learn the difference between types of monarchies, democracies, dictatorships and more for realistic variety and believable conflict. Understand how latitude, prevailing winds, and mountains affect climate, rainfall, and what types of forests and deserts will exist in each location. Consistently calculate how long it takes to travel by horse, wagon, sailing vessels, or even dragon over different terrain types and conditions.

CREATING PLACES is the second volume in THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, the only multi-volume series of its kind. Three times the length, depth, and breadth of other guides, the series can help fantasy and science fiction creators determine how much to build and why, how to use world building in your work, and whether the effort to create places will reap rewards for you and your audience.


The term “tidal locking” will make many of us think of tides, but these are unrelated phenomenon. Our moon is tidally locked to the Earth. The same side is always facing us because the moon rotates on its axis in the same number of days it takes to orbit us. This might seem coincidental and unique, but most significant moons in our solar system are tidally locked to their planet; those nearest experience this first. Tidal locking is an eventual result caused by gravity. Early in a moon’s orbiting, it might not be tidally locked, but ours may have become locked in as few as a hundred days (its proximity and size having much to do with this). A moon that is not tidally locked may have recently formed or been captured by the planet. Either way, the stabilization process hasn’t completed.

As world builders, we have some leeway to claim a satellite is locked or not. Most people are unfamiliar with the concept and we should only mention it if locking has occurred, as readers will assume the opposite without being told. Note that a close, large moon like ours will almost certainly be locked; during the brief period when ours was not, it and the Earth were molten and devoid of life.

Normally, only the satellite is locked to the planet, but they can become mutually tidally locked, as happened with Pluto and its moon, Charon. This means that each of them only sees one side of the other. If we stood on our moon, we’d see all sides of Earth as it rotates, but from Earth, we see only one side of the moon because they are not mutually tidally locked. If they were, the moon would stay in the exact same spot in the sky. About half the planet would see it, while the other half wouldn’t even know it existed unless traveling to the far side of the world. This would eliminate most tides (see next section) except those caused by the sun.

Be sure to follow Randy’s blog tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:


Thanks for visiting. We look forward to your comments!



An interview with Jeanette Watts, author of JANE AUSTEN LIED TO ME: HOW COULD MY HERO BE SO WRONG?


Jane Austen Lied To me Cover


GENRE: Humor


What college girl doesn’t dream of meeting Mr. Darcy? Lizzie was certainly no exception. But when Darcy Fitzwilliam comes into her life, he turns out to be every bit as aggravating as Elizabeth Bennett’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. So what’s a modern girl to do?

Jeanette Watts’ satire pokes loving fun at Jane and all of us who worship the characters who shall forever be our romantic ideals.

JEANETTE WATTS WILL BE GIVING AWAY a doll dressed in Regency clothing, handcrafted by the author (International Giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour:

For a better chance at winning this doll, be sure to follow the tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:



  • How do you come up with book titles?PrizePhoto

It’s a fairly logical process for me. My first book, Wealth and Privilege, the title is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I like the title, it just flows off the tongue. As to why I picked wealth and privilege? It’s two things that people want, right? The story itself is about how having both wealth and privilege does not necessarily guarantee happiness. So my second book, Brains and Beauty, is a sequel to my first novel. The title had to reflect the first one. As for my new novel, Jane Austen Lied to Me, I think the title came first. I was thinking about how much fun it is to be a Janeite, but what would happen if it didn’t go right?

  • What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?

Well, Jane Austen Lied to Me is brand-new, the only feedback I have is from editors who were giving me their recommendations. The heroine has gone through a lot of changes over the many, many rewrites. The first readers I showed it to loved the concept, and were amused by the ending, but because it was a satire, the heroine could be a little too difficult to like. I had to soften her, and show people more of her redeeming features. It amused me quite a bit, since I know that Jane Austen herself, when writing Emma, had said she wanted to write a heroine that only she could love. Hopefully my heroine succeeds in being equally lovable.

  • Why do you write?

I am a storyteller. I have no choice in the matter. When I write pamphlets, I find a way to tell a story. I am a dance choreographer, I prefer choreographing for groups because it’s easier to tell stories. And my choreographies almost always tell a story.

When my brain spawns another character, or another story, that character or story gives me no peace until it is out on paper. I’ve heard so many people say they don’t like writing, writing is hard. Writing for me is a joy. I love words. But more immediately, it feels good to get the characters and stories written down. Once I do, I get to sleep at night. Until the next character or story starts banging at the inside of my brain…AuthorPhoto_JaneAustinLiedToMe

  • Where do your characters come from?

They are all me. Every single character, even bit players, even the villains, are all part of me. The villains tend to reflect the things that irritate me. I do not like whining or complaining, my villains tend to be whiners and complainers, like Josie. (You’ll see, she’s awful!) A peripheral character, like the girl in the coffee shop with the blue and purple hair, or Michael’s friend Matt, are portraits of my friends. Most of the characters in Jane Austen Lied to Me are members of my dance troupes. Sometimes I scramble the names and the characteristics – Jen isn’t really bossy like that. The real-life Ken’s last name is not Garvin. But I have another friend (also a dancer) whose last name is Garvin…

  • What does your writing space look like? Like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post-its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?

I can write almost anywhere. Most of it is done at my desk, surrounded by post-it notes. There’s a portrait of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke watching over me. She was essentially a writing teacher in Queen Elizabeth I’s day. I like going on writing retreats in pretty places – a week at a cottage in Canada, or a cabin in a national forest, or a little BnB on the beach does wonders for my ability to get in some quality time with my current project. I’ve written while sitting at my sewing machine; I will write until I need to think, then I sew and think, then go back to writing.

  • What genres do you work in?

Thank you for asking that question in the plural! There is all kinds of advice for writers out there saying we should only write in one genre, to build a brand, and a loyal readership. But my brain doesn’t work that way. I admire Philippa Gregory’s ability to concentrate on only one narrow time period in history. But I can’t do that. My first historic fiction novels are set in the Industrial Revolution in America. I have a half-finished novel set 200 years earlier in England. The next book I want to do is set just after the turn of the 20th century. Meanwhile, I have published a textbook on waltzing, and I have a couple of children’s books I’d like to write.

  • If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?

Like I said earlier, I have no choice. I have to be a writer, or those stories would be pounding around inside my brain with no way out. I still manage to be a dance instructor, and a costumer, and a Renaissance Festival actress, and a museum theatre assistant at the local history museum, and run several dance companies. It’s just a matter of making sure everything gets a turn. Sometimes I have to dictate chapters in the car while I’m driving, but things do get done.

  • What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

The marketing! Once the story is written, and polished over and over until it shines and it’s ready for readers to see it, now the real work begins. You can have the most engaging story in the world, but readers have to find out that it’s there. Marketing needs to be constant. I have had more face to face encounters with people who bought my book because we had a conversation in a grocery store line, and it turned out we were both from Pittsburgh. I will be on a spree where I’m very good about my webpage, and Twitter, and Facebook, and then I stop posting for months at a time. Which is NOT a good thing. Getting momentum when you start from zero is hard.

  • Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?

Lon the Floor Nerd. There really was one, by the way. Freshman year in the dorms. The real life one wasn’t as sweet as the character in my book, but if I recall correctly he had very nice shoulders. My fictional Lon is the cognate of Captain Wentworth from Persuasion; he is one of my favorite Jane Austen characters. So I can’t help but love him.

  • Do you neglect personal hygiene or housekeeping to write? Or vice versa?

Absolutely! A writer has a choice. Either the writing gets done, or the laundry. For years, I was making the wrong choice. The laundry was getting done, and the writing wasn’t. I made a New Year’s pact with a good friend of mine, and she helped me adjust my priorities. She would call me up EVERY single day, with one question: “Have you worked on your book yet?” If I answered no, I had to listen to myself explain WHY I hadn’t done any writing in the 24 hours since she called me with that same question. It helped me focus – if it was 2:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t done any writing, I would let the lawn mowing go for another day, so that when she called and asked her question, I could say yes, instead of no.

  • What’s the underlying message of your writing? The non-fiction description.

Something along the lines of Shakespeare’s “What a piece of work is man” speech. I love people. I know people, and I can be a cynical observer of human nature, but at the end of the day, I adore people.

  • What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?

It’s the word “just.” It’s a great little modifier that says almost nothing…and I use it to death in my first drafts. “She just picked up the book and…” “I’m just looking…” “Don’t beat around the bush, just tell me the truth.” I will find it multiple times in a single paragraph, much less on a single page. It irritates the hell out of me. I don’t edit while I write: I learned from my college professors to simply write everything down, and go back to edit later, after it’s all on paper. Rewriting is easier than writing. So I don’t even try to be aware of the 22 “justs” on a single page. It’s absolutely horrifying. Fortunately, they’re easy to delete when I start the editing process.

  • Do you travel to research your book(s)?

Whenever I can! I love to travel. Sadly, Jane Austen Lied to Me could be set on any college campus in America, so I didn’t have to do any traveling. I should really think about setting my next book someplace exotic. I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu.

Excerpt from Jane Austen Lied to Me by Jeanette Watts

I’ve been thinking about my conversation with Professor Jacobson over and over. The thing about formulas and people. It makes a certain kind of sense, but does it lack a romantic sensibility?

Ha! Sense and Sensibility!

This is the second time that Professor Jacobson has me thinking about S&S. Well, if I’m no Lizzie Bennett, there are worse things in life than being a Marianne Dashwood. She had youth and beauty and high spirits. She wasn’t good at the dating thing, either, and overlooked the better man at first. Why was that? Did Colonel Brandon seem unromantic at first impression?

Even though I’ve got an assignment due in Spanish, as well as the inevitable calc and chem homework, I grabbed Sense and Sensibility to take with me to read while I went to dinner. I wanted to read everything in the book about Colonel Brandon.

Anne spotted me in the dining hall while I was halfway through a tuna sandwich and a really big pile of potato chips. “Hey, Roomie.” She slid her cafeteria tray onto the table across from me and plopped her book bag down beside it. “You having a really bad day?”

“Um, no I don’t think so, why?” I asked.

“Usually, if you’re having a bad day, you pick up Jane Austen and read a little something before you start to study. Since instead of sitting here doing your homework, you’re sitting here reading Jane Austen, I take it you had an exceptionally bad day today.”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jeanette Watts had been writing historic fiction when the inspiration for Jane Austen Lied to Me hit her on the drive home from the Jane Austen Festival. The idea was simply irresistible, and she put aside other writing projects in order to focus on writing a satire, thinking it would be a “mental vacation.” It turned out to take every bit as much research to write a modern story as it does to write a historical one.

She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing. When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.




Twitter: @JeanetteAWatts




Welcome today’s featured author, Julie Christine Johnson, author of The Crows of Beara!

crows banner

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Climate Fiction, Eco-Lit, Women’s Fiction

Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice–a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.

About the Author

Julie’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; River Poets Journal, in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss; and featured on the flash fiction podcast No Extra Words. She holds undergraduate Headshot1degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.

Named a “standout debut” by the Library Journal, “Very highly recommended” by Historical Novels Review and declared “Delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical” by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life went into a second printing three days after its February 2, 2016 release.

A finalist for The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, judged by PEN/Faulkner author and Man Booker Award nominee Karen Joy Fowler, Julie’s second novel The Crows of Beara was acquired by Ashland Creek Press and will take flight on September 15, 2017.

A hiker, yogi, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state. 



It took him longer than he anticipated to find a space near the gallery’s back loading door and to bring the last of his pieces inside, but when Daniel walked into the gallery, Annie was standing transfixed in front of the sculpture he’d titled Grian/Gealach—Sunrise/Sunset—her hand reaching for the delicate spheres of metal. She withdrew her hand before touching the piece, though her body leaned in still.

“Go on. It’s all right,” he said over her shoulder, removing a pair of stained and torn leather work gloves.

She seemed not to register him. Then she turned and nodded at the gloves he clutched in one hand. “Do you work here?”CROWSCOVER

“I’m delivering pieces for the installation.” He waved around the exhibit space. “We’ve set up just a few so far, but they give you an idea.”

“Is the artist a friend of yours?”

“Some days, yes. Some days I really can’t stand the sight of the bastard. But mostly we get along.” He winked and motioned her toward the sculpture. “Really, it’s meant for all the senses, not just visual. Go on.”

She drew the tip of her finger down one large round of metal. It blazed like firelight, catching the dipping sun, but the metal was cool. “It’s beautiful.”

“I like for people to handle these pieces—I want them to feel the texture and temperature of the materials.” Annie turned in surprise, but Daniel pretended not to notice. “Fingerprints leave marks and oil—that’s a good thing, at least for my work. People change my art as much as I hope it changes them.”

“I didn’t know you were an artist.”

“I do the guiding to keep a steady income coming in, but this is meant to be my day job.”

Giant parcels wrapped in quilted moving blankets leaned against the walls; only one other piece had been unwrapped, a protective cover draped over the corners. It was a tall, narrow triptych of patinated metal with a background of aquamarine. Gracing the foreground was a long hawthorn stem of leaves and berries that shimmered and waved in a silhouette of red and gold.

“This is copper,” she said in wonder. “You work with copper.”

“Copper mostly. Some bronze, chrome. I’m just starting in with glass—studying with an artist out of a cooperative here in Kenmare.”

“But, Daniel. Copper.”

“Recycled copper. I use discarded materials, from building sites mostly. Ironic, right? I don’t want the mine in my backyard, but I’m willing to exploit it nonetheless—is that what you’re thinking? I’m not so naive as to think we shouldn’t have mining.”

He pulled the cover away from the sculpture’s sharp edges and let it drop to the floor. The hawthorn was in a cow pasture where he often sat, watching for the Red-billed Chough that foraged for seeds in the manure. “But in my own way, maybe I can show that the earth’s resources aren’t ours for the taking wherever, whenever we want. Art is a way to connect people with their environment without polarizing, without politicizing. It can be used to that purpose, but it belongs to everyone. I want my art to show nature as a cultural artifact. I made a very deliberate decision to use what’s already been taken from the earth—what had been stripped from Beara’s earth more than a century ago. Maybe that is my political statement.”

At that moment, hearing the words in his own voice, speaking his heart out loud, Daniel made his decision. But it was something he needed to sit with, to form more fully on his own. And he couldn’t forget, no matter how enchanting this woman was, who she was, why their paths had crossed.

Interview with Julie:

As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?

JCJ: This is something that happened after my first novel launched in early 2016. My tenth grade boyfriend, who broke my heart in the most Molly Ringwald way possible, heard about my novel, read it, and then found me on Facebook. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated from high school in 1985. We talked one night for hours. I was dismayed and delighted to learn that I’d broken his heart, too. We had a great laugh recalling the same set of circumstances and events in completely different ways. And we remain friends.

 Who are your literary influences or inspiration?

JCJ: As a child, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh lit the fire of my determination to be a writer, and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia filled me with the wonder and joy of storytelling. As an adult, every word written by Jane Austen, for her sense of humor, the sheer beauty of her sentences, the way she can tell the most delicious and satisfying of stories; Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, for its strong, sensual women and breathtaking world-building; and Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. This novel made me crave to put words on paper. I read it years before I began writing, but it nudged open the door of my writer’s heart.

Why do you write?

JCJ: It feeds my soul. It’s a necessary to me as breathing. I’d go mad if I couldn’t.

As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?

JCJ: My entire life fell apart after the publication of my first novel. I don’t know how else to say it. My husband and I divorced after twenty-five years of marriage; I fell into a series of deep depressions. Writing changed ME, publishing changed the course of my life.

Last October, I returned to a full-time job after four years of writing full-time; the need for a stable income and health insurance compelled me back into punching a timecard. I’m grateful to have found something I love (I work in the wine industry), but it’s meant putting the brakes on publishing goals.

And yet. My second novel has launched. I have a third on submission and I am working on a fourth project. I spent two blissful weeks at a writers’ retreat in France last September. The writing I did on retreat has been the thing that I’ve held onto this past year as proof that my writing fire still burns deeply inside and I will return to those embers when I am able. I’ve kept up my physical health through yoga, swimming and hiking, as I know this is the key to strong mental health. I’ve also recently fallen in love and embarked upon a new relationship with a visual artist who is so supportive of what I do and gets it. Gets the calling to create that is impossible to ignore if the soul is to survive. It’s so beautiful, this crazy life. And yes, I’m still writing. The stories are piling up in my heart and I believe that the space and time to release them will come my way again.

Where do your characters come from?

JCJ: I just went through the Rolodex of my characters and I can think of only one short story—a work-in-progress—in which the characters are based on real people. Very present in my writing, however, are deeply personal themes. For example, Lia in IN ANOTHER LIFE is acutely claustrophobic. So is this author! I haven’t been in an elevator in years. The character in my third novel, UPSIDE-DOWN GIRL, is coping with child loss and has immigrated to New Zealand, both of which I have experienced. And I often write about how place changes and shapes us. My characters undergo major life upheavals and sortings-out once they leave the United States, when they are forced to confront themselves away from familiar social and cultural norms.

Annie, the protagonist in THE CROWS OF BEARA, and I don’t seem to share many similarities, but I adore her. By the novel’s end she’s just starting to come into her own, to realize her own emotional and artistic strength. I’m a few years older than Annie—forty-eight to her late thirties—but I see in her the same sense of purpose, a reinvigoration of character and self and determination that arrives with turning forty. You look around and say, “Right. This is who I am at this moment. I am beautiful, strong, I have so much yet to give, to discover. Let’s do this. Let’s live.”

What genres do you work in?

JCJ: Truly, I have no genre in mind when I begin writing a new novel; I just want to tell a good story. Authors like Deborah Harkness, Mary Doria Russell, and David Mitchell, who take genre conventions and toss them out the window, are my inspiration!

Interesting, and beautifully encouraging, are the reactions from industry professionals, including my agents, editors and booksellers. They love that my work can’t be pigeonholed in any category or genre, that it sprawls its limbs across the multitude!

I consider myself a storyteller. Genre doesn’t factor in when I think about my characters or themes. The joy is in challenging myself to do things I didn’t know I had in me, like historical fiction for my first novel IN ANOTHER LIFE; to play with convention, as I did with the paranormal element IN ANOTHER LIFE and magical realism in THE CROWS OF BEARA; to look for the best stories in my soul.

What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?

JCJ: I write on the sofa, at the dining room table, in bed, in favorite cafes, on the beach, in the library… wherever, whenever I can.

Early morning is the best time for me- my head and heart are clearest- but when I’m in the groove with a project, setting word count goals and writing during scheduled times are my strongest tools. I need a bit of noise- ambient music, café chatter. I also do a lot of problem-solving and planning while hiking, swimming, riding my bike. Moving my body in active meditation helps me fill in plot holes and find inspiration. Journaling helps me get out the personal gunk so I’m free to pay attention to my characters.

What’s the underlying message of your writing? The non-fiction description.

JCJ: There’s a scene about midway through The Crows of Beara when Annie sees Daniel’s art for the first time. And in observing his own work through her eyes, he realizes the power of what he does, how his art can change minds, perspectives, lives. It’s very much how I feel about what I do as an artist. Words are my voice, my sword, my hand out to the universe. Art, whether it’s visual, literary, musical, or of the body, is what connects us to ourselves, to each other, to the greater world. It’s what keeps us all truly alive. This is one of the major themes of the book, and I love showing Daniel coming alive through the power of art. I love feeling connected to the world, to creation, by what I bring to the page.

When did you first write a story? What was it about?

JCJ: I wrote my first short story in January 2011 and it was published in the anthology STORIES FOR SENDAI in June 2011; all sales of the book were donated to an agency providing relief to the Sendai area after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The story was set at a temple just outside Tokyo, where there is shrine that honors unborn children: fetuses who died in utero as miscarriages or abortions or stillborn children. My protagonist was recovering from a miscarriage.

I’ve been writing and publishing steadily since. My first novel, IN ANOTHER LIFE, was published by Sourcebooks in February 2016. I have a third novel currently on submission, and a fourth project underway. In between I’ve published short stories, essays, poems, blog posts, book reviews.

On Facebook:

On Twitter:


On Amazon:

On Goodreads:

On Powell’s:

On B&N: