Friday, July 2, 2010

Interview with Joan Sowards, author of "Chocolate Roses"

Joan Sowards lives in Arizona and earned a BS from Arizona State University. Besides writing, she loves to do family history research and composes music. Walnut Springs Press published Haunts Haven, and LDS Ghost Story in 2009, and Chocolate Roses, a Jane Eyre Parody in 2010. She and her husband have five children, three adorable grandchildren—and have an aging Springer Spaniel, three hens, and two eligible YA bachelor sons at home.

Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.

You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS paraody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.

When Callie Wilford inherits a century-old inn in southern Arizona, locals tell her of a ghost who "guards" the inn. But Callie doesn't believe in ghosts, and she plans to turn the inn into a bed and breakfast. Then things start to happen - strange, spooky things - and she begins to wonder if there is some truth to the ghost stories. If that weren't bad enough, Callie discovers a mysterious grave in the cellar. As she confronts the inn's tragic secrets, she also faces her lonely past and learns to embrace her heritage. But it takes a handsome cowboy and a charming rancher to prove that Callie's long-guarded heart can love again.

Let's find out a little bit more about Joan and her books:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Joan: I wrote a Nancy Drew type story in fifth grade. A substitute teacher made a derogatory remark about writers and after that, I didn’t keep my story. Can you believe that? I started taking writing seriously about 17 years ago.

M.B.: What makes you passionate about writing?

Joan: Story development, subplots, character development—it is all challenging and fun.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Joan: I have written fiction for many years and have a few completed novels. I had a Book of Mormon time period novel at Walnut Springs Press, waiting for acceptance. After contacting Linda Prince and asking about the novel, she asked if I had an LDS romance. I sent Haunts Haven and she accepted it. Walnut Springs Press published Chocolate Roses six months after Haunts Haven.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Joan: You bet, I became discouraged! I still kept writing and attending workshops and trying to learn all I could. I love writing, so I wasn’t going to quit.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

Joan: A schedule is a luxury I haven’t got control of yet. I take every chance I get to write. After grandbabies go home is my best time to write. Sound familiar to anyone? My best time to write is when no one else is in the house.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

Joan: The idea for Haunts Haven came to me during an ANWA writers’ conference. Jeni Grossman handed out newspapers with large photos and feature articles. The one she handed me had an article about haunted inns of southern Arizona. Then she told us to ask, “What if?” So I asked, “What if a young woman inherited an inn, not knowing it was haunted?” The story evolved from there.

M.B.: When did the idea for Chocolate Roses first come to you?

Joan: I wanted to write a modern, LDS version of Jane Eyre. After seeing the Pride and Prejudice movie set in Utah, I decided to go for it.

M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from Chocolate Rose?

Joan: Pure enjoyment. I hope they laugh, cry, and sympathize with the characters.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

Joan: I outline first. If there is something I feel strongly about—a scene I know I want to be in the story, I’ll start writing there, then outline the rest. My husband is my greatest brainstorming partner. He’s good. My daughters are second.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Joan: With Chocolate Roses, I came to a block and had to put it aside for a few months and worked on other things. I pulled it out again at a writers’ retreat last summer. The mountain country of Arizona is a great place to think—surrounded by other serious writers.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?

Joan: Music is too much a part of me and is a terrible distracter. I usually have a tune going through my head and have to tune it out. So NO music.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Joan: Researching, tuning into my characters, brainstorming with hubby.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Joan: Kerry Blair. She has mentored so many writers, but I claim to be the first. I started writing a novel, and knowing she was a good editor, I’d give her my chapters and she’d mark them up. I guess I inspired her, because she wrote her own novel, submitted and was excepted before I finished mine.

M.B.: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Joan: Getting into their heads, finding out their past, their motives and desires. I try to give each supporting character their own story too, told in the subplots.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

Joan: I attend a critique group of women writers once a month. They are open to discussing and making suggestions. Our members are grammar gurus, plot particular-ettes, and avid readers.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Joan: I cringe when people ask me that question. I love Chocolate Roses and Haunts Haven. I hope that when you read one, then you’ll want to read the other. They are completely different though, besides being romance.

M.B.: What is something about yourself people don’t know?

Joan: I also have a website where visitors can print (with no charge) the songs I’ve written for Christmas, Relief Society and Young Women.

M.B.: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Joan: I usually don’t snack at the computer, but use it to force myself to get up and move. I love almonds, and of course chocolate. Chocolate covered almonds—yum!

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

Joan: Don’t give up and be ready for when you are in the right place at the right time—like I was. Learn all you can about the craft of writing.

M.B.: What are you working on now?

Joan: A story about a recent college graduate who takes a summer job working for a newspaper in a seaside village in Oregon. She becomes involved in the lives of the people there. It’s an LDS romance.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Joan; So many would-be novelists tell me that they want to write a book. I tell them to sit down and start. Start anywhere in your story that you feel the strongest about, and go from there. I love the saying on Valerie Ipson’s blog, “While you were watching TV, I wrote a book.” So true. TV robs us of creative time.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Joan: LDS bookstores and Amazon.

You can find Joan at: music

Read the first chapter of Chocolate Roses

The winners of the Janette Rallison, Michael Young and Shawna Williams giveaways will be announced next week. Last chance to enter!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! I love learning new things about authors and how they get their ideas. I just recently finished reading Chocolate Roses and LOVED it. I knew the original Jane Eyre tale and always thought it was the most depressing of the Austin bunch. THIS was a delightful tale though that kept me reading from page one to the end without stopping. Even though I knew what was coming I still felt surprised and delighted by the end. Just a superb rendition!

Tamara said...

Thank you for the interview. I loved Haunts Havena and can't wait to read Chocolate Roses!

Valerie Ipson said...

I am waiting for my copy of Chocolate Roses to come in the mail!!

Love you, Joan! What a surprise to see you quoted me in the interview.

Great interview, Michele! Joan's the best!

Joan Sowards said...

Thank you, Michele, for the interview! I'm honored for this space you gave Haunts Haven and Chocolate Roses! And thanks ladies for your comments.

Anna Arnett said...

I just finished reading "Chocolate Roses," and finding your interview seemed as yummy as having chocolate icing on devils food cake.

I love Joan's style of writing -- breezy, clever, un-studied (though it most certainly must be), friendly, cheerful, but also deep, compassionate, spiritual -- all those things I especially love to read.

Thanks for this interview. Well done.

Susan G. Haws said...

I found the path to publication almost as interesting as the books. I look forward to reading both books. Great interview.