Joining us today is romance author, Jean Hackensmith. Jean’s latest release, Checkmate, is the first book in the Brian Koski “Stalker” Series. In part one of this interview we’ll talk to Jean about some of her past work and how she keeps up with the competition. In part two, we’ll hear all about Checkmate and what she’s working on next.
Q: Welcome Jean. It’s great to have you with us. Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a writer? Have you always concentrated on the same genre?
A: Thank you for having me! I’ve been writing longer than I sometimes care to remember. It all began one day about thirty years ago, when I was talking to my mother on the telephone. I was always a doodler, and this line just kind of came out on the page. I still remember it, in fact. “Jenny McCall awoke with a scream on her lips.” Hmmm … I thought. That would be a great first line for a book! Though I had no formal college education in the writing craft, I did take every creative writing course available while in high school, and it stuck. I’d always been an avid reader of romance novels, too, so it was natural, I guess, that I chose that genre. After that memorable day on the phone, I bought a spiral notebook and began writing my masterpiece. My ex-husband bought me a type writer a short time later, when he realized I was actually serious about this writing thing. That’s right, folks. A type writer. No computer. But it did have a correction ribbon! I could also have cornered the market on White Out. About a year later, I had a finished, 900 page monstrosity. It was awful! I didn’t realize that then, of course. I thought I was the next Kathleen Woodiwiss. A dozen rejection letters brought me back to reality and I realized that maybe it was time to pick up some “How To” books on writing. I had three kids by that time and lived in Tinbucktoo, so taking a writing class wasn’t an option. I was also lucky enough to find an agent who worked with me personally to hone my craft. Writer’s critique groups were also invaluable. Now, thirty years later, I’ve finally “made it.” I’m a published author of twelve novels and, hey, it even pays some bills!
Q: Romance is a huge market. How do you keep up with the competition?
A: By pumping out as many books as I can! I average two a year. Luckily, or not so luckily at times, my husband works as a merchant marine and is gone for two to three months at a time, so I have lots of time to write. Luckily, I’ve also developed a very loyal reader base and I was smart enough to write a saga. The Passage Time Travel Romance Saga, my biggest seller to date, consists of four books. I’m fortunate enough that, when people read the first, they also buy the second, and third, and so on. I co-authored The Passage Saga, and The Gitche Gumee Saga, with Kathe Birch. We’ve seen the same pattern with that set. Readers don’t only buy one. They buy them all. I don’t claim to make a mint off my writing by any means, but every little bit helps. Even if I never made another dime on my books, however, I’d still keep writing. It’s in my blood.
Q: Can you tell us about some of your past romance novels?
A: As I mentioned earlier, my best seller is The Passage Saga: Charmed Passage, Destined Passage, Doomed Passage, and The Ultimate Passage. This Time Travel Romance set consists of four different books with four different sets of protagonists. The fun part, and the thing our readers love about the saga, is that the heroes and heroines from previous books also appear in subsequent ones. In fact, when readers get to The Ultimate Passage, all of the “stars” from the other books are active characters in that one, too. Most romance readers can identify with the idea that, if you really like a character, if you fall in love with the hero, you hate to see the story end. Well, in The Passage Saga it doesn’t. They’re back in the next book, and the one after that.
The same holds true with The Gitche Gumee Saga. These books are strict historical romances that take place in my home town of Superior, WI beginning in the year 1850. One book leads right into the next and, again, many characters are repeated throughout the saga. A mountain of research has gone into The Gitche Gumee Saga already, and it’s only four books. A fifth one is planned for somewhere down the pike … whenever Kathe and I can find time to renew our relationship and start writing. Superior is located on the western tip of Lake Superior and is rich in history, and so are the books. Everything from Indian uprisings, to the Transcontinental Railroad, to the shipping industry. It’s all in there. The Gitche Gumee Saga consists of deception, betrayal, vengeance, and pandemonium at this time. The saga will probably be thirty books by the time we’re done, ending with the sinking of The Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.
My other books, which are stand alone and authored solely by me, are Wagons To The Past, Sweet Hell, Bitter Heaven, and Tender Persuasion. Checkmate, my newest release, is the first in the Brian Koski Stalker Series. (Yes, I like to write sagas!) The above books are time travel romance, historical romance, true contemporary romance, and romantic suspense respectively.
Q: What qualities do you like to see in your heroines? What about your heroes?
A: I like to instill in both my heroes and heroines an inner strength—maybe one they didn’t even know they possessed—and yet also a sense of vulnerability. No one in this world is perfect, after all, and characters in a book shouldn’t be, either. If they’re too perfect, they’re not believable, and believable characters are vital to a book’s success. They have to have flaws, they have to have made mistakes in their lives that affect the relationship or you have no conflict, which is also the secret to a good romance. Besides, if there were no problems for the couple to overcome, you wouldn’t have a story!
Q: What is the biggest obstacle any of your novel characters has faced in trying to get to that happily ever after?
A: Though the situation Caryn and Zach face in Checkmate is both scary and intriguing, I’d still have to say that the heroes and heroines in The Passage Saga face the biggest challenges. They are, after all, fighting time itself and the possibility that at any moment, they could be ripped away from one another. The difference in their two worlds alone causes huge obstacles. They’re not only trying to deal with witnessing historical events that they know they can’t change, but even the little things—no showers, no blow dryers, no indoor toilets, no microwaves, no computers or television! All of that causes tension and fear in a person who, at least in the beginning, wants nothing more than to just go home.
Part 1 ?Part 2