1) Do you read romance novels? What is your opinion about this genre both as a writer and as a reader?
I read really good books, and sometimes these are romance novels. This genre happens to be the genre that is highly successful, more so than any other genre, which makes it an easy target for disgruntled writers. The genre has evolved into a complex world over the last 30 years. The two main principles remain the same; the story revolves around two characters who long for each other and encounter struggles to make the relationship work, and there is an optimistic and satisfying ending. One can take these two principles in the most simplistic manner possible (girl sees boy, loves boy, can’t get together with boy because of overwhelming forces, girl and boy finally get together and live happily ever after) or one can dig deep into the characters and employ a smart, complicated plot that has universal implications beyond the two main characters.
I just ran into one of my readers who said to me, “Please tell me that the book you’re working on has a happy ending and that no one is hurt.” She said she was overwhelmed by bad news and the calamities of the world. Yet I had to say to her, “I can’t make this promise to you and I don’t want to. I don’t deny my characters any experience of life.”
2) Is there a romance author you prefer?
Within the boundaries of this genre, I admire Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series, Linda Cardillo, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. These are smart, complex writers.
3) Tell us about your last book and about future projects.
I have just completed my fourth book, Picture This, which is a sequel to the bestselling, Lost & Found. I couldn’t resist returning to these characters on Peaks Island, Maine who had such full lives. The response that I still get to Lost & Found continues to be so meaningful to me. The main character, Rocky, lost her husband to a sudden death and her journey through grief, with all her fallibilities, resonated with nearly half a million readers. She saves a wounded black lab who all but steals the show in the book. In the sequel, she faces yet another tendril of her late husband’s life.
4) How was your writing journey? Was it difficult to find an agent and get published?
Writing has always been a natural part of my life. I didn’t understand for a long time that writing was difficult for others because I assumed that it was just like talking or eating. Now I know that we all have areas that we gravitate to and for me, it’s writing. I’m also a psychologist, which is fantastic training for a writer when it comes to understanding motivation for a character.
When I completed my first novel (after a series of published short stories and essays) I studied the process of selecting an agent. I mean I really studied it; I treated the topic as a semester of independent study. New writers have to do this. I found the world’s best agent, Jenny Bent, in 2001 and we have been together ever since. Within one year (remember 2001 was a tumultuous year) she had sold my first novel and we haven’t stopped since.
5) What’s your opinion about the Ebook revolution? Would you consider the indie route?
I am a fan of Ebooks as one modality of reading. I am in favor of more people reading and if Ebooks work better for some people, then that it is a wonderful thing. Real books will never go away, however. With a hard copy of a book, you can give it to a friend, donate it to a prison, donate it to a school, or a fundraising organization. I love Ebooks when I travel, but when I’m hunkered down in my studio on a rainy day, I want a real book in my hands. It is one of the delicious pleasures of life.
If by the indie route, you mean indie book stores, then good grief, yes. I love independent book stores. But I also have the greatest respect for Barnes and Noble and other large book sellers. People buy books in a lot of ways: Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, to name a few.
6) Nowadays many publishers expect their authors to use Social media a lot to promote their books. Many authors, on the other hand, would prefer to write only, without being distracted by digital trivialities: what are your thoughts?
Well, here I sit, writing answers to an on-line blog and you’ve asked if I would prefer to only write my novels instead of participating in social media. Ironic, yes? I am willing to participate in the kind of social media that keeps me connected to my readers and that promotes my books so that more readers can find my work. Responding to readers is hugely satisfying for me. In a perfect world, I wish that the publisher would take a more active role in generating social media over the long haul. The publisher gives me a publicist who works like a demon for about 3 months prior to a book’s pub date and about 3 months about the pub date. Beyond that, social media is up to me.
Info about the author:
Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a fiction writer and essayist. She is also a practicing psychologist. She is a New Englander through and through, but spent twenty years living in Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, photography, freelance journalism, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of high school puppeteers. Her first novel, Truth, was published in 2003 by Free Press of Simon and Schuster. Her second novel, Lost & Found, was published 2007 by Avon, Harper Collins. Lost & Found has been on the New York Times Bestseller List and optioned for film by Katherine Heigl, star of Grey’s Anatomy. Her third novel, Now & Then, was published in 2009 by Avon, Harper Collins and is also a bestseller. She has published travel articles, short stories, and numerous essays and radio pieces. In 2005, she was the editor of the anthology Women Writing in Prison. Her 4th novel, Picture This, will be published in 2012. Jacqueline has been awarded residencies at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and Jentel Arts Colony in Wyoming. She teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and Writers in Progress in Florence, Massachusetts. She has offered international writing retreats in Jamaica, Guatemala, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. To know more, visit her website: http://www.jacquelinesheehan.com
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