Welcome, Jeri! How long have you been writing? What made you start?
The desire to write came at an early age when I discovered my dad had written a book. He never got it published; he didn’t even try because he never thought it was good enough. He’s a wonderful writer. Truthfully, it’s one of my favorite books. I remember being in awe that my dad had written a book and I wanted to do the same. I think I owe my desire to write to him but I don’t think I ever had the faith in myself to do it until I met and talked with Kerry Blair at a book signing. It’s because of her I even attempted to write or even got my first book published. She has had a huge impact on my life in more ways than one. Not just in writing, but through her friendship as well. I wrote my first novel Out Of Nowhere during the year 2001.
When did you sell your first book?
I signed my first contract with Covenant in October 2002. When I got the call that my book had been accepted, I remembering screaming, “Really?” then I started laughing and crying at the same time.
What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
Normally, I at least know the ending though I don’t always know how I’ll get there. But in this third book, there is something significant to the plot (I hate to give anything away, so I won’t tell what it is) in which I wrote the entire book not knowing its meaning. It was a vital clue to the mystery, and I didn’t know what it was, so the mystery was a mystery even to me. It was a bit nerve wracking at times. In the end I had to figure it out and then go back and fill in many holes to make it all fit together but it was actually fun, though challenging, to write that way for once.
How do you choose your characters' names?
Okay, this is hard. In my first book, I figured it might be the only book I ever wrote, (see how much faith I had in myself? Kerry had her work cut out for her) so I put in names of grandparents, etc. But one thing that was important to me was to make my sons the hero. My son’s names are Tyler and Bryan. After mulling it around in my brain forever, I named him Tyler O’Bryan and gave him black hair, blue eyes, and made him of Irish decent. Voila. It worked. To thank Kerry for all she had done for me, I also put her name in there as the main character’s best friend. The next book, I only named a couple of characters with any significance. For example, Cleo was my dad’s favorite uncle. The thing is, I am not very creative with names. I change them over and over until they sound right and feel right. To me, naming characters is half the battle to writing the story. I have a terrible time. I’m always looking at or listening to names.
What is your daily schedule like?
Well, my day will vary a bit, but most days are generally the same. I try to write early in the morning. That is when I get the most done. Then I get my husband and son off to work and school and it’s back to the computer until either I go to work or my son is home from school. The amount of time I write varies. Some days more is accomplished than others. I am easily distracted by emails, errands, laundry, and all the other things that I need to get done, so the early morning hours are my best working time.
How do you handle life interruptions?
Not well at all. I need total silence when I write. If I have a story running through my head, it’s not unusual for me to get up at four in the morning when everyone is still sleeping and pluck away at the computer. The old brain cells don’t work as well as they did when I was a teenager listening to a blaring radio while writing a term paper. I don’t know how I did it back then. Even the sound of the telephone can ruin my concentration. If I write when the family is home, they usually tip toe around me. That is why I try to write when they are either gone or asleep. It works best for all of us. When it gets down to crunch time, Brad is wonderful to take Bryan to the movies or some other activity to give me more time. It’s difficult to write with my work schedule at the Jordan River Temple, so Brad is good to give me the time I need. I’m a slow writer but I type even slower than that. Makes for a bad combination. I just do what I can, writing anytime I can fit it in.
Since you need silence, you don’t write with music playing.
No, but growing up, music was a huge part of our lives. My mom sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for twenty years. I love music. When I write, different songs come to my mind. Sometimes for a break, I will stop and listen to them.
What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
LOL! I take it by this question I am only one of many who has this habit. Great question. If I were a good girl I would watch the clock and take meal breaks instead of snacking… I don’t know if it necessarily keeps the words flowing, but I do have a bad habit of snacking while I write. (Of course, I have that same habit when I read, watch t.v., mow the lawn…) I love having a big iced drink with a straw to slurp on. Type varies. Dark chocolate is always a plus and I love Pringles.
What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love typing those words “The End” when the project is complete. There is a huge sense of accomplishment at the completion of a manuscript. It almost brings tears to the eyes. (I have a high water level) As far as an everyday thing, I love the escape of writing. I love going into a world where I have complete control, and of course, I know the outcome. My least favorite thing is the frustrating times when the puzzle pieces aren’t coming together the way I want them to. In other words the plot isn’t coming together the way I envision it or my words aren’t expressing what I want to say. My greatest downfall as a writer is that I feel like I have a hard time expressing myself. I don’t have the vocabulary or the eloquent words to express things in the manner I want to say them. It’s a battle I fight and it makes me feel inadequate as a writer.
Tell us about your new book, Shadow of the Crown.
This is my favorite of the three I have written. I don’t know if readers will feel if it is any better but this was a personal project for me. Shortly before my mother passed away, I tried to record her life history. Though I was quite young, she told me about growing up during the occupation of Denmark during World War II. The idea of this book came from those interviews with my mother. Though it is definitely fictional, there are many things written in it that come from our family history, some turned around a bit to fit the storyline. There is mystery, romance, and even some WWII history.
The book is about a girl who is asked to go back to Denmark for a business acquisition. Part of her wants to go because she has a grandmother there who she has never had the chance to get to know very well. However, she is ashamed of her grandfather, who during the occupation of Denmark was a hero, but died committing an act of treason near the end of the war. Her grandfather’s actions make no sense to her. She doesn’t understand why he would turn against kingdom, crown, and country. She also resents that he dirtied the family name, and is ashamed of what he has done. However, once she arrives in Denmark, all the secrets that have been buried with her grandfather come back to haunt her. She begins to wonder if things are not as they appear. There is some romance and adventure involved in there too.
What is your next project?
It’s a medical mystery. Right now it’s entitled Intensive Care, but that could change, of course.
What is your advice for other writers?
Never give up. If you don’t at least try, how will you ever know? You never want to look back on your life and wonder, what if?
What other work of yours has been published?
Out of Nowhere - 2003, Covenant
The Perfect Plan - 2005, Covenant
Thanks so much for the Interview, Jeri! It was fun.