Organized by Sheila Chantal at Bookjourney, Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) is a wonderful opportunity for bloggers and book lovers to meet and chat and showcase each other’s work and passions. My blogging partner for BBAW is Joan Swan, a romantic suspense novelist (she also dabbles in a little paranormal) who lives with her husband and daughters on California’s beautiful central coast.
Joan’s debut novel FEVER (Kensington Brava) is forthcoming in May 2012, and her second novel, BLAZE follows in fall 2012. Joan has been a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart Award and the Daphne Du Maurier Awards. In addition to writing and parenting, Joan works as a sonographer at a busy metro hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A: Joan, your debut novel, “FEVER” is coming out in May 2012, then two others--BLAZE and INFERNO will follow. Congratulations. Obviously FEVER is complete. Are the other two books also complete and ready to hit the shelves?
J: BLAZE is complete and with my editor. I actually turned the completed and polished manuscript in back in January. INFERNO (working title) is my proposal novel for Kensington and has not yet been purchased. It is currently in proposal format—query and first three chapters—and also with my editor waiting for review.
A: Which book did you write first? How long did FEVER take you to write?
J: I wrote FEVER first. I’d say the first version of FEVER, which was straight romantic suspense, took me between six and eight months to write. After about a dozen agent rejections, my critique partner suggested I add a paranormal element to it to suit the market. I rewrote the manuscript with a HEROES paranormal element which took another four to six months. When the manuscript sold, it was with the agreement that I would make some changes to the story. I in fact ended up rewriting the second half of the book, which took me another three months. Phew! I get exhausted just thinking back! So, when I put it all together, the final version of FEVER that you all will read (I hope) took me approximately 15 months to write. Mind you, this is part time writing, as I have a “day job.”
A: What was your main inspiration for the book? What was your, “What if?” or “Ah! Ha!” moment that inspired the full story?
J. I’ve never had an “ah-ha!” moment that inspired a full story. My stories seem to come to me in pieces, and I build the full around those pieces. The inspiration for FEVER came from real life. In my day job, I’m a sonographer. One of the many locations I’ve worked at in my career was a relatively small hospital with a huge population of prison inmates. When I started at the hospital, I might have scanned 2 or 3 prisoners a week. When I finally quit a year later, I was scanning prisoners all morning, every morning. Seems the California Department of Corrections is a well-paying client.
During that time, we had contracts with five different prisons of various security levels, including one state mental facility for the criminally insane, specializing in sexual offenders. Yes, the days the boys came dressed in white jumpsuits—those were my favorites (NOT). To make a plethora of long stories short, officers (better known as guards) come in as many personalities as any profession, and while they may have all been trained to handle situations the same, they didn’t. I’ve had officers turn their backs on their prisoners; I’ve had officers uncuff their prisoners and sidle out of the room to chat with another officer or hospital employee; I’ve had officers texting and surfing the web on their phone while I was scanning prisoners; I’ve even had an officer leave me completely alone in a room with an UNcuffed, violent offender.
When you read FEVER, you’ll immediately see some of my real life situations (and fears) come into play.
A: Your D.H. (readers, check out Joan’s website to see what this means) is a California firefighter. Any cross-pollination between your observationns of his life and your books and their main characters(s)? For example, how much of your husband is in Teague? Or is Teague entirely made up?
J: He likes to think there are plenty of similarities. And while any profession such as emergency personnel have similarities in their personalities that draw them to a particular profession, I have to honestly say, my characters are as individual as you and I. While I may start building a character based on a few characteristics I see in someone I know or, more likely, a collection of characteristics gathered from various acquaintances, by the time the book is written and revised five times (I’m a fan of revision), they have no more resemblance to my family or friends than anyone else might. At a certain point in development, which for me is pretty early on, my characters truly build themselves and point me in the direction they would take in the story.
A:You work a day job as a sonographer at a busy hospital. Any cross-pollination between your day job and your work?
J: Aside from the impetus for FEVER, my interest in medicine and emergency work, I’d have to say very little. My day job is so specialized that my outside life crosses over to my work and vice versa. Though, I sure do meet some wild and whacky characters in my job, which is always expanding my knowledge of human nature. And as every writer knows, understanding human nature is key to character development. And character development is key to all good fiction.
A: What was your proudest moment as a writer?
J: When my editor made the off-hand comment that my writing reminded her of the show “24.” I secretly coveted that show for its complexity and intensity and to have someone compare my writing to something I admired was thrilling.
A: The song says, “Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” Would you let your daughters grow up to be writers?
J: My oldest – no. She doesn’t have the patience. She’s a people person, a mover, a shaker, a leader. She wants to kick-ass and take names.
My youngest—absolutely. She’s introspective, diligent and gifted with expression. She’s got a quirky sense of humor and strong ideas that translate beautifully to the page.
Writing, like any other profession, is best suited to those best suited to it.
A: If your daughters *were* to leave home to become writers, what little advice notes would you pack in their writer-backpacks?
J: Learn to trust your gut. Find healthy outlets for frustration. Take the time to cultivate your ‘self’ and your creativity. The Internet is your best friend.
A: You write in your blog that you manage to write five hours per day, seven days per week. It’s an incredible output and discipline. Any secrets?
J: When I wrote that, I was working two days a week close to home. Now I work three days a week three-and-a-half hours away. My schedule has definitely changed. Also, since I’ve published, promotion has become a big part of my daily life, which always kicks a little writing time out of the picture. Now, I probably manage to get in four hours a day, 5 days a week. Not nearly as much as I’d like, and not nearly as much as I need to be prolific enough to quit the day job. I have found that for every choice made, there are consequences, and while I’m an OCD at heart, I’m always struggling for some balance.
A. Are Joan the writer and Joan the wife/mother the same person? If not, what are the differences in your personae?
J: As a writer, I’m much less forgiving of my own inadequacies, much harder on myself, and far more diligent (as in: slave driver). As a mother and wife, I have the influence of my daughters and husband to soften my rough edges. My family lightens me considerably and I find I’m much more accepting of other people’s shortcomings than I am of my own, far more easy-going and fun-loving.