Today is the start of a new weekly feature on my blog, Wednesdays with… On Wednesdays I will be interviewing the author of a newly released novel. With just a handful of questions, you’ll get inside the mind of a writer and find out how they write. You’ll also get a peek at her newest novel! If you’re an aspiring novelist, maybe you’ll grab a few tips to help you on your own journey. Now, without further adieu, I’d like to get the ball rolling with my very first guest, Heather Gray and her newly released novel, Jackal.
Hiding in the shadows just got harder.
When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…
Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited? His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.
With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?
CL: Tell us what sparked the idea for Jackal?
HG: I wrote my first regency romance in 2013. It was a learning experience! Regencies are very different than other types of books, and the people who read them take their genre pretty seriously. That book released to mixed reviews, but one thing was consistent — everybody’s favorite character was Rupert, the wounded-soldier-turned-valet-turned-butler-and-steward. The good news was, he was my favorite character too! Giving Rupert his own story was a dream. I’ve already painted him as a mysterious man with a hidden past in the first book (quite by accident, might I add!), so when I sat down to tell people his story, it seemed perfectly natural to make him a covert agent, but I needed to come up with a complication big enough to ruffle his unruffleable feathers. Insert Juliana, her two younger sisters, and her ancient and unruly chaperone .
CL: Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you outline before you begin to write or are you a pantster?
HG: I’m normally a seat-of-my-pants writer, but this was my first real attempt at weaving a suspense subplot into my book, so I did a fair amount of plotting to make sure I didn’t leave any loose threads at the end of the book. So this novel was probably a hybrid story — some plotting, some panting, some laughing, and a lot of coffee drinking.
CL: What was the most difficult part of writing Jackal?
HG: Working out the timeline of events was a challenge. Trying to gauge how much information to weave in, how many hints to give about The Hunter’s identity without giving away too much – that was my biggest struggle. I was uber nervous about that part!
CL: Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a published author.
HG: Writing has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. A busy life and insecurity prevented me from completed and publishing anything. Then I suffered a personal tragedy, and suddenly all those insecurities seemed pointless. So I started writing, and I kept at it, and when that first book was finished, I sent it to a publisher. Then I started writing the next book. I was about a third of the way through that second book when I heard back from the publisher…with a contract.
CL: What advice would you offer aspiring writers on the writing business?
HG: Learn it as you go. Don’t let fear of asking questions stop you from learning what you need to know. Write books you love – readers will be able to tell. And keep writing. Being a writer isn’t about writing one book, it’s about writing because you have to, and you can’t stop. So keep writing, and don’t give up. The best way to turn this thing you love into a career is to build a fan base, and the best way to build a fan base is to give them more to read. So keep at it!
CL: Any special tips for writers who are juggling writing with raising a family, working a day job or just everyday life in general?
HG: Realize that sleep is for the weak. When I started writing that first book I was homeschooling my son and working a part-time-from-home job that took about 20 hours/week. Plus taking care of home and hearth. I squeezed writing in here and there in five minute increments. I took my laptop to piano lessons and youth bowling league. And I stopped sleeping. The company I’d been with for almost two decades closed its doors before my second book came out. That freed up some of my time — and it put the pressure on. So what advice would I give others who are trying to juggle a hundred different things at once? Prioritize. Let go of the things you can so that you can focus on what you need to. When you’re being mom — be mom. Be all there. When you’re at your paid job, give them everything you have. When it’s time with your significant other, grant them your undivided attention. Then, when it’s writing time — which you have to make, or it’ll never happen — be all there, too. Your writing will thank you for it. Don’t squeeze in five minutes here and there like I first did. It leads to disjointed stories and a lot of repetition in your writing because you can’t remember if your characters already said that fantastic thing you thought of and wanted them to say. Put aside a dedicated time each day — even if it’s only twenty minutes — where you are wholly focused on what you’re writing. Make it a habit. Your writing and your sanity will thank you for it!
Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption. Other titles include Ten Million Reasons, His Saving Grace, and Nowhere for Christmas – everything from Regency England to modern-day America. Aside from a long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys are her relationships with her Savior and her family. Years ago, Heather decided she’d rather laugh than yell. This theme is evident in her writing where, through the highs and lows of life, her characters find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.
You can find Heather Gray at:
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