Monday, May 15, 2006

Make-Believe Mondays With Jan Conwell

Today on Make-believe Mondays I'm happy to introduce Jan Conwell, my friend from RWAonline. Jan and I share a love of the medieval through our involvement in the SCA, a group which recreates the middle ages. Jan writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense and has her first book coming out soon.

Jan, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Jan: I just finished a romantic suspense, (possibly the first in a series of three) called Tequila Mockingbird. But this month (drumroll? Pretty please?) my first book, a contemporary romance called Lucky Break, comes out with Triskelion Publishing, first in electronic format and then in print through Amazon. It’s about a flighty neo-hippy who ends up with a job teaching Aircraft Fuel Systems for the Air Force (it can happen, I promise) and the poor sap who gets stuck trying to train her.

Debra: Excellent news Jan. And worthy of more than just a drum roll.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Jan: Yes, but since I’ve only completed two books so far, I don’t have much experience with this. With Tequila Mockingbird, I discovered about halfway in that my heroine was very much like Janeane Garofalo—short, dark, dumpy in a tall blonde skinny world, and highly pissed about it. It took her a long time to let herself believe Gabe could love her just the way she was.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Jan: LOL! Yes. One of my favorite authors is Tom Robbins. He writes with this insane sort of excess, like an artist who just throws tons of bright paint on the canvas, but he does it with a voice that is identifiable to anyone who’s ever read him. I tried to imitate that reckless excess in a scene in Lucky Break. Everyone who read it said “Um, this bit…it’s just too…much.” So it’s true what they say: you must kill your darlings. I had to cut that part out. But one of these days, I’m going to try it again, on a short story, something…because it’s like learning a new art medium.

Debra: Experimenting like this is a great way to grow as an author. I like the idea of feeling free enough in your craft to throw the words out like paint on a canvas then stepping back to see what you have.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Jan: Without doubt, Dr. Seuss. The way he could be silly and serious at the same time, not to mention the fun drawings of bizarre plants and creatures, loved that. It was like having permission to be ridiculous.

Debra: Yes, I loved Dr. Seuss also! And when I started reading his books to my children, I discovered he also wrote for adults. He was a genius who really knew how to play with language.

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Jan: I want to write fantasy one of these days—I know that’s a category, but it’s one I haven’t given myself permission to dabble in very deeply yet. First, and for a while after this, I’ll stick with contemporary romance, maybe with some paranormal or suspense. Reader expectation, branding, editor preference, call it what you will. But I have this medieval fantasy brewing, and it will not let me go. I call it Woldryn’s Star, and I’m in love with the characters. Someday, even if I have to use a pen name, I’m going to write this.

Debra: With your love of the medieval and the experience you've had playing at SCA events I'm sure you could bring a story like that to life! Sadly it is true that authors have to stick with one category for a while to meet reader expectation. I sometimes wonder if an author is prolific and writes many different things, how many names that author could write under.

Thank you Jan, for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Jan: Glad to be here. One of these days, readers, look for Debra Parmley’s interview on Starfish and Coffee: she's headed for big things!

You can visit Jan at or her blog, Starfish and Coffee at where she interviews industry professionals.

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