I recently attended the LDStorymakers Conference, and one of the lovely authors I met at the banquet was Joan Sowards, a two-time author whose second book, “Chocolate Roses,” recently debuted. Joan’s book, and my recent release, “Awakening Avery,” are both published by Walnut Springs Press.
The backliner from “Chocolate Roses” makes me want to grab a Hershey bar:
Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.
You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.
Clean-romance lovers will enjoy this “sweet” read. Here’s my interview with Joan:
Q: Aspiring authors are often shocked to hear how much work goes into that first, published novel. When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published?
I have been writing over fifteen years. I felt prompted to sit down and write what a particular ancestor would say if I had the chance to interview her. She didn't want to give me much information, didn't trust me, and from that I wrote a short story that grew into a novel. Through that experience I discovered that I loved to write!
Kerry Blair lived in my ward back then. She'd edit my chapters and I tried to learn the rules behind her changes. I learned a lot from her. She realized she could do a lot better than I was doing, so she wrote her own first novel and sent it to Covenant. They excepted it within two weeks.
(Kerry Blair is not only a very successful author with multiple awards to her credit, but as you may suppose from Joan’s story, she is one of the most generous and lovely people on the earth.)
Q: That’s a great story, Joan. So how did you get your break into publishing?
I admit it was luck. I was in the right place at the right time. Kathy Jenkins of Covenant Com. suggested I send Walnut Springs Press my novel We Have Seen His Star--so I did. I pestered editor Linda Prince every few months asking if she had read it. After the eight month, she asked if I had an LDS romance and that she needed one right away. I sent Haunts Haven and she liked it!
Q: What inspired you to write romance?
I think every story needs romance, if not just a touch of it.
Q: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?
I write LDS romance. Haunts Haven is a paranormal mystery romance, Chocolate Roses is pure romance with a Jane Eyre parallel. I haven't been able to get away from the LDS genre. I guess because it is so ingrained in me.
Q: And what are you working on now?
I'm writing a story about a recent ASU college grad who takes a journalist job in a seaside village in Oregon. It has a touch of the paranormal, and I love the characters.
Q: That’s a great premise! What has surprised you about being a published author?
Before being published, everything I did had an eternal perspective: taking care of my family which included cooking and cleaning, etc., my relationship with my husband, my calling. Even writing novels and music was developing talents and I felt the Spirit affirming that was what I should be doing. As soon as Haunts Haven hit the stores and I was expected to promote it and myself. I felt uncomfortable with that because it didn't easily fit into the eternal perspective that gave me comfort. I'm still not comfortable about the promotion.
Q: Writing can be all-consuming and then the promo takes so much time. Maintaining a balance in life becomes ever-more critical. So, Joan, what do you like to do when you aren't writing?
I'm a family history addict. I love to sew aprons to give as gifts. I write music (http://joansowards.com/) that I give as a service. My adorable grandchildren take a lot of my time, and I love being with my husband.
Q: Nice balance. What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love crafting the story, plotting it, writing subplots.
Least? that life gets in the way and writing always comes last.
(I’m with ya, sister!)
Q: Story ideas spring from some odd places sometimes. What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? What made you to think, ‘hey, I could make that into a story?’
My daughter came home from Institute class and said the idea came up that the wise men were Nephites. I loved it! From that I wrote We Have Seen His Star about teenage Nephite boys setting out to find the Christ Child.
Jeni Grossman taught a class at an ANWA conference and handed out feature newspaper articles with big photos and told us to ask ourselves "What if…" I got an article about haunted inns of Southern Arizona and asked myself, "What if a young woman inherited one of these inns, not knowing it was haunted?" Haunts Haven blossomed from there.
Q: The market is changing so quickly. What advice would you give aspiring writers today?
Don't give up. Be ready for when you are "in the right place at the right time." Learn the craft of writing and be open for critiquing. There's a lot to be learned from other writers.
And the power round:
Favorite food? Mexican
Favorite dessert? Anything chocolate
Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Jeans
I just read: "When you have a choice to wear pants or a skirt, choose the skirt. In this age of metro-sexual men, sometimes the only thing that separates you from the guys is the power to put on a skirt." Lloyd Boston, author of Before You Put That On. I like this. My mother used to say something like, "Consider what you wear, because the event you attend is pulled down to the level of the least-dressed person there, and you don't want to be the guilty one." I hear her voice each time I reach for my jeans. (Love it!)
Guilty pleasure? Chocolate
One word that describes you? Gottacreate!
Favorite flower? Roses
Favorite sport? Kissing
Q: Thank you for the Interview, Laurie.
My pleasure, Joan! Thanks for popping by my blog.
I hope readers will also pop over to Joan’s blog and say “hi.” Authors love hearing from readers.
Joan Sowards “Chocolate Roses” is available at Amazon and in Deseret stores.