Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Jump

Our latest author under the glare of the spotlight is Shirley Jump. The first book she sold to Silhouette Romance THE VIRGIN'S PROPOSAL, won the Booksellers' Best Award for Best Traditional Romance of 2003. Two of her subsequent books were finalists in the Golden Quill Awards and two others were finalists in the Madcap Awards for best romantic comedy. She is also a Reviewers' Choice Award winner. In 2007, she won the Holt Medallion for RESCUED BY MR. RIGHT and the More than Magic Award for "Twelve Days" in SUGAR AND SPICE. Right, now that's out of the way, on to Shirley and the questions!

What is your writing process?

I start with a what-if situation (what if a man who never wants children suddenly finds out he’s a father), then figure out who would be in that situation and why. I don’t do a lot of plotting or preplanning on my shorter books but will do it on the longer books that have multiple plot layers. In all my books, though, I start writing and go about three chapters in before I step back and figure out the rest of the plot. Then I ignore my synopsis and write straight through, entirely by the seat of my pants. I do all the revisions and final read through and then write the last scene, because until the entire rest of the book is done, I have no idea how it will really end. I find I tend to bury the clues to my ending in the book, and when I pull them out at the end, the whole thing just comes together.

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
I use shoe shopping (and other fun things like lunch with friends) as “carrots” to keep me working. Like today I want to get to the mall for Christmas shopping, and my deal with myself is that I have to finish one chapter and revise another before I go anywhere. If I don’t do it, shopping has to wait :-(. That tends to keep me on track.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I’ve found the older I get, the more that is a HUGE necessity. It’s not just about combating “writer spread,” it’s about having energy and overall wellbeing. I go to the gym 5 times a week. I do spin classes, run on the treadmill and do one overall body class that uses weights, so I get a nice variety in there every week. It also helps me keep up with the kids, LOL.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Not at all. I know there are people who swear they are blocked, but to me, there are just days when the writing is hard and days when it is easy. It’s the same as any job—some days things go well, some days you’re slogging through oatmeal to get that project finished. I used to write for a newspaper and had to produce two stories a day, 365 days a year, no matter what. That taught me pretty quickly that there is no such thing as writer’s block—there’s only getting the job done.

What have the changes to the current Harlequin lines and branding meant to you? Have they affected your writing process?
No, not really. To me, a Shirley Jump book is a Shirley Jump book. I write the same kind of book I always have, and try to vary it by doing some comedies and some more dramatic books. But other than that, I really don’t think about the shifts in the lines or branding.

What do you think makes a Riva book Riva? (or a Cherish book Cherish?)
I’ve had books in both, and to me, a Riva book is more fun, more cosmopolitan (meaning city settings, and the kind of energy and adventures that come with that) while the Cherish books tackle the harder subjects and have more of a cozy, small-town feel.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Real life inspires me, and some things from my real life will sneak in from time to time (like the fainting goat I put into “The Marine’s Kiss”, a true funny story from my son’s birthday party). I grew up in a small town and lived in one for a while when we moved to Indiana, so there are lots of elements of small town living that make it into my books, too!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
LOL—it’s not all feather boas and reclining on the sofa with a poodle! It’s far harder work than people think, and it’s not glamorous. But that’s okay, because I’m really a person who likes to cozy up in my sweats and work. I also think a lot of writers don’t understand that this is a business and there’s a huge business component to being an author. It’s not just about writing the books—it’s about being savvy and plugged in to the publishing world.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I still like to do it on a more personal level. I have done some mass newsletters, etc. But I really like connecting with my readers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. It has more of a friend feel, and I’m not just selling the newest book to them—I’m building a relationship.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Treat every reader special. If they take the time to approach you, talk to you, write to you, become your friend on FB, etc, treat them special. Everyone wants to feel special, and without our readers, we wouldn’t be here.

What did you learn while writing this book?
That I’m a sucker for anything Christmas, LOL. I absolutely, positively love writing Christmas books. They’re my favorite ones to write and every time I do one, I get that warm and fuzzy holiday feeling again.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
It’s my fourth book set in Riverbend, and for me, returning to those familiar characters is a blast. I love Earl and Betsy, and seeing their romance come along has been a blast. Readers really connect with those two characters, too, and love being able to return to these familiar neighbors.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
My hero is a romantic at heart, and he’d whisk the heroine off to a tropical destination. Maybe something a little different, like Fiji, where he could spoil the heroine mercilessly. She deserves the time away—and after a chilly Christmas in Indiana—the time in the sun!

Thanks so much for going Minxy for the day, Shirley! Here's some details about Shirley's latest book, A Family Christmas in Riverbend, which sounds just the read for the holidays!:

Christmas miracle: from tough tycoon…to daddy?

Edward left Livia because he knew he couldn't give her the family and marriage she wanted. But when he's forced to return home to snowy, sparkling Riverbend, he discovers Livia has moved there, too—with her tiny baby in tow!
Livia had hoped desperately that Edward would remain away until time blurred the memory of his lips on hers. Now, she longs for him, but how can she tell him her precious daughter is not just hers…but theirs?

You can buy Family Christmas in Riverbend by clicking the links that follow for, (this one is for the paperback) for the ebook edition, for the paperback
Barnes & Noble and all the usual places.


Romy Sommer said...

Thanks for being Minxy today, Shirley. I've read two of your Rivas so far this year, and will now put this next one on the wishlist.

It fascinates me how different authors work. As I read a recent spotlight here I remember thinking "that's exactly my process". Today I'm thinking "wow - that's a very different approach!"

Shirley said...

Thanks so much, Romy! I'm thrilled you enjoyed the books!

And LOL at my process. Every time, I think it's crazy, but it works for me :-)

Liz Flaherty said...

Great interview, ladies. As long as I've known you, Shirley, I think I find out something new about you every time I read an interview. Speaking of layering!

Shirley said...

Aw, thanks, Liz! And thanks for stopping by!


Maya Blake said...

Wow, 5x a week at the gym? You’re a woman after my own heart, Shirley. I love your books so it’s great to get to know you better!

Catherine Coles said...

I've read that going to the gym helps with thorny plot probs and also the energy you get from the exercise helps with the endurance you need to write a book. I have Zumba for the Wii and in the New Year, I intend to use it ... because both my exercise regime and wip could use the kick in the behind!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great to see you here, Shirley. I adore Christmas stories, so can't wait to read A Family Christmas in Riverbend.


Shirley said...

Thank you, Maya! It really does energize me!

Thanks, Suzanne! I hope you enjoy it!

LOL, Catherine, I don't know about it helping with plot problems, because most of the time, I'm just trying to remember to breathe and praying I'll get through the class/run without dying, LOL!