I have a funny story to tell you about Jen Turano. A few years ago, I had an agent and a manuscript (which eventually became Captain of Her Heart), but no publisher. And I was, according to my friends, a shoo-in for the Golden Heart, the writing award that the Romance Writers of America gives away every year–and which can launch the career of any obscure writer. Everyone was so sweet and so encouraging that I began to believe it myself.
On the day the contenders were announced, I didn’t receive a phone call. I wasn’t a shoo-in after all. In fact, I didn’t even warrant the competition. The small flame of hope in me died, and I had what every literary agent calls a “ledge moment,” where I seriously considered giving up writing altogether. So my agent at the time was also Jen Turano’s agent, and she introduced us by email. She seemed to have the intuition that Jen could laugh me out of my sorrow.
And she did. Jen’s emails became my lifeline during a tumultuous period of my writing career, and we became long distance writing pals. She encouraged me in everything I did. And when we were both under consideration by Bethany House, our friendship wasn’t strained. I wanted her to get signed–and she did. I was happy to play Deanna Durbin to her Judy Garland, because just a short time later I was signed by Love Inspired.
From agent buddies to writing buddies to signed at almost the same time buddies. And she’s helped me out of many a plot hole, too.
I have wanted to host Jen on my blog for some time, and the release of her newest book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, seems like the ideal opportunity. So I decided to invite her for a rather writerly conversation about our books and our habits.
LG: What’s one thing your heroes have in common? I mean, as you know, mine have disabilities that, in some form or another, cannot be overcome. They can be triumphed over but won’t go away. Not sure why. I wanted to have heroes who were deeply flawed and not just “I am too rich and too good-looking.” You?
JT: I always find “flawed” gentlemen to be so much more interesting than that “perfect” man, because honestly, perfection tends to get a little boring after a while. While my heroes normally do managed to retain possession of all of their limbs, they’re all plagued with, er, well, personality challenges. Some are brooding, some grumpy, or others might just have the tendency to sulk, which I find rather delightful. Take my husband for instance. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, but there’s just something adorable about him when he’s a little grumpy – not that he ever owns up to that and if I have the audacity to actually point out the fact he’s a little surly, I always get that immediate denial, spoken in a somewhat grumpy tone of voice, and that always makes me laugh and have the distinct urge to hug him.
LG: So your hubby gets grumpy. What about you? Any nervous habits while writing? I bite my nails, so I have to get a gel manicure if I am going to make it through a manuscript.
JT: Hmm…nope, I can’t come up with any nervous habits, but if I’m in the midst of a first draft, I do get rather intense and heaven help the poor soul (normally my husband or son) who just happens to interrupt me with some mundane question like “When is dinner?” or “Do you want to go out for ice-cream?” I’ve been known to give an airy dismissal with a dainty flick of a wrist which normally earns me a good rolling of the eyes as footsteps stomp away from my office.
LG: You describe that so very well, my dear! I can just see the dainty flick of the wrist now. I bite my nails when I cannot come up with good names. How do you name your characters? I am totally boring on this and will usually just give up and go for the church registry of this little village in England for my names.
JT: I’ve never thought about going to a church registry before. Normally I scour the obituaries and look for odd names – the odder the better I always say, but I do look at old census data and then I found a wonderful site of Edwardian names on the web. I’m thinking I’m going to have to use Permilia sometime because that name is just too fabulous, but haven’t come up with a character yet to fit that particular name.
LG: OK, then, let’s talk about your future heroine, Permilia. What’s one thing she would never, ever do? (Apart from the restrictions of our genre, of course. ;))
JT: Well, it certainly is true we have some restrictions because of our genre, but I can’t see me ever writing a heroine who would go after another lady’s gentleman, even for a plot twist. That just leads to all sorts of trouble and I do like to write my heroines with a somewhat noble character.
LG: So you don’t adhere to Scarlett O’Hara’s worldview, that it’s a girl’s job to hang on to her man. Fair enough! So when you write about Permilia, will you include your favorite romantic trope? I must confess, I will always love the bluestocking who reforms a rake.
JT: Oh, I love the bluestocking, such an interesting character and one who can be written so many intriguing ways. I like writing independent, progressive ladies who just seem to always get themselves into mischief and do need saving by the hero, but who are also perfectly capable of saving themselves.
LG: OK, lightning round! Finish this sentence…If I couldn’t write I would…
JT: Stop talking to myself while out on walks and would probably revert to being somewhat normal.
LG: Where did you grow up?
JT: I grew up in the small town of St. Clairsville, Ohio, a place I absolutely adore and wouldn’t mind living in again someday.
LG: What made you decide to write–esp Inspirational Fiction? Mine is a long drawn out story but let’s just say for now that it was a calling.
JT: I relate to those “long drawn out story” scenarios. I didn’t start out writing romance, but middle-grade, then moved to YA, then contemporary fiction. When an agent called me and told me that she liked the contemporary fiction but that it was like four hundred pages too long, I almost gave up, coming to the belief I just wasn’t savvy enough to ever, as in ever, break into the publishing world. A friend came over to console me, and while having a great chat, she suggested I write one of those “Fabio” stories. Since I read historical romance more than any other genre, I decided to give it a go, and not too long after finishing that book, I had signed with an agent. We never did sell that particular book, but oddly enough, A Change of Fortune literally sprang to mind while I was cleaning the shower and one thing led to another. The next thing you know, I’m writing for Bethany House and enjoying every minute of it. Well, okay, sometimes I’m not enjoying every single minute, but you know what I mean. 😉
LG: OK, let’s delve into the stuff we don’t enjoy. What’s your least favorite thing about writing? I hate promotion…I’m just not good at it.
JT: Promotion is a tough one and I have to admit, I’m not that good at it either, but I think my least favorite thing about this writing gig is the reviews. Not the good reviews, I adore those, but every once in a while you get someone who makes their review personal, and I really don’t care for that at all. If someone doesn’t like my work, I’m fine with that – I read tons of books I don’t care for, but I’ve never slammed an author, and I truly do wish people would think before they hit that publish button. We authors are a tender lot and sometimes words do sting.
LG: I got a review one time that just said two words: “Too religious.” How is that fair? I mean, you are reading inspirational fiction, after all. Let’s end on a positive note. What’s your favorite thing about writing? Mine is getting to decide the ending.
JT: I love figuring out the ending, but I think my favorite thing has to just be getting to live in my imagination. I’ve always been a little odd in that regard, but since I’m now an author, people find me eccentric and interesting which is so much better than odd, or…peculiar.
And here’s all you need to know about Jen’s latest book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance:
Miss Arabella Beckett has one driving passion: to help the downtrodden women of America. Naturally, she supports the women’s suffrage movement and eagerly attends rallies and lectures across the country. On her travels, she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need that goes sadly awry and lands both ladies in more trouble than they can manage. An independent sort, Arabella is loath to admit she needs help and certainly doesn’t need help from an arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor.
Mr. Theodore Wilder, private investigator extraordinaire, is on a mission. A mission that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. By the time he finally tracks down Hamilton’s sister, Arabella, he is in a less than pleasant mood. When the lady turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he soon finds himself at his wit’s end.
When they return home to New York, circumstances force their paths to continue to cross, but the most peculiar feelings growing between them certainly can’t be love. When the trouble Arabella had accidentally stirred up seems to have followed her to New York and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.
Jen is very graciously giving away one copy of her book to a lucky commentor below. Be sure to add your email address! US residents only, please! Giveaway ends 7/19/13.