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An Interview with Bethany House Author Jen Turano

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.

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The author herself, Jen Turano.

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.

Cover image shared by author.

Cover image shared by author.

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.

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Mamavation Monday: What Are You Hiding From?

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I’ve gained and lost a lot of weight over the past six years. Usually, it’s the same 20 pounds. And my goal for this year is to lose those 20 pounds and not regain them. Yes, it’s a thrill to see the number on the scale going down. But it’s also kind of a bummer when you’ve seen that number twice or even three times before.

My daughter and me as I neared a size 8.

The last time I lost a great deal of weight, we were living in North Carolina. I was working out on a daily basis; in fact, the YMCA was one of my sole sources of childcare. So I would have my two hour workout while my daughter, who was two at the time, enjoyed play time with the other kids in the nursery.

The changes the workouts and eating plan wrought in my diet were astonishing; suddenly people who had seen me several times before ceased to recognize me. And I started fitting in to a single digit size for the first time in ages. It was heady and exhilirating and I felt fantastic.

Until one day.

I was grocery shopping without my daughter or husband–just a quick run to pick up a few things we needed. In the store, an older man lmost rammed his cart into mine. He joked about it and I was friendly enough in return, but then a few moments later, he did it again. I started to get a weird feeling. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me–it wasn’t even looking, it was leering.

He followed me to the checkout stand and then somehow, managed to follow me out into the parking lot. And as I put away my groceries, trying to hustle up the process, be bent over and really peered at my bum. Like, it was such an exaggerated movement that it belonged in a Keystone Kops movie.

As I jumped into my car and sped off, I glanced in my rearview mirror. He was *still* staring at me.

So. A few things went through my mind as I drove home:

First, I needed to start carrying mace.

Then, a sense of rueful awe at the power of the male ego. That this old man, who was dirty, somewhat toothless, and vastly unattractive would think that a young, fit lady was remotely interested in him or would want him looking at her really boggled my mind. Even when I was a slender little sprig of a think in my teen years, I knew there were standards of attractiveness beyond which I would never cross. Somehow, I think most men never got this message.

Then, a powerful feeling of deja vu so strong that I had to pull over into a parking lot for a moment to process it. This was why I got fat, I told myself over and over. I wanted to be invisible.

Now, I am not saying that this old man wouldn’t have leered at me, even if I had weighed three times what I did that day. But when I was fat, I felt protected. Sheltered from unwelcome advances. Cocooned in a way that kept me in a nice little invisible comfort zone. And when that comfort zone went away, I felt extremely vulnerable.

I’m not sure that the weight didn’t start to creep back after that moment, but of course, I went back up. I seem to have a comfort zone of a size 12-14 and when I hit that I feel too conspiciously fat, and so I start to drop down again.

I wish I knew how to conquer this fear of being seen, or of being too invisible. This, I think, is why my weight has yo-yoed so drastically over the years. I’d like to conquer the fear so I can vanquish the fat. Does anyone have insight on this they can share?

This post is sponsored by Touch Within Coaching and Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway.

Mamavation Monday: Checking In

I am, by nature, a very goal-oriented person. I always have been. I remember one summer, I was in 6th grade headed into junior high, and the weeks stretched before me–empty weeks, with nothing to do. I was too young to get a job or to get a life of my own, but too old for my mother to find something to occupy my months at home. I needed to do something to fill the hot, sleepy Texas afternoons, so I did what any self-respecting teenage girl would do.

I copied entire entries out of my mom’s Rules of Court book. By hand.

Why?

Well, I needed to improve my handwriting, for one. And my mom was looking into law school, so I thought it might help her out. Why my handwritten copies of something she already had and didn’t use would be of any interest to her, I don’t know. But I needed to have a goal, and I needed to have tasks, and so I created one out of nothing.

As you might suspect, the New Year is a highly anticipated, do or die time of year for me. 365 days, all stretching before me. How will I fill them? What will my goals be?

I started early this year, by submitting my application on December 10  to the Mamavation Mom challenege. Since posting my app video, I have:

–Completed the #12daysoffitmas hazing

–Continued to do every single day of hazing, even when I thought it’d kill me

–Gotten to the point where I don’t think I will burp up while doing burpees

–Given up Diet Coke (have been DC-free for over a week and counting)

–Signed up for a half-share of Urban Acres organic produce every two weeks

–Cheered on other Mamavation applicants and gotten to know some really nice people

–Started walking my dog again (I can’t blame it on the weather any longer).

So my goal for 2013 was already set, my resolutions went right along with it–to work towards being a Mamavation Mom and if I’m not chosen, to keep right on going with working out and weight loss while relying on the Mamavation community for support.

The difference between now and years past is that I don’t have a feeling of “And when I lose the weight, I will…” as though healthy living is finite and can end when that magical goal weight is achieved. I have more of a feeling of permanent change, of knowing that this is long term, and that when 2014 rolls around, my goal will, for once, not center on my weight.

If you want to support me in this, please tweet the following message…and thank you!

Hey @bookieboo! I want @lilygeorge2 to be the next #Mamavation Mom. She has my support! http://bit.ly/aorv3Y

This post is sponsored by Schick Intuition and hosted by Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway.

Frugal Friday: Buying Less in 2013

I’ve been frugal by necessity my whole life. I learned the art of thrifting at an early age because without thirft stores, I wouldn’t have had clothes. Seriously.

But over time, thrifting has moved beyond the place of necessity in my life. It’s become a lifestyle and a form of entertainment. My husband and I have talked it over, and if we became millionaires, we would still shop the thrift stores. In fact, we’d go on a thrifting odyssey across all 50 states, using an RV for transportation.

Ahem. Yes, we are *that* serious about thrifting.

But there is a downside to thrifting, and that is this: the accumulation of too much stuff.

Take Disney VHS movies, for example. We decided, when our daughter was 2, that we would begin buying all the Disney movies we could find on VHS. After all, they go “back to the vault” after so many years, and our kid might miss out!

And we did get a lot of them. But here’s what we found. Our daughter only likes to watch a few movies over and over again. We were hoarding a ton of VHS movies that she didn’t care about. “Alice in Wonderland”–too freaky. “Sword in the Stone”–a boy’s movie. “Pete’s Dragon”–too long and talky, talkier than we remembered from our own childhoods. So I ended up clearing out the stash and gave away a garbage bag FULL of VHS movies on Freecycle. We kept the favorites and anything that we hadn’t watched in two years we gave away.

Granted, the total cost of that garbage bag of movies was probably less than $20. But we moved most of them from North Carolina to Texas. We kept them in a drawer for 4 years. They were taking up way more than $20 worth of room.

So while I will never stop thrifting, my goal for Frugal Fridays is to buy less stuff. Even if I spend more money to have a higher quality but fewer quantities of items. Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff in 2013–whaddya say?

Writing Wednesday: New Year, New Series

So, I was shopping in Target just before Christmas when I received an email from my agent, Melissa Jeglinski. Love Inspired had accepted my proposal for a new series, and would I please call her back?

Um, is a frog’s bum waterproof? Of course I’d call her back.

And I did, right in the middle of Christmas shopping chaos at Target.

What a way to end 2012 and start the new year–a new series for a new year.

This new series is centered on the Siddons sisters. (Try saying that line 3 times fast!) Susannah, the eldest, is the heroine of my first novel in the series. Her sisters, Becky and Nan, make an appearance but then the second novel is devoted to Becky. Both books are set in the Regency period and both are set in the same village that played such a large role in my first books–Tansley, in Derbyshire.

Tansley is a real place, although I’ve never visited it. When I originally planned out my first book, Captain of Her Heart, I picked Tansley off of a map because of its close proximity to Matlock Bath, which also played a role in the book. But over time, Tansley has come to mean much more to me and to my characters. I think of it as a place for new beginnings. Perhaps 2013 can be the year I visit Tansley in person, and soak up the atmosphere to add a little extra dash of authenticity to my writing.

For most of 2013 my time will be occupied with the Siddons of Tansley Village, and I hope you will join me on the journey. I’ll try to blog, as time permits, about how the writing process works and about how you can map out your own novel.

May 2013 bring you and yours many blessings! Happy New Year!

Mamavation Monday: Addiction Memoir

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Hi, my name is Lily George, and I would like to state here and now these two crucial things:

First, that I despise drinking water.

And second, that I love drinking Diet Coke.

I come by my habit honestly. Growing up, I watched as my mother drank Tab. Later, her habit morphed to Diet Coke. I could tell when she was awake in the mornings not by the smell of coffee brewing but by the sound of a can being popped open. It was her relaxation drink in the evenings. When our family was particularly poor, and ate only potatoes for a stretch of about nine months, her Coke habit continued unabated.

And yes, she struggled with obesity, still does. Almost everyone in my family is prone to obesity.

I didn’t like Diet Coke growing up, I liked regular Coke–but only every now and then. In high school, when I was already thin, I switched to Diet Coke to appear ladylike. Real Coke was for boys, who could afford to gain weight. Over time, Diet Coke became my crutch, and my constant no matter what diet I tried–because it was always a “safe food” no matter what diet I chose.

Diet Coke also had the allure of being a treat. Bubbly, sweet, and not forbidden–it was better than diet chocolates, which always give me, ahem, bathroom issues.

So it was rather a shock to me when I found out that Diet Coke is verboten to Mamavation Moms. It went down like this. Leah (@bookieboo) had mentioned the need to stop drinking calories. I agreed, and mentioned that I only drink water, coffee, and the occasional Diet Coke.

Not. Good.

Leah said:
@LilyGeorge2 diet coke makes you fatter. No joke. #mamavation

Followed immediately by:
@LilyGeorge2 Doood, you are supposed to have ALREADY quit. Looks like ur gonna have to do that today. #mamavation

And then:
@LilyGeorge2 That’s like a #Mamavation Mom rule for applications. I really should add that to the application page. #mamavation

Dunh Dunh Dunnnnnh.

Mamavation is the first dietary plan I’ve tried where I really have to stop and think about what I am eating or drinking. I am used to being told what I can have and what I can’t according to Weight Watchers or Atkins or Medifast, but I really never had to learn why. Just tell me what I can eat and can’t eat and I will lose the weight without a second thought.

But then, of course, when I go off the diet, I eat just like I always have, so I gain the weight back.

So, maybe it pays to think about what I eat or drink?

As Gru would say, “Light. Buuuuuuulb.”

Leah’s posts made me wonder why Diet Coke is so bad, which led to me reading up on some troubling studies showing the link between diet sodas and obesity.

Since Leah’s posts, I have given up the Diet Coke, replacing it with tea and with coffee–I am NOT giving up my caffeine except during pregnancies, LOL. I think 2013 will be the first year that I go without Diet Coke or any other soda, for that matter. Not a bad way to start the New Year, eh?

Will you support and encourage me in this goal? If so, simply tweet the following message:

Hey, @bookieboo! I want @lilygeorge2 to be the next #Mamavation Mom. She has my support! And she’s giving up Diet Coke! http://bit.ly/aorv3Y

Sample Sunday: The Temporary Betrothal

I had the most fun writing the “improper proposal” scenes between Sophie and Lord Bradbury for my second novel, “The Temporary Betrothal.” Sophie is caught between her need to maintain her position as seamstress in his lordship’s household, but her own natural spirit and her own ingrained moralty make his proposal absolutely repulsive to her. How is she to react, especially since she loves Charlie Cantrill?

I had to rein her spirit and spunk in and concentrate instead on the cold and sick feeling of dread that engulfs her when Lord Bradbury offers to make her his mistress. And, with Sophie’s uncanny knack of frankly eyeing each situation she faces, it seemed only natural that she would hesitate and weigh the pros and cons of being a mistress.

He half led, half carried her back out to the carriage, under the frank appraisal of the coachman and footmen. Sophie burned with shame from her head to her feet.

Inside the carriage, Lord Bradbury tucked her up beside him, stroking her curls and murmuring words in a soft undertone. But she couldn’t hear him. She couldn’t see anything. All she saw was Charlie Cantrill, his ashen face and stooped shoulders when she bade him goodbye.