11 December 2009

Aspiring Author Profile: Jean Oram

Name: Jean Oram

Age…ish?: I was born in the ‘70s, baby. Yeah!

Location/Country: Western Canada, eh?

One thing people always find interesting about me: I grew up in an old schoolhouse and I grew up working on beehives as my parents were beekeepers. And yes, I got stung a lot, but there is nothing as calming as working on a hive of bees on a warm day. Sometimes, I kind of miss it.

Genre(s) you write: Women’s fiction and chick lit at the moment. I have also written a nonfiction kids’ book. You can learn more about that one at http://www.itsallkidsplay.ca/

Books/Authors you love: Meg Cabot, Jane Green, and Jennifer Weiner. Out of my writing genre, I also like Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. Basically, I will read just about anything. :) I’m a bit of a book slut.

How long have you been writing? About 3 years. Although, I kept a diary as a kid—does that count?

Do you have any professional/industry experience as a writer? As a way to get free admission to movies, art shows, concerts, etc, in university, I wrote entertainment articles for the school paper. Other than that, nothing huge.

Had anything published? Just newspapers.

Agent status (please X all that apply)

[X ] Need one

[ X] Want one. Desperately. Want. One.

[ ] Got one

[ ] We’re “talking”

[ X] I’m cyberstalking him/her, but so far they have yet to respond to my inappropriate bribes, gifts, wheedling, whining and…. Erm, I mean, my query letter.

[ ] Agent? Who needs an agent?

Either/Or when you write:

Pen and paper, or computer screen? Computer. However, I do have a pad beside the bed for when ideas, poems, etc, keep me up at night. And a whole other notebook full of story ideas.

Plotster (outlines, scene cards, etc.) or Pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)? You had to ask, didn’t you? Being a panster has gotten me into a heck of a lot of trouble. Can we say never-ending edits? However, the story I wrote as a true plotster bores the heck out of me. People say it is good though and the edits have been very reasonable. The last story I wrote, I tried a bit of both and I think that is working for me.

Music on, or off? Depends. Mostly, Sirius Radio’s Coffeehouse. Lots of Jack Johnson. L7 and Garbage if I am feeling the angst. If editing, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra—they don’t interrupt while I am thinking.

Solitude, or surrounded by people, sounds, things? SOLITUDE!!! However, I am a stay-at-home mom, so that doesn’t really happen. I can work anywhere—it just takes longer and sometimes makes me a frustrated, hair-pulling, crazy lady. I did do some writing in the public library for NaNoWriMo. That was heaven. I even made a library boyfriend out of a 70-year-old. (Don’t tell my husband.)

Cleanest first draft possible, or screw grammar/spelling/punctuation and fix it later? Spelling has to be right, but other than that, all systems full speed ahead! In my latest story, I simply put in things like [insert appropriate seasonal adjective] into my story as I wasn’t sure of the seasonal timeline—just that the story would take place over the span of a year. So, in order not to get bogged down in details, I left myself notes for later. It worked well. I wrote over 80,000 words in about 60 hours. However, I haven’t gone back and touched it since (it’s been 8 months and I haven’t had time), so maybe it is all a delusion dream that it worked well.

Slave to the whimsy of your muse, or writing like it’s your job, even when you don’t feel like it? Both. But when do I ever not want to play with words?

Do you have a certain place/time of day/writing implement/obsessive ritual/etc. that is crucial to your writing process? Tea. Lots of it.

Where do you get your inspiration? Uh. Hmmm. It’s just there, I guess. Let’s sing the song together, shall we? “You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration…” On our home network, my laptop is named “muse”. Does that count?

What one thing do you really love about your own writing? When I go back and read my work and find myself pissed off because someone has come and written an amazing line in my story. Then I realize it was me. That feels good. After the anger and jealousy washes away, of course.

What one thing do you wish you could do better? Faster edits.

Anything else you want to say? Writing rocks! And come visit me on my blog: www.jeanoram.com/blog. I talk about writing, do book reviews and more. As well, thanks to Jen for having me. I love these kinds of things!

Anything for us to read? Sure. How about the opening scene from “There’s No Place Like Home”. (This was the plotster story I was talking about.)

Here’s how it starts:

“It’s funny Beth, a year ago I expected to be putting you in a wedding gown for another man.” Her mother threaded another pearl button through its tight hole, stealing even more of her daughter’s diminishing breathing room.

“Mom,” warned Beth’s sister, Cynthia.

“Well, it’s true,” her mother said.

“You promised.”

Beth kept her back to the warring women and took a restricted breath, the scent of her bouquet assaulting her.

“Cut it out.” Her mother gave Beth’s back a light tap. “I can’t do up these impossible buttons when you horse around.”

Instead, Beth began taking short, unfulfilling breaths. The church’s tiny upstairs dressing room seemed to lack enough oxygen.

Her mom squeezed the last button through its hole and spun Beth around, beaming, hand to her chest. “You look beautiful.”

Cynthia strode over in a fluttering silk robe. “Your Nash sure can sure pick a wedding dress.”

A stray chestnut tendril fell in Cynthia’s eyes and Beth brushed it away. Her sister’s hair was perfect in a sexy, tousled way making Beth think of movie stars and champagne and left her thinking she shouldn’t have bullied her own curly hair into a slick chignon. Beth dragged in a long, uneasy breath.

“Cynthia,” said their mother, “go put on your dress.”

“If you need me—for anything—” Cynthia shot their mom a warning look, “I’ll be down the hall.” She waggled a finger at her mom. “Don’t mess with her head!”

Want more? Check it out here.

I’m always curious to hear what you think. You can contact me at jean at jeanoram.com.

Thanks for having me!

No, thank YOU, Jean!


  1. Hey, look at that! I'm famous! Thanks for posting me. That was a lot of fun. :)

    Can you believe I've changed that opening scene--again? Why can't I just leave the poor thing alone?

  2. Woohoo! I have a famous friend :) Great interview!!


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