GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Give us a little background about Jean Oram, regular gal.
Regular gal Jean likes to ski and grew up in an old schoolhouse. She has two kids, a dog, two cats, and a husband she calls her best friend. She also finds it funny to write about herself in the third person... I love to travel and hang out online with other readers and writers. I can't lick my nose.
And how about Jean Oram, author?
They are pretty much one and the same. Only the author version of me is possibly a little less shy. (And she can't lick her nose, either.)
Plotter or pantster?
A bit of both. Recently I've been roughly plotting out who the character is, what she wants, and what stands in her way. Then I have 18 scenes that are the backbones of the story's arc and progression. From there I pants it and sometimes find myself in a pickle. But this new method seems to save time--and lead to less editing which I like! So, it is a combination, I suppose.
Name one or two of your favorite contemporary authors. Favorite classic authors?
I love Meg Cabot's Heather Wells series. I nearly peed my pants when Meg followed me on Twitter. Then I realized that she follows everyone back. My pants were relieved. In terms of classics, I like Jane Austen. She surprised me!
How are you liking the self publishing process? Favorite part of it? Least favorite?
Love it! My favourite part is being in control of things and being able to tweak things as I go (things like book categories, etc.) and doing it all on my own schedule. My least favourite is that you have to seek out your own expertise partners and because those partners are doing their own thing, it can be difficult to connect so you can pick their brains. And I really like picking brains. It's a hobby of mine! As well, there are no controls to stop me from trying to do too much! But it all works out in the end, I think. I wouldn't change it for the world.
I know you've been moving house at the same time you've been finalizing things for the release of Whiskey and Gumdrops. First of all, you're crazy. Second, how do you do it? Do you have any time management tips to help balance work/writing/home/family/social stuff?
Yes, I believe I am certifiable. Especially since my husband forgot to get Internet hooked up at our new house and I'm using sketchy cell phone service to get online. That's enough to make me insane, right there!
Basically, I have no social life. And I don't watch television other than the odd show here and there. (Like maybe 4 hours a month kind of thing.) That frees up some time. I also avoid cleaning the house as much as possible. But truly, I grew up on a farm which taught me how to work efficiently as well as to put my head down and shoulder into it when things get tough. That has helped a ton. I have also learned to work in chaos and with many interruptions.
I think procrastination is the real killer for a lot of us, though. We say one thing is a priority but our actions don't show that. If you want to publish a book, you have to take a step towards it every day.
If you could give any advice to aspiring novelists looking at the traditional publishing vs self publishing debate, what would you say?
How much time do you have? How much work are you willing to do? How much do you enjoy learning? If you don't mind working hard, learning lots, experimenting, and spending your time on publishing then self-publishing is great. I've met self-publishers who are surprised their books aren't selling, but it is almost always because they haven't learned the business, haven't put the work in to ensure success. In self-publishing you are every person and get to control your avenues quite heavily. If that thrills you, then self-publishing might be right for you. I feel like I should be one of those drug commercials right now: Self-publishing might cause, insanity, anxiety, hives, freak outs, melt downs, excessive worrying, and other symptoms. Talk to your doctor to see if self-publishing is right for you.
What advice would you give to an author who has decided to go the self publishing route?
Read David Gaughran's books. No, they are not free, but they are full of tips that will save you time and a money and increase your sales. They are well worth the money. Read Let's Get Digital. Then read Let's Get Visible. Listen to Joanna Penn's podcasts. Learning about marketing from the hilarious, straight-up shooter, Sean Halpern of Social Triggers. Explore. Have fun! The awesome thing about self-publishing is that there are so many routes to success. Find yours! (Okay, now I sound like a travel ad! Explore self-publishing and enjoy the wonders of independent success today! Call for your free brochure or book your adventure today.)
Reading Champagne and Lemon Drops and watching your publishing journey have been part of what's influenced me to write contemporary romance. I'm currently working on one that was inspired in a small way by someone I actually know. Do you ever put bits of people you know into your characters, or use real life scenarios you've experienced in your fiction?
I sure do. ;) Although some of those things were taken out because they didn't quite fit. But growing up in a small town, and writing about a small town… it's difficult for real life to not sneak in. For example, the things Nash got upset about in Champagne and Lemon Drops were real life things (except for Lauretta and the wheelchair) I'd plucked from my own small town experiences.
Any projects or other things you want us to know about?
You bet. I am launching Whiskey and Gumdrops this week which is about Mandy (Beth's nemesis--is she the woman Beth thought she was?) in Blueberry Springs who has to learn to accept help (and love!) in order to get what she really wants from life. It also contains a sneak peek of book 3 in the Blueberry Springs series, Rum and Raindrops. (Jen, the nature guide, maybe kind of accidentally burns down a forest and then falls in love with the fire investigator.)
And this weekend you can join me on Facebook as I (and Jen!) [that's me Jen, not the aforementioned Blueberry Springs Jen! ;-) ] give away lots of great books along with many other authors as we celebrate the release of Whiskey and Gumdrops. It's a virtual launch party and everyone is welcome to pop in over the weekend at: https://www.facebook.com/events/553969544676089/
LET'S GET BOOZY... I MEAN BOOKISH.
One woman. Two men. One meddling small town.
Raised by her older sister in the small town of Blueberry Springs, all Beth Wilkinson wants is to create a family so big she’ll never be alone. Things are going great until her accountant fiancé, Oz, experiences a family trauma, forcing him to rethink everything from his own career to their nuptial plans—leaving Beth alone.
As Beth works to rediscover her former bold and independent self in hopes of reattracting Oz, she catches the eye of the charming new city doctor, Nash. Not only does he see her as she’d like to be seen, but he knows exactly what he wants from life—and that includes Beth.
Torn between the two men, as well as two versions of herself, Beth discovers that love and dreams are much more complicated than they seem.
A chick lit contemporary romance that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, and Meg Cabot, and will have readers wondering who the heck Beth should choose.
Tell us about Blueberry Springs. What inspired you to write a series set in a small town like this?
It started with Beth's story, Champagne and Lemon Drops. For her story it felt natural for her to be in a small town--the town could be a larger-than-life character meddling in her life and adding conflict and barriers as well as mess with her thinking. (Small towns tend to do that to people sometimes.) I had a few other stories and story ideas that could also be set in small towns and suddenly one story became a series and Blueberry Springs became bigger than I had planned (in a good way!).
As well, I grew up in a small town. (Actually on the outskirts of a hamlet of 100 people. Yes, I knew everyone.) I went to a school (different town) where my grad class was around 30 people. Everyone knew everyone and always had. Where I grew up, my parents were the 'new people' for decades as they had moved there from 'out East.' So creating Blueberry Springs was easy. I just looked to my own upbringing.
Can you tell us how many Blueberry Springs books you envision?
I have three planned for sure. Book 1: Champagne and Lemon Drops. Book 2: Whiskey and Gumdrops (released November 1st). And then book 3: Rum and Raindrops coming out Spring 2014. I have a couple other stories I'd like to set in a small town, but I'm not sure if they will be set in Blueberry Springs or if I will start a new small town series for them. What do your blog readers think? How many books are good in a series? [Tell us in the comments below!]
Personally, I love stories and characters that feel real, even in what is typically an escapist sort of genre like romance. Beth totally fit that bill in C&LD. She had realistic flaws and difficult decisions to make. I'm willing to bet Mandy will be another relatable heroine. What draws you to those kinds of characters?
Thank you. :) Good question. As a reader, I like a character who feels real because they become easier to relate to. I love a story where I get so wrapped up in it (like I did in The Poisonwood Bible) that I forget the characters are fictional.
WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW! There was a certain part of Champagne and Lemon Drops I really enjoyed and I've been dying to ask Jean about it. Finally got my chance! Just be forewarned, if you haven't already read the book, clicking below WILL spoil the ending for you. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1, SCROLL UNTIL YOU SEE THE NEXT BOOK COVER!
In C&LD, Beth talks about wanting kids a lot, but at the end she realizes that all of Blueberry Springs is her family and that kids aren't an absolute necessity for her future with Oz. I was totally rooting for that outcome, but didn't actually expect you to give it to me! Marriage and baby seem to be the obligatory ending for a lot of romance books. Beth's thought process was a breath of fresh air. How did that decision come about? Did you plot it that way from the beginning, or did you pants your way into it?
This is a long story. Hold onto your pants. When I first wrote Champagne and Lemon Drops (it's a free ebook, by the way), it was my first attempt at plotting a book out before writing it. It was much more women's fiction than romance. And part way through, Beth's friend, Katie, nudged her way into having her own point of view. But that didn't work so I had to pull it out. I rewrote this story several times. The last rewrite was intensive. It had been over 110,000 words and I cut it down to 50,000. Then I rewrote it back up to 80,000. That nearly killed me. Usually I drop a book and carry on to the next one when things get that problematic. However, I found I didn't learn from those mistakes. So, while that extensive rewrite was incredibly difficult, my writing skills took a jump and matured. It was worth it.
So, in the end, this book was both plotted and pantsed. However, yes, Beth's thought process around the kids was intentional.
Beth realizes her love for Oz is greater than her desire for a big family, but that doesn't meant it couldn't still happen. Inquiring minds want to know.... do they eventually go on to have kids? Do we have to tune in to a future book to find out? Or have you not thought about it yourself?
Some readers were a bit ticked off that I didn't put a massive red velvet bow on Beth's ending. I think there is a nicer bow on Mandy and Frankie's ending in book 2, Whiskey and Gumdrops. But to answer your question, yes, you do get to find out what happens to Beth and Oz in book 2.
Spoiler alert: Book 2 ruins the ending of book 1 (Champagne and Lemon Drops).)
TIME TO PARTAAAY!
Mandy Mattson has always believed that what you want isn't what you need. But never in her life has she been more wrong.
As a small town waitress, Mandy has never felt as though she deserves the love of her best friend Frankie. But when she sees an ex-lover marry her rival she realizes her life is adding up to a big fat nothing and realizes she needs to make a change. With every path in her new life leading back to Frankie, will she finally be able to reconcile that the one thing she's always wanted is the very thing she needs?
This best friend romance is a companion novel to Champagne and Lemon Drops: A Blueberry Springs Chick lit Contemporary Romance.
As Jean mentioned above, we're celebrating all weekend on Facebook with lots of fun and giveaways! On Saturday I'll be stopping by the virtual party to give away the first ever PRINT copy of my novel, Sorry's Not Enough. I hope we'll see you there!
Thanks for your time, Jean, and good luck with your new release! I'm anxious to get it onto my Kindle and start reading.
If you can't make it to the party on Facebook this weekend, keep up with Jean and her books on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.