The girls of Night Owl Romance are pleased that you have granted us an interview
We would love to get to know you
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am 51 years old and have been happily married to my second husband, Ron, for fifteen years. I'm the proud mother of three, the stepmother of two, and the grandmother of ten. My family is my life-them and our local community theatre. I founded the Port Town Players in January of 1992 and still direct 3-4 shows per year. I also enjoy camping, bowling, playing with my two Cocker Spaniels, and a good, suspenseful movie. Oh, and did I mention that I also like to write????
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
Can I be a dog? (Boy, that really opens the door for some comments, doesn't it?) In the book, Zach buys a protection dog named Mika to guard Caryn. She is a loveable, docile black German Shepherd-until someone messes with her master, then she is deadly. In the words of her trainer, Mika is "a good man's best friend and a bad man's worst enemy". I grew to love Mika during the course of writing "Checkmate". I'm a dog-lover anyway, but this dog is amazing. I would like to have even half her courage if one of my children or grandchildren were threatened.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
Okay, time to `fess up. I'm a night owl, which means I sleep away a good half of the day. Friends and family know not to call Jean before noon! When I do finally drag myself out of bed, the afternoons are generally dedicated to mundane things, like housework and laundry. I usually sit down at my computer by around 8:00 p.m., then I write until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I got into this habit when my kids were small. I didn't even start writing until they were settled into bed for the night. I'm one of those people who need total quiet to concentrate. Even a TV or radio can be distracting. My husband works in the engine room on an ore boat on Lake Superior, so I have the house to myself at least six months out of the year. That's how I get away with staying up half the night!
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
Honestly, I can count the times I've had writer's block over the last twenty-five years on one hand. It just doesn't seem to be a problem for me. The ideas are always flowing. Sometimes too much so. When I do get stumped, though, I just get away from the work for awhile. Go for a walk, watch some TV. Sometimes a few hours will do it; sometimes it takes a few days.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
I kind of strayed from the typical romance genre with "Checkmate." It's more of a thriller than a romance. My work in progress, though, titled "We The People" is totally new for me and about as far from a romance novel as you can get. It's actually mainstream fiction, about a typical "Joe Blow" type guy who gets tired of all the bureaucratic bull in Washington and decides to run for President. He travels the country in an old RV on an old-fashioned "grass roots" campaign and does his political rallies in Wal-Mart parking lots. (Or at least I hope he will be. I'm waiting to get permission from Wal-Mart as we speak. If they don't agree to let me use the company name-and parking lots-in the book, then it will be a chain of fictional stores.) I decided it was time to try something new. Something different. To be frank, after twenty-five years, I'm getting a little tired of my normal time travel/historical romance genre and wanted to branch out. I'm not saying I won't ever write romance again. In fact, I have a lot of readers out there who would be very upset with me if I didn't. I just needed a change. "Checkmate" was the start of my rebellion. "We The People" takes it all the way.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
Truckloads. Thank God for computers and the Internet! They are an author's best friend. In fact, I've joked about how, if the F.B.I. ever decided to check my Internet searches, they'd lock me up! While I was working on "The Ultimate Passage" for instance, in the course of one day, I did Internet searches on floor plans for the White House and the United Nations Building in New York City, and then I did one on different types of homemade bombs. And the F.B.I.'s response would be, "Sure you're writing a book." Luckily, all the research can now be organized in a few computer files. Back in the day, I used to spend hours at the library and would haul home at least five or six research books, and then plow through them to try and find the information I needed. Back then, no, I didn't like doing research. In fact, I hated it! Now, though, I love it. When I'm working on a book, whenever I need to research something, I just pop onto the Internet, find what I'm looking for, insert the information, and get right back to work. What would you like to tell your readers?
How much I enjoy writing stories that can take them away from the trials and tribulations of life for a time and send them to a different world where they can just be an eavesdropper into someone else's problems for a time. I also love to hear from my readers, and I answer every letter or email personally. I frequently ask my readers for input, also. For instance, "Checkmate" is supposed to be the first book in the "Stalker" series. At the end of the book, I ask for reader input as to whether or not they would like to see more books on that subject, with the police detective from "Checkmate" as the main protagonist. What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
The best advice: "Never give up. When a manuscript comes back in the mail with a rejection notice, send it out again-the same day." I got that advice from a published author early in my writing career-and I have never forgotten it. The worst advice: "Write what you know." If I wrote only what I knew about, the stories would be very short and I wouldn't have written and published eleven books. That old adage does nothing but suppress an author's creative juices. It also restricts the subject matter he or she can write about. There is nothing I enjoy better than visiting a new location, whether it be in person on on-line, and researching that location so I can make it my characters' home. The same goes for occupations, personalities, plots and sub-plots. For instance, in "Checkmate," Zach and Caryn live in Cheyenne, Colorado. He's the Fire Chief, she's a second grade teacher. I've never been to Cheyenne, I've never fought a fire, and I've never taught second grade. If I had "written what I know", Zach would be working on an ore boat on Lake Superior and Caryn would be an author working out of her home in Superior, WI.and there wouldn't be a story, because I have never been stalked by anyone, thank God. Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I just start writing. Generally, I figure out the beginning and the ending and a few crucial scenes before I start, then I just kind of "fill in the blanks". What was your first published work and when was it published?
"Wagons To The Past", in 1999. Obviously, it was my first time travel romance, only in that book forty people-an entire tourist wagon train-were transported to a time when real wagon trains were crossing The Great Divide.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
Readers can contact me through my web site at www.jeanhackensmith.com. From there, they can link to my Blog, sign my Guest Book, or email me. They can also order an autographed copy of any of my books or link to Amazon.com.
Thank you for this opportunity!