July 2006Studio 16
WG: Welcome Holly. Thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
HJ: Hi, I’m Holly Jacobs. I write for Harlequin, Silhouette and Avalon books. Let’s see, that’s the career stuff. On a personal level, I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We have four children. The two oldest have graduated college, the third goes to college the year after next. The fourth, well, she’s only in middle school, so we’ve got a few years to go. But hey, ½ of my kids are independent adults! That’s not such a bad average! LOL
My husband is a police officer and we have an eclectic variety of pets. A fish named Bubbles, two hamsters and a new dog, Ethel Merrman. Which is a great name if you pair it with my real last name, Fuhrmann. Go ahead, say it. Ethel Merrman Fuhrmann. LOL Makes me smile. :) But then, I’m pretty easily amused.
WG: Let’s talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
HJ: Robert Heinlein, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and oh-so many others. I read their books when I was young…I grew up with them. They taught me to dream, to use my imagination. When I grew up and realized that my kids were all going to be in school one day and I should probably decide what I wanted to do…well, writing, creating my own universes was the only career that called to me. There’s the whole creative aspect of it, but there’s also the fact I can spend the day in pjs if I want! :)
WG: Tell us about your journey.
HJ: From the first time I whispered to myself that I wanted to be a writer, I knew I wanted to be a published writer. So I treated my writing, from the first, as a job, not a hobby. I started selling short stories, and eventually moved on to tackling books.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
HJ: I was fortunate enough to sell my first book, and just sold my thirty-third. I’ve been lucky…very, very lucky!
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of joining the ranks of published authors?
HJ: Not much. I mean, I still do the laundry, still drive kids everywhere, I still have a house that needs cleaned, responsibilities that needed attended to.
It’s just now, part of those responsibilities involve writing.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
HJ: I am a creature of habit. Okay, so I’m also a hermit. A social hermit, which means I can leave my hermit-hole and mingle with others, but I do so love my solitude. I like rhythm to my life. So, yes, I like a schedule. I get up early, go to the gym, get the family off to school or work, then sit down and do busy work. (Answer emails, do interviews like this, etc…) Then I write. Even when I’m not under contract, I set a five page per day goal. After those are finished, I can stop, but frequently I just keep on going until the kids come home.
WG: Do you have a ‘mood setter’, something (music, ritual, environment,etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
HJ: Sticking to my schedule is my “mood setter.” I know that when I’ve finished my email, it’s time to write. I can write in chaos, with all the kids here, but since they’re older now, and all in school, I’ve grown to really love the silence. Writing when the only sound I hear is the tap of my fingers on the keyboard.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
HJ: I used to be a seat-of-the-pants writer. But then I sold enough books that I could sell on proposal. So I learned to plot and write a synopsis. I’ll confess, I try to plot just enough to sell, but loose enough that I have wiggle room. That wiggle room allows me to make fresh discoveries as I write. And that sense of needing to know what happens next and finding something totally unexpected is part of the joy of writing for me.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
HJ: Depends. I’ve written books that started as a title I’d thought of that amused me. I’d build a book around the title. I wrote one book because my editor had commented that I killed a lot of my main characters parents, and that dead people weren’t funny. So I wrote what I thought was a funny dead body book, Found and Lost. (It won RT’s Best Flipside of the Year award.) Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s a plot, sometimes a name…inspiration is everywhere, and each of my books has a different starting point.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
HJ: Yes. Things like, Families aren’t always born, sometimes they’re made. The idea that sometimes our true family doesn’t share our blood, but rather a bond of friendship, and the idea love can be stronger than genetics. Family probably plays through so many of my books because for me, my family is everything. In a total mom-myopia, I firmly believe my kids are amazing, that my husband is truly the stuff romance-heroes are made of. Yes, being ga-ga about my family colors everything I do…including my writing.
WG: Has anything about the way you work changed since you became a published author?
HJ: When I started writing, my youngest was still home all day, so I wrote at night, after the kids were in bed. Those were my vampire years. <g> The biggest change would be now that everyone’s in school, I get to write during the day, and I so much prefer that.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
HJ: I write mainly romantic comedy, or sweet humorous stories. But as a reader, I gravitate to science fiction/fantasy, science, philosophy and the occasional biography. I don’t like reading what I write, so that works out well for me.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
HJ: I’d love to write an epic fantasy some day.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
HJ: I’ve given this particular piece of advice to anyone and everyone who asks…write. Write something, anything, every day. Make writing a part of your daily rhythm. Let it become as much a part of your life as breathing in and out. For me, that was the biggest secret. Writing is such a big part of who I am. For me, family’s first, writing is second…dust bunnies are dead last! :)
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What do you struggle the most with?
HJ: There’s a certain shivery feeling when I read a finished manuscript. It’s always accompanied by a sense of awe…a little-kid holding up a piece of their art and saying, I did this. That’s how it feels for me. I did this. It’s always such a wonder to me. Because when I start a book there’s always an ice-cold terror as I worry that maybe I’ve lost “it,” whatever it is. That maybe this will be the book that breaks me, that I can’t finish. So each time I do manage to finish one, that’s the most rewarding moment.
Of course, then I have to start the next one, and the terror that I’ve lost “it” returns! :) (Hey, I never said writers weren’t a neurotic bunch!)
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
HJ: There’s a quote by Richard Bach that I love…
"If you will practice being fictional a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats."
It speaks so well to writers. Frequently, as I work on a book, I’m closer to those characters than a lot of “real” people. Bach also wrote,
"You are never given a wish without the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however."
So many people dream of writing, I hear from them time and time again. But it takes them a while to realize that there’s more than just the dream, there’s hard work involved.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
HJ: I’ve got a release in both June and July.
June is my first single-title, CONFESSIONS OF A PARTY CRASHER. My poor heroine is adrift. The life she worked so hard to build has crumbled, and she has to discover what it is she really wants. My son opened it up, saw my picture and bio in the back, stood reading it a minute, then said, “Hey, you sound kinda good.” LOL Hoping readers think the book sounds kinda good as well! :)
In July, I have a Silhouette Romance, HERE WITH ME. My poor heroine has built a quiet life she loves, when a man, a baby…and her parents in a new RV, show up at her lakeside cottage.
To be honest, both books deal with families, and with central characters discovering that what they thought they wanted isn’t what they wanted at all. And despite those similarities, both books approach the topics from different angles, which I hope is as fun for the readers as it was for me.
WG: Tell us about plans for future books.
HJ: I’m soooooo excited about my November release. It’s a novella, Deck the Halls, in DASHING THROUGH THE MALL anthology with Sherryl Woods and Darlene Gardner. It was so much fun to work with both of them. Darlene is a good friend, in addition to being a heck of a writer. And I was a fan of Sherryl’s work, and quickly became a fan the woman! She’s very sweet.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your fans can get in touch with you.
Thanks so much, Winnie! This was fun!!