Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs





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J. K. Rock


August 2013


This month we re doing something a little different. I m welcoming the writing team of Joanne Rock and Karen Rock into my spotlight. These ladies together form the writing team of J.K. Rock and their debut YA book, Camp Boyfriend, has been released to rave reviews.

WG:      Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.

JKR:      Hi Winnie! We are so excited to be here and thank you for having us. We are sisters-in-law who married into the same family. Our husbands are brothers- the sixth and seventh sons in their family. We are living Seven Brides for Seven Brothers ;-). Joanne has three sons and one cat, and lives in the Adirondack Mountain region. Karen has one daughter, two King Cavalier Cocker Spaniels and a cat, and she lives close enough to Joanne for frequent shopping trips!

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.

JKR:      For the YA books, we can probably best credit each other. We have long been in the habit of taking a yearly shopping trip together and during one of the leisurely lunches that we always enjoy during those special days out, we decided it would be fun to write a book together. I m sure there was a toast involved where we sealed the idea with wine. It was meant to be a fun project & a creative outlet that would energize us. But it became so much more than that. Very early into the project we realized how well we worked together and that we might really make a strong partnership together.

WG:      Tell us about your journey.

JKR:      Our individual writing journeys took a variety of twists and turns. (Karen s debut Harlequin Heatwarming romance comes out in September, WISH ME TOMORROW.) But as a team, the path to publication was surprisingly smooth! Once we decided to work together, we agreed on the story and took turns writing chapters. Our agent loved it and sent it out shortly after we completed it. An editor from Spencer Hill Press contacted us a few months later and wanted to buy the book to launch their contemporary imprint. We were really excited that they were so enthused about the project and that they wanted to see all the connected stories.

WG:      How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?

JKR:      Joanne has sold many books in adult romance before this sale, but this is her first sale in YA. Karen has since sold several adult romance novels to Harlequin Heartwarming as well, but Camp Boyfriend was her first fiction sale.

WG:      Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?

JKR:      Because we are a team, we didn t get the call  in the traditional way. Our agent emailed us both at the same time to let us know that an editor was interested in our book and then we did a conference call with the publishing house to discuss it. But no matter how the big news arrives, it s monumental! To sell a book together was really special and almost a surprise because the process was so *fun* you almost forget it s work. Almost ;-).

WG:      What about your writing process. Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

JKR:      We brainstorm and plot as a team, then divvy up the chapters to actually write the book. We try to maintain a schedule, but sometimes that s blown out of the water when revisions come in on an old book or when we need to promote a book on the shelves. We ve both noticed we work LONG hours at this job, but it s definitely a labor of love.

WG:      Do you set writing goals for yourself?

JKR:      We definitely set goals and because we work together, we have to really respect those goals and commit to them! If one of us doesn t finish our chapter, we are throwing off the other person s schedule, so discipline is very important.

WG:      Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?

JKR:      Does chasing family members out of the house count as mood-setting? We have noticed that the process is always easier when the house is quiet, but since that s not always an option, headphones and music can be a help to focus on the story.

WG:      Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?

JKR:      We plot a good deal! Neither of us wants to go off in a direction that would disappoint the other person s vision for the story, so we really agree on those points ahead of time. If one person strays a bit, that s fine, but for the most part we try to stick to the story outline we set up ahead of time.

WG:      Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?

JKR:      For the camp stories, more of the projects have initiated because of the characters. Once we had our cast set for the first book, we discovered lots of secondary characters whose stories we really wanted to tell. In that case, we work backward and think about what kind of storyline the character might have.

WG:      What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?

JKR:      Having the team dynamic means we can bring our unique personal strengths into the story to serve the greater good! Karen has a snappy YA voice after her years in the classroom. Joanne has a strong sense of story arc and character development. Merging those strengths really helps us to bring the best possible story to readers.

WG:      Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?

JKR:      We are probably our own worst enemies ;-). There are many great benefits to being self-employed, but it also encourages over-achieving which can be a dangerous thing! We ve found that we need to be careful to walk away from the computer at a set time and spend time with our families. Work will always be there. Family comes first.

WG:      Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?

JKR:      We take turns on revisions. That s one of our favorite parts of working as a team & we can occasionally take a week off from revising and let someone else work on the book!! While the writing is very much a 50/50 split, sometimes we take on whole tasks to free up the other partner. For example, Joanne promotes while Karen revises, or vice-versa. We ll trade off those tasks, which is nice.

WG:      Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?

JKR:      Not so much as writers & we are interested in writing a wide range of stories. As readers, Karen gravitates toward mysterious thrillers like the kinds of books that Tana French writes while Joanne always loves a historical story.

WG:      Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?

JKR:      We both love suspense and mystery. It would be really fun to write a YA piece with those elements!

WG:      Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?

JKR:      Read all you can. Attend the conferences. Enter contests. But most of all, believe in yourself and keep submitting. That s the best way to ensure you re in the right place at the right time!

WG:      Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?

JKR:      Christopher Vogler s The Writer s Journey was an a-ha moment for us. This book, based on Jung s hero s journey  is a great help in seeing the underlying structure of a story.

WG:      Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?

JKR:      A quick vent is a good way to excise stray crankiness. For big rejections, we allow ourselves a 24-hour window to mourn What Might Have Been, but after that the disappointment gets packed up for good.

WG:      What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?

JKR:      Working in pjs is really rewarding!! It feels so decadent. The biggest struggle is knowing when to walk away from the work.

WG:      When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?

JKR:      Read. I would guess that most writers say the same! We got into writing because of a deep love for books, so it makes sense that we would return to them for pleasure as often as possible.

WG:      What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

JKR:      Hmmm & maybe that Karen, in her role as a teacher, has written her plays for her high school drama club that went on to be published. As for Joanne, readers might be surprised that she is a very well-versed sports fan and can converse intelligently on football blocking schemes or the latest baseball trades.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

JKR:      We both loved Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey and can t wait for them to return to television! In both instances, our storytelling sensibilities appreciate the deep world building and phenomenal writing that goes into both shows.

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.

JKR:      Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.   ?  C.G. Jung

This speaks so strongly to writers because we need to understand our thoughts, feelings and perspectives to write authentically about other peoples  feelings. It is difficult to write insightfully about other people until you understand yourself.

WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

JKR:      The summer of her dreams is about to get a reality check!

"Lauren Carlson thought she was ready to take her relationship with Seth, her long time camp boyfriend, to year-round status. Especially when her school boyfriend Matt doesn t seem to understand the real her. But when Matt s life hits a snag, Lauren can t turn her back on a friend. Lauren s heart is torn, forcing her to see herself, her friends and her whole life differently in one unforgettable summer."

The book is available now on Amazon  /  Barnes & Noble

Readers can also download the FREE prequel to Camp Boyfriend, called CAMP KISS here.

WG:      What inspired you to write this particular story?

JKR:      We wanted to write a summer-set story because summers are a time of growth and change for teens. We debated a beach story but when we brainstormed the idea of summer camp, we both loved that idea. Having each attended camp, we had a lot of memories set to incorporate into that world.

WG:      What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?

JKR:      We read a lot about our North Carolina setting and have spoken to locals to ensure we give the camp and surrounding area an authentic appeal. Getting that area right was fun but time consuming. We were especially interested in how to pronounce the various names (ie- the Nantahala River in North Carolina) like a local!

WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

JKR:      We are currently writing the third book in the series and look forward to sharing lots more from Camp Juniper Point with our readers. Next up is a free holiday novella, CAMP CHRISTMAS, which will be out this winter. In the spring, readers can look for Book 2, CAMP PAYBACK at the end of April.

WG:      And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.

JKR:      Author Website  /  Goodreads  /  Karen's Twitter  /  Joanne's Twitter  /  Facebook

WG:      Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!