Today readers at Review Romance Novel have are truly gifted with a great opportunity. I recently got in contact with Jacquie D’Alessandro and she was kind enough to grant me an interview. I got to ask her a bunch of questions and the following transcript is in her own words directly. I hope you all enjoy.
LRP: What do you enjoy doing besides writing?
Jacquie: Reading (big shocker there, I know ), spending time with my family, being at the lake, playing tennis (I play poorly but I’m determined), cooking, traveling, movies-really everything except pulling weeds in the garden, doing laundry, housework, and cleaning out the cat’s litter box.
LRP: In your own words, what is love?
Jacquie: I think it ultimately boils down to caring about someone more than you care about yourself. Wanting their well-being and happiness above anything else.
LRP: What is your favorite type of romance to read? Is it the same as what you write?
Jacquie: One that gives me a hero I can fall in love with, a heroine I like and respect, and an entertaining story that makes me laugh, cry, and sigh with pleasure. I HOPE that is the sort of story I write-it’s certainly what I strive for with every book.
LRP: What is your favorite book that you’ve written? How about one you’ve read?
Jacquie: My favorite book is always the one I’ve just finished writing because the hard work is done so I’m loving it! I have so many favorite reads, most of them romances, but my number one favorite book of all time is The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.
LRP: How do you decide on character names and book titles?
Jacquie: I give my heroes and heroines names that I personally like. Bad guys and murder victims tend to be either just pulled out of my character naming sourcebook or inspired by people who were nasty to me in high school (heh, heh, heh). I have several baby name books I refer to when I’m stuck. I’ve also flipped through the phone book on occasion for surnames.
LRP: What sort of research, if any, do you do for your novels?
Jacquie: I own a large collection of research books on England and the Regency period. I prefer to purchase the books and keep them rather than borrow them from the library because the library wants you to GIVE THE BOOKS BACK!! And I don’t like to give the books back! I WANT TO KEEP the books! So-I have a LOT of books. And on some interesting subjects-sailing, Tarot card reading, poisons, weapons, chemistry, cowboys. Several years ago my husband and son gave me the twenty volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary for my birthday. I was SO excited! (I’d prefer a gift like that to jewelry any day!). I also use the internet quite a bit-Google is a beautiful thing.
LRP: Does your home life ever interfere with your writing? Or vice versa! What do you do to stay focused?
Jacquie: Things get tight time-wise when a deadline is looming, but luckily my husband and son (who’s off to college this fall) know their way around the laundry room and kitchen. To stay focused I close my office door, put in my earplugs and immerse myself in the story. I don’t go to bed until I write the number of pages I need to write for the day. Some days it goes better than others and I’m done in the early afternoon. Sometimes I’m up writing until two a.m.
LRP: How many rejections did you go through until your first novel was accepted?
Jacquie: I think it was three-I’m sure it would have been more except I didn’t submit everywhere. One rejection was so heartbreaking that I quit writing. I’d started out with a query letter, then sent in a proposal, then when it was requested, the full manuscript. In the meanwhile, I started another book. When I finally heard back from the editor on the full manuscript (about a year had passed from when I first sent in the query letter) she said she loved the book, but unfortunately she was leaving that publisher for a job at a non-fiction imprint. So, I re-submitted the manuscript to another editor at the same house. Another six or seven months passed before I heard back from the second editor-a rejection. I’d been so close, and it had taken such a long time, and I was so discouraged. I’d finished the second book, but had no desire to write another one. So I quit. Didn’t write for about four or five months. Then I decided to try it again, but I wanted to try something new. So instead of writing another historical, I wrote a short contemporary. Soon after, through an RWA sponsored contest which I won, I got my agent. Within a few months she sold both of the historical books and the contemporary to two different publishers.
LRP: What is your advice to would-be authors?
Jacquie: Keep writing and honing your craft. And never give up. It’s not easy to get a book published, but it’s not impossible. Yes, it takes talent, but even more importantly, it takes persistence-and luck. The biggest difference between an unpublished writer and a published writer is that the published writer kept submitting until she hit the right editor with the right project at the right time. Never forget that publishing is a business and conduct yourself accordingly and in a professional manner. Join Romance Writers of America and your local chapter. If you don’t already have a critique partner, look for one-but one who is going to give you honest, helpful critique as opposed to gushing compliments. And once again, never give up.
LRP: Do you write or have plans to write works that aren’t romances?
Jacquie: I’ve never written anything other than romance, nor do I have any plans to. I’ve always been most attracted to the love aspect of any story. Even if I’m reading a biography, the part of the person’s life I’m most interested in is their love life. A mystery? I want the detective and the suspect to get together. Even my favorite Nancy Drew books were the ones where Ned Nickerson played a part. Clearly I’m a hopeless romantic!
LRP: How long does it take you to write a novel on average?
Jacquie: Depends on when my deadline is . I can write a 400 page book comfortably in six months.
LRP: What work took the shortest amount of time and what book gave you the most trouble?
Jacquie: Shortest amount of time would be for an anthology story I recently finished. The actual writing time was ten days (that doesn’t include about a week of planning, plotting, brainstorming, etc.)-but keep in mind it was only about 120 pages. As for which one gave me the most trouble-they all do. None of them are easy. I wish they were. But they all pretty much beat me into the ground before I finally tame them into submission. It’s a blood-letting battle every time. I keep hoping it will get easier, but it doesn’t.
LRP: How do you handle writer’s block?
Jacquie: I make a cup of tea, check e-mail, read a magazine, work a few pieces in a jigsaw puzzle-basically anything to give me a15 minute breather. Then I plop my butt back in the chair and press on. Even if what I put down on the page reads like doo-doo, I can always delete it or revise it or fix it. I can’t do any of those things to a blank page.
LRP: What do you think makes a good bedroom scene?
Jacquie: Regardless of how explicit or tame the scene is, I like a love scene that provides emotional growth between the characters, where they learn something about themselves and the other person.
LRP: What do you hope your readers will gain from your books?
Jacquie: I hope I give them a few hours of entertainment and leave them with a smile on their face when they close the book. My keeper shelf contains books that left me with a happy glow when I finished the last page and that’s my goal-to leave the reader happy.
LRP: Could you provide a picture of your workspace? We’d love to see how and where you write!
Jacquie: Okay, I’m laughing because my office is a DISASTER! Seriously, it is. I normally clean up my office when I finish a deadline, but I’ve had 4 back-to-back deadlines, so there’s been no cleaning. There are papers and books stacked everywhere-I can barely see the floor. The top of my desk is littered with notes written on everything from post-it pads to paper napkins. I couldn’t take a picture of it even if I wanted to because the digital camera is buried in here somewhere! I don’t always write in here where I have my desktop computer. Sometimes I use a laptop and move around the house to give myself a change of scenery. If I ever get things organized (translation: find the camera), I’ll let you know!
LRP: Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?
Jacquie: Only to say thank you for the opportunity to “talk” with you and your readers. Thank you so much for your support-I really appreciate it!
LRP: No, thank you, Jacquie, for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.
If you have any questions you would like to add leave them in a comment and I’ll pass them along at a future opportunity. Jacquie is a sweetheart. I and the readers here at LRP wish you great success with all your future novels. Thank you again for speaking with us.
Visit Jacquie D’Alessandro’s website @ http://www.jacquied.com/.