I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Morey, debut Sihouette Romantic Suspense author! Jennie's first book, The Secret Soldier, is selling like hot cakes. On Saturday, she did a book signing and sold 60 books in an hour and a half!
Thanks for joining us today, Jennie. Congratulations on your first sale and your fast and furious booksigning! Tell us a little about The Secret Soldier.
Thank you, Tiffany. And thank you for thinking of me to do this interview!
The Secret Soldier has a soft spot in my heart because I was inspired by real events. A few years ago (2004?) there were reports of several contractors beheadings in Iraq. The stories upset me so much that I decided to write my own happy ending to a similar situation. Sabine O’Clery is an American contractor who is kidnapped in Afghanistan. Her father runs a private military company and asks Cullen McQueen to rescue her. Cullen runs a secret counter-terror organization for the US government and owes Sabine’s father a favor. He reluctantly agrees to carryout the mission. A plane crash on a Greek island and a farewell kiss spark huge public interest. Cullen is careful to stay out of the limelight, but when Sabine is attacked in the United States, he can’t resist risking exposure by going to her.
This is the first book in your series called All McQueen's Men. What is next for the series?
Yes. All the stories for All McQueen’s Men will feature characters who work for Cullen’s secret counter-terror organization. Readers will see Cullen in all the books, but only in the background. Book 2 (working title: Moving into Crosshairs - but it will likely be changed) is about a talkative electrical engineer who inherits a staggering fortune and an unpaid debt that has terrorists threatening her life. Farren Gage travels to the Marmaris International Yacht Festival in Marmaris, Turkey in search of answers. On the way, she crosses paths with Elam Rhule, an operative for Cullen’s organization, Tactical Executive Security (TES). While Elam protects Farren from the terrorists threatening her, a prominent congressman’s connection to her estranged mother leads to an unexpected twist.
What do you know now about writing that you wish you'd have learned earlier?
It’s all about storytelling. You can spew all the garbage you want about the rules of grammar, but that is a small piece of the craft. That’s not to say you can write bad grammar and get away with it. All I’m saying is grammar is the easy part to learn. You don’t have to be able to toss around fancy terms and textbook definitions to do it well. Storytelling is different. It’s harder. Anybody can memorize the definition of a transitive verb, but what teaches you to tell a good story? Sure, there’s how-to books on it, but even the most detailed instruction can’t tell a writer how to write a good story. It’s too passion-driven. I think learning how to get in the character’s head as deep as you can is a good place to start. Show don’t tell. You hear it all the time. It’s the heart of good writing and not something easily taught. If I could have focused more on that early on, I might have learned to show rather than tell a lot sooner than I did.
Excellent advice! What is your biggest challenge when it comes to writing?
I think I just answered that (smiling huge). For me, it’s staying deep in a character’s head. It’s too easy to slip out of it. Pretty soon I’m perched in a tree and my character is a cardboard cutout down in the yard.
I love that visual. How do you make time to write? Do you have a special routine?
Before my divorce, I would write every free moment I had, which was every moment I wasn’t at my day job or asleep. It wasn’t something I had to force myself to do. I love writing. That’s how I wanted to spend all my time. But now things have changed and I have to be more disciplined. Instead of playing with my newfound freedom every available moment I have, I have to decide ahead of time how much I want to get done each week. Once I decide, I sit down Saturday and Sunday mornings and do it. I also take “writing days” as often as possible. I am fortunate to have a supportive boss who lets me take as much time off as I can. I try to write after work, too, but sometimes it is too hard to switch gears from a busy day at an aerospace/imagery corporation to writing romantic fiction. The two are very different.
Can you tell us a little about your road to becoming a published author?
It was ten years long. When I first started writing in 1997, I didn’t know how to write. My grammar was bad, and I was a horrible teller. I wrote 5 or 6 books before I really started to see a change. The more you get into your characters’ heads, the better your characterization becomes. The two go together. If you think about it you can see why. I was so excited the first time I realized that concept. Suddenly, the meaning of “character driven” plots was totally clear to me. I think The Secret Soldier was the first manuscript that really showed my progress. I didn’t see it until my critique partners pointed it out in spring of 2005. The writing was so much different than my earlier works. This was around the time when I began to final in several contests. I wrote a pirate paranormal that landed me an agent, too. He wasn’t my dream agent, but he was hungry and I liked and respected him. While he wasn’t able to sell the paranormal, his interest represented another milestone on my way to publication. I could feel myself on the brink, but I never quit spilled over to the other side. It was a frustrating couple of years.
The Secret Soldier finaled in more contests than any of my other manuscripts. I almost gave up on it because it never won or sold. I decided to give it one more shot, and that shot was Oklahoma-Romance Writers’ 2006 Finally a Bride contest. In this contest, every entry has to have finaled but not won any other contest, which not only makes the competition tough, it gets a lot of attention from final round judges. I noticed the final round judge in the suspense category was Natashya Wilson from Silhouette Romantic Suspense. I wasn’t targeting category, but I didn’t figure I had much to lose with this manuscript. So I entered, and the impossible happened. Natashya loved it and after asking me to reduce the word count, bought it.
Congratulations! Here is a “just for fun”, random question for you: If you could wake up tomorrow with one special ability, what would it be and why?
I’d wish for the ability to quit my day job, or at least reduce it to half time. Then it wouldn’t be so hard to find time to write.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I feel very fortunate to belong to a group like CRW (Colorado Romance Writers). I’ve never felt more welcome anywhere else.
Thank you so much for taking some time out to chat with us, Jennie. Best of luck with The Secret Soldier and with your upcoming projects! You can visit Jennie’s website at http://www.jennifermorey.com/.
Be sure to share your thoughts with us via comments because we have a signed copy of The Secret Soldier to give away! Be sure to post by Friday!