I have the good fortune and pleasure to interview Jane McBride Choate, a long-time (and very prolific) Avalon writer. A Man for Amanda is her 28th Avalon book. She is also ... well, it's best if I let Jane tell you about herself in her own words.
So ... Jane, what prompted you to become a writer?
I have always made up stories in my head. Even when I was a little girl, I'd entertain my friends at the school cafeteria with stories about them. Eventually the stories just had to be written down.
Obviously, you're a born storyteller. You must have been the most popular kid in the lunchroom. I guess it was inevitable that these stories would evolve into full-length novels. When did you start your first novel and how long did it take you to become published?
I started writing my first book in 1984. I wasn't published until 1989 (with Avalon). That book was the third book I'd written.
It sounds like persistence is a large part of your success story. What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
Drawing characters and writing dialogue are definitely the most satisfying part of writing for me. Characters talk to me and I HAVE to write down what they say.
What part do you find most difficult?
Writing transitions is always hard, connecting the story parts, making sure everything is consistent.
I think a lot of writers can identify with that. What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting? Or something else entirely?
Characters always come first. As I said, they talk to me. They demand to be heard. Then they tell me what they want to do. If I don't follow their directions, they turn very stubborn and refuse to do anything.
Hmm, I've read a few books where I think the writers should have followed your lead. Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in everything. A snippet in our local newspaper a few years ago about the transplanting of gray wolves back to Colorado provided the inspiration for "Wolf's Eye."
As I said before ... a born storyteller. Tell us about your most recent Avalon book.
A MAN FOR AMANDA has as its theme the healing power of love. That sounds very hoity-toity, doesn't it? In fact, the book has some light-hearted moments, including an octegenarian love affair.
I like the sound of that. What do you personally like most about this novel?
I love the title. (I named it for a dear writing friend, Amanda Cabot, a former Avalon author.) And I love the name of one of the supporting characters, Florence Wanlass, a feisty aunt of mine. I also love the cover that Avalon gave it. Covers have come a long way since I was first published in 1989.
Have you developed the plot from something you’ve experienced personally?
The plot is completely made up, but the feelings the characters experience--pain and joy, heartache and love, are mine.
The staples of all really great stories; I think another fine storyteller, William Faulkner called them the eternal verities. You have written 31 other novels. If you compare the creative process, was writing this novel different?
The process is the same each time--I start with characters, listen to them, then start writing. (The hair-pulling-out comes later.)
Hair-pulling ... something else most writers can identify with. What other authors do you especially admire?
Oh, my. The list is so long. I love Amanda Cabot and her books. She is, as I said in the dedication to A MAN FOR AMANDA, the "sister of my heart." I also admire Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts, and a host of others, for their prolific output, their dedication to their craft, and their determination to write books that touch the heart.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read. (Of course.) I read everything and across genres. Aside from romance, I also read thrillers, suspense, and humor.
Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?
My schedule for writing is erratic. I think that comes from squeezing it in when I first started writing with 3 small children at home. Two more children and the schedule became more erratic. I truly wish I were more disciplined. I wrote my first book long-hand while nursing my fourth baby with the other arm.
Wow! That's impressive. What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you as an author?
One of the funniest things to happen to me occurred at the 2002 Denver RWA Conference. Most of the hotel bathrooms had been turned over to the women. However, I wandered into one of the very few men's bathrooms that had not been converted. Imagine my surprise when I found a man there. My outrage was exceeded only by my embarrassment when I discovered my mistake.
What refreshes you creatively?
Reading. Being with my children and grandchildren. Watching a comedy on television. Going to garage sales.
Do you have a website or participate in another blog?
I keep a daily blog called "The Gratitude Project." This year the theme is "This I know for sure." Please stop by http://www.janemcbride.blogspot.com/
I will definitely check that out. Thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I've enjoyed getting to know you. Good luck with A Man for Amanda. It sounds like a delightful read.
Amazon link to A Man for Amanda: http://amzn.to/zTGfKJ