Monday, April 5, 2010

Heather Justesen – Author of Clean Romance

Joining us today is Clean Romance Author, Heather Justesen.  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, Heather?

Unlike so many people I know who have known since they were kids, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was out of college and married. I don’t think I made a decision one day that I was going to write and then started doing so. Writing started out as an outlet in stressful time, and I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure if I made that transition in my head during the first project I worked on or after I started the second, I just know it was a natural decision for me once the story started to flow. My siblings claim I was the only person in the family who didn’t know all along that I would some day write books. It’s amazing how un-self-aware we can be sometimes.

Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?

Absolutely! I’ve been a big reader from the cradle and picked up everything I could get my hands on. In my early years I probably read and re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series at least seven times—and a few more times since I became an adult. I read everything by Beverly Cleary and just about anything else I could get my hands on.

Share with us a little about your publication journey.

I submitted my first book about four years after I started writing (which was the first one I ever finished, not the first one I’d started) about January 2004, and it was rejected. I got some great feedback from the publisher, however, and reworked it and resubmitted the next year, and it was rejected again. By then I had numerous other projects I had worked on and turned my focus to one of those. That first book is still on the shelf and I don’t know if it’ll ever be resurrected.

It was 2009 before I was comfortable enough with my writing skills to submit again—after the book had been through several rounds of critiques by other writers. I submitted it to three different publishers before I found one who accepted it. In many ways I think I’m very lucky because I know so many people who send off dozens of submissions before finding a publisher. There were only three major publishers in my market at the time, so I was very happy to be accepted by one of them.

Tell us about your latest release.

My latest release is called “The Ball’s in Her Court” and is an inspirational romance about a woman’s journey as she searches for her birth family and answers to her past of abuse and neglect before she was adopted from foster care. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers who hadn’t understood anything before about adoption and reunion and really felt it helped them understand it all better. My next book, “Rebound” is being released in May, and it’s a spin-off of the first book about a woman whose life falls apart after her husband is arrested for fraud. As she’s putting the pieces of her life together again she develops a friendship and more with the half-brother of the woman in “The Ball’s in Her Court,” who is dealing with his own search for answers to his past before adoption. Both are sweet romances.

Where did you get the idea for it?

When my husband and I were talking about adoption and doing foster care I spent hundreds of hours doing research about adoption and reunion and how it affected the various people involved. This book grew naturally from that research even before we took any foster placements. The second book came about because I fell in love with the half-brother and had to explore his story further.

What most inspires your imagination?

It’s amazing what will strike an idea or get the writing juices flowing. Sometimes it’s news stories, sometimes it’s a thread from something I’ve read elsewhere and I wonder what would happen if I took the premise and gave it a serious twist in a different direction. Inspiration is all around us—you just have to keep your eyes and ears open for it.

Do you do a lot of research for your books? If so, how do you go about doing it (internet, books, one on one)?

My books have needed various levels of research, and since I live in a small town I do the majority of my research online. I have interviewed people several times, and I have specific experts whom I contact when I have a medical or police procedural question. I also have a wide and varied collection of writing friends who come from different backgrounds and are happy to provide answers or critique sections for me to make sure I represented things right. Networking really has been one of the biggest boons to my writing career.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

Gosh, there are so many things that I had to learn a bit at a time. I’d always loved to read, but it wasn’t until I’d been writing for a while before I paid attention to how authors created suspense or structured their stories, so it took me a while to figure all of that out. I had to write, a lot, to develop my skills, and getting feedback from other writers was the most valuable thing I could have done—I never would have gotten here on my own.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?

Practice, practice, practice—nothing you write is wasted, even if it never sees the light of day. Play with different genres, because you never know what you might be able to write until you try—It wasn’t until I played with a suspense scene for something that will never be published that I realized I could write that kind of scene into one of my books. And don’t chase the market. Write something you’re passionate about and that love of the story will shine through.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place would be under a shady tree of a camp ground. Since that’s rarely feasible (and I don’t have any shady trees of my own yet), I do most of my writing while curled up on my bed or living room sofa. I like to be comfortable and my laptop allows me to create from anywhere. Serious editing is easier for me at my desk, however, as it’s not my favorite part of the process, and the desk forces me to remember what I’m supposed to be doing and stay on task.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what are some of your favorite bands/artists?

This varies a lot. When I’m editing I can’t listen to anything with words—it’s strictly instrumental. When I’m free writing and the scenes are coming easily, I listen to sounds tracks or whatever strikes my mood, but turned down very low. Sometimes quiet is my best friend, though, and I don’t listen to anything.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I took up cake decorating last year and have had a ton of fun with that. I really love baking, so I’m always looking for excuses to make a cake and take it somewhere, since it’s just me and my husband at home right now. I also like to garden, and have played around with most crafts from quilt making to cross stitching to making glass totems or scrap books. I tend to be a bit flighty, so I have to be careful not to start too many new things.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I became an EMT a couple of years back and run with my local volunteer ambulance service—which was a big surprise to me and all of my family when they found out. I blame my husband, who became an EMT years before we ever met.

I used to be a Realtor, but decided it wasn’t for me—I’m not much of a salesman, which had really made publicity a struggle for me, but I’m working on it.

You’re at the checkout counter in your favorite department store and you’re purchasing something from the book, music & movie sections. What are you buying?

Probably Josi Kilpack’s latest culinary mystery, Devil’s Food Cake, which I’m totally excited to pick up. I read pretty eclectically, so it really depends on what strikes my fancy that day.

Are you an animal lover, if so, do you have any pets?

Dozens. At the moment I have two dogs, two cats, and two fish inside the house. I also have two turkeys, four guineas, seven ducks, four geese and too many chickens to count. I love hatching so I have two incubators that I run nonstop about 10 months out of the year—most of the babies are sold to pay for feed.

Do you have a favorite TV show? What’s your favorite movie?

I love watching Chuck and Psyche, though I’ve recently discovered the new Doctor Who series as well. As for movies, I have so many favorites it’s hard to pick just one. I have seen Pride and Prejudice about a million times (I own two versions), and I also own Our Mutual Friend, which was a miniseries of Dickens’ classic that the BBC produced in 1999. We had to buy it overseas and convert it for my player since it wasn’t being sold in the US, but I’ve seen it nearly a dozen time.

Where can we purchase your books, and do you have a website?

My books are available on, through my website. “The Ball’s in Her Court” is available on Barnes and Noble, and Borders is already doing preorders for “Rebound.” I’ve also been told they are supposed to be available for Nook in the near future. Interested readers can check out the first chapter for both books on my website:

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Anne!

Thank you for joining us today, Heather, and congratulations on your books.


Laura Fabiani said...

I read the same books as a child! Whenever I read author interviews I always note the similarities I share with them. I could relate to alot of what Heather talked about. Best wishes for your new release!