A few years ago when I took some time off from my day job to stay home and write, I started taking myself seriously as a writer. I wrote every day from 9 to 3, and treated it exactly like the job it was. But it wasn’t until I was first published in 2007 that I really considered myself a “writer”. I guess there’s something about receiving that seal of approval from someone else that makes a person truly believe they have what it takes.
Please tell us a little about your latest release, THE GIRL MOST LIKELY.
"The Girl Most Likely" is part of the Class of '85 series with The Wild Rose Press, featuring several TWRP writers. The series revolves around the 1985 graduates of Summerville High School in Summerville, New York as they prepare for their 25th high school reunion. In some of the stories, old romances are rekindled. But in "The Girl Most Likely" Cara discovers a brand new love:
Cara McLeod, the girl most likely to have the perfect marriage, is now divorced and, in her own words, "fat, frumpy, and over forty." The thought of facing former classmates--and the ex-husband who dumped her--at her high school reunion terrifies her. Cajoled into attending by her kids and her best friend, Cara enlists help at the gym to lose weight and look great for the reunion. Personal Trainer Finn Cooper is more than willing to help--but does he have to be so to-die-for gorgeous?
Finn thinks Cara is perfect just the way she is. She's everything he wants in a woman, except for one thing--she can't get past the fact that he's eight years younger. To Finn, age and weight are just numbers. But can he convince Cara the numbers she worries about add up to only one thing for him--love?
What was your source of inspiration behind this book?
I was inspired to write "The Girl Most Likely" because high school reunions are occasions often fraught with angst. Everyone is worried about their appearance and how they are going to look to their former classmates. Many are concerned about not living up to the potential they showed in high school. Others want to portray a perfect family life. Cara feels she has struck out on all three issues. It was fun to make her suffer, but then to bring her around to realizing what was really important to her.
Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in your book? Were there challenges or obstacles you had to overcome?
Because "The Girl Most Likely" is part of a series written by a number of different writers, it was important to keep the facts straight in every book. The invitation to the reunion is included at the beginning of each book in the series. There are a few recurring characters who may or may not be included in every book. We had a spreadsheet on our Yahoo loop that included the names of the characters from each book to help us keep them all straight. We writers kept in contact with each other through this loop. The loop also included pictures from a town located in western New York on the shores of Lake Ontario that our fictional town of Summerville was based on. The pictures gave those of us who'd never had the opportunity to visit this area a chance to get a feel for it.
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
It's really hard for me to pick a favorite character from "The Girl Most Likely" because I really love both Cara and Finn. Cara is funny and resilient, and although she doesn't believe it at the beginning of the book, she's a tough cookie, able to face her problems with strength and good humor. Finn is also a strong person. He's made huge changes in his life in the hopes of having a better future. His best quality is kindness and his ability to empathize with others and to help them find ways to solve their own problems.
Please share some details about the villain in your story. Who or what is the antagonist?
One of the antagonists is Cara’s ex-husband Peter. After nearly twenty years of marriage, he dumps Cara on her 40th birthday, telling her he doesn’t find her attractive anymore. That would be bad enough, but Peter seems to forget that he has two teenage daughters who need his love and attention. He sends them money but spends little time with them. As a result thirteen year old Beth and seventeen year old Jenna feel abandoned and angry, often at their mother. Peter provides some of the motivation to Cara in her attempt to get fit and lose weight, mainly because she wants to be able to walk into the reunion and make him sorry he ever left her.
The antagonist who was the most fun to write was Cara’s mother. I took great delight in making her as nasty and controlling as I could. I’m not sure what that says about me! I really enjoyed making Cara suffer – but then finding the strength to stand up to her mother.
How did you decide on the occupations your characters would have?
I wanted Cara to have an entry level job which was not much more than a gopher-type position (go for coffee, go for lunch etc.) in an industry that would still allow her room to move up. So I gave her a job as a junior assistant at a local television station. Since Cara has little training for anything aside from childcare and throwing a really good dinner party, an entry level position is all she qualifies for. But I wanted to show the readers, and her, that she didn’t need to abandon all her high school career aspirations.
I decided to make Finn a physical trainer because I wanted him to be able to work closely with Cara in her quest to lose weight before the big high school reunion. And it turns out that Finn’s job was a career change for him too. It’s part of the way he totally reinvented himself before he met Cara.
Do you find it difficult to write in different genres? Is there one you prefer?
Actually, I love exploring other sub-genres in the romance world. So far I’ve written in contemporary romance (A Long Way from Eden, Till September), romantic suspense (Seeing Things), and historical romance set in World War Two (Flawless), which is also romantic suspense. A couple of my books have paranormal elements (Burning Love, Seeing Things), and I also enjoy writing romantic comedy (Her Best Man). I want to continue writing more stories set in World War Two. I find it a fascinating period of history with so many stories to tell. Someday I’d love to try my hand at writing a novel set in the Regency period since it’s also an interesting era and I love reading them. I’d also like to write a straight mystery novel, but of course mine would likely have strong romantic elements!
I try to put a bit of a different spin on familiar themes. In “The Girl Most Likely” I made Finn eight years younger than Cara. She has a very difficult time with the difference. I also gave Finn a couple of secrets that are a bit out of the ordinary for a romance hero, but make him the perfect man for Cara.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I find that I work best when I can devote a large chunk of time to my writing and totally immerse myself in it. That’s usually how I like to write a first draft. I’ll take time off work, clear away appointments and other obstacles and just concentrate on writing. That’s why I love retreats or book-in-a-week events.
What has surprised you most since becoming a published author?
What has surprised me most is the amount of time and effort needed to promote me and my work. I guess I thought the biggest effort would be writing my books, but I’ve discovered that writing is only the beginning!
If you could travel to another time and place, when and where would it be?
I would love to go back 200 hundred years and see the area where I live, the prairies of Western Canada, before settlement by white men and before the grasslands were turned under the plow for farming. It would be amazing to see herds of bison numbering in the millions as they thunder across the prairies. Seeing the land, the water, the skies completely pristine and untouched would be a thrill. But if I were to go back in time, I would hope for a short visit. With its brutally cold winters and punishingly hot summers, the prairies are a harsh place, even today. I can’t imagine the hardships of living here two hundred years ago without insulated, heated houses and air-conditioned cars. I’m too spoiled by modern conveniences to want to live permanently in the past!
Why do modern women still crave the alpha male in romance novels?
I think it’s because strong characters are always very appealing. No matter how modern or self-reliant the woman, she still wants a man who is tough in a crisis, stands up for his beliefs, and can fight his way out of any situation. And it’s always appealing to see a strong man brought to his knees by the love of a good woman.
What are your top three tips for aspiring writers?
Never stop learning your craft. Keep taking classes and going to conferences. Find yourself a good writing group and submit your work to more experienced writers for critique. Don’t believe that every word you’ve written is precious; unless you’re Shakespeare, your work will always need revision. Be confident in your ability but realize you can always be better. That’s more than three, but you get the picture!
In your writing career, if you could do it all over again, what would you change?
I think I’d take my writing much more seriously earlier than I did. For a long time I only wrote when I had ‘spare’ time. Back then I had a part-time job and two young children, and any mother knows that spare time is a rare commodity. I wish I would have made writing more of a priority years before I actually did.
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
To visit Paris, to learn how to consistently hit a good golf drive, and to write a best-selling novel, not necessarily in that order.
What can readers expect next from you?
My novella “Home Fires” has just been contracted by The Wild Rose Press, and I’m really excited about it because I’ve wanted to write a War Bride story for a long time. British nurse Anne Wakefield travels to Canada in 1945 to marry her fiancé, a Canadian soldier she met during the war. But when she arrives, she finds that her fiancé has already married someone else. Devastated, Anne turns to his family for support. The kindness of Eric, her ex-fiancé’s brother, helps to heal her pain. When Eric’s mother suggests marriage, she must decide whether to return to England, or to take a second chance on love – this time with Eric. But can he forget that Anne loved his brother first? Will he ever believe that she loves him best?
Where can readers find you on the web?
You can find me at http://www.janarichards.net , at my blog at http://janarichards.blogspot.com, or on Facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jana-Richards/157005711005866)
Can you leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from your book?
He chuckled. “Jessica better watch her back. You could give her a run for her money.”
He heard Cara’s throaty laugh, and various parts of his anatomy tingled in response. “Yes, that’s my evil plan. Take over Rochester Noon, then the world.”
“If you set your mind to it, I’m sure you could do it.”
“For believing in me.”
“Are you going to be okay now?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Thanks to you.”
He wanted so badly to tell her he loved her, adored her, thought she was the most amazing woman in the world. But fear stopped him. Was she truly over her ex-husband? Why else would losing weight for the reunion be so important to her if not to impress Peter?
“I’ve got to run. Thanks again. I’ll talk to you later at my condo, right?”
“Absolutely. I can hardly wait to hear about your big TV debut. Break a leg. Isn’t that what they say in show biz?”
She laughed. “Yeah, that’s what they say. Bye.”
Finn replaced the receiver and closed his eyes. He hoped everything went well with this interview. Cara deserved to realize how amazing she was.
If she did come to that realization, would there still be room in her life for him?
About the Author:
Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.
When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.
Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, along with two university aged daughters and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou.
Jana is giving away one $20 gift card to The Wild Rose Press to one randomly drawn commenter AND a $20 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click HERE for her complete tour schedule. The the more tour stops you comment on, the better your chances of winning. Good luck!