Fiction Vixen is pleased to welcome author Jo Goodman to the blog today. Catherine had the opportunity to ask her a few questions:
Catherine: Hi Jo and welcome to Fiction Vixen. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jo: A little bit about myself…hmm. Well, I’m directionally challenged. When I stay at a hotel, I invariably go the wrong way down the hall when I leave the room. It’s better if people point to the right or left rather than use the words. GPS is only marginally helpful because, really, I don’t need another voice telling me what to do. I’ve been writing for a long time, but then I did start putting together stories when I was still in elementary school. I rewrote Paul Bunyan from a tall tales book into a play for my fifth grade class. It still makes me giggle remembering how I carried George McMurray on my shoulders so he could be as tall as Bunyan. What was I thinking?!
Catherine: While reading various reviews on Kissing Comfort and chatting with friends about the book, I heard a lot of surprise about the fact that Newt and Tuck, Comfort’s uncles, spent some time with the ladies throughout the years, because it was assumed they were actually a couple. Are you surprised to find that so many people assumed this?
Jo: The reason that Newt and Tuck were not lovers is that I thought it was just too obvious. I figured it was what readers would expect, and I decided to go the other way. It sort of felt cliché if they turned out to be gay.
Catherine: I think you pulled it off perfectly here, but I know that having the heroine in love with someone other than the hero, even if only for a little while, can be a fine line to walk in readers’ eyes. Were you nervous about readers’ reaction to Comfort starting out in love with someone else in the beginning of Kissing Comfort?
Jo: I wasn’t particularly nervous about Comfort loving the wrong brother or anyone’s reaction to it. At its core, it’s Sabrina, and I always thought that story was a lovely romance. The wrong brother in my version is more calculating than either William Holden or Greg Kinnear.
Catherine: Let’s go a little retro here. Did you have a hard time keeping the events and timelines straight while writing the Compass Club series? I ask this because I am a horrible plotter and am always pleased when I stumble across someone good at it.
Jo: I think this brings me back to my point about being directionally challenged. North. South. East. West. Again, what was I thinking?! I knew from the beginning that I was going to tackle overlapping story lines, but since I don’t find outlines particularly helpful, this was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants. I remember in the first chapter of North’s book that I wrote something about West having to leave the country picnic. Even as I wrote it, I wondered where West was going. I figured by book 4 I’d learn the answer to that. Then there was some business about East getting engaged (mistakenly) to Sophie. I had no idea what was going to happen there, except that perhaps I would know more when I began his story. Keeping the threads in my head really was a challenge. I generally reviewed the previous book for scenes that I wanted to include in the next book. By the time I finished South’s story, I had a clearer idea of where I was going with the East and West. Perhaps what made it more difficult than it had to be was that I only wrote a story a year. That’s a lot of down time between stories and my brain is a sieve.
My first foray into doing something like this came years earlier. Readers who are familiar with my Dennehy sisters series might recall that in one of those stories, I wrote 2 chapters that were nearly identical except for the fact that one took place from the hero’s point of view and the other took place from heroine’s. Now that I think about it, it was a fairly decent representation of how any “big misunderstanding” takes place.
Catherine: One of my favorite books by you is If His Kiss Is Wicked. Do you have a particular favorite book that you’ve written?
Jo: I have a soft spot for Sweet Fire.
Catherine: What makes it your favorite?
Jo: About half the book takes place in Australia. From a writing perspective, the research was interesting. Something about the heroine touched me. I’m not even sure how that happens when I’m in charge of her. There’s a lot about writing that remains a mystery to me.
Catherine: One of the major commonalities in your books is the influence that family has. Whether that be a lack of family, a search for family, a preexisting strong family unit, or a horrible family situation, it always leads back to family. What causes you to focus on that factor so often?
Jo: Family influences us all the time. It’s virtually inescapable. Close families, distant families, adoptive or foster families, we are shaped by family in ways both subtle and obvious. In my other life, I’m a counselor. I spend a lot of time thinking about families even if I only have one other person in the room with me. The agency I work for is called Family Connections. Family figures into my writing because I respect the power it has to ground a character – and me.
Catherine: Do you have any projects in the works? If so, can you tell us a little about them?
Jo: I have a western in the hopper for Berkley, and in December I have a contemporary coming out – the only contemporary I ever wrote. (And yes, family figures strongly!) I am in the thinking stages of a new western. I have the character names and a location and a premise. Once I figure out who these characters are, I’ll know enough to start writing.
Catherine: Thank you so much for visiting Fiction Vixen today!
To enter win a copy of Jo Goodman’s latest release, Kissing Comfort just leave a comment in this interview. Because the prize is being shipped by the publisher, it’s open to US and Canada only. Open until October 29, winner announced soon after.