Tuesday Talks- Interview with Melissa Jagears

We have Melissa Jagears with us today. Melissa is an award-winning author and a homeschooling mom who writes Christian Historical Romance into the wee hours of the night. Hi Melissa, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

We were quite poor. My father was often in trouble with the law and my mother worked her hardest to make sure we didn’t know how bad off we were. I enjoyedschool though, and reading, and so as long as I had something to read and workon, I was pretty happy. My parents weren’t Christians, but when we moved statesto crash at one of my grandparents’ because we were essentially homeless, theirrule was you went to church if you lived under their roof. So, my parentsstarted looking for somewhere else to live J and I enjoyed going to church.Thankfully my mother continued taking me and my sister if we wanted to go tochurch after we moved out of the grandparents’. I excelled at school, so with lotsof scholarships, I got a degree in English and taught English as a SecondLanguage to junior high and high school students for several years before Ibecame a mother. After my first year of stay-at-home momming, I needed more thanpatty-cake to keep my brain occupied and started writing. I never was a writerfrom “the moment I could pick up a crayon.” I was just an “I think I could doit someday” sort of person. When my daughter was a year old, that someday came.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

Christian Historical Romance, no question. As to favorite author, if you’d asked me before I started writing, it’d have been Lori Wick, easy. I still have sentimental feelings for all her books, but I’ve ruined my blissful love of every book by “going behind the curtain” and learning to write. There are talented authors I certainly enjoy but no one has yet made me love everything they’ve written like Lori Wick did 20+ years ago….oh wait, I’ll say it’s Julianne Donaldson. Mainly because I loved both novels she’s written and since she’s basically stopped writing, that means I totally love all her books and the second I see the next I’ll buy it. 

What age did you realize you loved books?

My mother says since I was 18 months old, I’d sit with a book and “read” it intently. I don’t ever remember not loving books…except when I got fed up with the Nancy Drew ghostwriters for not writing books fast enough that I had for another book to come out…..and I couldn’t be bothered to find something else better to read while I had to wait, so I just quit. Cold turkey quit reading because nothing could be better than Nancy Drew….I don’t remember how old I was when that happened, but on my 13th birthday someone gaveme a Lori Wick novel….and since I got it as a gift that meant I was obligatedto read it….I haven’t stopped reading for pleasure since—though children makeit hard to read as much as I like. Seems they want to be fed on occasion.

I guess they do… lol. Tell us about this book.

I wrote this book before I got picked up by Bethany House but had shelved it because I couldn’t get the end right. Eight years later, I decided to see if my improved writing skills could help “old writer me” out of the mess. Thankfully,I believe I had enough new skills under my belt to untangle it from itsproblems.

It’s a marriage of convenience story, which is my book drug of choice and has one of my favorite heroes I’ve written, and I “moved” from Kansas to Wyoming. The initial twist that drove my creative juices was what would happen if the reason you married for convenience was suddenly no longer valid after you’d already tied the knot.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

Ha! How not to write too much of myself into a heroine—a lesson I have had to learn repeatedly when any of my books have a heroine that is at all similar to me. Don’t ever expect me to mirror my true self in a character unless I’m writing her as avillain—for evidently, what’s in my head is often not something a likeable/relatable heroine has going on in hers.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I do a ton of different outlining worksheets before I start writing now. These are worksheetsI’ve made up for myself after synthesizing information I’ve assembled from going to conferences and reading writing craft instruction, etc.

Then when I think I’ve got a story that will work after going back and forth between those worksheets, I write the story in stream of consciousness storytelling form, like “Joe is doing his banking job. In the middle of denying some crazy loon a bank loan, his love interest comes in with guns ablazing and holds up the bank. Joe is gobsmacked by the woman in high stilettos and a black satin Zorro mask who cleans out every man’s pockets in less than 5 minutes leaving lipstick kiss prints on each man’s cheek, and walks out as if she knew no one would run after her—which no one did. When Joe comes back to his senses, he pulls the silent alarm, then shakes his head at himself and calls 911.”

Sometimes the amount of words it takes to write that storytelling document is enough to fill an actual book, but it goes fast because I’m not worrying about spelling, punctuation, paragraphs, good writing, realistic dialog, nothing. I just write it to see how the story goes and where I have plot holes and pacing problems, etc. I fiddle with the story in that form until the plot works. Then I use that as a guide to write the book.

Is there a special place you like to write?

Special place, no. Special circumstances, yes. It has to be silent and I need to be reasonably sure no one will interrupt me.

What advice would you give a new author?

Don’t be eager to throw your first book up on Amazon or expect it to be salivated over by agents and editors—it’s more likely to be flat rejected and embarrass you years later that you ever acted as if it was good enough to catch anyone’s eye. Don’t be assured that your 5th book, or even your 10th, will be of the quality you’d expect of your own preferred reading material. Consider the potential years it will take for you to write multiple books—which may never see the light of day—as your “college education.” It takes at least 4 years of basically all day studying to get a degree, so don’t be disappointed or embarrassed with the time it takes for you to become a writer who can compete with your favorite authors. No sophomore in college gets frustrated and depressed that they aren’t already hired as a meteorologist, social studies teacher, dentist, or journalist—they know that if they are to be on par with their professional competition they need to keep plugging away. Now, they may learn they’re not cut out for the vocation during those years of work and might change their mind about chasing that career or major, but they don’t get frustrated that they haven’t made it after two semesters of work. As a writer, you can be thankful that, though you can go to college for writing, writing in the comfort of your own home is cheaper than college and a viable alternative.  

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on the next book in the Frontier Vows series that follows Romancing the Bride. I feel like it’s too early to tell you what it’s about, but characters from Romancing the Bride will show up again, just like they do in all my series.

Where can we find your books?

I have a handy page on my website that lets you know all the places you can find my books. http://melissajagears.com/my-books/  Some of my books are in some stores and not others for random reasons, so you can also click on a particular book’s cover and find where you can get that one. But most stores online have my books, or you can ask any brick and mortar store to order it if my book isn’t on their physical shelves.

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