Wow! Today another very prolific author joins us, contemporary romance writer Ann Yost! (What Joanna should have asked: when do you find the time and how do you keep so many stories straight in your head?)
Welcome, Ann! Tell me about your writing roots: what got you started and what gave you the confidence to persevere?
I’ve loved to read and write since I discovered Dick, Jane and Sally in the first grade and my dad brought home scraps of newsprint and fat editing pencils from his job as city editor of the paper. A favorite childhood memories is of summer nights on the screened in back porch in our Ann Arbor, Michigan home, listening to my dad working on his Remington portable, turning out humor pieces for national magazines.
Although I didn’t study journalism in college, I got my first job at a small Michigan newspaper. I spent ten years on three dailies and loved covering meetings and fires, conducting interviews and writing the stories. Since I suffer from a short attention span I got interested in “participation journalism.” I became a sort of a small-time George Plimpton doing things like flying in harness on the set of Peter Pan, taking a flying lesson in a Cessna and joining a high school tennis team all so I could write about them.
I found a lot to write about after I married an Associated Press journalist. My column, I Did, I Did, chronicled our eventful first year together.
After our three kids were born, I wrote for the Washington Post about our family outings to places like Civil War battlefields, the National Potato Museum, a cave. I also began to do some technical writing and consulting for nonprofits but the old habits were hard to break and I wound up “participating” again. I took a job as a florist’s delivery person for Valentine’s Day and another as a Little League Umpire – not a good fit for a basically indecisive person. I worked for several months as a substitute teacher primarily so I could get a good story out of it. (It was a good story but the principal wasn’t amused and I got fired.)
My career as a novelist had a very clear, precise starting point.
I was staying with my mom during my father’s final three weeks after a battle with cancer. My standard comfort literature – Jane Austen – wasn’t providing the distraction I needed so I raided the bookshelves. The first thing I read was a novel by an author unknown to me, Sandra Brown. I was stunned by the fine writing, the romantic relationship, the mystery and (and I can’t emphasize this enough) the unbelievably graphic sex. I was also hooked. I read hundreds of romance genre novels that year, including all of those written by Sandra Brown, and I wrote my first novel, a Regency-era historical called The Earl That I Marry. Fortunately the only copy still in existence is under my bed. After that I switched to contemporaries. I love to juxtapose the cozy, safe small town where everybody knows everybody with the extremes of human behavior: passion, sex and murder.
The confidence to persevere: I think that other writers can help a lot with their encouragement and commiseration and their stories. Submitting to contests can help, too. Contests help you get a fresh perspective on your work and they can be real door-openers. I know confidence is an important part of success but, with writing, I think you just have to love it enough to do it anyway. As Jonathan Winters said, “I couldn’t wait for success so I went ahead without it.”
How has your writing impacted other aspects of your life?
Sometimes writing is the lens that allows me to see things more clearly. Other times it is the protection that allows me to experience events without emotional meltdowns.
Joanna mentioned that editing made her a more focused speaker. I understand what she means. Writing fiction, thinking about it and talking about story arcs and focused scenes and so forth has definitely made me more goal-oriented in everyday life. My writing (and my life) has been very seat-of-the-pants and, while I have to admit it is fun to create characters and setting and just see where it leads, it isn’t very efficient. With each book I’ve tried to get a little more disciplined and organized and, I hope, more effective in storytelling.
Great point. I’m a ‘seat-of-the-pants writer, too and quickly learning how important it is to map out a story (but fighting that tooth and nail :))! Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’?
My novel, About a Baby, coming from Wild Rose Press in 2010 is the first of three books about the Outlaw family in Eden, Maine.
Here’s a blurb: When veterinarian Hallie Scott fell in love with her boss she thought she could beat the odds on her ticking biological time clock but confirmed bachelor Basil Outlaw didn’t want a wife or a family – then. Baz reappears at Christmas time, a year later, ready to give Hallie the moon in exchange for forgiveness and a second chance. Hallie still loves him but it’s too late for what she wants and when she discovers what he’s been doing for the past twelve months, it seems it’s too late for forgiveness, too.
The second book in the series The Outlaw of Eden, Maine, is called He Loves Lucy. It is about Baz’s younger sister, Lucy, a young journalist whose dreams of a career as a foreign correspondent waver when she falls in love with the sheriff, a single dad who believes he’s too old for her.
Eye of the Tiger Lily, features Molly Whitecloud, a reservation midwife who has always loved the man she broke up with twelve years earlier: Cameron Outlaw. Corruption at the tribe’s casino sends Molly undercover and throws her together with Cam, one of the Casino’s investors. The old attraction is still there but Cam is engaged now and Molly is harboring not one but two baby secrets. Eye of the Tiger Lily, was a Golden fHeart finalist in 2005.
I’m currently working on a series called “The Darling Budds of Mayville.” The three Budd sisters, who live in the biscuit-mix capital of the world, have bought a funeral home and converted it to an exotic wedding boutique. In the first book, For Better or Hearse, Daisy Budd discovers a body in her Cupid Fountain and her investigation gets her entangled with family secrets from the past, hidden Nazi loot and the biscuit company’s Prodigal Son, Nick Bowman.
Please tell our readers how you juggle work (other than writing, assuming you work ‘outside the home,’ time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc).
I’ve been lucky enough to always work at home so theoretically I can set my day up to accommodate technical writing, kid-related stuff, chores and fiction. My top priority is anything kid-related (even though they’re nominally grown up) and my bottom priority is housework. In between I do the rest (acquiring and warming up food, dressing myself, chatting with workaholic husband, walking the dog.) I try to always start the day with several hours of writing and I always end the day with reading until I can’t keep my eyes open.
A writer after my heart! Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work!
Promotion is a new beast for me, despite my years in journalism. I finally got a website, with help from a friend of my son’s, and I’ve joined several loops. The blog format should be a natural for me. I love to talk about the nuts and bolts of writing but find it easier when there is give-and-take with other writers or readers.
That brings me to my “dream” novel.”
I’d like to create the kind of fiction that not only entertains but that lingers with readers and inspires them to comment on it–hopefully to me. Writing so far has been mostly a solitary activity. Several years ago I met a well-known Harlequin/Silhouette author when she judged my entry in a contest. I thanked her in a note and told her how much I’d enjoyed her novels and why. We developed an online friendship that lasted until I got a new computer and lost her address. She told me how unusual and gratifying it was to get to talk about her characters with a reader. I get it now. The writing is only half the endeavor. Readers are more important than they can imagine.
Amen, Ann! Without those readers, writing would still be fun but knowing someone ‘gets’ what I intend in a scene just brings it all home. I speak only for me, but readers are the ones who help me stay focused when I get bummed about other writing-related issues. Now, you’re upcoming release:
That Voodo You Do
Coming December 18, 2009 from The Wild Rose Press!
Jessie Maynard, a jilted bride who, instead of spending Christmas on the sunny sands of Bora Bora with her new husband, is spending it in a sleepy Virginia town with a telepathic cat and Luke Tanner, a green-eyed sorcerer whose bitter divorce has turned him into a loner. She soon discovers that under the town’s Currier & Ives exterior, things are not what they seem. The pastor is having an affair, three elderly witches believe Jessie’s great aunt has been murdered and the mortuary is filling up with body parts. Sparks fly between Jessie and Luke as they work to track down the murderer but their short affair is upended when Jessie’s mother arrives for Christmas in a refrigerator truck packed with the stations-of-the-cross ice sculpture and the penitent groom and Luke’s beautiful ex-wife shows up with reconciliation on her mind.
Excerpt: Luke could hear Jessie gasping and puffing as he dragged her through the moonlit streets, past the gazebo and the town’s Christmas tree. Fueled by adrenalin and rage he ran full-out, allowing no quarter for her much shorter legs.
He vaulted up the shallow steps to Blanche’s front porch and he stopped so suddenly she slammed into him as he dug out his key. He cursed, softly. The instant they were inside he pinned her shoulders against the door.
“Goddammit,” he bit out. The golden eyes held no fear, only contrition and something else that reached into his chest and settled under his heart. Her lips parted. God. Need clawed at him like an animal trapped in a box. His hands trembled and he knew there was no way he’d make it upstairs. He didn’t care if the rest of the household woke up and sold tickets. He had to have her. Now. When she put her hands on his face and slipped her tongue into his mouth he realized she wanted him, too. Thank God.
Desperate to feel her soft skin, to lose himself in her warmth, he drew her down to the polished wooden floor while his fingers fought hers for the right to unsnap his old letter jacket. Finally, finally, it was open and he reached inside.
“Shit,” he growled. “Overalls.”
“I’ve got it,” she breathed. She shoved the straps off her shoulder while he stripped off her boots. He ripped open his jeans. He knew it was gonna be close. He was wound as tightly as a rubber band. Rubber. Shit. Mabel Ruth had confiscated his condoms. Luke felt Jessie’s fingers dig into his hips. He made a half-hearted attempt to warn her.
“Don’t talk. Don’t stop.”
Christ. He didn’t think he could stop. He wanted her the way he’d wanted Crystal in the beginning, mindlessly, hopelessly, obsessively. She arched up just as he thrust into her, hard. They strained against each other, twisting and pounding their way across the waxed floor. Ah. God. She was so hot. So tight. His climax rushed at him like a runaway train. And then she yelped.
“It’s my head. I think I hit the coat rack.”
Copies will be available at either of the following:
And find Ann at http://www.annyost.com/!
Thanks so much, Ann, for joining us, today! Best of luck with your release and all your upcoming projects!
And a total aside for fans like me: Happy birthday, Donny Osmond, #52!!! May health and peace color your days!