Elizabeth John writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her debut novel, Judging Joey, recently released. Learn more about Elizabeth at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’m going to date myself, but many years ago I had seen an article on Candlelight Ecstasy Romances. My mom cheered me on by saying, “You’ve been reading those kinds of books for years. You could write those, too.” At that time I had recently married, moved to a different state, and had started a new job, so I took that article with me and kept it folded in my nightstand. Every so often I would pull it out, and one day, I just started writing. You see, I had a degree in Economics and worked in investment banking, so the whole idea was foreign to me. I wrote for enjoyment until I was pregnant with my son and worked part-time. Then I saw another full color spread on Romance Writers and this organization called Romance Writers of America. I had no idea such a group existed. The phone number of the local chapter president was in the article, and she was encouraging people to join the group. I couldn’t believe an actual famous author would give out her phone number! I was nervous but determine. This was a chance of a lifetime for me, so I called. She was pleasant and easy to talk to. I joined my local chapter right away. Those were fascinating times. I met some of my best friends because of that article.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Everyone’s journey is different and some take longer than others. Like mine. I left the banking industry after my second child. Really, it left me because there was a bank merger and my department moved out of state. By then, I was a board member of my local chapter. My first manuscript won an award. Editors requested my work. I was on my way! Or so I thought.
My husband and I bought a house that took forever to be built, so we moved out of state again and in with my parents. Eight people using one bathroom. Need I say more? I threw myself into my writing. It was therapeutic. I sold my first essay to the newspaper, and then another. I had to make some money, so I started writing and selling articles for small magazines. When we moved to our new house, I wrote a weekly ‘Spotlight’ article with a local paper, and through networking with my writer’s group, I connected with an editor of a large newspaper. For a few years, I became a freelance correspondent, and I wrote what the editor assigned. I landed a job working part-time with my state as a ceremonial resolutions writer. I really loved that job. Unfortunately, the commute was a challenge for a mom with small children. It took me a while to realize even though I was making some money as a writer, I wasn’t writing what I desired--fiction. So I regrouped.
I had always thought of being a teacher too and hoped its flexible schedule would enable me to be there for my family and write books. I couldn’t write for a few years while I went for another degree at night and worked as a teacher during the day. Then several years later, I threw myself back into the fiction world. I went to conferences, got on the board of my local chapter again and have been writing ever since. My first full-length novel was recently released. Sweet!
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m traditionally published with Soul Mate Publishing.
Where do you write?
All over the place. I have carved out a spot for myself in the basement. Right now, the basement looks like we’re hoarders, and I find it a challenge to work with clutter. Organizing my office is on a very long ‘To Do’ list. I get up an hour early each morning to write before I have to leave for my day job, so I write at the kitchen table at that time while my coffee’s brewing. Presently, I’m on a much needed vacation and am writing this on the deck of our hotel in beautiful, sunny Florida while my husband is doing laps in the pool. I have learned to write anywhere. That’s one habit I picked up as a freelance correspondent. Many phone interviews were conducted with toddlers crawling around my feet.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I prefer silence. However, that’s not always possible. Sometimes I put in my earbuds and listen to Karen Carpenter music on Pandora. I also have a collection of yoga and nature sounds types of music.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My stories are about normal people living normal lives who are faced with something out of the ordinary. In my book, Judging Joey, Madeline has to deal with working alongside the man who broke her heart in high school. So my plots start with, ‘What if…?’ As a writer, I’m always observing others. Characters in my books are purely fictional, but they may say something I’ve heard someone say or do something I’ve seen someone do. I take bits of my observations and form them into my characters. I think most writers do that.
Describe your process for naming your character?
The first names of my main characters always pop into my head. I can’t explain it. They tell me their names and show me what they look like. Secondary character names are different. I’m conscious of ethnicity, geographic locations, age, and things like that. I have books on baby names and a writer’s book on character names to help. Once I come up with a name, taking care that I haven’t used too many names that start with the same initial, I search the Internet for any infamous connections.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I’ve written both, but now I’m steering toward fictional. There’s usually a villain in my books, and I think it’s just easier to stick to fictional locations. Of course, in my mind, these fictitious towns are based on a real town somewhere that I’ve been.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
In Judging Joey, Madeline quotes her uncle’s expressions. For example, he says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I think it’s so endearing and shows how much she cares for him.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
That’s an interesting question. Give me a minute to think about that. Okay, I have a few, but here’s one. When I read a print book, I always use a bookmark, and when I hold my place, the bookmark has to be right side up. Never upside down. Is that quirky?
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I think it’s a story that people continue to love throughout the generations.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Ah, I think everything happens for a reason, so no do-overs. That being said, I wish I had believed in myself more and kept writing novels and not gotten distracted from my goals. However, this was my journey, and I’m finally in a position in which I have a steady income and a day job I enjoy. I raised two incredible children who are now wonderful adults, and I am free to pursue writing fiction.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like waste, so it bugs me when people leave the lights, TV, and radios on when no one is in the room. Let’s conserve energy. Every day is Earth Day!
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Do people count? Then it would have to be my family. Next would be my two dogs and unlimited paper and writing implements. How else can I record all my stories?
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
That would have to be a paper route in the old days when kids delivered the newspapers. The boy who had the coveted route split it up and gifted me with one of the less desirable pieces. I was twelve, naïve, and grateful for the opportunity to make some money. He got the money and I got the tips. Sometimes people were unfriendly, and if I got a nickel for a whole week’s work, I was happy. It took me a long time to figure out that the boy was getting paid from the newspaper for the work I did. But that’s how it was, and if you were lucky enough to get one of the pieces, you kept it or transferred it to your little brother.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Pick only one? I can’t do it. I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett, because of her characterization, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, for her plotting, and The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. That book was a pure gem of a find. She had won a Rita at the last RWA conference. I immediately recognized the cover background and knew I already had one of her books. Turns out, I had two. Talk about cover branding. Anyway, I didn’t have any expectations, but when I was drawn into her world, I didn’t want to leave. It was a beautifully written book.
Ocean or mountains?
I’m all about the beach, sand, shells, and crashing waves.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I love to live in the suburbs, but be near a city. Museums, shows, great restaurants, these are places I love to visit. I worked in Manhattan for years and miss the hustle and bustle sometimes. On the flip side, I enjoy quiet, so I need to be able to escape the crowds and find peace.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Right now, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel that involves three sisters who own a family wedding dress shop. Each sister will have her own story and the three books are connected but can stand alone.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
My contemporary romances tend to have a bit of mystery or suspense, and I think that’s what makes them different. Judging Joey is a sweet, contemporary romance with a bit of a mystery. I think readers are looking for sweet romances and they’re becoming harder to find. The book I’m working on now is a sweet romantic suspense. It’s not going to be too gritty. I’d like to call my books Sweet and Cozy Romantic Suspense. My dream is to be on the beach one day and see people around me in their chairs or on their towels reading my book. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Madeline White must return to her hometown to help her uncle, her only family. She gets a job teaching and sees the man who broke her heart back in high school. Then she discovers he’s the school’s Safety Officer and his nephew is her student! Madeline’s determined to clear the air with him and hopes they can be civil to one another. When she builds up the courage for a painful reunion, she is shocked that he doesn’t remember her.
Officer Joey O’Neill is committed to his job, so after the beautiful redhead accuses him of the contrary, he takes offense. When Madeline informs him they’ve met before, he insists she’s mistaken. Although his family wants him to settle down and judges his carefree bachelorhood lifestyle, it doesn’t mean he forgets the people in his life. Past or present.
Like years before, people begin to whisper about her when things go missing in the school. Joey starts to wonder if what they say is true. As the past comes back to haunt Madeline, she struggles with a secret that jeopardizes her job and hopes she can trust Joey. Has he finally outgrown being a wise-cracking jock?