AND THE WINNER of this week’s giveaway is LILAINE! WOOO!
(I made the neighbor’s cat do the drawing again. I think the kitty thinks I’m nuts, but there you go.) Thanks to all for playing, and stay tuned. We’ve got a few more interviews lined up. . .MUAH HA HA!
Hey, kids! How much fun are we having on the summer blast tour here at Women and Words? I’d say a lot. At least I am. So this week’s interview is author Janet Albert, who writes lesfic romance, and she’ll be giving a copy of her latest, Casa Parisi, away right here! Today! Details on the book below. In the meantime, giveaway instructions:
If you would like to be put in the drawing for a copy of Janet’s book, leave a comment below in which you specifically say that you’d like to be in on the drawing. Don’t include your email in the body of the comment, but do use it to fill out the comment form prior to posting the comment. Nobody but the merry elves will see it, and they won’t tell.
We’ll be doing the drawing at midnight, EST US, tonight! That’s this Friday. I’ll post the name of the winner here, on this post, so please check back. I notify winners within 30 minutes of the drawing, so if you haven’t heard from me and your name was posted as the winner, check your email’s spam box. Thanks!
Okay. Janet Albert is originally from New York state, but she currently splits her time between Pennsylvania and Ohio. She came late to writing, after a long career in nursing. She holds degrees in nursing and education and worked as a critical care nurse at major inner-city medical centers. She also taught critical care to nursing students and continuing education to staff nurses. She’s also been vice president of a critical care nursing agency. She then took a job as a school nurse (pre-K to 12th grade) in Philadelphia to get away from the stress of critical care. And now, she’s able to write and travel and relax with her partner.
So let’s find out about her work:
source: janetalbert.com (re-sized here)
Dr. Miranda Rose gets a job on a cruise line that specializes in lesbian clients. She’s not interested in a hook-up or relationship, however, though she’s surrounded by opportunity. She starts re-thinking that after she meets the ship’s head fitness trainer. Who seems to have the attention of everybody else, too. Miranda fights her attraction, but who knows what could happen in 24 days? Guess you’ll need to read it and see.
Ridley Kelsen is way over the love thing and the dating scene, so she figures love is just not for her. Chef Dana de Marco relocates to Philadelphia to try to rebuild her life. She opens a restaurant and things start to fall into place, though she can’t seem to let go of her past and the woman who broke her heart. That might change, however, when Ridley ends up one night at dinner with her friends at Ridley’s restaurant. Can they get past their ghosts? Do they want to? Have a read and see!
THIS BOOK RIGHT HERE IS UP FOR A GIVEAWAY!!!!!
source: regalcrest.biz (re-sized here)
Lucia’s got everything going for her until one tragic day when everything changes. So she heads back to the Finger Lakes region of New York to try to deal with things. There, she decides to open a winery, but she needs a head winemaker. Enter Juliet Renard, who is a rising star among local vineyards. A friend of Lucia convinces her to bring Juliet in for an interview, and that meeting sparks something between the two women. Can Lucia get over her past, and over the tragedy that has scarred her? And can Juliet come to grips with what she learns about herself? If you win this, you’ll totally find out!
So how does that all sound? Yeah, I thought you’d like it. Let’s go have a chat with Janet!
ANDI: So here we are at Women and Words. Welcome, Janet, and thanks for joining me here at Women and Words. I understand you came to writing later in life. Was there a specific moment when you decided to sit down and do it or was it something that had been in your mind for a while?
JANET: I did start writing late in life and yes, there was a pivotal moment when I decided to sit down and do it. One day, seated in front of my new laptop, I announced to my partner that I wanted to try and write a lesbian romance. Much to my surprise I did just that! Before I knew it, I had written three of them.
ANDI: Hmmm. Sounds like you had quite an outpouring. Nice! So which of those was the first one you published?
JANET: That initial book, A Table for Two, was the first fiction I’d ever written. It was scheduled for publication, but the publishing company closed before the book went into the editing phase. Because of that and the fact that I felt it needed further revision, my second book, Twenty-four Days, ended up being published first by Regal Crest Enterprises. Subsequently, they published A Table for Two, followed by my third book, Casa Parisi.
ANDI: And that’s why, dear readers, authors don’t stop writing. You don’t ever know what’s going to happen. So is writing something you wanted to do all along?
JANET: When I think about it, I suppose I always had a secret desire to be a writer, but I’d dismissed it as a far-fetched, crazy notion. In high school I wanted to be an English professor or a nurse and as you can see my interest in medicine won out (a fact I never regretted). My verbal skills were always higher than average and I always found it easy to organize thoughts and express them clearly. But write an entire book? No way. And beyond that, what would I write about and for whom? Still, I had this urge stirring around inside, this nagging desire to say something about life as I had experienced it.
ANDI: That’s a great story. I think a lot of people who end up writing have this little inkling that maybe, at some point, they’d like to try it. Or they kind of dismiss the thought, thinking that’s nutso since it’s always OTHER people who get published and do the writing. I’m reminded of something Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, has written. She talks about “shadow artists” — artists who are “too intimidated” to pursue artistic dreams or perhaps dealing with low self esteem. People like that, she says, become shadow artists, because they “shadow” declared artists. Unable to recognize or accept that they themselves might have the creativity they so admire in others, they end up hanging out with artists, or dating or marrying artists who are actively pursuing their artistic dreams and careers. She also says that “very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist.” Not to suggest you entirely buried that little inkling you had. But it’s super-cool that you grabbed that bull by the horns and decided to do that writing.
So what made you pick the genre you write in?
JANET: When I discovered lesbian fiction, I found a genre that suited me, a place where I could express myself and be free to tell the stories I wanted to tell. In other words, I’d found a tangible reason to write. I was done pursuing all my nursing career goals and writing gave me an opportunity to study, learn, and exercise my mind in new and different ways. At times, being a writer still seems like a far-fetched, crazy notion and no writer would dispute the fact that it’s not an easy thing to do. But I enjoy it and I intend to persist.
ANDI: Maybe along those lines a bit, you mention on your website that “I must have been born before lesbians roamed the earth because I never knew any or even heard of any until I was an adult.” Can you expound a bit on how that might have helped nudge you into writing your romances?
JANET: Naïve as it may sound, I never knew a single lesbian when I was growing up in my small New York State town. I wish I had known one or had known they existed. I knew there was something “different” about me but I had no way to name it or define it. My coming out was a lengthy, difficult process although I’m sure my story is much the same as many other lesbians who grew up during that time. It’s never easy to accept that you’re different, but back then, it was very hard. Depending on where you lived and what you were exposed to, you may or may not have had much to go on as you struggled with your identity. Being gay or lesbian wasn’t talked about out in the open like it is today.
ANDI: I grew up in a small town, too, but during the 1970s and 1980s, which, though not as open as today, was a lot more open than it was for you. I knew LGBTQ people in that town, but I didn’t read any lesbian fiction until I went to college.
JANET: We didn’t have a literary culture like we have now. Just a simple book might have spared me years of uncertainty and anguish. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write lesbian romances. The writers who contribute to this genre are building a body of work that provides gay men, lesbians, and others with stories that validate their lives, stories about lives they can identify with, and, on a lighter note, stories they can enjoy reading.
ANDI: So true. I’d add that many of those stories in this day and age are a lot more positive than the lesbian novels written from, say, 1920 through the 1960s, which seemed to have a dearth of happily-ever-after endings. Or at least endings where the LGBTQ characters didn’t all die or commit suicide or live forever in unhappiness.
JANET: I also chose to write romances because they’re my personal favorite. I’m an incurable romantic with a passionate nature and to me there’s nothing like a good love story. Falling in love is one of life’s greatest mysteries and one of the most exquisite human experiences. It can also be one of the most painful. It’s been a major theme in all forms of music and storytelling since the beginning of time. The spectrum of emotions my characters go through is something I feel deeply as I write their stories. I take pleasure in that part of the process. I may be getting older and a bit creaky, but that part of me is still very young and very much alive.
ANDI: Rock on, Janet! All right. Let’s chat about your workin’ life. You’ve had different jobs and different careers, most notably as a critical care nurse and then a school nurse in Philadelphia. I’d guess that aspects of your background found their way into your characters Miranda Ross in Twenty-Four Days and maybe Ridley Kelsen in A Table for Two. Is that fair to say? And do you find yourself injecting elements of your past in other ways into your books?
JANET: I actually had only one career, but I managed to do a lot of interesting things within the broad scope of nursing. I had jobs that required advanced college degrees, special training, and state and national certifications, so that meant that I always had to grow, learn and evolve. That made my career even more interesting and challenging. In answer to your question, aspects of my background definitely show up in my characters and in my stories.
Miranda Ross in Twenty-four Days came from my knowledge of doctors and medicine and from some of my nursing experiences. I didn’t know the everyday duties of a doctor on a cruise ship and I’ve never even been on a cruise, so I had to do extensive research before I could write those sections of the book. Also, I’ve never been to the cities Miranda and Jamie visited, so I had to do research before I could write about them. Jamie Jeffries, however, was purely a product of my imagination. [Jeffries is the physical fitness trainer in Twenty-Four Days.]
ANDI: Writers do a ton of research, regardless of the genre. And if a writer can convince you that she knows the terrain of her settings even if she hasn’t been there, well, that’s some good research. And how about Ridley?
JANET: I absolutely loved writing A Table for Two. Ridley Kelsen was created from my experiences as a school nurse in the Philadelphia public schools. I knew a few lesbian physical education teachers whom I admired and I thought she would make an interesting character. I wanted her to be young, enthusiastic, and idealistic and I think I succeeded. Dana DeMarco, the other main character, came from my love of food and cooking. I wanted to explore what it might be like to be a chef and own a restaurant. Her restaurant provided me with a vehicle to write about South Street, one of my favorite places in Philadelphia. In fact, a lot of the places I wrote about were places that held special memories for me, not just in Philadelphia, but also at the New Jersey shore.
I’ve read that writers should write about what they know and I would add that I don’t think you can avoid putting something of yourself in your writing. We are the sum total of our backgrounds, our life experiences, the things we’ve done and the people we’ve known. I also think it expands our horizons and adds richness and depth to our writing if we also explore and research new things, things we’ve only heard of or imagined.
ANDI: That’s part of the joy of writing, I’d argue. Exploring. Let’s talk about this food stuff. You’re a foodie, and elements of that definitely show up in your work. Have you always cooked? How did you learn?
JANET: First of all, let me say that I’ve not only done a lot of cooking, I’ve also done a lot of eating! More than I should have I dare say.
ANDI: Not sure there’s anything wrong with that. . .as long as you get some motion and dancing and stuff going in between, you should be all right. 😀
JANET: My Italian mother was an amazing cook and a fantastic baker. Mostly, she made ordinary ethnic comfort foods, but she did it with love and finesse. I often sat at the kitchen table while she worked and she never could cook without teaching me, so I guess it rubbed off somehow. At the time I neither paid much attention nor had any interest in cooking (although I sure enjoyed eating what she made). Later, in my mid-thirties, I did become interested in cooking and discovered I had a real knack for it. I guess I’d absorbed all the lessons after all, and the cooking with love gene had been passed down except for the baking part. Seems I was always on a diet and besides, baking is way too precise for me.
ANDI: I suck at baking. I’m just going to own that right now. But it’s dang cool that your mom was into it. I’ll bet your house smelled AWESOME when you were growing up. How about your dad?
JANET: My father was a cook in the army and he not only taught me about food, he did a lot of cooking in our house.
ANDI: OMG, you got the cooking thing from both sides! I am so coming to your house!
JANET: My Lithuanian grandmother (his mother) lived with us and she made all sorts of old world foods. I could go on and on about those memories. On Saturdays we all went to a farmers market near our home and then we’d come back and make all kinds of wonderful things. I still know how to make those dishes although my tastes and cooking skills became much broader than theirs. My brother is a good cook, too and he’s gay. . .must all be in the genes!
ANDI: A twofer in your family! Two lovely gay people and awesome cooking. I now have to go not only to your house, but to his on my next road trip. . .
So your latest book, Casa Parisi, deals with wine and winemaking (2 of my fave things, for sure), and brings two women together, each of whom is dealing with different issues, at different stages of their lives. Where did the idea for this plot come from? And do you personally have a few favorite wines?
JANET: I loved writing that book. I’ve been going to the Finger Lakes since the late 1960s. It has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. At first, all the wines were made by a few large monopolies and the grape farmers had no choice but to sell their grapes to them. In the 70s, new laws were passed that allowed the grape growers to open “farm wineries” and make their own wines. After that, the whole industry began to change. Now the area is full of small, charming wineries and thanks (in part) to Cornell University, they have many talented grape growers and winemakers. The wines keep getting better and better.
ANDI: That makes me think of the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, about the early days of the California wine industry and how one vineyard unseated the mighty French wines in 1976. I tend to be one of those weird local foods kind of person, and I like to purchase wine done by local American wineries when I can (barring that, local breweries…HA!). Anyway, I developed my weird wine sensibilities in New Mexico, which has a lot of great local vineyards and wineries. But back to New York!
JANET: One weekend, when my partner and I were there, I read an article about a female French winemaker who had been hired at one of the wineries. It was newsworthy because she was one of the only female winemakers in the area. She was cute and I jokingly said, “Hey, I wonder if she’s gay.” That led to the idea for the book. Only one or two of the wineries are owned by women, so that gave me two female main characters and motivated me to write a love story. A lesbian owns a winery and hires a female winemaker. . .well, you get the idea. I’d acquired a lot of information about making wine over the years and my genuine love for the Finger Lakes provided me with even more inspiration. In a way, I consider it my tribute to them.
ANDI: That’s a nice tribute. Let’s toast! What should we pour?
JANET: Basically, I like a lot of wines. I don’t tend to like very dry, oaky wines or wines that are any sweeter than semi-sweet. I would say my favorite whites are the reislings, gewürztraminers, and Pinot Grigios. Believe me, I like a lot of others, too. As far as reds go, I like Chiantis, Pinot Noirs, some of the less harsh Cabernet Sauvignons plus quite a few others. I try a lot of wines and as I said in the book, if they taste good I drink them.
ANDI: Well, YEAH! Cheers! Okay, before I pour anymore, tell us about your writing process. Do you have any rituals or anything you do habitually to prepare for a writing session?
JANET: I’m what they refer to as a “generic” writer. I have a story in my mind and once I outline the personality details for each of my characters and take some time to get to know them. I usually write from the beginning to the end, just letting the words flow and the ideas come without outlining in advance. I like to see where the characters take me and where the story goes. Sometimes my characters don’t want to say or do what I want them to say or do and they surprise me. That takes the story off in another direction and I like that.
ANDI: Janet, there is NOTHING generic about anybody’s process. 😀 That’s part of what makes writing so cool. Everybody does what works for them, and it’s really neat to see how different writers use different processes to tell a story. Sometimes, we might have to try a few things to come to the right process for us, and our processes will probably change over time, but I’d argue that they’re never “generic.” 😉 So what else?
JANET: Music is one of my greatest inspirations. I listen to music to put me in the mood for writing about angst, longing, and desire, not to mention the right emotional state for writing those rather difficult sex scenes. It’s really quite effective. I write on a laptop in a lot of different places, even when I have a proper chair and desk available. Consequently, I often end up with a sore back, sore butt, or sore something from writing in a less-than-ideal body position. That’s a bad habit that I should break.
ANDI: That’s actually one of the hazards of writing. Sitting too long. I’ve said this in the past, and I’ll say it again — I alternate every hour between sitting and working at a standing desk. I think it helps my creative process, too, because I tend to pace when I’m working a scene out. Do you have a specific time that you like to write?
JANET: When I was younger, I probably would have done my best writing from 10 pm to 2 am, but these days, it’s more like 10 am to 2 or 3 pm. But, I don’t stick to any set time frame. If the words are flowing and I’m just bursting with fine prose and titillating dialog, I might write for a longer time. Some days I sit and stare at blank pages for hours or re-work a paragraph 10 times. I’ve read books by writers about their writing habits (set times, a certain number of words or pages per day, etc.) and I keep chastising myself for not having better writing habits. I definitely need to be more disciplined!
ANDI: Hey, whatever works for you. Nowadays, I grab writing time when I can, and I’ve learned to be really productive during that short stretch. So just do what works for you, and the rest will follow. So what’s something not many people know about you that you’d care to share? (and not have to kill us later because we know…heh)?
JANET: Hmmm. . .in 1972, I was abducted by aliens. They did experiments on Me. No, I’m sorry, that’s not true. I used to be a paid assassin for the CIA. I’m sorry, that’s not true either. I know who built Stonehenge. I know you don’t believe that either, now do you?
ANDI: Janet, I come from a long line of tinfoil hat lovers. I just might believe stuff like that. There’s lots of crazy things in the world, and I always tell people that truth is stranger than fiction.
JANET: Ah, secrets. . .I gave your question a lot of thought and I couldn’t think of a thing (other than a few embarrassing things I would never reveal). I truly wish I had something exciting to share.
ANDI: What? No hobbies like stamp collecting? A hobby that we haven’t heard about yet that you already engage in besides food and wine? Bug collecting? Playing the didgeridoo? No? All right, then. You’re off the hook. THIS time! MUAH HA HA! What’s next in the writing process pipeline?
JANET: I’ve been away from writing for a few months and I need to get back to it very soon. I’m working on the plot for a combination romance/mystery. So far, I have a working title, an overall plot, the main characters, a story line and some of the story details worked out. And, I’ve written the first two paragraphs. For that book, in search of that discipline I mentioned earlier, I’m going to try and storyboard the entire plot in advance and outline each chapter before I write it. It’s not my style, so we’ll see how that works for me.
ANDI: See what I mean about tweaking your process? Writers change it up!
JANET: I have a lot of ideas for upcoming romances. I keep them in a notebook and hope that I have enough time to write even half of them since I’m kind of a slow writer. I’ve thought about writing a sequel to A Table for Two featuring Erin Lafferty, the school nurse, as one of the main characters. Right now, I don’t know if I want to take that project on. So many ideas, so little time!
ANDI: And it’s a great problem to have, for a writer, yes? Sounds like some good stuff you’ve got lined up. Very exciting! 😀 Keep us posted. Anyway, I know you’ve got things to do, plots to write, so thanks, Janet, for coming by. Had a great time and if you ever have any extra bottles of wine lying around, well. . .let’s just say the merry elves wouldn’t be adverse to. . .ah. . .trying it. Take care.
JANET: Thank you, Andi. I really enjoyed answering your questions. They were great.
All right, readers, you can visit Janet at her website HERE and check out her author page at the Regal Crest website.
And don’t forget to get in on the drawing to win a copy of Casa Parisi!
Happy Friday, all!