Interview: Jeannie Lin

Jen: Today we welcome Harlequin author, Jeannie Lin to Romancing the Book.  Jeannie, will you please share a short bio with us?

Jeannie: Me in a nutshell: I’m a science and technology geek who started writing while I was teaching to try to find some balance by doing something I loved just for me while angsting over my students and my lesson plans.

Jen: Tell us about The Dragon and the Pearl and where is can be purchased.

Jeannie: The Dragon and the Pearl is my second published novel. It’s a sequel to my debut, Butterfly Swords, but they’re both independent stories that can be read standalone. The story is set during the Tang Dynasty and brings two very strong-willed characters, an accomplished courtesan and a ruthless warlord, together in the middle of a power struggle for control of the empire. It’s available in print as well as digitally.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.
Jeannie: I discovered writing probably around the third grade. My mother, who always wanted to be a writer, told me that if you wrote down your stories and they were good enough, then people would buy them and print them into books. I was absolutely enamored of it! So I jokingly like to say the thing that made me first want to write was the money—though we all know that’s far from true.

I was first published last year in 2010. I had been peddling this hard-sell manuscript set in Tang Dynasty China and featuring an interracial relationship between a sword-wielding princess and a Western barbarian for a year when I entered it into the RWA Golden Heart contest. When it finaled, I think it made a few people think…maybe…just maybe…about this underdog tale. And that’s what I think of my call story as: an underdog story. I signed with an agent who was ecstatic about the manuscript and started submitting immediately. Within a few months we received another request from Harlequin Mills and Boon who had read it while judging the Golden Heart. We sold Butterfly Swords while I was in Washington D.C. for the RWA National conference to Harlequin. Three days later, Butterfly Swords won the Golden Heart for best historical romance manuscript. I honestly feel that this was the only way it could have happened.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.

Jeannie: Crazy, sexy, cool. (Yeah, I stole that)

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?

Jeannie: Just a computer or a notepad. I’m a low maintenance sort of gal. I used to be a diva—I needed a good atmosphere, I needed to be in a certain mood. I’m sure needing to have that mental mojo is still true, but at one point after reading Stephen King’s On Writing, I realized that the part that was important to me, the part that I enjoyed most, was just the writing. So I would roll out of bed and start writing and it changed everything.

Jen: What are your biggest motivations to write? What keeps you going?

Jeannie: I like the writing. I enjoy the process and the putting together of characters. Nothing happens naturally for me, so when I look back at the end of the story and see things fitting together, I’m genuinely happy that there’s something there and there was nothing before. What keeps me going is the promise I say to myself that no matter how rough things seem now, if I keep going there WILL be a story at the end. Promise.

Jen: Do you have a theme, object or person that appears in all of your stories?

Jeannie: I laugh at how many times the word “honor” appears in most of my manuscripts, but that’s probably a given for the warrior culture and heroism that many of my stories revolve around. Themes of meritocracy are also very prevalent in all my stories. The prevailing belief that no matter who you are, you can earn yourself a better life through your own achievement. Maybe it comes from my deep belief in education and probably it was a major reason why I chose the Tang Dynasty as my time period.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from? Why?

Jeannie: I would love to write one of those great big fantasy epics that take up a lot of paper and just suck you in. *sigh* I wouldn’t say never about any genre. You never know, you know?

Jen: How do you pick character’s names?

Jeannie: This is the hardest thing in the world for me. I look up name dictionaries for Chinese names. I try to pick names that might sound gender correct and not too awkward to the Western ear. Many Chinese names are compound names with two or more characters combined so it makes it more difficult. Then I Google to make sure I’m not naming a character the same thing as some infamous historical or fictional Chinese character. (Think of accidentally naming a character something like George Washington and not even knowing it!) I also Google to make sure my name is gender appropriate and it doesn’t mean something ridiculous. Sorry for the rant, it’s tough. It really is.

Jen: If you could travel back in time for one year, what time and place would you choose? If you could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?

Jeannie: Well, I live in St. Louis right now and I think it would be fascinating to go back to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair when St. Louis was a hub of the country and the center of everything. All that fabulous architecture and all those crazy inventions that people were showcasing. And the advent of the ice cream cone, how cool is that? It feels a little sleepy here now in comparison.  Three things: sneakers, jeans & contact lenses. Clothing for women wasn’t the most comfortable back then!

Jen: Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?

Jeannie: I celebrate with my critique partners and then have a nice dinner with my hubby while I glow and act giddy, but next contract I get, I’m buying an iPad! One of my critique partners has an iPad2 that she shamelessly flaunts in front of us.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Jeannie: I’m trying to branch out a little bit. Still writing historical stories, but exploring a paranormal or speculative side of things.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Jeannie: My blog and website at http://www.jeannielin.com. I’m also on Twitter most days as @JeannieLin.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Jeannie: What makes you want to pick up an author that’s new to you? Who was your last discovery that blew you away?

Jen: I understand you have a contest on your website.  Can you tell us more about it?

Jeannie: Yes, I’m running a launch celebration with all sorts of goodies. I’m giving away several books from some fabulous authors: Cindy Pon and Stephanie Dray. There are also some random prizes to get you in the Tang Dynasty mood. A personalized dragon chop and a DVD set of the international release of Red Cliff. Come on over for more details at: http://www.jeannielin.com/?p=4002

Purchase Links