Interview & Contest: Joan Swan

Jen: Please help us welcome Joan Swan to Romancing the Book.  Joan, will you please share a short bio with us?

Joan: Hi, Jen! Thanks so much for having me at Romancing the Book!!

I’m a triple RWA Golden Heart finalist in romantic suspense, 2006, 2008 and 2009. I don’t know what the heck happened in 2007!  I’ve been writing with the intent to publish for a decade with as many full length novels behind me. I sold number ten to Alicia Condon at Kensington. It truly doesn’t happen overnight.

I live on the central coast of California with my husband of twenty one years and our two daughters, but I work as a sonographer at UC San Francisco Medical Center three and a half hours away. Three days a week, I stay with my parents who live just outside the city where I grew up and work, then head home. It’s the same schedule my husband had for twenty of his years as a firefighter, so I guess we’ve just switched roles. And, boy, is that drive killer for plotting and audiobooks!

Jen: Tell us about Fever.
Joan: FEVER is the first of the new Phoenix Rising paranormal romantic suspense series.

A mysterious explosion at a military warehouse injuries a team of seven hazmat firefighters, killing one. The contents of the building, extremely confidential and dangerous radioactive chemicals used by the Department of Defense in secretive scientific experiments, have inflicted the team with various paranormal abilities. Abilities the government wants to study covertly. Abilities the team wants to understand and expose. With military advancement and national power at risk on one side and personal health and freedom at stake on the other, each group is fighting for precious stakes.

FEVER is about one of the seven firefighters, Teague Creek, convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, framed by a government threatened by his prying questions into the warehouse explosion. Teague has been denied an appeal, lost the daughter he lived for, and the career as a firefighter he loved. With no hope left, he plans an escape. But his plan goes wrong when the woman he kidnaps as leverage to get his daughter back turns out to be someone else. And this woman quickly clues into the abilities he tries to hide, creating a bond neither can afford while they’re on the run from both the cops and undercover operatives who want Teague silenced. This time, permanently.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Joan: I was a late bloomer and started writing at about thirty five. When I’d devoured everything every author I loved had written and the new authors I tried weren’t cutting it, I started making up my own stories and writing them down. Within months I was on the publishing track.

Fever is my first publication. I originally wrote Fever as a straight romantic suspense when romantic suspense had taken a dive in the market. (I’m a pro at buying high and selling low, so this fits right into that off-the-mark tend.) My critique partner, mulit-published in various genes at the time, suggested that if I added a paranormal element to the story, it would sell, since paranormal was such a hot commodity. Of course, that required rewriting the entire manuscript, but I liked where that idea took the story and the potential it gave the concept as a series, so I did it.

I can’t remember how many agents I submitted Fever to; I had spent years submitting various manuscripts. But I can guestimate at least three dozen. Query to partial, partial to full, full to offer, I came straight from the slush pile and received offers from two fabulous agents. I chose Paige Wheeler of FolioLit and have been enormously pleased.

The actual sales call was far more convoluted. After all was said and done it boiled down to two houses. Both were very good and it was a difficult time, being my first time going through this. There were questions and debate and decisions and I’m ultimately happy with my choice—no second thoughts. The call itself wasn’t the simple, clean cut call I had envisioned, but in the end, that didn’t matter.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?

Joan: Nope, none, which of course makes me the psychotic one.

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?

Joan: Honestly, I don’t think my family quite knows what to make of it. I think the word “career” to them corresponds to making money, and it’s no secret that most debut authors don’t really make money if they reinvest in their career. At the moment, they see me working two jobs—my day job and my author job and giving up a lot of other things I used to enjoy to accomplish that.

But both my immediate family and my extended family have always known me as a creative, off on one endeavor or another, so this is not new to them. And they’ve always been supportive. My husband is my own personal expert, only as far as a phone call away for information. My daughters help with housework and cooking, allowing me extra time to devote to the business of writing. Even my parents help out by making parts of my handmade bookmarks on the weekend when I stay with them.

So while they may not fully understand why I do what I do, they are intrigued, supportive and always proud of my achievements.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?

Joan: Kinda, sorta, not really. How’s that for vague? It usually goes something like: Long breakfast at McDonald’s with my laptop for writing; home for mailing, email, social media check; errands; more writing. Afternoon’s are busy with my daughter’s activities, so I start up again in the early evening. But it’s never the same and I don’t write enough, that is for sure.

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

Joan: On a superficial level—Obsession. I’m actually drawn toward the process. I’m driven to work on one story or another proposal or some other promotional idea. It’s become such a huge part of my life, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write. On a deeper level—the characters. My characters are in turmoil, have suffered trauma. They’re searching for themselves, for their soul mate and peace. They need to heal and find happiness. I am compelled to seek that out for them and make sure they find it.

What keeps me going: people like you, running this blog. People like everyone reading it. All my friends on Twitter and Facebook and the blog who I look forward to checking in with on a daily basis to see how everyone’s doing. If I didn’t have all of you, I wouldn’t keep writing. You all keep me going.

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

Joan: I dream of writing romantic comedy…only, I discovered that if you have to read a book like, “How to Write Funny”, just say no. I would never say never, but at the moment I have a hard time seeing myself writing sci-fi or urban fantasy, they’re a little too hard-edged for me. Nor could I envision myself writing erotica. I could, however, see myself eventually writing bigger books in the area of thriller and mainstream suspense, both with romantic threads. But for now, I love, love, love my romantic suspense genre and adore throwing in those paranormal elements.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Joan: Lived it. Okay…not, like, really. But one of the hospitals I worked at gained a huge prisoner clientele over the year I worked there. I went from scanning two or three prisoners a week to scanning five to eight prisoners every single morning. I began feeling like I spent half my day working in a prison, surrounded by guards and inmates.

Other things started to shift as well. Security, for instance. Some days, guards were in short supply. Some days, guards brought the wrong prisoners. Some days, no chase car followed the vans. Some days, fully loaded busses came instead of vans. Each change presented its own security risk. As I spent more and more time around the guards and the inmates, I started to understand their routines, and quickly recognize how easily it could all go wrong. One tip off from someone at the hospital to a prisoner’s family member. One guard off his game that day. Many, many times I was left in dangerous situations that should have never been allowed to exist. I was lucky, nothing ever happened. But that didn’t keep me from thinking, “What if…?”

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?

Joan: Not yet. I mean, I haven’t found one that intrigues me more than another. They are all so intricate in their own way. They’re a lot like friends to me, where no one person is a better friend than another; they’re just friends in different ways. I work hard at making each character unique, with their very own issues stemming from their personality, their backgrounds, their previous choices or circumstances, so each is tormented or troubled or gifted in a very special way to me, and I relate to them each in a unique way. (And, wow, if anyone other than readers or writers were reading this, I’d be escorted to the nearest state facility for the mentally disturbed.)

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?

Joan: I have been inspired by many authors in different ways. Authors like Dean Koontz and Tami Hoag and Robert Crais have inspired to me perfect my craft, pushed me to take my prose to the next level, work at the art of suspense and tension. Authors like Suzanne Brockmann and Stephanie Tyler and Linda Howard have thrilled me with their ability to weave tense suspense with hot romance. I aspire to the world building splendor of authors like Elisabeth Naughton and Larissa Ione. And authors with a following in many genres such as Victoria Dahl and Sylvia Day inspire me to go for broke and push all my talents to the limit.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?

Joan: Since no one but my critique partner and my editor have read the final draft of FEVER, because I rewrote the second half after selling to Kensington, I can’t say I have many actual comments on my novels.

On my writing, the most interesting thing I’ve heard has come from my editor and my agent. My editor once said that the intensity of my writing reminded her of the television series 24. And more recently, my agent said that one of my strengths was my ability to put characters in such impossible situations that it compelled readers to read on.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Joan: I’m working on revamping the proposal for book three in the Phoenix Rising series. Book two, BLAZE, releases October 2012. If I hit this proposal just right, I’m hoping I’ll have another book out in this series in 2013.

I’ve also just completed a proposal for a new paranormal I’m pretty excited about. It ventures deeper into the genre, exploring witchcraft, demons and true evil. It’s complicated, dark, gritty and sexy. Very fun!

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Joan: Website:  Which will have a nice new look and feel will cool new fun info come January!

Twitter: @joanswan and @romancegiveaway
Facebook: JoanSwanAuthor
Blog: Where I interview other authors and have lots of giveaways!

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

Joan: What is the single most influential element in your decision to try a debut author? Or, as a reader, what would your best piece of advice be to a debut author?

Contest details:

  • First place prize is a copy of Fever, deliverable upon release, Feb 28, 2012 in either eBook or print.  Five (5) runners up will win a handmade bookmarks for Fever.
  • The contest is open to everyone over the age of 18.  International readers included.
  • You must leave a meaningful comment for entry.  This means your comment needs to be more than “please enter me in the contest”.
  • A valid email address needs to be included in your comment.  If you’re worried about spam, please modify your address, such as admin.bookblog AT gmail.com.  You can also send a message to this email after your comment has been posted.
  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Sunday, December 18.

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