Today we welcome JoAnn Ross to Romancing the Book. And many thanks to Aubrey who has provided us with this interview. Take it away ladies…
Aubrey: How is Shelter Bay close to your heart?
JoAnn: Shelter Bay is hugely close to my heart for many reasons. Not only did I love going to the coast while growing up in Oregon, when I was eighteen, my high school sweetheart, who was about to graduate from Oregon State (Go Beavers!), took me to where my Shelter Bay books are set, bought me a bag of salt water taffy, then proposed at the sea wall overlooking the pod of resident whales.
Decades later, the taffy store is still there. I told the owner a couple weeks ago that they’d better stay open forever because my marriage may depend on them. LOL We’ve been all over the world to some stunning and exotic places, but the Oregon coast will always be, to me, the most romantic place on earth. Which is why, when I decided to return to writing family-centric romance, it was the most natural place to set the series.
Aubrey: How many Shelter Bay novels do you anticipate there being?
JoAnne: As long as there are stories to tell, NAL wants to keep buying them, and readers keep reading them, I’ll keep writing. I’d originally planned five, but was asked for more this month, so now we’re up to seven including Moonshell Beach in July, Sea Glass Winter in January, 2013, Main Street Memories in July, 2013, then two untitled books in 2014.
Aubrey: Your novels always have a lot going on, how do you keep everything straight? Do you plot things out or go with the flow?
JoAnn: Oh, how I’d love to be able to plot! But I’m convinced that if we Irish were supposed to think in straight lines, the Celts wouldn’t have put all those pretty curves around the rigid lines of the cross when they converted. Since my characters are very real to me, I get to know them the way I gradually get to know about the lives of actual friends. For instance, I had no idea that Sax’s grandmother was going to develop dementia from a fall, so now I’m following along on her journey and hoping for the best for her.
Phoebe was originally planned to be a one book character in On Lavender Lane. But then suddenly Ethan showed up in the Haven House kitchen and wow (!!!) they had such a sweet connection their story has continued in Moonshell Beach and Sea Glass Winter. I’ve come to love them and if my mail is any indication, so do readers, who are rooting for the happily-ever-after ending they both so deserve.
Aubrey: Moonshell Beach is coming out July 3rd- what can you tell us about your latest edition to the series.
JoAnn: After his final duty as a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer, notifying family members of a fellow Marine’s death, J.T. Douchett isn’t settling back into life in Shelter Bay all that well. After his two older brothers stage an intervention (which includes throwing him in the bay to sober him up), he reluctantly agrees to help out his soon-to-be sister-in-law by acting as a bodyguard to keep Irish movie star Mary Joyce’s crazy fans at bay.
Mary (who was the tempestuous teenager in A Woman’s Heart, the first book in my Irish trilogy), has surprised everyone, including herself, by accepting an invitation to Shelter Bay’s first film festival, where her films will be featured.
Shelter Bay, which is the sister city to Castlelough, her own seaside home town, immediately charms her even as she’s surprised to encounter the stoic man who could be everything she’s dreamed of.
Having known so much sorrow, J.T. is wary of getting close to anyone. Especially a Hollywood movie star. As he struggles to keep her at arm’s length, Mary reminds herself that she’s never been attracted to the strong, silent type. But in Shelter Bay, even the most guarded heart is no match for love.
Aubrey: Was it a change for you to go from romantic suspense to contemporary?
JoAnn: Actually, moving to contemporary is returning to my roots. I began writing contemporary category romance in 1983 for NAL, Silhouette, and Harlequin. When I moved into longer single titles, my stories were big family-centric contemporaries. But then the market for those type of stories pretty much died, killed off by vampires, werewolves, and serial killers. So, since I’d written romantic suspense in some of my Temptations, and liked having a roof over my head and regular meals, I switched to single title suspense, which I enjoyed.
But after a while I became weary of having killers in my head, and when my husband’s two nephews started doing multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan — one flying Medevac in those same mountains where I’d had a helicopter crash in my High Risk series — the stories became uncomfortably too close to home. Also, I was looking for comfort stories to read and not finding many. So, I came up with the idea of a new series where my High Risk guys would be settling back home into civilian life. I flew to New York and met with my editor, agent, and publisher, who thankfully all loved the idea.
Aubrey: When you are not writing what are you doing?
JoAnn: I love to cook. My fantasy is having my own little restaurant where people would come and eat whatever I decided to feed them that night. Every weekend for nine months of the year, I’m shopping at our local Farmers’ Market and I grow as many organic vegetables as I can in my kitchen garden. Any meal anyone eats in a Shelter Bay book, I’ve actually tried out before putting it in the story. In fact, I’m planning a free Shelter Bay e-cookbook and my editor’s talking about putting some of the recipes in the back of upcoming books. Stay tuned.
I also used to be seriously into scrapbooking, which is simply telling stories with paper and photos, but the past several years I’ve been making blank inside greeting cards for deployed troops to send back home through Cards for Soldiers and Operation Write Home. I’m on the OWH blog circle, and since 2007 OWH has sent 1,640,468 hand-crafted cards to our heroes! Anyone interested in joining us can check out the website at http://operationwritehome.org.
My husband and I also enjoy hiking and try to escape to our beloved coast to relax and recharge at least once a month. In fact, we just returned from celebrating our wedding anniversary there.
Aubrey: Who are your auto-buys?
JoAnn: That’s a difficult question because I have so many friends in the business who write so many wonderful books. But one writer I pre-order as soon as her books go up on Amazon, is Virginia Kantra. I loved her Children of the Sea series, have read the first book in new her Dare Island series, and readers are just going to love it!