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by Janelle Jalbert
- Woohoo! You are a published author. Describe a strong character trait you possess, good or bad, and how it helped you become a published author. For better or worse there are two traits that helped me become a published author, and both are essential to being successful. First of all, I tend to see the world with a different perspective. Part of that allows me to make connections between things that many people miss. That helps with creating stories, and I usually use it outside of my writing to make people laugh or see things in a new way.
Second, to put it nicely, I have a tenacious streak. I often blame it on my very name because I was once told that Janelle means “Gift from God, tenacious, God is gracious”. That doesn’t mean that I think I’m God’s gift or anything egotistical, but the tenacious part stuck. I’ve been known to be stubborn and driven though I’ve got the California, laid back, personality too. Once I set my sights on something, I charge ahead to make it happen…no matter how unlikely it seems. It’s led to wonderful opportunities as well as “growth experiences” when I’ve crashed and burned.
In writing, you have to be able to envision and communicate a story that grabs readers, and you have to have the stubbornness to see it through to the end. The end doesn’t just mean that the drafting is done. You’ve gotta stick through it in editing, and most importantly, getting it out into the world. There are always obstacles and naysayers along the way, but an author has to believe in their “book baby” like a protective mama bear by making it the best it can be, giving it every opportunity to succeed, and then being able to withstand the storms that may arise on its journey out in the world without losing the belief that it is a story worth sharing.
2. Sometimes an author begins writing a story before they are aware of its genre. Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you? In the case of my latest release, Triangulating Bliss, the story was the main driver, not the genre. That’s probably one reason that it can fit into a variety of genres and subgenres. That can be a blessing and a curse when getting the word out about it. There’s an added hitch in that Triangulating Bliss doesn’t quite have a dominant genre. The most popular option is Paranormal, but I cringe to think that it is lumped with the array of vampire and werewolf stories. I lean towards Supernatural instead because of that. In reality, Triangulating Bliss is Magical Realism, but that often makes people’s noses wrinkle. I don’t know why people have a problem with a genre that celebrates the magic in daily life. It seems more exciting to me than imaginary worlds of wizardry and such, but I’m probably biased.
I tend to read all sorts of pieces, so my writing follows suit with elements of a variety of genres. Triangulating Bliss has elements of mystery, romance, and a quest or coming-of-age story even though the characters are all adults. One thing that I’ve learned about this crazy thing that we call life is that the question “What am I going to do when I grow up?” is no longer limited to the young. We are constantly changing and so are our circumstances, so it is more common than not that someone in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s are challenged by the question “What’s next?”
- The plot thickens, or does it? Which one are you, a pantser or a plotter?Overall, I am a pantser, but I usually have an idea of the major scenes, even if I don’t know exactly how they will play out. Triangulating Bliss was a crazy and fun ride. I knew the basic set up. Greg, the main character, learns about the apparent suicide of a basketball player on the day he drops out of law school. The death is somehow blamed on disappearance from a local restaurant. Greg learns that several people have disappeared in addition to the athlete. I didn’t know the other characters, like Lois – the owner of Bliss – until they introduced themselves as drafting occurred. I had no idea that the love story would emerge or how it would all come together.
In fact, Triangulating Bliss was the first experience that I had where the story didn’t come out in linear fashion. Some character’s popped up and insisted on telling their stories while I was still working on other aspects. Greg’s full story didn’t even emerge until just a couple of months prior to the final edit/proofread, even after more than two dozen rounds of editing and nearly two years’ time. That’s also when I realized that there was more to the Bliss Triangle than Triangulating Bliss, and the Mystique of Living Series was born. Sometimes, the author (in this case, me) is simply blessed with a story to tell, and that may mean that you have to be willing to let it be told rather than acting like the director of all the action.
4. Fear 101: As writers it is our duty to make our characters face their fears. Have you ever included one of your own fears in a storyline? Ha. I think that each of the characters in Triangulating Bliss somehow exhibited some of my fears, either big or small. Greg was probably the closest to me at the time, which is probably why it took two years for him to finally lay out his entire story. It hit too close to home at the time. I began Triangulating Bliss, months after I left my doctoral studies. His conundrum mirrors mine: the fear of doing what you have been doing because it’s expected versus striking out on a new path that is an authentic representation of what you should be doing. Many of the doubts Greg has throughout the novel mirrored my own as I took the leap to follow (whole-heartedly) the passion I recognized at age 10. In some ways, characters allow you to do a bit of therapy, I suppose. Their quirks and challenges, seen in hindsight through editing, can be an eye-opener for many of the things you may not openly realize are playing out in your own life.
5. Fear 102: Yes, deadlines are terrifying. Have you conquered the juggling act between writing and the rest of your life? What do you do when it feels like the balls are dropping all around you? I am one of those that becomes obsessed when a story surfaces. Triangulating Bliss was written in a matter of weeks. I should clarify. The initial draft was done in a matter of weeks, but it took two years to get it out into the world. The first drafting phase was interesting because when the idea hit me, I heard a little voice in my head that said “You have 30 days”. It seemed melodramatic, and I wanted to laugh it off. Still, I was hooked on the premise of walking through the door to a better life, and I like a challenge. I rolled my eyes in my empty living room and murmured “Why not?” I sat down and began writing immediately and knocked out about 85% by day 30 arrived.
Then, I learned what the Universe met by the ‘you have 30 days’ mandate. I had stalled for a few days because the story took a turn that was hard for me to write because I fell in love with the character of Lois. That day – October 30, 2013 – my dad went to the hospital. Three days later, he had brain surgery to remove one of two tumors, and I found out that he had advanced cancers throughout his body. Talk about a fast ball to the side of the head!
I did finish it in the weeks that he was home once again. He didn’t get to read it though, and Triangulating Bliss went on the backburner as I had to focus on other life matters. Months later, I was awarded a book contract for Wine for Beginners with a 90-day deadline for the initial draft. I was balancing copywriting, ghostwriting, some fiction magazine writing, as well as that book too. It fell into place, though I did have to ask for a two week extension. On the morning, I submitted the wine book to the publisher, my sister was ill. Instead of the big celebration weekend that was planned, I was saying goodbye to her as well that evening. It was a crushing blow, but after initial shock and dealing with her final needs, I realized that writing was the way that my heart and soul mended. That’s what I remember every time things seem to get out of control. I am allowed to and even need to make sure that I do at least a little bit of writing to keep sane. Instead of viewing it as a chore, I view it as a gift.
6. Switch positions with one of your main characters in a scene. What is the outcome, disaster or divine intervention? Actually, I am kind of already in the middle of changing places with a couple of the characters from Triangulating Bliss. I wanted to know more about Phil’s story and how he became the “guardian” of the Bliss Triangle. That’s how Triangulating Bliss went from a single, stand-alone story to the Mystique of Living Series. Triangulating Self is Phil’s story. I am learning that he has an amazing life story as well as a divine mission which is reflected in Triangulating Bliss. It’s been exciting to see it all unfold and can’t wait for it to be released next summer. It makes Triangulating Bliss a fuller story, even if Triangulating Self isn’t the tradition sequel. I tend to think of it as a tandem because it goes into the past as well as covering the events of the Bliss Triangle as they occur.
Also, even as I am working on Phil’s, Triangulating Self, Mikel’s story, Triangulating Wisdom, is taking shape. While Phil is the man behind the door, Mikel is the reason that Greg investigates Bliss in the first place. Mikel’s death and the circumstances leading up to it, screamed for another story or perspective. I’m finding out that the adage “Everything happens for a reason” may in fact be true.
7. Where is your favorite place to write? Add that one comfort food that you can’t do without. Most of the time my writing happens from my couch. I do have a desk in my office, but somehow things flow better from the couch. The more business oriented writing works well from either the desk or the couch, but the creative element appears to be a couch potato. It can make things challenging at the end of the day when it’s time to wind down. Some days it seems that I can’t escape that blasted couch, but thanks to living in Southern California, I make it a point to get out to the beach or up in the mountains when I can for a break.
There are other ways I get a chance to recharge from pounding on the keyboard. My pups are a constant reminder to take a break when I’m getting too focused and losing myself in my writing. If they aren’t nuzzling up and begging for attention, they start barking to let me know that it’s time to go for a ride. Of course, they fully support my cooking therapy. I think the grill is their favorite element of the backyard, but they are willing to condone my non-grilled guilty pleasures when my weakness for chili cheese fries or a glass (or two) of wine surfaces.
- Writing inspirations? I get inspired by anything and everything, but I like to focus on the magic of everyday life. I love seeing serendipity, synchronicity, coincidence, and such at play throughout the day. I keep notebooks with me and am constantly jotting down ideas and observations. Many of those seemingly random thoughts became the impetus for stories in my Flash 40: Life’s Moments, so I don’t discount anything that comes my way.
When I was younger and wanted to be a writer, I thought that I’d have to live to have something to write about. I didn’t learn of one of my favorite writing quotes from Thoreau until a few years ago: “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live”. I guess I embodied the concept without knowing it. In some situations it was a case of be careful what you wish for. I have had amazing experiences, and I’ve had heartbreaking moments as well. I wouldn’t change a thing, and yes, it does help me with my writing.
- You are introduced to your favorite author. Who is it, and what is that one burning question you must ask them? Ugh, I really don’t have a favorite author. I have favorite books, and authors that are on my short list to read or consider. It’s probably because I read just about everything. It’s hard to compare a book on marketing to a good H.E.A. romance. Plus, I have a wide range of interests (and I do mean wide), so even though writing is my “it” as a purpose, I am interested in learning from people from all walks of life.
I joke that if I could have my “perfect dinner party” with people (living or dead) to spend an evening with I would include Tony Stewart (I have racing in my background), Anthony Bourdain (I must have a thing for Tony’s), Kelly Slater, Ansel Adams, Amelia Earhart, Queen Elizabeth (the first one), John Muir, Tim McGraw (He could bring his wife Faith Hill), Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, the Hepburns (both Katherine and Audrey) and probably Oprah. Like I said, there’s a serious mash-up in my world. What can I say? I really don’t have a burning question either. I’d just love to let the conversation go and enjoy the experience.
10. I’ve gone mad – why don’t you come with me? Some people just don’t understand us writers. Name a quirky, writer-thing you do that friends wish you didn’t. The good (or more benign quirk) is first. I collect random facts…The more random, the better too. I may not write them down, but I store them away. I love to come across something that seems completely irrelevant and see when the nugget of information becomes useful. Like I said before, I love to see the serendipity and synchronicity in life and that’s one of the ways that I do it. For example, I watched a TV show on how the oceans came to be. In it they talked about comets and the differences in the water that they hold. It’s completely outside my wheelhouse to say the least. Days later, talk about “heavy water” came up twice – once with a bunch of engineer types at a happy hour and another time with some surfers in line at Starbucks. Sometimes those close to me get annoyed because I can appear to have a comment about everything.
The truly annoying quirk is that when I am hip deep in drafting stories, I am the subject of a crazy, almost OCD focus to write. I literally pound away for hours on end, completely contented. That means my family, friends, and pups get extremely ticked when I forget to do things like eat or anything else. Since I’m the main cook and cleaner around the house, it can lead to major blowups when they realize that the thought of cooking or cleaning hasn’t even been a blip on my radar as their stomachs growl or stuff starts to pile up while I am lost in my writing.
by Janelle Jalbert
A struggling veteran reads about the mysterious death of a local athlete and wants to learn more. He meets the owner of the business linked to the crime and discovers others have “disappeared”.
All stories include a man with dark hair, blue eyes, and a strong jaw.
Then, it’s his turn.
The mysterious forces at Bliss change everything. What brought them all to Bliss is not as it appears and their lives are powerfully interconnected across space and time.
Greg’s hand shook. It wasn’t enough for the woman behind the counter to notice though. It wasn’t from his morning caffeine rush. He’d skipped his morning pick-me-up in favor of completing the mission in short order. It was too many months overdue.
The pen slipped from his hand, more from the sheen of perspiration than the shaking. Get it together man! He shouted within the confines of his mind. You’re a soldier…were a soldier. Man up! You want to do this. The decision’s been made. Sign it. He grabbed the pen once again, and let it flow automatically across the paper.
The woman took the form, and her nails began clicking away on the keyboard. Her eyes darted between the form and the computer screen. Seconds, maybe minutes, passed. Greg wasn’t sure. There were no clocks to tick off the time, just the woman’s ping-ponging eyes. Greg felt the weight shifting, finally, and continued to wait. Complete relief, however, remained elusive. I took the plunge…took action…that’s what matters. He reassured himself. It’ll just take some time.
“Here you go,” the woman gave a tight, polite smile. “It’s official. If you need transcripts, it will take 7-10 days for your records to be updated.”
“Thanks,” Greg took the paperwork and turned towards the door. It was deceptively simple. Law school was officially part of the past, yet the weight of expectations remained.
Author Bio and Links:
Janelle Jalbert has ghostwritten 15 nonfiction books on topics ranging from productivity, money management, marketing, cooking, and relationships. She also worked as a copywriter for some of the biggest online names and worked as a motorsports reporter covering NASCAR. Jalbert enjoys bringing stories to life that celebrate the magic in everyday living. To learn more about her current and upcoming releases and promotions visit www.janellejalbert.com. Jalbert currently lives in Southern California, though she regularly returns to her second home in North Carolina when her pack of pups grants her a vacation.
Those readers who purchase the book by 9/30 will receive be able to buy Triangulating Bliss for $0.99 (which will be the lowest price offered…ever), and they can receive the ebook Companion Guide to Triangulating Bliss for free by clicking on the presale promotion link. Starting 10/1 the Companion Guide will be available for $1.99 ebook and $6.99 paperback.
The “Bliss Challenge” is an effort to take the spirit of the novel’s beloved character, Lois, and help make wishes come true. Ten percent of the proceeds from Triangulating Bliss and 100% of the proceeds from the novel’s companion guide, The Backdoor to Bliss, will be given to a Make-A-Wish program voted on by readers. Selections are based on reader votes for their favorite characters: Los Angeles for Greg, Henri, and Mikel; Chicago for Lois; Charlotte for Jen; and New York for Richard. The goal is to grant at least one wish for a child in the winning city based on funds raised from the novel and guide. Voting and challenge updates can be found at www.TriangulatingBliss.com/BlissChallenge
Author Website: http://www.janellejalbert.com
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/Janelle_Jalbert
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Janelle-Jalbert/e/B00Q5MD7AW
BN Author Page: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/janelle-jalbert
Author’s Extras!: http://synchron8publishing.com/triangulating-bliss-launch
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