AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: JANE ATCHLEY
What is your most current work out?
Tell us a little about Unbound Heart, what inspired you to write it?
Unbound Heart tells the story of Aimery and Faelan, two people on the opposite sides in a war who each wants recognition for what they do rather than what they are.
Actor, filmmaker, singer, songwriter, photojournalist, humanitarian, Jared Leto inspired Unbound Heart. If you know who he is, you know there is one other thing that goes on this list: stunningly beautiful. Since I am old enough to be his mother, I’ve watched his career over many years, and I’ve noticed a trend. In interviews, reporters never mention anything about his work with Habitat for Humanity or his latest relief trip to Haiti. But whether male or female, without exception, they say he is beautiful or some variant thereof. As though this were the, be all, and end all of the man. I thought, “Wow, how frustrating is that?” I wanted to explore the idea of judgments based on a single aspect of a person, be it their sex or appearance.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
My stories are character driven. I’m pretty much a panster. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a starting point and a destination in mind, maybe even a couple of turning points I want to hit, but it’s up to the characters how I get there. Imagine driving to Disneyland with a car full of people. You never know how many roadside attractions they are going to want to stop and see along the way.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
You have to remember, romantic fiction enjoys the largest market share of any genre in the US. It also publishes more books. While I’m a panster in fiction, in real life I’m more a plan your work and work your plan sort of gal. At the risk of sounding profoundly mercenary, romance looked like a logical place to start if my goal was to see my stories out there entertaining readers. Romance itself morphed over the years. The genre blending that we see today makes it possible for me to write fantasy (my first love) under the paranormal umbrella, and that works for me.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Oh yes, Kree Fawr! He is hands-down, the most real and at the same time, most over-the-top character I have ever created. He first appeared as a sixteen-year-old secondary character in the first manuscript I wrote for my Garrison Hearts series. He stole the story. Sadly, the Michelangelo computer virus ate Wilder Heart. It never saw publication. But Kree never stopped whispering in my ear. Eighteen years and a lot of life later I went back to his world. Now thirty-four, captain of his garrison, widowed, and disillusioned, Warring Heart, sets him at odds with his fiercest opponent; a determined young woman in love. It’s hard to let go of Kree. He makes a several brief appearances in Unbound Heart and still Beta-readers said, “I loved Captain Fawr.”
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
That’s an easy one, Aimery Duncan. Unbound Heart tells the story of the garrison’s second-in-command. I had a very clear vision of Duncan. I saw him as a stunningly beautiful young man pushing the line between genius and autistic-savant. This combination would isolate him, make him seem unapproachable, and leave him vulnerable and hungry for unconditional love. On top of this, he harbors a secret he feels will cost him his career should it come out. I showed these differences through Duncan’s speech and mannerisms. (Think Hugh Jackman in Kate and Leopold.) I also drop subtle hints at his secret. I wanted readers to say, “I should have seen this coming.” instead of “WTF!” (A task made much harder once my publisher changed the title.) Early in the process, contest judges found Duncan cold and stilted. I had a rough time finding the right balance, but judging from the reviews in so far, I believe you’ll like the result.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Yes I do. The loveable scatter-brained heroine in Warring Heart gets her personality directly from my dear friend who actually spent her half of our rent on a parrot! A lot of Duncan comes from a doctor I dated in the 70’s, a bona fide genius who spoke seven languages and graduated from his first college at seventeen. Even then, I could see how his intellect kept him from being one of the guys. He was completely out of touch with of other peoples’ feelings. I remember one night in particular when he indignantly told me a nurse had called him arrogant. I said, “Well, honey, you are arrogant.” He face fell, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He whined. I just laughed and said, “I thought you knew.”
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Finding time and space to do it is by far the hardest part. I wish I were one of those lucky writers whose family takes their writing seriously. Maybe I just haven’t made enough money yet. Bottom line, writing is a solitary endeavor. Family and friends usually just don’t get it.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I went to Bible College.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Something I indulge myself with that I know isn’t good for me or that I can’t afford? Absolutely! It is my 31-year-old Porsche 911. I am crazy for old, air-cooled, rear engine German cars. Give me a VW Beetle, Karmann Ghia, or Porsche and I am in heaven. It makes me happy just seeing them on the road. If I had the money and a big enough garage, I’d own a gazillion of them.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
It’s not so much a thing I need as a time. I write best in the morning. If I am not at my desk by or before ten, it’s probably not happening. Sometimes I’ll think, I’ll just do this, and then I’ll write. Next thing I know it’s four in the afternoon and the day got away from me. I also need to be alone. Nothing pulls me out of the zone faster than someone coming into the room to ask me “just this one thing.”
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Yes, music sets mood. I wrote Warring Heart to delta blues wailing on Live365. I didn’t know about Pandora then. For Unbound Heart it comes down to two CDs, This Is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars and The Resistance by Muse, with a pinch of Linkin Park thrown in for added angst as needed.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Easy, easy question. There is only one real choice for Duncan, Jared Leto, although Jared may be a bit long in the tooth to play a man of twenty-five. Zac Efron or Ian Somerhalder would do. For Faelan, I always envision Eva Green as she appeared in Kingdom of Heaven.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at work when I got an email with the contact attached. I just shouted it out! Then I called the two girlfriends who helped invent the world of Warring Heart on that drunken night so very long ago.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Sweet Savage Love is the first one I remember. That puts me about twenty-three. I read mostly fantasy and horror growing up.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Lynsay Sands. While I enjoy all her books, I love me some Argeneaus.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I work four days a week as a bookkeeper for a high-end residential design firm in Dallas. If you have to work, why not do it with creative people surrounded by beautiful things.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Being a slow writer, I’m trying my hand at two works in progress at the same time. The theory is if I’m stuck on one, I can work on the other. Naturally, I’m writing book three in the Garrison Heart series. It is the elf twins’ story. But I’m really excited about the other story. Set in 1915 Charleston, South Carolina, it is radically different from my other works. It has murder, intrigue, a psychic stage performer, and a shape-shifter all played out in the months before the US enters WWI.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Ooh…that’s a hard one. It changes all the time. Today, I’d say, Kevin Hearne, in a heartbeat. His Iron Druid Chronicles series is so fresh and smart, and I have an idea for an urban fantasy series so Kevin makes the prefect co-author. Of course, my guys will get more action between the sheets than does his Atticus O’Sullivan.
How do you pick your characters names?
I troll old cemeteries reading headstones. It may sound odd, but you’d be surprised what you’ll come away with. Folks used to have some pretty cool names. I found Kree Fawr there.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Lust at first sight definitely happens, and I use it. It is fertile ground for steady growth. Sometimes, you do meet someone and just know, but I think this is the exception, and that it mostly happens to men.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I didn’t write it for you. No, I just think that, I say, romance commands the marketplace. Even Louis L’Amour wrote romances. At the end of the day, I don’t care what people say. The very first thing a writer needs is a thick skin, but it did sting a bit when my own mother said she couldn’t recommend Warring Heart because it had the “F” word in it. Come on mom, they are soldiers!
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
White chocolate mmmmm…so decadent.