AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT Maggie Jaimeson
Author Maggie Jaimeson has taken some time to chat with us about her latest novel.
EXPENDABLE is available from The Wild Rose Press
Tell us a little about EXPENDABLE and what inspired you to write it.
Here is the blurb:
After a bitter fight, Jenna Mosier’s pregnant sister ran away. Now, ten years later, Tanya is dead—murdered. A bloody note clutched in her hand pleads for someone to rescue her baby—a child Jenna must find to make up for not saving her sister.
Former Marine Reed Adler thought he left danger behind when he retired from Special Ops command. But faced with a dead body and a terrified ten-year-old boy in his backyard—and a mesmerizing woman who’s tied to both—Reed finds himself pulled into his most complex mission yet.
It is a romantic suspense with a near future twist. Ensnared in a dangerous mystery involving biogenetics research and children with no identities, Jenna and Reed must rely on each other for survival. Yet the closer they get to danger, the more intense their feelings for each other become. The cost of saving her nephew may be their hearts…and their lives.
As with all of my books, the inspiration for the story is a mashup of something from my personal life with news events while I was writing that came together and mixed around in my head. The first event is a personal one. About 30 years ago, someone close to me found herself pregnant and not married or even in a committed relationship. Knowing I couldn’t have children and wanted them, she offered to carry the baby to term and give the baby to me for adoption. Unfortunately, just like my heroine, I was going through a divorce and hadn’t told anyone yet. I didn’t feel I could take on a child as a single parent because I really had no idea what was going to happen next in my life. That woman ended up having an abortion and, for a long time, I carried around some guilt about that. So, I imagined a similar situation but with my heroine’s sister and, of course, made the guilt even worse by the sister getting murdered.
The second part is the biogenetics research. When I started writing this novel, I was working at a university that had a medical school and a great cancer research center. At the time, stem cell research was in the news and very controversial. This particular university had a legal line of stem cells they were investigating as potential cancer treatments and so the media was always there interviewing people. So, I mashed the controversy of biogenetics research into a scientist-gone-wrong story to come up with my villain. The title EXPENDABLE refers to something in each of the main characters’ lives. The former Marine feels expendable because of his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heroine’s past with her sister’s murder made her sister an expendable liability for the villain. Finally, the heroine’s nephew is one of the children who becomes a part of the villain’s plan to test his research, making children expendable.
As you can see it is REALLY important that the hero and heroine save the day in this story. Because there is a lot to overcome.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
When I start writing I have only the idea and the themes I’m interested in exploring. From that I create a very basic sketch of the hero and heroine. For the first 70 pages or so I have no idea where I’m going, how I’m going to get to the end, and who my characters really are. Fortunately, I trust in my subconscious and my characters to tell me during this process. I use those first 70 pages to figure out who the characters are, what their goals are, and how they are going to fit (or not fit) together. This is both the most exciting and frustrating time. It’s exciting because getting to know my characters is like meeting a person for the first time and instantly knowing we are going to best friends. It’s frustrating because this process takes more than half of the allocated time for me to write a novel and it is the section that will have the most rewrites when I do edits. Once I get around page 70, I know where I’m going and how to get there and I know every secret of my characters. Then I plot out the rest of the book, chapter by chapter and start writing to the end. This second part only takes one quarter of the total time for me to write a novel. That leaves a quarter for edits. Most of those edits are in the first part making sure it’s tight and that it sets up all the action, twists and turns that happen later.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
My early writing success was in Science Fiction that both included a mystery and some social commentary. So, I’ve always had an affinity for science-related writing. However, my early romances were more contemporary or women’s fiction. Romantic Suspense provides me a way to do a little of both. I still write in two romance sub-genres though, Romantic Suspense and Romantic Women’s Fiction.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
My favorite character is always my most recent because he or she is foremost in my mind. The thing I love about my heroine, Jenna, in EXPENDABLE is that she is so determined to do right by her sister even though they were estranged. I also completely identify with her go-it-on-my-own attitude. I’ve never been good at asking for help from anyone, including my husband or best friends. So, I really understand why it’s so hard for Jenna to ask for or accept help as well.
Do you have a character that you look back on now and don’t like?
In one of my first novels, which will never sell, when I look back I don’t like the heroine of that book. She was much too dependent on others to save her and she whined a lot. Definitely not attractive character traits.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
As I said in the beginning, this story’s spark was based on an event in my real life. I think all of my heroine’s reflect some small part of me. The best part is that I get to correct whatever perceived wrongs I’ve done and make them heroic.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
The hardest part is sitting down regularly and putting sentences on the computer. Like most fiction writers, I am not a full time writer. I have a management type of job that tends to take up 50-60 hours per week. Consistently coming home from work, spending time with my husband, and then still making it to the computer to write is always a struggle.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
In my younger years I was an actress. I did summer stock at Sundance and had an actual speaking part in two movies. I must admit though, in one movie I had only four lines and the other one I had two. But having any lines at all doubled my daily wage. In the first movie one of the stars was Peter Graves (of the old Mission Impossible TV show). He was very gracious to me, even though I was a nobody. In the second movie I got to meet Eddie Albert who was lots of fun and a true gentleman.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I have several. But one of my favorites is to soak in a bubble bath with a selection of old Monkees tunes queued up on the iPod that I sing at the top of my voice.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Just my butt in the chair in front of the computer. I don’t have time to get stuck over any other must haves.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Music doesn’t influence my writing unless it is a major part of the plot. In my Sweetwater Canyon novels, the first two coming out in September and October, the novels are about an all women bluegrass band. While working on those I prepare by listening to the type of music my characters would be playing. However, once I sit down to write, there is no music. I’m an auditory learner, so if I have music on it distracts me from writing because I get caught up in the melodies. When I write I actually say the words aloud as I type and read them back when I’m editing.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Oh, isn’t that a fine dream all authors have? As my hero is just over 40 and my heroine in her late 30’s it means none of the popular twenty somethings would do. I could definitely see Bruce Willis playing Reed. He epitomizes the strong yet caring alpha male and he plays with a good sense of humor too. For Jenna, I’d have to go with Sandra Bullock. She’s great at playing strong, driven women and her looks are at once girl-next-door and sexy.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at a writer’s retreat in Colorado with six other romance writers and led by Margie Lawson. I remember I was working on the opening to a novel and we had taken a break, so we all jumped on our emails (cell phones were iffy up in the mountains so we all relied on email for contact) I saw the offer in the email and blinked a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I had been trying to sell for six years, and had written four previous novels to that one, so I was in such shock I could barely move. I don’t know how long it was until I spoke, very calmly to the group. I said, “Um, I have something to share. I just got my first offer to buy my book.” The group looked at me for a moment in stunned silence, then almost in unison they shouted “MAGGIE!!!!! Why aren’t you jumping up and down and screaming?” I think I was somehow afraid if I looked away from the computer that it wouldn’t be true.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Gosh, I’m not really sure. I think I was 11 or 12. I do remember it was by Victoria Holt who wrote gothic romantic suspense. It was in the bookcase in my parent’s room and it was called The Legend of the Seventh Virgin. Interestingly, the first play where I had the lead role was in High School with an adaptation of Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn. I think I knew then I was destined to write romantic suspense.
If you still have one of those pesky day jobs what is it?
I’ve been in Academia for going on 20 years now and always worked in Distance Education and Technology. At the moment I’m the Chief Technology Officer for a very large community college district. That means I get to help them decide what technology directions to take, what software and hardware to implement, and how to use technology for teaching and improving student learning. I suspect I won’t have the pleasure of writing full time until I retire. But that’s okay because I love helping colleges do better with technology.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
This is a banner year for publishing for me. In May my SF Romance with romantic elements, ETERNITY, came out. And in September and October, the first two books in my Sweetwater Canyon series will be out–Undertones, and Healing Notes. At the moment I’m working on final edits to a YA Urban Fantasy novel that’s been a part of my writing schedule for almost two years. I already have interest from three editors, so I’m hoping I’ll get a good deal of this one. Beyond that, I hope to return to my romantic suspense world because at the end of EXPENDABLE I’ve set it up for a potential series. I also have ideas for the final two novels in the Sweetwater Canyon series. But I haven’t started them yet.
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”.
Here’s my stock answer. I write about women and men’s lives. What choices they make, who they are, and what drives them to be heroic. One of the most important aspects of our lives is the intimate relationships we form with those closest to us. I believe the romantic relationship is most frequently the biggest driver in adult lives. When it doesn’t go well, nothing goes well and when it is rewarding we feel like we can do anything. Who wouldn’t want to write about that in all of its complexities, beauty and sexiness? I love reading it and I love writing it.
Where can readers find you?
I’m all over the web.
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Maggie-Jaimeson/118916694787820
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Actually, I’m one of those weird people who don’t love chocolate. If I never had any, I wouldn’t miss it. I know, it’s horrible for a romance writer to say that. In the dessert category, my downfall is cheesecake. For a guilty snack, I’d have to say the gourmet trail mix you can pickup in airports or quick-stop mini-marts. You know, the ones with raisins and nuts and sunflower seeds and m&ms. The same ones that tell you a 1oz serving will kill your diet and there are 8 or 9 servings in the bag? Yup, I have to eat the whole bag every time. It is sooooooooo not Weight Watcher’s points friendly.
Thanks so much for having me. These were fun questions and not ones I see very often.