An Interview by whohub.com

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?

My first true reading experience that inspired a love of reading began with my reading of Heidi. The story gave me a love of place–the mountains–and an appreciation for the masterful way an author develops and captures character on the written page. It showed me a vicarious way to enjoy people, their cultures and way of life, their problems and how they dealt with them. Reading Heidi marked the beginning of my becoming a lifetime reader and would later be remembered when I took pencil in hand to write my first simple stories in youth.

Like most young girls during my youth, my first writing experience began with diary writing. I kept a diary and wrote daily in it. It was my private world of thoughts–or at least I thought so until I discovered my siblings invading my privacy and reading everything I wrote. I was so upset, I destroyed my diary and not long after that I began writing simple childish stories about things that I knew.

When my mother bought me a typewriter for my sixteenth birthday, I felt a sense of magic when I touched my fingers to the keys. Words filled my mind, craving expression, and from that moment on I had a hunger for creation through writing.

Until high school, most of what I wrote was for my own personal satisfaction until I won first place in a writing contest, I Speak for Democracy. Then I served on the school newspaper as Assistant Editor and delved in some article writing. Prior to college I was making my first attempts at novel writing, which I knew absolutely nothing about. I would start stories, throw them away and start new stories. I finally finished one novel, which I still have the manuscript stored in my files. I even sent it to a publisher and received my first rejection slip—with good reason. The book needed revisions and editing that at the time, I wasn’t trained to do. However, from that time forward, I nursed the desire to become a published author.

After finishing college and teaching for twenty-six years, I finally had time to dedicate to serious writing, but first, I knew I needed to learn more about what I wanted to attempt. I joined a writer’s book club and started studying the specifics about novel writing. Eventually, I felt like I had the tools I needed to write my first novel, so having made the transition from typewriter to computer, I sat down and started writing my first published novel, Wall of Color, (which has been republished as an e-book and renamed Affair of the Heart) followed by fourteen others, creating an addiction to writing that has been one of the most satisfying pursuits I’ve ever attempted.

What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?

To view my published book titles, read synopses, excerpts and reviews, go to these web sites:

http://www.jeanettecooper.net

To read my poetry, go to:
http://www.authorsden.com/jeanettecooper

To discuss my books or writing in general, please contact me at:
wallofcolor(@)windstream.net

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?

The creative process of writing first and foremost requires a vivid imagination. Children develop such an imagination early in life, which is a processing tool, and it grows when wonderful children’s stories are read to them.

Thus, as a child, I learned the art of day-dreaming, building castles in “the air”, and exercising my imagination. It took up a great deal of empty voids and was an excellent deterrent to boredom, as well as putting me to sleep at night; therefore, before starting a new novel I start with an idea that always revolves around more than one character.

The idea can be one I’ve thought of while reading a book, one that is sparked while I’m writing a book, or one that is inspired by an actual event, such as the manuscript I’ve just finished. Then my imagination takes over—usually while I cook, clean, do gardening, or other chores and pastimes and a plot begins to form. Once I have a plot, characters, setting, and a beginning, (which sometimes gets changed) the characters come alive through their hopes, dreams, relationships, problems, etc. and the book actually seems to write itself through my fingers clicking on the keyboard keys.

I never worry much about specifics such as spelling, grammar, etc. during the first draft. I simply let the thoughts pour out at will. When that is done, the real work begins: rewriting, which is followed by numerous rewrites and much, much, editing. Because it is so important to keep facts straight, I actually went through seven edits on the book I’ve just finished. It requires a great deal of dedication to what you’re doing and perseverance to the task. But once finished, there is nothing more exciting or satisfying than holding my published book in my hands.

What type of reading inspires you to write?

Romance used to be my choice for reading and my inspiration for writing; however, I sometimes get bored by too much romance and not enough action, so my interest has changed to mystery and romantic suspense combined.

One of my favorite authors on writing is the late Dwight V. Swain who wrote: Creating Characters: How to Build Story People. His book begins with, “The core of character, experience tells me, lies in each individual story person’s ability to care about something; to feel, implicitly or explicitly, that something is important.” He further discusses the need for conflict in a novel, which keeps the reader reading for resolution. Mystery/suspense offers just such a story that romance, crime and a great deal of conflict can be interwoven into it. In brief, I write the kind of books I like to read, and by the same token I read the kind of books I like to write; mystery/suspense.

What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?

The basic ingredients of a story are:
1. A strong plot with interesting sub-plots
…………a. A protagonist with a specific goal or concern
…………b. An antagonist who presents obstacles to the protagonist’s goals.
…………c. A beginning that sets the plot and grabs the reader

2. Setting
…………a.Time
…………b. place
…………c. social climate and mood established in first chapter
3. Interesting characters with strong characteristics
…………a. Introduce characters as soon as practical in the story (main character/s in first chapter).
…………b. Give each a tag or label that makes them easily recognizable by readers
example: a special smile, a stutter, shy, aggressive, etc.
…………c. Introduce the problem or what will cause the problem.
…………d. Set the mood with the type of story you’re telling: romance, mystery, suspense, etc.
…………e. Hint at various things to come without giving away too much.
…………f. Hint at some possibilities of solution in beginning of story, but be careful not to give away resolution or make it too easy to guess resolution.
4. Make the story believable.
…………a. Do research if needed for inclusion of facts relating to specifics
…………b. Make characters true-to-life—but exaggerate their character traits.

What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?

I use third person voice for all my writings, but I admit I’ve always wanted to write a story in first person. Maybe someday…

What well known writers do you admire most?

I am an avid reader who reads a book and immediately starts another so I am never without something to read. There are many authors whom I like and enjoy reading but my favorites whose books I sometimes enjoy reading more than once are:

Irving Stone, Laurie McBain, Kathleen Woodiwis, Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown, Phillip Margolin, Frank Yerby, Sidney Sheldon, Judith, McNaught, Belva Plain, Richard North Patterson

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Since I base much of my character development on suggestions I’ve gained from the late Dwight V. Swain’s book, I’ll simply refer interested readers to it:

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People

I reccommend this book to any aspiring author who wants to write novels.

Are you equally good at telling stories orally?

I have never been good at telling stories orally, although as a teacher I could hardly escape telling or reading stories to my children. The fact that I’m not inclined to oral story telling is perhaps one reason why I so enjoy writing.

Deep down inside, who do you write for?

This is the easiest question of all to answer. I write for me.

Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?

I definitely think writing can be therapeutic and is often suggested by those in the field of psychology to their patients. Writing is also therapeutic to me, but probably in a different sense than those suffering from emotional problems. For me, writing is an activity–much like a hobby–which fills up empty time, and gives me a sense of productively creating something. Further, it indirectly allows me to revisit my emotions through assigning feelings to my characters. However, some of my characters are so far different from me that I have to look to other sources for characteristics to attribute to them.

Insofar as internal conflicts being a creative force, they contribute to the storehouse of material that is available for my use in writing, but when I am troubled about something, I am more prone to writing poetry with strong mood than writing on one of my books.

Does reader feed-back help you?

I think good reader feed-back can be helpful to any writer, so long as it is done on a positive scale. Even negative feedback can be presented in a positive, constructive manner. Feed back from a professional reviewer is definitely good, but I would suggest to any writer to be very selective in whom you choose to read your manuscript. Readers who know little or nothing about writing, other than what they like or dislike, can be very brutal at presenting their thoughts about your book.

There are many things that play into a reader’s interpretation and processing of what they read such as: genre likes and dislikes, morals, religious beliefs, emotional disposition, livelihood, environment, and the list goes on. The first time I ever asked someone to read a manuscript I wrote, they read the first three pages and was offended by the graphic descriptions. By the same token, other readers highly praised the book and the handling of the struggles of a rape victim trying to overcome a devastating ordeal. (When Justice is Served)

Thus, I have become very selective about whom I choose to read a manuscript in progress. I want someone who can read with enough objectivity that they can give me clear and concise suggestions on how I can best improve it.

Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?

I never share rough drafts. The best critique or review from readers comes from the finished prduct.

Do you believe you have already found “your voice” or is that something one is always searching for?

I love romance, mystery and supense, whch can be found in combination in my books. I’ve always thought that a novel without some suspense is too much like reading a textbook. Therefore, since I write the kind of book I like to read then I can say, “yes,I have found my voice.”

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

I write everyday to keep the creative juices flowing–usually in the morning.

What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?

My work area is called my computer room–although it is my office as well, with a desk where I handle my correspondence—and pay bills. I have a doublewide window where the light shines in, a large computer desk that holds all my computer “stuff”, a bookcase with favorite books, a stereo system and a CD cabinet with about 230 music CDs. (I love to listen to music while I work.) On the walls are three framed watercolor paintings I did myself.

Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?

I do all my work on my computer until I’m ready to start my final editing. Then I print a hard copy to work with. I might add that I do up to six or even eight rewrites/edits before I work from a hard copy.

What are you working on now?  (at the time of this interview)

In 2007 a friend of mine was murdered by her son. I was so devastated by the terrible tragedy that I couldn’t get my friend’s face from my mind. Not a day passed but what I didn’t think of her. I needed someone to talk to about my pain and grief, but since there was no one I started writing about it. Thus, my next book is a fictionalized novel, Under Suspicion, inspired by the tragic death of my friend.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?

On one of those days when you think you have nothing to write about, pull one of your manuscripts from its box–or crank it up in your computer from the CD disk–and start reading it. You might find yourself inspired to start reworking it.

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Jeanette Cooper Bio

 


Live Oak author, Jeanette Cooper,   grew up in Florida. Her work as a volunteer on the Frank Laubach Reading Program, “Each One Teach One”, motivated her to become an elementary school teacher. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and her Master of Education Degree at the University of Central Florida.

Jeanette began her writing career following retirement after teaching in elementary school for twenty-six years. Her first published book, Affair of the Heart, was inspired by a young biracial girl in her fifth grade class who hungered for acceptance in a society where her biracialism suspended her between two races and left her feeling an absence of connectivity to either race. Then the following books just seemed to flow from Jeanette’s fingertips through her keyboard and she was on her way to becoming a prolific novel writer.

She has written and published fourteen books: Affair of the Heart, Conquered with Love, When Justice is Served, Desperate Choices, Impending Danger, Violent Visions of Murder, Dark Depths of Love, Under Suspicion, Someone Wants Her Dead, Stripped of Dignity, Passionate Promise: A Story of Love & Revenge, A Killer Amongst Us, Vulnerable to Deceptive Love, Seductive Betrayal, Nature & Life: A Poetic Journey, and is busy working on her next novel.

Jeanette writes about drama and human conflict. Her books are about the lives of people, their hopes, dreams, passions, love stories and romance. Her books are about survival, about overcoming life problems common to folk everywhere, and about picking up the puzzle pieces of life and putting them back together in satisfying resolutions. There is something for every reader!

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