with Jeannine Van Eperen
Conducted by Denise Fleischer
Denise: What inspired you to become a writer?
Jeannine: Actually, my sister, or I guess you could say, sibling rivalry. My sister is almost ten years older than I, and she was and is very intelligent. In school her writing was always praised and, of course, I always heard about it. One day when I was in eighth grade, I decided I was going to try to do something as good if not better, so I wrote an essay depicting my feelings about the Grand Canyon Suite. This wasn’t for school, just for myself. Well, it turned out well, and then I began writing short stories and was encouraged by my English teachers in high school and college. However, I never dreamed about actually being a writer then.
Denise: You have currently written: “Hearts In 3/4 Time,” “The French Physician,” “Albuquerque” and a short story for the Sixteen Pieces of Gold anthology. Do you write one particular genre or shift to others for variety? What was the most difficult novel to write because of research or subject matter?
Jeannine: I enjoy writing in various genre, and I usually just write what I feel like writing. I wrote a shape-shifter (still unpublished) and I didn’t even know that was a genre. I told my friends at WisRWA in Green Bay about it, and someone said it was a shape-shifter. I just thought it was weird. I love English history and most of my college credits are history, and I think it is strange that I haven’t written more of that. I guess I just think I can’t top Lorah Lofts or Anya Seton so why bother; however, I have started another historical, set in England so maybe someday I’ll finish it.
The book of my heart, yet unpublished, DAUGHTER OF SPAIN, takes place in the early 17 th century, in Spain and in the New World. I did a lot of research on this story, which was pleasurable, but that made the book more difficult because I wanted the history correct. New Mexico is my adopted state and I’ve lived here for most of my life so the setting was easy, but I wanted to learn more about the homes and building and so forth to add authenticity to the work. I’ve turned down one publisher on it. I think it is too good to just sell to anyone, but perhaps, Port Town will do it. I don’t really think of any writing as difficult because I take such joy in writing, even re-writing and editing.
Denise: Tell us about your first publishing experience? What was it like to not only write a novel but market it as well?
Jeannine: My first published novel THE FRENCH PHYSICIAN was published by a small publisher in Albuquerque. Shortly after ALBUQUERQUE was published by the same publisher Alpha Ltd., so actually both were marketed at about the same time. With ALBUQUERQUE, the marketing was relatively easy, as the background of the book is banking and I had worked in Albuquerque banks for years, so I sent out a mailing to every banker I could. My mailings paid off. I also was interviewed by radio station KOB by a popular talk show host. I think he interviewed primarily because the book was about and named ALBUQUERQUE. Naturally, I put in a few words about THE FRENCH PHYSICIAN, and sent out information about that book along with ALBUQUERQUE. I went around to bookstores with my books, told the bookstore buyers about the books and asked them to carry it. Most did. Copies of ALBUQUERQUE, published in 1981, are still included in special collection sections of The University of New Mexico, University of Arizona and Albuquerque Public Library. I participated in some book signings with both books.
Denise: How did you learn about Port Town Publishing?
Jeannine: While I lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, I received a mailing from Port Town about the publication of a fellow writer I knew In Albuquerque. Another writer-friend of mine in Wisconsin urged me to send in HEARTS IN ¾ TIME. Jean Barrett had read my manuscript and loved it. Barrett, best-selling author of Archers’ Crossing and Cowboy P.I., could not understand why the big publishers hadn’t picked it up. HEARTS IN ¾ TIME had been sold to another small publisher who turned out to be rather flaky. I finally got my rights back, and at Barrett’s behest sent it to Port Town. I’m happy to say, I’m glad I did.
Denise: Who is Jerome Tyrakowski and what is missing from his life? Tell us a little about the characters, setting and the plot. We’ll buy HEARTS IN ¾ TIME to learn more.
Jeannine: Jerome Tyrakowski is a former child prodigy and at age 26 has been the conductor of the Metropolitan Symphony in Chicago for two years. He thinks he has everything he needs to be happy, except a wife, and he has decided that his wife must be a stay-at-home, a woman who devotes herself exclusively to him and their children. He realizes his thinking is old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants; then he meets Samantha Jones. The woman he falls for plans to manage a hotel. Her dreams are of a career, not being a housewife. When Jerome meets Samantha, he withholds his true identity. He had only minutes before their meeting given her the riot act over the telephone, and he knows she would never consent to have dinner with that person.
Samantha is taken with the handsome go-fer of the famed conductor. She is in her last semester of college and looks forward to a career in hotel management. The man she will someday marry must want to rise high in his profession. She encourages the man she knows as Jody to become a CPA as he seems to have an aptitude for math. She likes him but thinks he should have more ambition.
Jerome’s biggest problems when he decides he loves Samantha are: how to explain his subterfuge without incurring her wrath and to change his expectations and accept a career woman as a wife. To make things worse, if there is anything Samantha can’t abide it is a liar.
To complicate matters, a beautiful violinist in the orchestra, Evelyn, thinks Jerome is perfect for her and is determined to undermine the budding romance of Jerome and Samantha.
I set the story in Chicago because I love the Windy City. I graduated from high school there, my ancestors lived there, and it is one of my favorite places to visit.
Denise: In The French Physician we follow sexy Dr. Charles Charbot through France in his search for Matilda, his fiancée. Eighteenth century England is the setting. What has caused the separation between the two lovers? Did you find it difficult writing about this time period?
Jeannine: THE FRENCH PHYSICIAN is a bedroom farce, and I really had fun writing it. The hero Charles Charbot is not the most intelligent of men but he is handsome and charismatic. His father had arranged a marriage for Charles in Dover and Charles sailed from France alone to meet his bride-to-be. The ship he sails on is sunk. Charles makes it to shore in England not knowing a word of English, and sets off to find Matilda in this strange land. He finds a Matilda but not the one he was supposed to meet; however, he doesn’t realize the woman he meets is not his Matilda. There are also flashbacks of his escapades in France. It’s just a fun, silly book.
As I said before, I love history, so no, writing of that time period was not difficult.
Denise: You have quite a few things going on in your novel “Albuquerque.” Care to share what happens when Horace Brook comes to town?
Jeannine: Horace Brook comes to Albuquerque, New Mexico from New Haven, Connecticut in 1948. He is a young newlywed. His father, a bank president, had committed suicide and his mother is in a sanitarium, having had a nervous breakdown following his father’s death. His beautiful wife is the rich and headstrong daughter of a Virginia politician. In Albuquerque, he is taken under the wing of his wife Pamela’s uncle and quickly rises in a career at the Duke City National Bank. Pamela, though she loves Horace, is frigid. Some people think Horace is cold natured, too, but not earthy Rhonda Lou Harrington. She seduces him and despite their different backgrounds, they fall in love. Divorce for Horace is out-of-the-question. And, in a way, Horace still loves Pamela. The story with its twists and turns spans from 1948 to about 1980. I guess the story is really about what unseen problems can come of an affaire twenty-some years later.
Denise: Do you work 9/5 or do you have the opportunity to write full time?
Jeannine: I now have the opportunity to work full time or as often as I want. I used to write after work, sometimes during work, if I could sneak it in. I have my own little office in my home.
Denise: Are you working on a new novel?
Jeannine: I have a historical that I started a couple years ago after coming home from England. I saw this house set high above the English Channel and it gave me an idea. I have about three or four chapters of that idea, but have gotten involved with other plots, wrote other books, and have done a lot of editing on other works, but I really must get back to it. It’s a historical and I should put my English history background and my travel around England to use.
Denise: How are you promoting your books? Through e-groups? Book signings? An e-mail campaign?
Jeannine: I’m promoting my books through mailings. I am in the process of setting up some book signings. I’ve signed books for some of my WisRWA and Wisconsin friends in Appleton, Wisconsin where I lived for 5 years. I need advice on promotion via e-groups and e-mail campaigns. Do you have any?
Denise: Join the e-groups that focus on the genre you write and not writing in general. That way you’re zeroing in on your subject matter. Then build networking relationships where you can learn from those who have succeeded in their promotional campaigns. Create a promotional e-mail that includes your book cover, a teaser to grab their attention and a hyperlink that leads right to ordering info. Start a mailing list months before your new book is published and write Janet Elaine Smith for her Promo Pak. Do you have any tips for beginning writers?
Jeannine: Write, write, and re-write. Never give up. Also, read everything you can get your hands on, biographies, non-fiction of all kinds, even ketchup bottle labels. Tony Hillerman gave me this piece of advice: “Never pay anyone to read your work.”
Denise: What do you love about writing? Is there another genre you hope to explore?
Jeannine: I love the characters that I get to meet during my writing. Some of them pop up quite unexpectedly. Some turn out to be different than I first expected. Naturally, I fall I love with my heroes. Time flies almost too fast when I’m really having a good day writing. I wrote so much once, on a yet unpublished book, that I got writer’s cramp. I didn’t have a typewriter near, but the words were coming so fast and furiously I couldn’t stop. I wrote almost continuously for days on end until the story was finished. Then I had to type and polish it. The work probably will never sell, but I love the story and think of it often even though I wrote it a long time ago. The manuscript runs over 300 pages and I began a sequel to it, which I haven’t finished as yet. Until that time I didn’t know there was such a thing as writer’s cramp.
I write in so many genres as it is: contemporary, historical, paranormal, and recently I wrote a mystery, that I don’t know what else there is to explore, unless it would be non-fiction; and I don’t have the inclination. Some of what I write is traditional sweet romance like HEARTS IN ¾ TIME, and some of my stories are sexy. LOVE, AND ALL THAT JAZZ scheduled for publication next August, is set again, mostly, in Chicago and the hero is a musician, but they are a more mature couple and theirs is a more steamy romance. I’ve set things from the 15 th century onward, including the 17 th century, Great Depression Era, on to modern times. I haven’t tried the future but I’m not a Star Wars fan, and I’m not interested in fantasy. But who knows, tomorrow someone from 2121 might pop into my head and say, “You know, I have a story, too.”
Jeannine D. Van Eperen, author of: Albuquerque and The French Physician Hearts in 3/4 Time , Port Town Publishing, available now.
Love, And All That Jazz , publication date August 1, 2004