Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Author Interview with Rachel Wardip Jones

Author Rachel Wardip Jones
I'd like to introduce Author Rachel Wardip Jones. We'll be learning more about Rachel and her book To Dance One More Day.
Tell us a little about who you are. How would you define yourself?
I am a wife and mother. I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for thirty-eight years. We have three adult children and a black lab that has us wrapped around her paws. I’m a registered nurse and for the past twenty-five years have worked on high-risk OB and labor/delivery units. For ten years (before my nursing career), I taught music in the public and private school settings while teaching many children in my home studio during evenings and summers.

I am sixty-one years old, and nursing is a physically demanding job so, I’m looking forward to retirement from my present job in a few years. In 2012, I began thinking about what I would do after my retirement from the hospital. It was at that point I decided I wanted to attempt to write a novel.
I see myself as:
Artistic - have performed as a soloist and in many musical groups over the course of thirty years.
Brave - during my nursing career I have delivered many babies who didn’t wait for the doctor or midwife. I have cared for critically ill patients that came close to death. My chosen profession is not for the faint-hearted.
Compassionate - essential to my makeup as a nurse.
Creative - tactilely I love to sew and cross-stitch and now I know I also love taking creations from my mind and putting them on paper.   

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope this story inspires some to see that even at a breaking point it is possible to come back from tragedy and have a happy life. For some readers, I hope it sparks a desire to explore the art form of ballet, either as a spectator or on a more personal level as a student, no matter their age.

Is this book’s setting based on a real place?
Yes, the story is set in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Is the book completely fictional, and how would you rate this book:G, PG, or PG 13? And tell us why.
Yes, it is fictional. PG13 – Alan and Jillian share some kisses that cannot be considered chaste.

Why is To Dance One More Day dear to your heart? 
My love affair with ballet was the inspiration for writing this book. At age three, my daughter began ballet lessons and studied for eight years. During that time, I fell in love with this art form. When I decided to write a book with emphasis on the performing arts, I knew I wanted my heroine to be a ballerina.
Would you give us the jacket blurb on the book?
From her early teens, ballet has been an integral part of Jillian Russell’s life. One by one, she loses her parents, grandparent, husband and child. If being alone in the world wasn’t bad enough, a medical diagnosis takes away her chance to become a prima ballerina. This endeavor takes all her resources and leaves no time to build new relationships outside her world of dance. Jillian rationalizes if she doesn’t build relationships, she won’t be deserted. And she’s not sure she would survive another loss.

Handsome trauma surgeon, Alan Armstrong has relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina for a fresh start. Until a few years ago, he had always envisioned his future to include a wife and children. But after his father died in a plane crash from lack of medical attention, his focus for the future has shifted to equip himself professionally to set up a rural clinic. A supporter of the arts, Alan finds himself on the board of the North Carolina Ballet Company. He has always had a penchant for fixing things. Realizing Jillian’s professional life could use some help, it is not long before he realizes he is drawn to her romantically as well. They fall in love, and when Alan discovers Jillian has been misdiagnosed, he tells her she must decide between their love and her performance career in ballet.

What keeps you the most humble as a writer?
Rejections from publishers, agents and contests remind me of how much I have to learn and grow as a writer. 

Is your writing journey as you envisioned it? If not, how is it different?
Yes and no. I expected to encounter lows as well as the highs; that’s the way of life. I have learned to persevere – to use the difficult moments as a tool to gain more experience and acquire the highs – positive remarks of a critique, a request to autograph a copy of my book or an offer to collaborate on a workshop topic.  My journey began as a challenge to myself to write one novel. But the support from family, friends, and strangers has been overwhelming – my reason for writing my second book and now working on my third manuscript.    

What does "networking" mean to you?
The word networking immediately brings to my mind the words ‘social media.’ It is necessary for the promotion and marketing of my books. I much prefer the connections I make and the interactions I am fortunate to have with authors and readers on a personal basis.
Where can readers find you online?
What do you do to rest, but still be creative?
I like my cross-stitch time. I love to see a holiday-themed depiction or a pattern of colors blossom from a blank piece of cloth. I also like to scrapbook. The activity of using pictures of my family and friends or mementos of special times and turning them into a keepsake is valuable to me. 

What motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?
The opportunity of another day to try to put the thoughts I have onto paper gets me up and moving. Also, I’m more productive in the morning hours.   

What have you learned recently about yourself, and how has it affected your writing?
I write better when I’m rested. At my age, after a twelve-hour shift, even though I may have ideas about my story that make me want to go directly to my computer after my drive home, I need my rest. I take the time to jot down a few thoughts, and I go to bed knowing when I wake up I’ll do a better job of putting my thoughts on paper. 

What gives you the most satisfaction in your writing—besides "The End," that is?
Rereading a passage and thinking Wow, I wrote that!

If you weren't a writer, what would you most likely be doing instead?
For several years, I’ve had this idea in my head to start a community wind ensemble. Since I am no longer able to play my clarinet, I would like to conduct a group of musicians.

What sparks your creativity when feeling drained?
Reading different genres from what I write.

Do you write in one place, or switch off to different locations? Describe your favorite writing area.
I don’t always write in the same place, but I spend the majority of my writing time in my home office. I have a large window to my right so I can gauge the time of day and weather. My desk is clear only biweekly after my housekeeper has been here. I tend to surround myself with references and piles of research while I write so my desk can get pretty messy, but it doesn’t have an impact on my creativity. Maybe I need a larger desk.

What is your favorite dessert and least favorite?
 I love coconut cake or pie. My least favorite dessert is banana pudding.

What types of books do you like to read?
I am drawn to mysteries and historical romance.

Tell us a few things about yourself some folks may not know.
I’ve played clarinet for about forty-five years. Pulmonary and vocal cord issues have taken away my ability to play or sing as I once did. I made my wedding dress and all my sisters and mother's dresses for my wedding. I’ve never been on a cruise – it’s on my bucket list.

Who was the greatest influence for you as a writer?
Unlike a lot of writers who knew from an early age they wanted to write, the idea of me becoming a writer was never in my orbit before age fifty-seven. I’ve had no formal training and can’t even admit to a particular author being my inspiration. My writing journey started out as a self-challenge. My husband has always been and continues to be my most enthusiastic and vocal supporter, so I’d have to say he has had the greatest influence on me as a writer because he believes in me. 

How did your writing career begin and how long did it take to publish your first book?
In March of 2012, I was contemplating what I would do after retirement and challenged myself to write a novel. Fifteen months later, my first book was published. I now know what my next full-time career will be after I leave healthcare.

What other writing have you done?
In addition to my second novel which released this past October and my manuscript in progress, I am becoming more comfortable with writing posts for my blog. A fellow author/nurse and I are developing a workshop script to present later this year at a writers conference in Georgia. 
What parting wisdom do you wish to give those of us not book published?
For those of you seeking publication, I encourage you to persevere, set goals, and seek out new opportunities that might very well hold that last piece of the puzzle to make your journey to publication complete. 
More About Rachel's Book:

Jillian lingered behind, thinking about her students. This was the best group of
seven-year-olds she had taught since opening the school. She enjoyed teaching all
ages but this group was the highlight of her week. Sighing, she wondered if maybe it had something to do with the fact Lily would have been seven this year. Brushing the thought away, she moved to the piano and focused her attention on arranging the music for the dance company’s rehearsal the next night.

Her school of ballet was impressive but her dance company was her crowning glory. Expanding her lungs to their fullest she exhaled, feeling a sense of pride and
accomplishment. The North Carolina Ballet Company, now in its fifth year of
existence, continued to experience growing pains and would for several years to
come. As they grew in number they also grew in depth and dimension, becoming a
cohesive group of artists excited to tell many stories through dance. Their progress
was measured by the reputation they enjoyed for offering professional performances to the surrounding communities.

“You have a good looking group of ballerinas, Jilly,” remarked David as he crossed
the studio floor, followed by Alan.
The familiar voice brought a smile to her face. She had met David soon after moving  to Charlotte when she was searching for a financial advisor. They had spent a lot of time together working on the financial end of setting up her school. When she took the plunge a year later, with David’s encouragement, and started the North Carolina Ballet Company, he was her biggest fan. Feeling she could trust him with her life, she was grateful he had accepted her invitation to be a part of the company’s initial board of directors.

Turning around at the sound of the tenor voice her eyes darted from her friend to the familiar form standing beside him. Her smile disappeared. “You!” Jillian took a step back. “What are you doing here?”

“What’s wrong?” David’s gaze bounced back and forth between his friends. “Do you two know each other?”

Her eyes remained fixed on the doctor as if she were seeing him for the first time. He was tall, about six feet she estimated, with thick brown hair and he had the most gorgeous, deep set brown eyes. It was like looking into pools of chocolate and she was finding it hard not to stare. She shifted her gaze to her friend. “I recall seeing him at the hospital, after the explosion.”

“Oh, come on, Ms. Russell. I performed the surgery on your shoulder and I was your doctor for two days—until you fired me. And all you have to say is, ‘I recall seeing you’?”

“If memory serves it was a day and a half. And I’d prefer not talking about anything having to do with the explosion, if you don’t mind.”

“I see. Well, I hope your recovery is going well.”

“Yes it is thank you.”

More About Rachel:
While she continued to work her full- time hospital job, it was thoughts of what she would do after retirement from her career in healthcare that spurred Rachel to begin writing her first manuscript in March of 2012. Needing guidance and support with her new endeavor, she joined local and national writing groups.

Release day for Rachel’s debut novel, To Dance One More Day, occurred in June 2014. Her second book, Taking A Chance On Love, released in October 2015. She is working on her third manuscript and is planning her first series. Rachel’s books reflect her love of the performing arts. Working as a registered nurse for twenty-five-plus years has influenced the threads of medical drama woven into her storylines. A music enthusiast for decades, Rachel resides in Kennesaw, Georgia with her husband of thirty-seven years and their spoiled Labrador retriever. She is a member of Georgia Writes Association, Georgia Romance Writers and is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Thank you for coming, Rachel, and would you like to say some parting words? 
I would like to offer one paperback copy of To Dance One More Day, one e-copy of To Dance One More Day and one e-copy of Taking A Chance On Love as giveaways. 

Okay, folks, in order to enter the drawing, please leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 2nd. 
Until next time . . . please return to read more about authors I'll be featuring.