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Click image to go to Monique's Amazon author page.

Happy Friday!  I’m thrilled to introduce author Monique O’Connor James, who seems to have earned herself a permanent spot on the bestsellers list with Astraea Press. (On that note, she even rubs elbows with the Amazon upper echelon.) Fortunately for you guys, one lucky reader will find out exactly why. Monique brings with her a chance for you to win a PDF copy of either THE KEEPERS or THE MULLIGAN MAN (yay!) so sit back and prepare to enjoy. Nothing like a great read followed by an awesome WIN, right?

Welcome, Monique! I hope you don’t mind if I ask about your backstory. While checking out your bio, I was so sorry to read about the loss of your mother, which prompted a nine-year break from writing. When you returned to write—and finish—your first novel, how did this accomplishment impact you on a personal level? 

At first I sat down and started pecking out the novel and the words came extraordinarily easy.  I guess all the emotions I’d been struggling with came out in the form of my writing.  It was almost too easy, until right before the novel was published, when I finally sat down and had a good cry over the similarities between Jess’ grief and my own.  Having said that, writing the book was the most cathartic thing I’ve done since my mom’s death.

It allowed me to let go of a lot of baggage I’d been carrying around and showed me that moving on was okay.  My mom would have wanted me to write, and she would have wanted for me to move past the grief and have a wonderful life.  If I hadn’t ever gone back to writing, I don’t think I would have overcome the emotions I was dealing with.  (Sorry got long winded there! No one has ever asked me that.)

That’s a heartwarming, beautiful story, and your strength shines through. It seems your words have not only helped in your healing, but have forged a connection with a great many readers as well. What moved you to write “sweet romance”?

HA!  Well I didn’t really choose to write “sweet romances”.  They sort of chose me.  I have a fourteen year old son, a nine year old daughter and a seventy year dad.  I wanted each one of them to be able to read my novels and not feel uncomfortable.  Besides, I’ve tried to write hot and steamy before and for whatever reason, my brain goes on vacation.

The neat thing about the books I write is that they are suitable for anyone from thirteen to ninety-nine.  (And,  I have fans that span those ages!)  They could easily be classed YA, but also Adult Sweet Romance, so I’m very satisfied with that, at least for now!

Oh, boy, nothing like the steam-induced brain vacay. (Sex scenes are the very bane of my existence, but don’t tell anyone I said that.) At any rate, I think it’s fantastic your work is family friendly–what a great way to span the generations! If a reader is unfamiliar with your work, which of your books would you suggest he or she read first?  Why? 

Hmm tough question, I guess it just depends.  The Keepers is a highly emotional book, but the love story and plot are very sweet and fun.  People see the word God on the back cover and shy away, but it is not preachy religious rhetoric.  It’s just about the journey to keep the faith when things go terribly wrong.  It’s a good one to start with just to get an idea of my voice and the way my characters develop.

Jamais Vu is a more psychological – get in your head – type of paranormal novel.  Because most of my books will be more like Jamais Vu than The Keepers, it would also be a great one to start with too.

Which genre are you drawn to as a reader?  Do you prefer to read in the same genre as your WIP or do you mix it up? 

I read everything.  I like true crime; psychological thrillers; YA; and of course, paranormal romance.  I don’t choose what I read by what I’m writing, because I love to write twisted paranormal type stories, but sometimes I just want to read a YA romance novel.

When I read a book I like to get a feel for the author’s voice.  I want to see inside their head and feel like I know what they were thinking when they were writing.  So for me, I’m not necessarily writing and reading the same genre so I can stay on course, but more likely learning something new about how authors use their own voices to create their stories and brands.

Excellent thought! Looking back over all of the intimate moments you’ve created between characters, which scene would you most like to experience for yourself?  What makes it so alluring?  

For me, the fun of writing romance is that you get to experience the butterflies all over again.  My favorite scenes are always the ones where the main characters first lay eyes on each other.  I love the nervous tension in The Keepers during the scene where Justin and Jess see each other for the first time.  I’d like to experience it for myself because it would be fun to feel that excitement people get when they first meet.  That’s why sometimes writing a stand-alone can be just as fun as writing a series, because with stand alone novels you get to experience that moment all over again.

I LOVE those first tendrils of desire! They make me all squishy inside. ;c) From love to war: have you ever battled with any of your characters over their personality traits?  If so, who won – you or the character?

That’s funny because I battle with them all the time.  My characters almost always win.  But, Jess from The Keepers, once told me she’d cut all her hair off.  She was demanding that I write it into a scene and I refused.  She kept me up for about three days because I wouldn’t listen.  I still think about that all the time and wonder if I should have put it in.  I still have no idea why she wanted her hair cut off or what the tie in was going to be in the plot!

I’ve chalked that up as my first and only win.  Most of the time, I just listen like a good girl.

That’s hilarious! Have you ever made big changes in your story because someone – your crit partner, a friend, or beta reader – really didn’t like it?  Are you glad you did (or didn’t)? 

No I’ve never made BIG changes because of what someone else said, but I have revamped an entire book because I suddenly decided I didn’t like something about the plot, or that I wanted to add a character.  The Keepers was probably rewritten more times than any other work I’ve done.  I didn’t like it much after the first draft, but it just kept pulling at me until I rewrote it again and again.  I was actually amazed when I finally read it and said, “I like this story!”

After all of that work, you had to LOVE that moment! How do you keep track of plot elements or twists? 

I’m not a true plotter but I carry around a notebook and outline the plot and things that come into my mind during the day.  When I first started writing I didn’t plan at all.  I’m slowly inching my way over to the plotter side I think.

Just a quick side note to the readers – I found a few editing errors after The Keepers was published to print.  I asked the publisher to take it down and after it was fixed to put it back up (which should be by September 1).  You can still buy the e-book at Amazon.  Jamais Vu will be out during the first couple of weeks of September so it will be doubly exciting!  Thanks so much for reading my interview and all the support.

Thank you, Monique, for a really fantastic interview. I enjoyed our chat, and I wish you much success with your titles. (Or should I say “even more” success? LOL!) It’s been a pleasure to have you here today.  Readers, don’t forget to enter to win. Here’s how.

ENTER TO WIN!

Like my author page and comment on this blog for a chance to win a PDF copy of The Keepers or my short story The Mulligan Man – your choice!  Drawing will be done 8/22/11 (Monday).

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