Interview With Jackie Rhoades

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I was able to interview the author of one of my favorite books, one with a relatable female protagonist. Thank you so much for answering my questions, I enjoyed reading your responses.

“Thanks for having me, Samantha. I’m thrilled to be here. Your review of my first Wolver book, The Alpha’s Mate, is one of my favorites. It has served as a reminder to maintain a recurring theme in my stories: that ordinary women aren’t all tall and athletic with classically perfect figures and faces. Those women have the right to romantic adventures, too, and true beauty is found in the heart and in the eyes of the beholder. Bless you for that.”

Early Childhood

Q: When and where were you born?

A: I was born in 1953 and grew up in Stratford, Connecticut. My husband and I moved to Ohio shortly after the first of our five children was born and we’ve been here ever since.

Q: Who was your most influential person to you as a child and why?

A: Definitely my father. He was a voracious reader and taught me to read long before I started Kindergarten. He gave me my love of words and books. He never told me a book was too ‘old’ for me or inappropriate. When confronted with a word unfamiliar to me, he’d hand me a dictionary with the advice to ‘look it up’. I remember trying to stump him with other unfamiliar words I found in that dictionary. I never could. He taught me to question everything and read everything I could from a variety of sources to formulate my own answers.

Q: Do you recall any interesting stories related to you by any of your elder relatives that you have never forgotten and you think are worth telling this audience?

A: Not about me, per se, but my mother was a great storyteller of her own years growing up. One that always made me laugh was the Prune Juice Burglar. During WWII, my mother lived in a third floor walkup apartment with my sister. To save money on ice (yes, back in the days of iceboxes) Mom would leave her icebox contents out on the fire escape during colder weather. One night, someone stole all her groceries. The only thing they left behind was a new and now empty quart bottle of prune juice. The thief was never caught, but Mom was sure he paid a price for his crime.

I loved this story when I was little. Of course, at that age, any reference to bathroom humor would result in a case of the giggles. Okay, let’s be honest. It still does.

Grade School/High School

Q: How would you describe yourself as a student, both academically and socially?

A: I was an excellent student until my last couple of years in high school. I went to work full time the day after I turned sixteen and learned a lot more about the real world than I learned in school. I began questioning what I was told versus what I knew to be true. The only class I truly loved was Latin, and largely because of the teacher, Miss Pruzinski. Once work was done, she encouraged discussion about anything and everything as long we treated each other with respect. College was an eye opener for me. Questions were not only allowed, but encouraged. Civil debate was considered a learning process.

Q: What would people you know find surprising about you as a teen?

A: I’m so straight laced and traditional, it’s hard to believe that right up through college, I was a wild child. Dare Me was my middle name. When I think of the things I did, I’m appalled, though without an ounce of remorse.

Family

Q: What does the word “family” mean to you?

A: This is a subject addressed in most of my books. Family is more than a blood relationship. It’s a kinship with those you love and those who love you, warts and all.

Q: In what ways have your parents influenced you the most?

A: My parents taught me that social background, wealth or its lack, and formal education have very little to do with what makes a good person. They taught me that stupidity is the common ailment of all mankind. Everyone suffers from it at one time or another – yes, Jackie, even you – so it shouldn’t be held against anyone. They taught me that wrong is wrong, even when no one’s watching, and that evil is real though not as common as some would have you think. These are all things I hope I’ve passed on to my own children.

Career

Q: Who was your biggest influence in your career?

A: Authors? Too many to count. Personally, my BFF, Georgianna, and my husband. She, because she always believed in me and encourage me, and he, because he recognized the willing sacrifices I’d made for our family and said, “It’s your turn. Go for it.” Without cracking a smile, I might add. This becomes even more amazing when you know that he’s the type of guy who wonders why anyone would want to read a book, never mind write one. It doesn’t have to make sense to him. It’s what I wanted to do and he’s supported me all the way.

Q: In addition to being paid money, how else has your career created value in your life?

A: Reader emails and reviews! When a reader writes a review or a personal note to say they were touched in some way by my stories, it just blows me away. I read all my reviews. I learn from the criticism of the negatives, and rejoice in the positives. After sixteen books, it still amazes me that perfect strangers would take time from their busy days to write a review or contact me personally. It’s a thrill I can’t find words to describe, and a blessing I will always carry with me.

Q: What sort of stories excite you?

A: This is a tough one since my reading tastes are eclectic in the extreme. I’ll read anything and everything and probably have. My mother used to clear the table while I ate breakfast because I tended to get sidetracked reading jelly jar labels and cereal boxes. If an author can make me become the main character be it male or female, if they can make my heart pound with danger, laugh, cry, or sigh that special heartwarming sigh, I consider it a good book. Those stories excite me.

Q: Was there a specific moment that made you start writing?

A: I’ve been writing stories in my head since I was a kid. I always wanted to put one on paper, but life got in the way. John Greenleaf Whittier said “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.” That’s essentially what I taught my kids. Failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Never trying is, and when the time came, they threw it back at me. Who knew all that stuff I spouted would come back to bite me?

Q: What is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing?

A: Let’s do the enjoyable thing first. For me, plotting a romance novel is like working a jigsaw puzzle. You know what the picture should be when you’re finished. The difficult part is figuring out how all these little pieces are going to fit together and in such a way that you want to keep going until the picture is complete. And don’t get me started on editing and rewriting, ad infinitum, until you get those pieces to fit perfectly together. It’s a very satisfying feeling when you can finally say it’s done. Then you have to send it out to others and hope they enjoy putting it together, too. That’s neither difficult nor enjoyable. It’s downright scary.

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

A: Family and my garden. My kids live all over the U.S. I can never ignore a phone call from any of them (and they call a lot) or from anyone I consider family. Come spring, my gardens call to me. Write or dig in the dirt? It’s a tough choice.

Q:Was there a specific moment that made you start writing your novel The Alpha’s Mate?

A: Yes! I’d read several shifter books where the attraction between the shifter hero and human heroine was instantaneous. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love those stories and read them to this day. But on that particular day, I must have been in a skeptical mood. I asked myself, “What if I was this woman? Wouldn’t I stop and ask myself if this was real? It definitely isn’t normal. Is this love or am I just a victim of genetic programming?” From those questions, Elizabeth was born.

Q: What is your book The Alpha’s Mate about?

A: Elizabeth, raised in a restrictive and upper class environment, lives her life by a set of lists defining ‘proper’ behavior that she can never quite live up to. She’s not graceful. She’s not confident. She’s none of the things a woman of her class should be. She’s socially awkward, and she’s been described by a former lover as a ‘cold fish’. In a moment of rebellion, she takes a sabbatical from her job as a librarian and rents a cabin in the woods where she plans to spend a year writing the romance novel she always dreamed of.

It’s a lovely little town, filled with friendly people. She finds courage where she thought she had none. She’s finally found a place where she feels she belongs – until she discovers she’s the subject of a town conspiracy. These people aren’t human. They’re Wolvers, shifters who become wolves when the moon is full, and that’s only the beginning of her troubles.

Q: How did writing your first book change your process of writing?

A: I had to learn to follow a story arc, learn about pacing, and dialogue that made sense on paper and not just in my head. I had to learn to show, not tell. I make more notes now than I used to. I write scenes that may or may not be used, but give me a better sense of who my characters are. I’ve added more depth to my heroes. Beyond that, I’m still a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants without direction or outline). The story unfolds as I write.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

A: The laws of attraction are very different for men and women. I always try to keep that in mind. Men, at least in romance, tend to keep their feelings to themselves. They may think it, but don’t say it. Women talk about their feelings. Men don’t. I try to show the reader their softer side through actions. For instance, a man isn’t likely to say, “I love children. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.” He’ll say, “What? He’s a kid. Somebody has to show him how to throw a ball.” It’s the look on his face as he tousles the kid’s hair that shows the reader what he feels. Does that make sense? When the heroine gets a guy to talk about emotional things, it’s a big deal.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write in The Alpha’s Mate?

A: The first sex scene! I popped my writer’s cherry on that one and it was tough. I come from an era where those things weren’t talked about never mind written. I still find them tough, but I’ve gotten way better at it. lol

Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?

A: Absolutely. In my case, I generally know the cause, though it took me several books to figure it out. My stories are character driven. Every time I’ve suffered a block, it’s because I’m forcing my characters to mold to the plot, to act out-of-character so to speak. Once I begin a story, my characters take over. They have minds of their own. My problem now is finding the place where I started to send my characters down the wrong road. Sometimes that takes a while, but it’s there, and when I find it, the block disappears.

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