1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As soon as I was freed from my career job (Intellectual Property Paralegal) and was home starting a family, the burning desire to create was overwhelming. I guess you might consider me to be a late bloomer because I was about 30 when this urgent need came over me. I’ve always been an avid, life-long reader with a BA in English, but I never thought I could do something I love for a job until I started writing creatively. Since then, I haven't looked back. I know writing fiction is what I want to do with the rest of my life.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
My first book (Rematch) took the longest. It took 4 years of hard work and many, many (many!) drafts before it became what it is today. The second book (Double Fault), the followup to Rematch, materialized much quicker. It was so much easier with the 2nd book since, not only did I know my characters and the plot line of the story on a deeper level, I also figured out my writing style. Visited, my latest release, also took about a year to write.
3. What do you think makes a great story?
For me, there has to be a deep connection with the main characters. I want to feel what they're experiencing until I get so involved, I start to become mixed up about whether the story is happening to them or to me.
4. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I mostly do all my writing in the hours between 9:00am and 4:00pm. If I'm in an exciting point in the story, sometimes I'll come back to it again at night, but I'm usually too spacey by then. Weekends, too, I might work a few hours, but my family usually keeps me too busy.
5. How do you balance family and writing?
Honestly, it's difficult not to get frustrated at the demands of my family life when all I want to do is work, but during those times I have to remind myself that this career choice isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. My project isn't going anywhere, Twitter won't disappear if I miss tweeting a few days, and Facebook will take me right back as if I never left. At times, I get so wrapped up in writing my story or promoting my books, it's easy to forget what's important in life. Thank God I do have a husband and kids because I would probably become a complete hermit, never wanting to leave my quiet house.
6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
So far, I think the ideas have all been planted in my brain by God. That's the only way I can explain it. It's like little messages from a song or a news story on the radio or TV will reinforce the beginnings of a theme in my head. When I sat down to write Rematch, I was aware of the elements I liked in YA fiction, so I knew I had to create a story with a supernatural side to it, that there had to be a love story in there, and that the plot had to be unique. I live about an hour's drive from Sedona, Arizona. As my series is called The Vortex Series, it was my visits to Sedona and its vortexes that ultimately inspired the fantasy element in the series. There is something truly magical about that place. It feels out of this world, fragile. I knew I had to create a story that led my characters to this incredible place.
7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I just don't get sick of doing it. I can work on a book for hours at a time, but it will feel like only a short time has passed.
8. How many books have you written? I have three published novels. Which is your favorite?
I guess a writer will always feel something special about their first baby, so I have to go with Rematch. Although, I'm starting to have some readers tell me their favorite of the two in the series is Double Fault. Encouraging sign they'll want to read the final book in the series (Deuce) when it's released.
9. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
There are elements of friends of mine, famous musicians (Brandon Boyd and Dave Grohl for example), students I've known over the years in my time as a youth group leader, and a little of myself in all the characters. In the end, though, each character becomes their own person by the time I'm done writing the story.
10. Do you have a favorite place you love to write?
I'm the most productive in my office at home, butt in chair, and complete quiet in the house.
11. How hard is it to get published?
To be traditionally published, it's incredibly difficult these days. Unless you're a celebrity or a proven best selling author, you most likely won't get a sniff by any agent as a new writer on the scene. You have to absolutely floor an agent in two paragraphs of your query letter for them to consider reading the first 50 pages of your work. Agents tell us they receive hundreds of query letters in a month. It's a freakin’ miracle if they happen to choose your query letter as one they will followup on. The good news is that self-publishing is not quite as painful. Oh, to do it well it's not exactly easy--finding a solid, reputable editor, hiring the right cover artist for your story, and then affording all these expenses on your own, can be nerve wracking and stressful to say the least. However, in the end, your labor of love is out there for the world to receive instead of being shoved into a drawer of failed dreams.
12. What do your family and friends think about your books?
They have all been wonderful supporters of my writing career and have been surprised by how much they now like YA fiction. My kids, especially, were so proud when I got invited to speak at their school and can now find copies of my books in their school library. Most of my friends and family have known that this was a lifelong dream of mine and are thrilled to see it begin to take shape into a tangible thing.
13. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I do like to exercise--Vinyasa yoga, tennis, running with major tunes blaring in my ears, or hiking mountain trails are a few of my favorite activities. When I get my exercise done, though, I love to read (surprise, surprise). I love YA books just as much as any blogger and Goodreads user out there. And if I have any time left on my hands, which is rare, I love, love to play drums. I would say I play at an intermediate level, but I fantasize I'm keeping up with Jose Pasillas of Incubus and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters. My husband tells me to "dream on."
14. Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they?
My best advice is to continue reading as much as possible, and not just the genre they write in, but in all genres. Don't let too long a stretch of time unfold without doing some sort of writing while you're plotting your masterpiece in your head.
15. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I have to admit, I just don't remember. Is that terrible? Besides being a track star, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Glad to have finally figured it out. Remember, late bloomer here.
16. What are your favorite books and which authors inspire you?
Oh, so many to list! J.K. Rowling is a goddess. Her genius still gets to me. What she and Stephenie Meyer accomplished is absolutely stunning. Both their series will forever remain in my top favorites. Other YA books I love are The Hunger Games series (of course!), Divergent series, Matched series, Uglies series, Under the Never Sky series, The Selection series, and The Giver series. Classically speaking I have to go with J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye, Charlette Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Charles Dickens's The Tale of Two Cities, and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
17. For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do's and don’ts for getting their material published?
Do find a professional editor to polish your novel before publishing. Do work with other writers on your draft all along, so that the story is well into perfection before handing it over to an editor who will most likely charge by the hour. Don't feel you have to spend thousands of dollars on a cover artist when there are wonderful artists out there charging much less. Don't give up on yourself.
18. What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm 150 pages deep into Deuce, the 3rd and final book of The Vortex Series.
by Janine Caldwell
Publication date: May 25th 2013
Genre: YA coming-of-age fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Joanna Murphy has lost faith in her life. Vying for her mom’s attention, she’s resentful of her stepdad’s intrusion to their family. Her best friend, Tommy, has no clue she’s in love with him as he dates girl after girl without noticing how it tortures her. The final kicker, though, is God’s sick joke to make her freakishly tall when everyone knows boys prefer petite girls.
Then in a bizarre accident Joanna meets James, a breathtaking teen who appears to her after an unusual falling star sighting. Suddenly, her dream for an alien encounter becomes all too real. But when she finds her life has been made unrecognizable, she’s forced into an explosive study of the original design for her life that just may have her regretting every wish she ever made.
Janine Caldwell was born in Concord, CA and raised in the small San Francisco Bay Area town of Clayton. Four days after her high school graduation, Janine attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and graduated with a degree in English.
Janine now lives in Anthem, AZ with her husband and two sons. As a lifelong literature fanatic, she knew it was only a matter of time before she would become obsessed with writing her own work. With relatives like the Brothers Grimm and Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), she figured fantasy writing had to be in her DNA.
Books published by Janine include Visited, a YA coming-of-age fantasy, Rematch and Double Fault—the first two books of The Vortex Series. The final book in this YA fantasy romance, Deuce, will be released fall 2013.