The Story Behind My Blog's Title

The Story Behind My Blog's Title
Why is my blog named "My Father's Oldsmobile"? Click on the car and find out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Author Interview: Heather Justesen

I get to introduce you guys to another author I met through The Sweetest Romance Writer's Group. Heather Justesen, who is a super nice lady (and adorable too) is here today to tell us about herself and her new book.

Welcome Heather! Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a small-town girl who’s found life taking her in lots of directions she’d never envisioned. I’m a volunteer EMT-I with my local ambulance (so not even on the radar of possibilities until a few years ago), I have a whole menagerie of poultry including chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, and turkeys, I live in the small town where I grew up and love it, and I’m a writer.

Actually, if you’d mentioned to me a dozen years ago that any of those would be true I would have laughed and denied the possibilities, but life has a way of making strange twists and turns. My husband of twelve years and I own a small computer business and did foster care for a couple of years but don’t have any children of our own. I love living in a small (read: tiny) town because you know everyone, and there’s always someone I can call to answer those random research questions writers have.

Small town girl here too!
When did you first become interested in writing?
I started writing early in 2000 when I had a story idea that just wouldn’t go away. I hadn’t planned on writing before that. I have a literature degree, but didn’t study creative writing.

Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?
I wrote on and off for about four years before attending my first writer’s conference in the spring of 2004. I had already submitted one of my books to a publisher and shortly after the conference, they expressed interest in it, but requested a rewrite. I made the changes they suggested and then sent it to an independent editor to look at it, and then did another major rewrite. It never was picked up by the publisher, but my experience with them, and with having my book edited by someone who knew what they were doing, made a big difference in my writing and put me on track to publication, even if it took several more years before I submitted another story. I started submitting “The Ball’s in Her Court” in the spring of 1998 and after a couple of rejections, received a contract with my publisher, Cedar Fort, Inc. that fall.

How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?
I used to be a total pantser. I’d come up with an idea and situation and run with it—which is why I have so many story beginnings and not a whole lot of finished manuscripts until the past couple of years. The thing is, an idea isn’t a story, it’s just an idea. It might be enough for a few scenes, but unless I have more planned out in advance, it won’t ever become a finished product. Since then I’ve learned that I really have to plot—though I keep mine loose with several conflicts, some background on the characters, and an idea of how I want it to end. As long as I plan enough conflict up front, the writing goes much smoother.

Sounds very similar to my process.
Tell us about your latest release?
“Rebound” is a spin-off of my first book, “The Ball’s in Her Court” with minor characters from the first book becoming the focus in “Rebound.” It’s about Lily Drake, whose life looks perfect on the outside, but when her husband is arrested for fraud she finds out that the verbal abuse and belittling she’d been living with were just the tip of the iceberg. Left with bills, no income, a toddler and pregnant, Lily has to work to put her life back together. Her husband and in-laws don’t make it easy on her, however.

She also has a friend named Curtis with whom a romance develops late in the book. Curtis has his own demons and requires a search for his birth family to get some answers of his own. Unfortunately, what he learns brings complications. It’s a great story, one of my favorites (but then, they’re all my favorites in some way or another!).

Sounds great! What inspired you to write this story?
This may sound lame, but I loved the characters from the first book and wanted to give them a happily ever after, something Lily doesn’t get at the end of “The Ball’s in Her Court.” I just loved them both and they meshed well in my mind, so I wrote it out. That sounds simplistic, and it is, It took several major rewrites and direction changes before the story came together with enough conflict and chemistry to make it work.

Isn't that how it goes though.
Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them, and what endears them to you?
When I first started writing “The Ball’s in Her Court” it was supposed to be about both Denise and Lily and their romances and lives, but Denise’s adoption story and struggle to deal with her dark past (and the romance, of course) took over. I think it made “Rebound” easier to write because I already had well-developed characters and backgrounds for them. I knew about their families and their history and how well they knew each other. I started writing the first story about eight years ago so I can’t remember all of the character development, but that’s something that continued throughout the rewriting process—and there have been many, many rewrites.

As for endearing characteristics, Lily is, in many ways, the woman I’d like to be. I love landscaping and gardening, so I had her very interested in that (only better at weeding than I am). That was something I gave Curtis too, making him a student of landscape architecture, and its one of the things that draws them together. Lily is also just shy of a gourmet cook, which is something I wish I could be. Curtis is strong and handsome and honest. He’s a hard worker and pretty straight forward, but he has this thing that has frightened him for years—the fear of rejection by his birth family—and he allows it to interfere with his relationships for a long time. We all have worries and fears just like he does, and if we try hard enough and put our necks out, we can overcome them too.

What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?
Though I always aim to entertain, I think every story has a slightly different goal. Some may be to educate, as “The Ball’s in Her Court” does so well on adoption issues, others may be to uplift or inspire readers. I think hope is something that cannot be undervalued—whether it’s hope in a religious way, or just in one’s own abilities. And it’s funny how four people can all read the same book and get different themes from it—often things the writer didn’t intend to accomplish with the book.

Did I get off topic? Oh, yeah, long-term goals. Well, I have two or three more books in this series that I’ve been working on and some other projects in the works in various stages. I hope to be writing for the rest of my life, and honestly can’t imagine my life without it.

Haha! Don't worry about straying from the topic. In my last interview I strayed so far I ended up giving a geology lesson on the formation of Arkansas's hotsprings, and a history lesson about Minoan civilization, and its connection with Ancient Egypt. From there I ventured into a possible origin for the myth of Atlantis. I don't even remember what the original question was. So no worrries. Authors are encouraged to stray while visiting my blog.

Any ideas for future projects?
More than I’ll have time to write in a decade! Not only are there several more stories in this series, but I have a number of unrelated books written or nearly finished, and file after file of other stories that are just a couple of scenes and a rough outline or character sketch. Many of that last group have been nagging at me to get crackin’ on them, but I’ve had to prioritize other projects first. Right now I’m getting ready to submit a story unrelated to “Rebound” about a Tucker, Marine reservist who suddenly finds himself responsible for his orphan niece and nephew and the lengths he goes to in order to keep them—which includes proposing to his best friend, Rena. I’m very excited about this book!

I always include trivia. So tell us, what's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? Also, any other hobbies?
Favorite movie? I have to pick just one? I admit, I’m a sucker for romances, so “You’ve Got Mail,” is high on my list of favorites. I also have watched (over, and over, and over) the mini-series “Our Mutual Friend,” which is based off of a book by Charles Dickens.
Favorite foods include cheese enchiladas from one of those little mom-and-pop Mexican places where they load the plate with beans and rice, cake (did I mention before I love to decorate cakes?), and of course, anything made with chocolate!

Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along? I recently read “Courting Miss Lancaster” which is a light, fluffy and CLEAN Regency romance by Sarah M Eden. It was very hilarious with great characters. I also thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Ann Nunes’ new paranormal romantic suspense (also squeaky clean) “Imprints.” Readers can check out my blog to see what I’ve been reading and reviewing lately.
This week I’m giving away a load of books, some I’ve read, and some I’ve just heard great things about. Pop by my blog to enter to win!

Thanks Heather! This has been great!

For more about Heather Justesen and her book:


  1. Hi Heather,

    Loved learning more about your books, and your writing career, and I see we're kindred souls -- a lover of chocolate, eh? You can keep the Mexican food, but give me all the chocolate! LOL

  2. Chocolate and Mexican food are hard to beat.

  3. Hi Heather,
    I enjoyed the interview, getting to know you better and learning about your writing career and process. Congratulations on Rebound. I too liked "You've Got Mail."

  4. Thanks for having me, Shawna, it was a fun interview. Thanks for stopping by Miss Mae and Gail!

  5. Heather, this interview will be up through Sunday,so I'll announce it again tomorrow. We had orthodontist appointments that kept us out of the house most of the day.

  6. Hi Heather,
    Very interesting interview. I enjoyed reading it. Best of luck with all your projects.



  7. Wonderful interview, Heather. I love YOU'VE GOT MAIL, too! I admire you for tackling tough issues in your books. Best of luck!


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If you're curious about the story behind the name of my blog, click on the car. :)