Monday, November 2, 2015

Interview with Janelle Jalbert, TRIANGULATING BLISS

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
TRIANGULATING BLISS is a story of redemption, second-chances and how the universe can work a little magic to make life more than we think possible when we face difficult times. Greg Ellison is a recently returned veteran of Afghanistan who struggles with the ghosts of war and what could have been as he works to figure out what he wants next in life. After making a life-changing decision, he learns about the apparent suicide of a local hero. The death is attributed to a mysterious incident at a popular local restaurant. Greg unexpectedly finds himself connected to it all and seeks to learn the truth about Bliss. He meets with Lois, the owner of Bliss, and learns that others have also experienced the “Bliss Triangle”.

Lois reunites with the love of her life and learns that love never dies; a woman, broken by life, sees how her life might be; a musician's wife stumbles upon her own grave; a son, caring for his dying mother, learns that endings can be beginnings; and a financial advisor with a shady past finds out how close he is to losing everything. 

All of their stories include one figure: a man with dark hair, blue eyes, and a strong jaw. 

Then, it’s Greg’s turn. 

Greg’s encounter with the mysterious forces at Bliss changes everything. He learns that what brought him to Bliss is not as it appears and that the lives touched by Bliss are powerfully interconnected across space and time.

TRIANGULATING BLISS combines elements of the paranormal/supernatural with mystery and romance in a story of rebirth and reconciliation for those who have already experienced some bumps in the highway of life.

Originally, TRIANGULATING BLISS was due to me a one-off, standalone novel, but the characters, beta readers, and my personal curiosity changed all of that. Now, TRIANGULATING BLISS is Book 1 in the MYSTIQUE OF LIVING SERIES. Each book will explore a component of what it takes to follow and find your bliss and will highlight the story of characters introduced in TRIANGULATING BLISS. The next installments, TRIANGULATING SELF and TRIANGULATING WISDOM will be released in 2016.

What was the inspiration for your latest book?
The idea for TRIANGULATING BLISS snuck up on me in much the same way the characters are confronted with the Bliss Triangle. I was holding the door for my friend as we were leaving a restaurant in South Pasadena, California. I hadn’t thought about fiction writing since college, which is to say it had been a couple of decades. We had been talking about how we felt that our lives had gotten off course in many ways. As I walked out the door the idea hit: “What if you could walk out a random door and walk into your perfect life/reality?” I was immediately excited and began chattering away to my friend about this “great story idea” that just popped into my head. It was an amazing and nearly giddy moment for me that led to a mind-boggling ride. In the two years that followed since that night I experienced a lot including: a seemingly nonsensical 30-day challenge; the characters taking over; the illness and passing of my dad; literary detours; the death of my sister; a comical encounter with an agent; and more. In fact, it was such a tale in itself, I put together a companion guide to the novel, THE BACKDOOR TO BLISS, that includes the whole story there as well as extras and bonuses not found in the novel. I’m a total book junkie, so the idea of having a chance at a “Director’s Cut” or “Bonus Feature” to the novel was interesting. It’s for those who enjoy the novel and want to learn more or further extend the BLISS experience.

Do you have a favorite character?
In TRIANGULATING BLISS, Lois is hands down my favorite character. She stole my heart as the owner of Bliss Bar & Grill. She’s the type of woman I want to be when I reach my golden years. Lois is full of life, joy, and wisdom even as she has weathered life’s highs and lows. She also became one of the motivations for creating the Bliss Challenge. In the novel, she discusses how she never really believed in fairytales but also thought it would be amazing to serve as a fairy godmother of sorts who could help grant people’s wishes while improving lives. That - combined with some serious personal challenges while I was putting TRIANGULATING BLISS together – led me to put together the Bliss Challenge to help fund wishes for children facing medical challenges. I lost both my dad and my sister, who was disabled and faced medical challenges of her own, during that point. It is a fitting way to honor two important people in my life as well as the character that captured my heart. 10% of the proceeds from TRIANGULATING BLISS and 100% of the proceeds from the companion guide THE BACKDOOR TO BLISS go to the Bliss Challenge and Make-A-Wish programs. Readers even get the chance to vote where the funds go based on their favorite characters in the novel.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
It’s funny because Lois was the first character in TRIANGULATING BLISS to assert a greater role in the overall narrative. When she came to life and told her tale, the entire foundation for the novel changed. The original plan was for Greg to be front and center, but I think that TRIANGULATING BLISS is almost as much about Lois as it is about Greg. When the others started to clamor for attention, it seemed that they all wanted to take the novel it a different direction, but I was able to rein them in (though Phil as the “guardian of the Bliss Triangle” continued to tempt and intrigue me).  Then, my beta readers began to speak up for the other characters too. That’s really how TRIANGULATING BLISS became THE MYSTIQUE OF LIVING SERIES. In the follow up books, we’ll learn more about Phil, Mikel and Damon, Henri and Sara, as well as Richard.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?

Initially, I did attempt the traditional route. I was told repeatedly that it was a well-written and entertaining piece but the fact it was Magical Realism was a deal breaker. “Magical Realism doesn’t sell,” I heard over and over again. That’s one reason it is marketed more as a supernatural or visionary story with elements of mystery and romance. I tend to shy away from saying paranormal, even though it includes elements of the afterlife, simply because the genre is overwhelmed with vampires, werewolves, and such which is not what TRIANGULATING BLISS is about.

I am not alone in facing those types of challenges. I came across Julianne MacLean’s COLOR OF HEAVEN series and reached out to her to see if she had a similar experience given that we write on similar themes. Even as a best-selling, proven author with representation in place, her agent wasn’t able to convince the traditional powers that to greenlight her series. I believe in my “Bliss Baby” and know it needs to be out in the world, so I made it happen. That’s the beauty of today’s literary world. ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘no way’ anymore. It just means that you have to have the gumption to try ‘another way’.  

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
My first book contract came about as almost a fluke. I was working at pitching TRIANGULATING BLISS but hitting roadblocks. I learned of a publisher who was looking for someone to write a wine book and early Easter Sunday in 2014, I put together a pitch/proposal. I was told that it would take a few weeks to hear from them, but less than 24 hours later, I was signing my first book contract for WINE FOR BEGINNERS. It was a tight schedule that required a 90 day turn around, and no, there was no advance (the norm for lesser recognized authors, unfortunately). It became a bittersweet day when I submitted the initial draft to the publisher after a short extension. I didn’t really get the chance to celebrate that accomplishment since my sister was rushed to the hospital hours after I completed the submission. She died that night. Talk about an incredible high and a tremendous low in less than 12 hours.

I call that my first book contract even though I was already penning books as a ghostwriter by then. I had rededicated myself to writing in earnest when my dad died New Year’s night, and I was finding a way to make it happen as a ghost writer, a copy writer, as well as beginning to embrace fiction writing for the first time in my life. It was my writing that was probably the single most important reason that I was able to get through one of the most challenging years of my life.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I do have a variety of social media activities for my writing. I am active on Twitter (@JustJJWriting) and engage with readers and book clubs through it. My Facebook page is growing as well. The website grew into something more than a simple book site. Given the challenges I faced in 2014, I realized that the website could be of greater service if it was dedicated to helping people in pursuing their happiness and following their bliss. In that way, it also highlights what is going on with the novel and the series as well as providing assistance to others who want to live their bliss. Through the website, we are also growing “TEAM BLISS” as well.

Too many authors focus on social media as being the miracle for book sales, the reality is that it is about relationship building rather than just ‘pimping’ you project. I have met some wonderful people through social media and other websites like Goodreads, but I work to extend interaction beyond likes and follows. I often participate in book club meetings either in person or via phone/Skype to make connections with current and potential readers. The information, both positive and critical, is very useful and enlightening in continuing my projects. Also, I keep postcards, business cards, and other swag with me all the time for my various books and freely invite people in the real world to experience my writing. There’s nothing more compelling than an invitation in the flesh compared to one through the internet.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
That balance is a beast for me. I tend to love the process of getting lost in writing to the point of never obsession while I’m drafting. You can’t do that anymore. You have to wear multiple hats and keep all the balls successfully in the air. I’m lucky in that I spent time as an online marketer before I returned to my writing, so the learning curve isn’t quite as steep for me, even if the marketing landscape is constantly changing. It’s just as easy for me to get lost in marketing as it is in writing, so I have to be vigilant in making sure that I make myself to both. It helps that I have a publishing schedule for myself to keep the big picture in front of me. I give myself specific tasks to accomplish each day which helps me do all the juggling. The biggest challenge isn’t the marketing or the writing, it’s actually making sure that I give myself permission to take breaks from it all. With author-preneurs, I think it is easy to lose yourself in everything that needs to get done. If you don’t take care of yourself (including the ability to do nothing and simply rest and zone out) it can silence the muse, which is the true death knell for a writer.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
I have a very diverse background. Some say that I’m eclectic, but that is sometimes code for weird…which I hope I’m not. I love auto racing and even served as a motorsports reporter and photographer - traveling the country covering NASCAR, Indy Car, NHRA and such - for a while. There were some life demands that forced me to give that up, but I still follow it all as much as I can. In fact, my reward (of sorts) for finishing the draft of TRIANGULATING SELF, the next book in the MYSTIQUE OF LIVING SERIES, is attending a driving school here in Southern California and doing some hot laps behind the wheel of a genuine race car.

I was bit by the travel bug early in life, and I have traveled throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and of course the United States. Most of my travels have been solo ventures, which can be interesting as a female, but there is something to be said for the way you can experience places without the distraction of others.

Some of my more mundane, or every day, passions include food and wine. I use “cooking therapy” and “grilling therapy” to reset after long days of writing, editing and marketing. Up until 2000, I was a certified beer gal and then I went to my first wine tasting party and a new obsession began. I have traveled to many of the world’s wine regions and even was a finalist in the California Wine Tasting Championship as a result. I now call all of that “research” since those experiences helped lead to writing WINE FOR BEGINNERS. When I’m not writing or cooking, I also like to escape to the beach to feed my surfer soul or at least get in or near some water to unwind.

What’s next for you?
On the writing front, there’s lots going on. TRIANGULATING SELF, the second book in THE MYSTIQUE OF LIVING SERIES, which is Phil’s story as the “Guardian of the Bliss Triangle” is in the final drafting stages. It’s set for release next spring/summer. My next project for release, WING DOG: SOUL PUP, is a slight departure from the Mystique Series and is due out in March 2016. I call it my “magical mutt memoir”, and it explores the bond with women’s best friend. There is also a summer reading follow up to FLASH 40: LIFE’S MOMENTS in the works, and that’s only the first half of the coming year! It’s a very busy and exciting time, but I enjoy riding that wave.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Janelle Jalbert has ghostwritten 15 nonfiction books on topics ranging from productivity, money management, marketing, cooking, and relationships. She also worked as a copywriter for some of the biggest online names and worked as a motorsports reporter covering NASCAR. Jalbert enjoys bringing stories to life that celebrate the magic in everyday living. To learn more about her current and upcoming releases and promotions visit Jalbert currently lives in Southern California, though she regularly returns to her second home in North Carolina when her pack of pups grants her a vacation. 

The “Bliss Challenge” is an effort to take the spirit of the novel’s beloved character, Lois, and help make wishes come true. Ten percent of the proceeds from Triangulating Bliss and 100% of the proceeds from the novel’s companion guide, The Backdoor to Bliss, will be given to a Make-A-Wish program voted on by readers. Selections are based on reader votes for their favorite characters: Los Angeles for Greg, Henri, and Mikel; Chicago for Lois; Charlotte for Jen; and New York for Richard. The goal is to grant at least one wish for a child in the winning city based on funds raised from the novel and guide. Voting and challenge updates can be found at

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