Monday, February 8, 2016

Interview with Jeanette Watts, BRAINS AND BEAUTY

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
My new book is Brains and Beauty. It's the sequel to Wealth and Privilege. Or, maybe it's more a "companion book?" The two books take place from almost the exact same starting moment to almost the exact same ending moment.  But they are told from different points of view. It's a "he said - she said." It's best to read them in order, Wealth and Privilege first; but it's fun to find out what was going on from a different perspective.  The theme of Brains and Beauty is that things aren't always what they appear!

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
I can't say I've ever had that happen, exactly, but I have very frequently had characters go off in different directions than I was thinking. I had no idea that Regina's youngest sister was a lesbian. In the first book, I introduced a maid character with the thought that my lead protagonist would have a dalliance with her - but he's a one-woman guy. He couldn't even look at her. So that really did change the direction of the novel.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
I spent five years sending query letters and trying to please agents. Since, of course, no publisher will talk to you without an agent.  It was a nightmare. Almost every agent I queried liked my book. But they wouldn't represent me unless I rewrote it the way they wanted. And then when I did, they didn't like the book anymore!  There's some old saying about not being able to please two masters. It's true. I now know I should trust my muse before I trust an agent.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
I had just wasted the better part of a year rewriting my first book - again - to please another crazy agent, who liked my book, but wanted me to make it much shorter. Then when I made it shorter, she complained there was no depth to any of the characters...well, duh! That's what all those other words were for.  I had several friends telling me to go straight to Kindle. I should have followed that advice a year sooner than I did.  When I finished writing the sequel, I didn't even bother with the traditional route. The publishing industry has changed so much in the last six or seven years! There are plenty of decent novels being self published. Sometimes, the self-published ones are superior for things that I've seen turned out by large publishing houses.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
My husband is a very talented graphic artist, and he does my cover art for me. The cover for Wealth and Privilege was from an old vacation photo, the back covers and the front cover for Brains and Beauty were all his design. He tells me what he has in mind, and I say "cool!" and then we have to collect the costumes and go to the locations to shoot the photos. I don't put in a lot of input, except to ask for different dimensions to fit the cover.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
I have a large collection of talented friends help with the review process. Some are writers, some are English teachers, some are just perceptive readers. Brains and Beauty had six editors. They all found different things that needed to be addressed. One reader "corrected" things I then had to UNcorrect - things pertaining to Scotland are referred to as "Scotch," not "Scottish" in the late 1800s. But that same reader was the one who pointed out that the word "sex" did not mean "intercourse" until 1929. Before that, the word was only used as a synonym for gender! I can't imagine ever having only one editor to review my manuscript.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
As many as I can manage! I do a poor job of maintaining it all, but I have my own webpage (, a Twitter account, and Wealth and Privilege has its own Facebook page. That was a mistake, instead of a Facebook page for every book, I should have an author page for me. But I have over 20,000 likes on that Facebook page, I'm reluctant to lose all those connections with people. I am on Goodreads, although I'm sure I don't know how to navigate it very well. I've chatted in some of their forums for a while, but life is so full of distractions!  A weekend trip away for a book signing, then a few extra days of writing retreat, then I have 500 emails waiting when I get home, not to mention laundry and all the other things that piled up while I was gone... and I've completely forgotten about the existence of Goodreads.  I have been meaning to start a blog, once I find the time to figure out how.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes, and no.  There is always more to do than there are hours in a day.  But when I'm out at a book festival, I treat it like a writer's retreat. I love to schedule a couple of extra days wherever I happen to be, and put in some quality time with my laptop.  There are some gorgeous hotel lobbies out there. And B&Bs with verandas overlooking pretty gardens, and oceans, and forests. I find that time incredibly productive!

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Get lots of eyes to proofread your book! Self-publishing has a bad reputation, and sadly, it's for a reason.  I've seen books with grammatical and punctuation errors on every page. It seems obvious no one ever took a look at it before going to print. I can have six people proofread, and I will proofread between every other reader, and person number six will still find a missing set of quotation marks.

But make sure your book is really "ripe" before you start sending it out for other people to edit.  Don't make everyone else do your writing for you. I was once asked to proofread a manuscript that was obviously a failed screenplay. By the third page I was tired of reading screen directions without the heavy indentations. "Lights up on director and producer. Cut to projectionist turning off the lights" does not make a good novel. I didn't even finish proofreading it. The writer was offended when I pointed out it really wasn't ready for print yet. Problem is, publishing a book in that sort of state is not the way to build yourself a reputation as a good writer.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
Too many! It makes it hard to stay on top of everything.  I am a dancer in so many contexts: I have a French Cancan troupe, and a belly dance troupe, and a Vintage dance troupe. I also run a social Vintage dance group. I love teaching people to dance! Dance transforms you. Once you are a dancer, you never see yourself or the world around you the same way.

I am also a costumer. I always, always have several projects going on at all times. Renaissance costumes, 1860s ballgowns, bustle dresses... between dancing and book signings and other events, I have tons of excuses to play dressup. I do love telling children who come to tell me they like my dress, that you are NEVER too old to play dressup.


Regina Waring seems to have it all.  A loving husband, a successful business, and the most expensive wardrobe in town.  But nothing is what it appears to be.  Her  husband is critical and demanding, the business teeters on ruin, even the opulent wardrobe is a clever illusion. 

Regina’s life is one long tiptoe through a minefield; one wrong step and her entire life is going to blow up and destroy her.  Attempting to hold it all together, she appeases the husband, dresses the part, and never, never says what she is really thinking. That would get in the way of getting things done.  And, if there’s one thing Regina did really well, it was getting things done.

Enter Thomas Baldwin.  Young and handsome and completely off limits, Regina is smitten at first sight.  Then, to her great astonishment, he slowly becomes her best friend.  He’s the one person in her life who never lets her down.  Torn between her fascination with him and her desire not to ruin a marvelous friendship, she tries to enjoy each moment with him as it comes.

If only that were enough.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jeanette Watts only lived in Pittsburgh for four years, but in her heart, she will always be a Pittsburgher.  She missed the city so much after her move to Ohio, she had to write a love story about it.

She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.  When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.




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