Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Writer ~ Heather Justesen

Heather Justesen is an Award Winning LDS Writer and Author of
"The Ball's in Her Court" coming out October 2009
Heather Justesen is an LDS author, business owner, volunteer-EMT, puppy mama, (not to mention the cats, fish, chickens and other assorted poultry), whose much-neglected hobbies number almost as many as her pets. Her love of books started long before she could read, so she was the only one surprised when she started to write stories of her own. Once she started writing, she found she could no longer let the stories stay in her head--she had to get them on paper. Her second book is slated for publication summer of 2010.

CRW:  Welcome to Writers Wednesday on Writers Mirror. What inspires you to write Heather?

Heather:  Different things. Sometimes I hear something in the news, sometimes I have an odd idea in a dream--though that's never led to a salable idea yet, the idea was fun to play with anyway. Sometime I overhear things down town or at the mall. Someone says something and my brain begins to whirl. A few times I've heard a sentence and then run home to write a scene around it for one of my many, many partially finished books.

CRW:  What gets in your way of writing?

Heather:  The Internet, and my voracious need to read everything in sight. Oh, and real-life things like dishes and laundry, and keeping the house sort-of presentable so when unexpected computer clients stop to drop off their machines, I don't have to keep the door opened only to a crack. Thank goodness you can't see much of the kitchen from the front room.

CRW:  How do you get past it?

Heather:  I've actually had my husband disable the wireless signal to my laptop a couple of times so I don't get tempted to check out someone's blog or see who has updated their Facebook status. Otherwise deadlines seem to help--my critique group is excellent for that (and so many other things) because I *have* to have a new chapter to bring each week, so I can't get too distracted. As for the housework--I just try and avoid it as much as possible. It may not go away, but hey, if I sweep the kitchen floor today, it's going to need it again soon anyway, and waiting is more efficient--right?

CRW:  I like your ideas on house cleaning. I have my morning routine of everyday chores, then I do three to seven loads of wash and one extra chore or project each day. I am able to pretty much stay on top of the house, but I like your way better.  Now, back to writing.  Do you try to write daily, and if so, do you set a goal of a certain number of words?

Heather:  My schedule is really irregular so I just try and work around the edges. Some days I don't have time to do more than glance at my email and others I have six hours straight to work on whatever's eating at me the most. I'm an EMT so I've learned when I take a long patient transfer I bring my laptop so I can work on the way home. The back of an empty ambulance is actually a pretty good place for me to work since there aren't any distractions.

CRW:  Wow!  I have to say, you take the award for the most unusual place to write.  What makes you CRAZY about writing?

Heather:  Editing. Getting almost to the end of the book and realizing that I dropped a storyline or that I've put too much emphasis on one angle and not enough on another and so the emphasis is off. I also HATE getting critiques back from my trusted writing friends because they always find the holes in what I thought was a well-crafted story.And, they're almost always right.
     I also hate when I'm working on book A and storyline E starts picking at me--I know I can't do more than make a few notes on storyline E, I have deadlines now, and I actually do have to finish mostly-written books A, B, C, and D before I can focus on E. I mean, honestly, can't they wait? The answer to that is, of course, no, so I find myself writing a scene here and there on C, D, or E when I really need to get back and finish up A.

CRW:  I do the same thing. A character in one book nags at me until I write just enough to get he/she/it off my back, then get back to my  main project.  Heather, how long does it take you to complete a book?

Heather:  That varies significantly. The very first book I ever finished only took five weeks for the first draft. Of course, it has since undergone about four major rewrites and may still never see the light of day again, but it felt good to know I could do that. I was living in a hotel while we waited for our house to finish getting built, though, so there were very few distractions. I've had some take me literally years of rewrites, but mostly now I look about five months for the first draft and two to three months of edits, interspersed with long periods between versions while others critique and I put off editing. =) Of course, if I could get the other stories to leave me alone, I could probably do that a lot faster!

CRW:  Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Heather:  Some from life experiences, the news, talking to friends. A lot of times I start with a general plot idea, and then after I write a bit I start to try and figure out more about the main players and their lives. I call my friend Danyelle and we brain storm for hours. She comes up with primo complications later in the books when mine all start to run out.

CRW:  Where do you get your character’s names?

Heather:  Most of the time I go to babynames.com and scan names until I find a few I like, but I have some characters I've named after friends and family. I find I tend to use the same names over and over. A couple of years ago I was going through several nearly-finished manuscripts and realized I'd used one particular name like six times--and never was that character a particularly well-loved one. I'm really not sure how that happened since I know several people by that name, and they're all pretty nice.

CRW:  What is your favorite writing food?

Heather:  I actually don't eat much when I write. I like popcorn (totally plain right from the air popper), jordan almonds, crackers, well, almost any kind of finger food. It's hard, though, to have two hands on the keyboard if you're trying to eat. Of course, if I ate a whole lot more plain popcorn, and a whole lot less of that cake I baked just so I'd have an excuse to decorate it, I'd probably be a lot better off--and so would my hips.

CRW:  Why are you a writer?

Heather:  How can I not write? Since I was a little girl my imagination has been one of my best friends. I read like a demon, which of course, made me a backward, socially inept youth, which led to more reading and more living in my head. About ten years ago I finally decided to put one of those stories from my brain onto paper. From there on out there was no quitting. I've taken breaks to read voraciously for months, or in some cases even watch movies like crazy while I worked on my much-neglected hobbies, but I've never been able to excise storytelling from my blood.

CRW:  Who do you hope reads your work?

Heather:  This first book"The Ball's in Her Court," is about a woman's journey to find her birth family, and to find herself and her own self worth in some ways. I hope that anyone who struggles with those kinds of issues will read it, or friends and family of adoptees who want to search will consider that there are many sides to every story. I seem to have a lot of themes of family and family relationships because there's nothing more important out there. And of course I love a sweet, clean romance, so I really try to deliver that as well.

CRW:  What would be the best complement you could receive from a fan?

Heather:  "I stayed up until 2 AM to finish it because I couldn't put it down!" That would be high praise indeed. Though, actually, I hope someday to get a compliment that will blow even that one out of contention.

CRW:  Heather please tell us about your book that is coming out soon.

Heather:  My first book is about a woman who was abused and neglected as a child, then put into the foster care system. Several years, and various placements later she was adopted by a family when she was twelve. The book is about her as an adult and the journey toward reunion with the birth family she never knew in order to put to rest the memories that still haunt her. And, of course, she falls in love, because it wouldn't be much of a romance without that very important angle.

CRW:  Do you have another project you are currently working on?

Heather:  Which one? =) Aside from "Rebound" which is being released next summer, I have third one I'm working on final edits, and a fourth one that I'm just writing the ending for--and they're all different.
     I'm just finishing up a story of a woman who marries her best friend so he will be able to gain custody of his recently-orphaned niece and nephew. When his unit gets called up by the marines, she's left trying to juggle single parenthood, her career--in which strange things start to happen--and her growing love for her friend.

CRW:  Sounds interesting. Please tell us more about it.

Heather:  Rena is a thirty-one-year-old single woman who is past ready to settle down, but her only real option is the very pleasant man she's been dating all summer. Her non-option is her close friend Tucker--who is completely delicious (the female members of my critique group agree with me on that, so it must be true). Though Tucker is, in many ways, her ideal, their assorted romances with other people have always managed to keep them apart. Until now--when two children obliterate the careful protection they've formed around their friendship.

CRW:  Great story. I look forward to it and your other books.  May I list your website or blog site?

Heather:  Of course! My website: http://www.heatherjustesen.com/. My catch-all blog http://www.heatherjustesen.blogspot.com/ then I recently started a new blog that I post to daily called Clean Books for LDS Families http://www.cleanbooksforldsfamilies.blogspot.com/ It has a Facebook fan page I post the blog up to also. In a world where even childrens' books are getting questionable, I thought it would be great to have a list people could trust. I've had lots of support from other writers already and look forward to seeing what it can become.

CRW:  Great goals Heather.  My motto is the world needs more wholesome voices.  I appreciate you taking your time to visit with us here on Writers Mirror.  Good luck, and keep at it!

6 comments:

  1. Thorough review! I like it :)

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  2. Great interview. Very open and honest. I'm looking forward to BALL as it is sounds very similar to my own mother's life experience. It is hard to find time to write anywhere, but in the back of an ambulance? I am SO impressed!

    Best of luck with your new release!

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  3. Great interview! Heather, I can sympathize with thinking about one story while trying to work on another. I do that all the time! And you're right. If those other characters would just stay quiet, the writing process would go so much faster. I'm also guilty of repetitive name use. It's so easy to get stuck on a single name and use it over and over. Thank goodness for baby name books and websites! Another great place to find names, both first and last, is the credits of movies and TV shows. :)

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  4. Congrats Heather! You are one busy writing gal! :)

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  5. Thanks for the interview, Cindy! I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I don't know why Blogger messes up the color on my cover like that. It really isn't supposed to be blue! =)

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  6. Cindy,

    Great interview questions. Heather, you have quirky writing habits similar to mine. And the housework...I couldn't agree with you more.

    How can you even think of housework when a story is demanding to be written?

    Your book sounds like a best seller. Never give up on your dream. God bless you.

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