I’m pleased to welcome Jacqui Nelson to my page today. A fellow member of my local RWA group and a personal friend, Jacqui writes historical romantic adventures set in the American West and Victorian London.
Her love for the Old West came from watching classic Western movies while growing up on a cattle farm in northern Canada. Her passion for Victorian London wasn’t far behind and only increased when she worked in England for four years and explored the nooks and crannies of London on her weekends.
Jacqui now lives in Victoria on the west coast of Canada where she works in a bookstore. Her previous jobs have included animator, systems analyst and fundraising event coordinator. She is a Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® winner and three-time finalist.
1. Who or what would you be if you could be anything you chose to be for a week? What would be your super power?
I’d like to be Annie Oakley with the super-human power of ace sharpshooting. I’d participate in as many Wild West shows as I could—from the stands with the spectators, backstage with the performers and onstage during my own sharpshooting act. I’d be sure to take lots of notes while asking Buffalo Bill Cody and his troupe all sorts of questions including what it was like to ride for the Pony Express as a teenager.
2. Why do write? And why western?
I’m currently writing historical romantic adventures set in the Old West. While growing up on a cattle farm, I watched a lot of classic Western movies. Two of those movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales and For a Few Dollars More, are still in my top 10 movies of all time. I like to include the word “adventure” because I feel that’s a big part of my stories. I guess I could use action or suspense, but I think adventure better describes a story like Between Heaven & Heaven which includes a sharpshooting and riding competition followed by a wagon train journey half-way across a continent.
3. What would you say to anyone wishing to become a writer?
Go for it! Life’s too short not to live your dreams, and I’ve always said, “If other people can do something, then so can I.”
4. Are you a plotter or a panster and what’s the difference?
I’m a plotter…to an extent. I usually outline scene-by-scene the 1st third of a book. Then while writing those scenes, I’m able to see the rest of the book and continue writing my outline…except for the end. For me, the end is always the hardest part.
5. How do you research your books and make them authentic for the reader when your books are set in a West no longer here?
I do a lot of my research online and at the library. I also have the complete set of Time Life Old West books which I often turn to for inspiration.
6. When you have a day job how do you fit in writing?
That’s another hard part—balancing writing with work and family and friends. In the past, I’ve cut back on sleep and exercise in order to write more, but I found that made me a bit grumpy. And an unhappy writer isn’t the most productive writer. One of the good things about my day job at the bookstore is that after I spend a day on my feet, I’m motivated to sit down…in front of my computer.
7. What’s the best thing about being a writer? About being Jacqui?
On the days when I don’t have to go to work, I get to stay home in my pajamas and turn a blank page into something that (hopefully) feels alive with words. Plus I get to hang out with my story characters and see where they will lead me. That’s a pretty rewarding experience. It’s also rewarding when I hear from readers who’ve connected with my stories. Writing is a solitary endeavor filled with an unending minefield of self-doubts, so hearing positive feedback is a gift beyond measure.
8. What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I’ve made too many mistakes to remember them all, but my most recent one was underestimating the time it takes me to complete story revisions. But I’ve learned that I have to take my time if I want to create the best story possible, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about the speed of my individual writing process. It’s useless to compare ourselves to others. I’m me. I can’t be someone else.
9. Do your friends and family members show up as characters in your books?
The personalities of my family and friends haven’t shown up in my books. At least, not yet! But things that they’ve done have. In the book that I’m currently revising titled Between Love & Hell, my heroine works in a Dodge City saloon where (on a particularly rowdy night when a wave of cowboys fresh off the trail enter the saloon) she decides to sing Amazing Grace. A friend told me that she sang this song in a karaoke bar one night, and afterward a man in the crowd said something like, “If I’d wanted a sermon, I’d have gone to church.” So that’s the response my heroine receives.
10. When you’ve had a hard day and characters just won’t do what you want what’s your reward for powering through?
I don’t set daily rewards, but now I’m thinking I should! In the past, I’ve bribed myself with the treat of a new purchase (like a pair of shoes) if I reach a bigger milestone (like a first draft or final revisions completed). Right now, I have my eye on a brightly colored pair of winter boots.
My next novel, Between Love & Lies, is set in Dodge City during the heyday of the cattle drives. It will be released…as soon as I get these revisions done
So in the meantime let me share a blurb and excerpt from one of my already released books. I have Between Heaven & Hell (set on the Oregon Trail) and Adella’s Enemy (set in Kansas during a cutthroat railroad race).
Adella’s Enemy was inspired by the AMC’s historical Western TV series Hell on Wheels. It’s part of the “Steam! Romance and Rails” series where it can be read on its own or as one of three interconnected novellas in the Passion’s Prize anthology featuring fellow 2010 Golden Heart® finalists E.E. Burke and Jennifer Jakes.
Blurb for Adella’s Enemy
Can the pursuit of an old enemy lead to a new love?
The War Between the States ended five years ago, but she still pursues her enemy…
Rebel spy turned government rabble rouser Adella Willows receives her mission straight from a Washington senator—play havoc with the Katy Railroad and derail its bid to win the race. The senator craves wealth. Adella craves revenge against the man responsible for her brother’s death. But her plans crumble into chaos when she enters a battle of wits with the railroad’s foreman.
An ocean separates him from his failures in Ireland, but he’s still haunted by those who died…
Seasoned railroad foreman Cormac McGrady’s sole desire is keeping his workmen safe and employed, which means keeping the Katy ahead of its rivals. But the beautiful spy bedeviling his railroad needs protecting as well. Cormac must choose between winning the race and winning Adella’s heart, while Adella must choose whether she lives for revenge or dies for love.
Excerpt from Adella’s Enemy
New Chicago, Kansas—March, 1870
(The last town at the southern end of the Katy Railroad)
“Sorry to be such a bother.” Adella lowered her gaze and tried to appear contrite, which wasn’t difficult as she truly regretted seeing anyone involved in such back-breaking labor. But being a bother was her job. Now she must become even more bothersome. She must embrace every opportunity to delay this construction crew from reaching the border.
Her Irish rescuer exhaled a weary breath and said in a much gentler tone, “’Tisn’t your fault. Don’t worry about us.”
Oh, but I do. And to apologize for seeing your men’s lives made more difficult, I promise to buy each and every one of them a drink tonight.”
A round of hoorays went up.
“Now, lass, you needn’t—”
“Miss, it’s not necessary—”
“Look, lady, I can’t let—”
“You can. And you can call me Miss Willows.”
“Stubborn English,” he muttered.
Annoyance made her squeeze her valise’s handle even tighter. “I’m not English. I’m American.”
“Isn’t Willows an English name?”
She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. She wondered if she might wrench the handle from her valise, so tight had her grip become.
His eyes narrowed even more. “If you’ve got something to say, Miss Willows, say it.”
“You’re overbearing and opinionated—an Irishman I heard all about in my youth.” Her mother’s tales of her home country hadn’t always been admiring.
Behind him, the McGrady Gang hooted in mirth. “She’s put ye in yer place, Mac.”
She felt no pleasure in the accomplishment. It served no purpose. Unfortunately, she was struggling to recall her purpose. Her befuddlement had arrived with the big Irishman, the one the men called Mac. Her reaction to him was dangerous. He was dangerous.
Refusing to look at him, she stared at the train. She was here to delay construction of the track, so Levi Parsons lost the race and his ill-gotten gains. She was here for Declan.
Between Heaven & Hell (my full-length novel): www.amzn.com/B00L3AW2XE
For paperback books, visit my Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/jacquinelson
You can learn more about me and my writing at…
Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks
Facebook friend page: www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonAuthor
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Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Pat! It’s always a treat to hang out with you.