by Alicia Street
Here’s another entry in my series of RG2E Reader2Author Interviews where authors mix it up with one of their readers.
Welcome Joan Reeves, author of funny, sexy romance with a chick lit attitude. Every one of her e-books has been a Kindle bestseller. She is also multi-published in print, and her freelance work, sometimes under pseudonyms or ghost, can be found across the Internet.
Her Motto? “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”
Our reader today is Kaye Bennett, who reads at least four books a week. (Me, too! Compulsive readers unite!)
Kaye has lived all across the US, including Hawaii. Her careers have ranged from singer, sales, public relations, security consultant, to her current work in high school facilities and calendar administration. But her favorite job is being a Mom to Elora and a soul mate to the Hawaiian Guy, comedian & radio personality Kamaka Brown.
Alicia to Joan and Kaye: When did you first become an avid reader? As a child or an adult? What got you started?
Kaye: I was an adult when I became an avid reader. I wanted to re-read the classics. Jane Austen’s collective works created an insatiable appetite in me.
Joan: I’ve been a reader since childhood when I found a picture book in a trash heap. No kidding. My older brother and I were visiting our grandparents in the country. There was an abandoned gravel pit way off behind their house. We’d been told in no uncertain terms not to go there. So where did we sneak off to play every day?
The old gravel pit was a site where people dumped trash—not household garbage but old newspapers, catalogs, broken dishes, etc. One day I found a picture book with words, and I was entranced with it. You see, I didn’t grow up with children’s books in the home. They were luxuries that I didn’t discover until I started school and found these marvelous rooms called libraries. I taught myself to read that book, and I’ve been reading ever since.
Alicia: Where do you read? And how often? Is there a time of day that is usually ‘reading’ time?
Joan: I read anywhere because I take my Kindle with me everywhere. If I’m actually devoting time to reading rather than fitting it in here and there, I like to stretch out on the couch. I also enjoy reading in bed.
Kaye: I read daily. On my sofa mostly. I enjoy a cup of coffee after work with my book. This started during “homework” time. No TV allowed. But I can’t believe how much I’ve changed since getting a Kindle. Now I’m reading all the time and everywhere. Plus it has introduced me to authors and story lines I may not have ever read in the past.
Joan to Kaye: I’m guessing that you started reading Austen as print books.
Joan: I’m curious. How and when did you make the transition from print books to digital?
Kaye: I bought a Kindle in the fall of 2010 and haven’t looked back. I started out to de-clutter my over-the-top library. My Kindle is supposed to hold 350,000 books and I thought it would be perfect to start purging the DTBs and get them into my Kindle. Sadly, I have to purchase the books a second time to do this (though my original purchases where through Amazon)—so I still have an over-the-top library, but all my new reading is in my Kindle.
Alicia to Kaye: How did you discover the first Joan Reeves book you read? How did it affect you?
Kaye: I snagged it as a 99-cent kindle book. Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!
Alicia to Kaye: What genres are your favorites?
Kaye: Romance. Romantic Erotica. Mystery & Intrigue.
Alicia: Any you absolutely would never read?
Kaye: Technical, and that’s not an absolute….just zzzzzz
Alicia to Joan: Do you read across genres, or stick to mainly one? Which?
Joan: My favorite books are romance or mysteries, and I love books that combine both. But, I pretty much read everything—all genres. Fiction and nonfiction. No tech manuals though!
Alicia to Joan: Was there a particular book that first made you want to write? Did you always like love stories?
Joan: I always loved adventure stories, but I read everything. One summer when I was fourteen, I decided to read every book in the parish library. I started with fiction, in alphabetical order by author’s last name of course. By the time school started, I had read a lot, but I hadn’t even got past the A’s!
I also wrote stories from about the age of 10, but I never thought about being an author—writing books for others. That came when I read my first Mary Stewart novel. The idea that maybe I could do this burst into bloom with the romance revolution of the 1970’s. The itch just grew and grew.
Alicia to Kaye: What kind of heroine or hero do you usually like to read about?
Kaye: I like heroines that go from caterpillars to butterflies or rags to riches. Strong, women/men with a great sense of humor and passion.
Alicia to Kaye: Which one of Joan’s characters is most compelling to you?
Kaye: Oooh, that’s a tough one since I liked them all very much…Ok, on the spot? It’s a toss up between Darcy Benton in Nobody’s Cinderella (San Antonio Two-Step) and Stormy Clarkson in Old Enough To Know Better (The Good, Bad, & The Girly) and let’s not forget Ally Fletcher in Still The One or Jennifer Monroe in Just One Look. Ok, ok, you can see my problem here? And this is not to turn my back on Judy Ann or Susannah. They’re all friends!
Kaye to Joan: Where do your character ideas come from?
Joan: Figuring out where a character comes from is almost like figuring out which came first, the chicken or the egg. Sometimes an idea in which I’m interested creates a need for a certain type of character. Sometimes hearing about a person’s challenges or failures or triumphs makes me want to explore a particular element.
Kaye: Are you a people watcher?
Joan: I am a fan of the human parade. I am also an eavesdropper, though I try to be subtle about that. In this day of cell phones when people will discuss their most intimate lives in a room full of other people, you find a great deal of fuel for your creative imagination.
Alicia to Joan: Is there a character you’ve created that is your personal favorite?
Joan: I guess my last character is always my favorite until I start a new book. I must admit I loved Sean Butler in Old Enough To Know Better. He was what every woman wants. I’ll let you in on a secret. He’s patterned after my husband. All my heroes are, in that they have a lot of love to give. Sean had to be special because the heroine Stormy Clarkson had led a stormy life that made her cut herself off from her sexuality. She’s at that vulnerable age when she’s thinking, “Is this all there is to life?”
I have the deeply held belief that you should enjoy living your life. Too many people go through life as if it were drudgery. Until it’s too late. That’s kind of a theme I play upon: a character needs to take control of her life.
Alicia to Kaye: What prompts you as a reader to contact an author?
Kaye: I initially contacted Joan to discuss editing. I felt she was far too talented to allow errors to prevail. Afterward, we just hit it off. She’s quite approachable and exudes Southern charm. To be honest, she’d be charming anywhere.
Alicia to Joan: Has a reader’s feedback ever influenced your work?
Joan: Yes, with my first books I e-pubbed. I had them proofread, but a reader made the comment that she found errors. Well, silly me, I assured her the proofreader had “certified” them. Wrong! I learned to trust a reader rather than the person who wants to convince you their job was done right. Now, I look to my readers for feedback. In fact, I put that in every book. If you find any errors, just let me know, and I’ll fix it. And I do.
Alicia to Kaye: Is there something you wish authors would understand better about readers?
Kaye: Maybe, as many of our female authors begin to mature, they might remember the mature heroines. It would be nice to have sexy, talented, humorous, interesting women in their late 50’s and into 60’s. I’m thrilled to see Joan sticking her big toe into the warm waters of this genre.
Joan to Kaye: I love your comment about “sexy, talented, humorous, interesting women in their late 50’s and into 60’s” because that’s us, Kaye! I don’t think most women that age are ready to jump on the scrap heap. They’d probably rather jump on a sexy man if they have the chance. However, the popular opinion in New York publishing, when I was beating my head against that wall, was that women didn’t want to read books about older women. Do you think a book with an older heroine is limited in its appeal?
Kaye: It would depend on the quality of the character and how she’s portrayed. And the storyline would have to be strong and believable. And ok, seriously, I hate to say it out loud, but it’s nice to think we are still sexy and desirable. Most of my friends are in this age group, and I suppose we vicariously live through these characters because “we’re supposed to know better” and not do impulsive things. But, hmm, maybe that’s what’s missing in some of the mature woman genre. That impulsiveness. You certainly captured that with Stormy Clarkson and it was quite steamy (thank you ).
Joan to Kaye: When you start a book in one of your chosen genres, is there anything (content, style, plot or voice) that is such a turnoff that you’ll just figuratively slam the book shut and not read further?
Kaye: I must be a strange bird, because I don’t slam the book shut (figuratively speaking since it’s my kindle). I may wrinkle my nose at the end, but I’ll give it a chance.
Alicia to Joan: What’s your take on reader reviews?
Joan: When I got my first bad review, I was devastated. The reader reviewer ripped it apart point by point. I questioned my wisdom in e-pubbing the book even though it had first been print published by a major. I moped like only a depressed author can mope, meaning there’s not enough chocolate in the world to make you feel better! Then I got another review. Everything the first reader hated, the second one lauded me for. If there’s a norm for reviews, that seems to be it. For every bad one that hates an element, you get a good one that loves the same element.
Kaye to Joan: What is your favorite snack when you write?
Joan: Does coffee count? *LOL* When I’m nearing the end of a book, I’m not that hungry. In fact, I miss meals. I’m so focused on wrapping up the story, because by the end, I have another story in my brain vying for attention. Snacking occurs when I’m frustrated with writing. When the story is just not coming together. Then, anything in the pantry or fridge is fair game, and that’s why I don’t even buy cookies, chips, Ding Dongs (love Ding Dongs and a glass of cold milk), candy, etc. If it’s in the house, I’ll eat it!
Alicia to Joan: What was the most satisfying response you’ve gotten from a reader?
Joan: I’ll be honest. I’m just putty in the hands of a reader who says he or she loves my books, but some emails are more touching. Kaye, my reader buddy here, just makes me grin when she emails me. I get the sense that she and I are a lot alike. Then there are the emails from a reader who says my book was the first time she smiled all week in what was a really tough week for her. Those comments make you realize that what you put out there might just be what someone needs in a dark moment.
Alicia to Kaye: What is the reason you continue to read Joan’s books?
Kaye: First, she’s quite talented-that’s a given. Second: She has believability with her characters and scenes. She could easily be a screenwriter-made for TV movies because I’m able to see the scene in my mind.
Kaye to Joan: Do you find pictures of your characters and use them for more tangible visuals while writing or is it the spirit of the character?
Joan: Yes, I do. When a character pops out of my brain, I have a pretty good idea of what they look like. I guess I kind of cast them in the same way a movie is cast.
Kaye: Tell me how Stormy Clarkson (Old Enough to Know Better) came to life.
Joan: Stormy was actually inspired by a documentary I saw a long time ago about women who were not the custodial parent. In some cases, women voluntarily signed over custody to their husbands. I couldn’t imagine giving up my children, but I admired women who did so because they thought it was best for the child. That made me wonder why a woman would think she wasn’t up to raising a child. I wanted Stormy to be a woman who had made mistakes and had learned from the mistakes or so she thought. What she really learned was just to hide from life and deny herself as a way to subconsciously punish herself for her shortcomings.
Joan to Kaye: Every reader knows a book that fits them when they see it. Doesn’t matter if it has bad reviews or bad cover art if the other tangibles, or implied intangibles, pushes their buttons. What pushes your “buy button” when you’re browsing for books?
Kaye: Free. LOL. Yeah, sorry, but the free kindle list gets me to an author at the beginning. And if I like it I’ll buy every one they’ve written after that. The book description offers me a little peek at what the story is about and the reviews. If 16 readers gave it a 5 star rating—I’ll read it. I do enjoy a lot of different genres, so other readers’ opinions help me to decide, but not always.
Ok, I guess to answer your question, several words will cue me…humorous or hillarious, sexy or steamy. I like unique story lines (however possible) or twists on tales, Cinderella saves the Prince…. I like paranormal so that can trigger me as well.
Alicia to Joan: Do you have an author you currently read that inspires your writing?
Joan: Oh, my goodness. I read so many books in every genre, and I have so many friends who are authors that I always hate this question. I finally decided just to name authors I don’t personally know. That way I won’t hurt any feelings. I like the lyricism, the imaginative plots, and the pace of Dean Koontz, circa, 1980’s. He brings a lot of subtle skills into play. I re-read his books Watchers and Lightning every few years. I liked the way the late Olivia Goldsmith layered stories. I adore the characters in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. I love the vulnerable heroines of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and the quirky characters of Lawrence Block. I like the relentless pace of some of the thriller writers like Max Allan Collins. I could go on endlessly because I love talking about books.
Don’t we all! 🙂