Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Biggest Hurdle—Worry

My guest is, Holly Jacobs, award winning Romance author writing for Harlequin and Avalon.

As a new writer, we worry about many things; will we get an agent, will our book sell, will readers or agents/editors like my second book. You don’t think about published authors, with many books to their credit, as being worriers. What have they got to worry about, right? Wrong.

Regardless of where we are in the food chain, writers worry about their stories. Holly discusses her worries as a writer.

Ah, the holidays! I love this time of year. Maybe that’s why a great percentage of my books have been set during one holiday or another. The second book I sold to Harlequin/Silhouette was Do You Hear What I Hear? It was a Christmas book and the heroine was the mother of a hearing impaired child. I agonized about getting the daughter’s ASL (American Sign Language) right. It’s got an entirely different structure, so if I wrote it as the character actually signed it, it might have pulled readers from the story (the last thing any writer wants to do). Yet, if I wrote it as straight English, I felt I was not doing justice to a visually beautiful language. In the end, I tried to split the difference...and I worried. Worried that hearing impaired readers would be upset. Then I got a letter from a woman who worked at a school for the Hearing Impaired, and she loved it. Phew. I felt as if I’d got an A in class!

When Sia said she wanted to talk about the laughter and tears, the glitches and triumphs, authors face in the pursuit of their ambition to write I knew immediately what my biggest hurdle in writing is...the worry.

You see, in addition to writing a lot of holiday books, I really try to present characters from different walks of life, with different obstacles to overcome, and every time I do, I worry that someone will think I didn’t quite hit the mark. And still I write these characters because I think it’s important to point out that everyone’s different. This November’s SuperRomance, UNEXPECTED GIFTS, deals with a teacher who works with teen moms. Her best friend was a teen mom, and one of the major secondary characters is a teen mom. I was very nervous about this one. I’ve volunteered (in a very minimal way) with the Erie Teen Parenting program for years and am friends with the woman who was in charge of it until last year. She got one of the early copies and I fretted as she read it. What if she felt I didn’t have enough empathy for the girls? What if she thought I glossed over how hard being a teen parent is? What if... Hey, I’m a writer, asking what-if is second nature to me. :-) Of course, it leads to a lot of angst! When she finished the book she called me, and was happy with the way I’d portrayed the teen moms. Phew.

Worry. It’s something I do well. I have four kids and they trained me well! LOL In February, I have another SuperRomance release, A ONE-OF-A-KIND FAMILY. The hero’s brother is special needs. And I’m already worrying that someone will think I didn’t hit the mark. LOL

So, why? Why do I keep writing about things that make me worry? Because part of the reason I write is because it allows me to walk in someone else’s shoes. If every character was my clone...well, where would be the fun in that? (My kids would assure there was no fun at all in that! LOL) I don’t want to make it sound like worries are all there is to my writing. It’s my biggest hurdle. My biggest glee about well, the glee! Seriously, I feel blessed every day to do what I’m doing!

So, this holiday, I feel a sense of relief that so far, UNEXPECTED GIFTS, seems to have worked for readers and I feel a giant does of glee that I wrote a book of my heart and so far readers are liking it! And I also feel glee that the holidays are here!
  • As a writer, what is satisfying to you about writing characters with special needs?
I don't always have special characters, but I like to include them when I can. One of my readers recently sent me a note and said she loved that my books felt so real, that the characters felt so real. I think part of that realism is presenting people from all walks of life. And presenting characters with flaws. Eli's ex is selfish. He doesn't want to be. He wants to think of himself as a nice guy, but in the end... Well, I don't want to give up the end! LOL All the characters I write have baggage. I think what makes a hero or heroine is how they deal with their particular baggage, whether is some sort of special needs, or a tragic past, or....
  • Tell me, what did you like about your heroine? What makes her special or what makes her interesting?

I loved Eli's dedication. I loved that she'd worked so hard for 'her' girls, and didn't see anything special in that, but they did. Everyone around her did. And though the opening scene of the book had it's moments of humor, I thought there was something touching about her reaction. I especially loved her line about how she couldn't be pregnant because she drove a Mini Cooper! All in all, Eli and I could be friends...that's how I feel about all my heroines.
  • You mention another book, One of A Kind Family, to be released in February. Is this one a Valentine story?

No, it's not a Valentine's story, but it is a story I think fits the holiday perfectly. It really is all heart. I didn't just fall in love with the hero and heroine, Liam and Anna. I fell in love with Colm, Liam's special needs brother. He's so open, so willing to love everyone, so willing to forgive everyone. He's truly all heart.
  • You have some booksignings coming up with this book in your area, don't you?

I have a big signing around Valentine's at a local Borders. I'll have copies of both the November and February book there. It should be fun. I've been very fortunate that so many people in Erie have supported me and my writing. If anyone wants to keep up with my travels, there's a list of where I'll be at the bottom of the main page.
  • You've written how many books now? Do you worry over each one?

I've written forty-two books. That seems like such a big number, but I wrote them one book at a time, so it didn't seem so overwhelming as I did it! And yes, I do worry. I want to make each book the best I can. I want to make each character true to themselves. I want readers to enjoy the books. Yep, worry! But like I said, with four kids, I'm good at it! LOL And to be honest, while that's my biggest hurdle, each of those books has given me so much joy. The glee so beats out the worry!
  • Holly, as usual, I love chatting with you and having you visit Over Coffee. I appreciate you taking time out of your writing and family time to be here.

Thanks so much for inviting me over today, Sia!

So, how about you? Are you ready for the holidays?

  • What are your favorite worries and even more importantly, what gives you the most holiday glee?

Since selling her first book in 1997, Holly Jacobs has sold more than thirty books. Her first sale to Harlequin was a 2001 Duets book, I Waxed My Legs for This? and she's gone on to write for Silhouette Romance, Harlequin Flipside, Signature Select and Harlequin's new Everlasting Love line. Her category romances have made Waldenbooks' Bestseller List and won numerous awards, such as the Holt Medallion, Booksellers' Best, Golden Quill, Golden Leaf and Madcap Awards. Her 2004 book, Found and Lost, won Romantic Times BOOKreviews' award for Best Harlequin Flipside of 2004, and that year Holly received the same journal's prestigious Career Achievement Award for Series Love and Laughter. She's presented more than thirty workshops on a variety of writing related subjects ranging from topics like writing romantic comedy to time management across the U.S.
  • UNEXPECTED GIFTS, Harlequin SuperRomance, 11/09
  • A ONE-OF-A-KIND FAMILY, SuperRomance, 2/10

(Photo courtesy of Holly Jacobs, Christmas photos, courtesy of Christmas Graphics Plus)


~Sia McKye~ said...

Holly, welcome again to Over Coffee, as a blogger, not just a reader.

I'm so glad you're here!

I think one of my biggest worries is finding things for the kid to do on long holiday vacations. Especially if there is snow and you know how I am with snow, lololol!

SueO said...

My holiday worry this year will be the long drive to Illinois and the return drive to Colorado. Let's hope there's no snow, cuz I hate driving in the stuff.

My writing worry is not knowing what to do with this little NaNo thing I wrote. I think I finally have something worth publishing but I have no idea where to begin (after editing, editing and more editing).

Thanks for the post, Holly! Nice article.

Other Lisa said...

Oh, I so related to this post! I too am a first-class worrier! My last book, I was particularly concerned with a section that takes place somewhere I've never been (and could not go) and also with a part of the main character's background (I'd put her in the National Guard). I was sooo thrilled when I had several different readers with military backgrounds who asked me if I'd been in the Army!

As for my WIP, I basically worry that it's crap.

HollyJacobs said...

Thanks again for the invite, Sia! And's coming here in a couple days, so I'm gearing up for it!

Sue, Hugs...I hate driving in the winter. Last year, there was a drive across the state to Philly that was particularly bad! Hoping yours is smooth! And are you a member of RWA or another writing group? I think they're a great place to educate yourself on markets.

Lisa, It's always so satisfying to hit the nail (or National Guard) on the head! Congrats!


Netti said...

I am a worrier by nature *sigh* I worry about EVERYthing. It's all good though, I think those of us that worry tend to pay more attention to the details in hopes of everything going right.

This year during the holidays I worry about my kids... OK, well I worry about then all year round so I guess that doesn't count. I'm worried that the stores will do well... oh wait, that's a daily worry too... I'm worried that DH will receive the call that he's being shipped back overseas w/ the extra troops they are sending... oh wait, I worry about that all the time too... Did I mention I worry about EVERYthing??? I guess you guys should be thankful I'm *not* a writer ... imagine if I were; there would be no living with me... *shudder* ;)

Awesome post, received my copy of Unexpected Gifts last week *happy dance* (Can't wait to get to know Eli!) It's next on my list to read :D

*steals one of Hall's Blueberry muffins on the way out the door*

HollyJacobs said...


No stealing required...if I could figure out how to get the muffins to friends cyberly, I would! LOL

I think there's a gene that kicks in when we have kids. Most moms I know are great worriers!

And thanks so much for picking up the book...I hope you like it!


Terry said...

Holly, what a great interview. And I finished Eli's story and loved it!! Am I ready for the holidays? Not yet! St Nicholas' day is coming soon and I don't have grandson's gift yet. :) Christmas is fairly well taken care of, though. What are my worries this year? Right now it's my daughter and her health and the health of her unborn child - so a lot of prayers going there. And what gives me glee are all the time I can spend with friends and family - seeing and hearing smiles and laughter. *hugs* Have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed, prosperous New Year!

Judi Fennell said...

Ready for the holidays? Well, I did get the *big gifts (wrote a post called I Survived Black Friday, complete with pic taken in line at 4 am), but the rest? Nope.

And I'm not worried about it.

No, I worry that my editor won't like the first book in my new series, that no one will buy the third one in my current series, that there will be NO more series... Little things like that. :)

HollyJacobs said...

Terry, Hugs...My thoughts are with your daughter and her baby! Those kind of worries put book worries in the proper perspective! Thanks for picking up Eli and Zac's story...I'm so glad you liked it!

Judi, I wouldn't go near a store on Black Friday if you paid me! You are very brave! And fingers crossed for your books!


Samantha Hunter said...

Yo, Holly. ;) (hi Sia!)

I have discovered the way to shed worry about a manuscript -- I work it to death until I am so tired of it I'm glad to be rid of it, LOL. Then it's someone else's problem. *G*

I am a very time-conscious person, so my main worries are about things being done on time. I am never late, and I don't like other people being late too (and therer's the rub, as everyone in the world doesn't operate on my schedule though I wish they would). When people are late for dinner, I worry, etc -- took me years to start being flexible enough to plan to have dinner on the table 30-45 minutes after I told people to arrive. My family would always joke that when I said dinner was at five, I expected butts in chairs AT FIVE. LOL But I am better with that now, but things being late will always make me worry.

As for Glee, right now free time to do non-writing things is offering me much glee. Shopping is done, am going to start wrapping today, will finish my quilt for my bed this week... love having things done and lack of pressure. Much glee there. And cookies -- holiday cookies offer much glee. I'm baking biscotti this weekend.

Good to see you,


HollyJacobs said...


Oh, I have issues with being on time, too! It can be long as you can find a balance between being on time, and being totally obsessed with being on time! LOL I walk that line a lot!

I love doing holiday stuff, too! Planning to make our cinnamon candy someday soon. The whole house smells good for days after that!


~Sia McKye~ said...

Speaking of Glee, Holly, you have to give me the recipe for cinnamon candy. I love that stuff!

Time...hmmm, I must admit, I'm not always on time. My husband, however is like Sam and Holly. When I was working outside the home, I was always on time to work and kept my appointments with clients on time. When I'm in the business mode, I'm very focused and professional, but in personal mode I'm not. Especially when I'm in the middle of a story or a project. Personally, I'll tell family and friends, I'll be there sometime between 1 and 1:30. Give myself half hour, just in case.

HollyJacobs said...

Sia, Here you go. Now, making hard candy is takes some practice, so if a batch doesn't turn out, try again!!


Holly’s Hard Candy

1 C sugar
1/3 C Karo light corn syrup
1/4 C water

Mix together in a 1 qt pan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a slow boil. Cook for 15 minutes undisturbed, then drop a slight amount in cold water. Mixture is
done if it forms solid peaks in the water. (If not, boil 5 minutes longer, then try again.) If mixture is stringy on spoon, it’s probably done or close to it.

Add oil and food coloring. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet. Let it cool enough to touch it without burning your fingers off and cut. Drop the pieces onto lightly powdered sugar wax paper.

Mints are very strong...probably just 1 tsp per batch.
Fruits are more mild...more like a TB of oil.

(In the my family, there’s the Death by Cinnamon version, which requires anywhere
from 1 to 2 small vials of oil. Warn your friends before they eat those!)

~Sia McKye~ said...

mmm, I'm with the family, Death by Cinnamon. I'll have to try this. Mind you, I've never made hard candy but I've always wanted to. I'll let you know how it goes, lol!

Olivia Cunning said...

I was hoping you'd tell me that the worrying stops after you're published. It sounds like it's just the beginning of a whole new set of worries. Congratulations on a very successful writing career, Holly. If you're worried, I suppose I'll soon be gnawing my nails to the quick. My first novel is being published next fall and I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed at the moment.

Am I ready for the holidays? No. I haven't really even started. I don't have time!

VA said...

Oddly I don't worry about individual things. I just worry overall about failure. Wondering if when I reach the end of my life and I'll look back and say, "What a waste."

The holidays means baking and cooking here. So I've purchased twenty pounds of sugar in anticipation. That is only white granulated sugar, not the brown, corn, or powder. No comment on the total. :) And caramel and chocolate drizzled brittle and toffee are on the list. Though your hard candies sound lovely Holly.

I like characters that are "humanized". Sure I love the alpha novel too, but a well spun tale has a touch of frailty in it. After all it is the imperfection that binds us together. Our one share trait.

Terrie said...

Great Interview Sia, I really enjoyed reading most of all her books. Worry is my worst enemy I tell ya.. I am not worry about our holidays plan.. Full of joy to celebrate with family and friends.

Holly, Speaking of Hard candy.. Mom haven't done those for years. they love to eat them.

aries18 said...

Hello Holly,

Your books are new to me but they sound marvelous! Reading about real characters is one of my joys. In my 'real life' I don't worry very much anymore. After years of raising my children, worrying the whole time, I've realized that worry doesn't change the end results. My glee is seeing all my children and grandchildren are doing well and living the lives they've chosen and that they're happy.

In my writing I worry about getting it right, making it the best it can be and then... to stretch it a little bit further, making it a little bit better.

Then I'll worry if someone will like what I've written, will they publish it, will readers like it? Then I'll worry about having to write another one just as good or better. I'm sure there are worries as yet undiscovered by my future self.

But my glee will be in the writing, the journey, the learning I'll do as I go.

Your story has given me a lot to think about and a lot of inspiration in my journey. Thank you.

And thank you Sia for bringing Holly to us. I'm going to try that candy recipe even though I've never made hard candy either. I'll keep you posted.

hugs to you both and clear skies.

Kat Sheridan said...

Holly, so nice to meet you! Your books sound wonderful (and so does the candy recipe!) I love that you take on "challenging" characters. I have one in mind that includes all sorts of "broken" people (historical), when folks with differences and disabilities were shoved into the margins of life. Like you, I worry about getting it right. We'll see.

And like everyone else, I worry if anyone will like what I write. And like a couple of folks, I'm an absolute 'time Nazi'. Can't bear to be even a minute late for anything, and get annoyed at folks who don't run on my time. Of course, God laughed when he gave me my son, who was born two weeks late, and as an adult, doesn't own a watch and considers that if he arrives within a 4 hour window, he's "on time". And yes, I still worry when he's late!

Zelda Benjamin said...

So many books and you still worry. Does it ever stop. There are days I agonize over every word I type. I'm sure your disabled character will be right on target. All of your characters are.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I don't own a watch either. For one, they irratate my wrist and two, I tend to *stop* time, so they're virtually worthless for me, lol!

HollyJacobs said...

Sia, The thing with hard candy is making sure it's hot enough to turn hard. When you drop that test piece in water, it should set up immediately. It will almost crack as it hits the cold water. If not, keep cooking. If the candy's not hard enough it's like glue on your teeth! LOL

Olivia, Congrats!! Well, for me the worry never totally leaves, but I never let it get in the way of the glee! It's such a rush to go into a store and see your book there...enjoy that moment, and all the others. The worry is just a tiny little niggle next to all the glee you'll be feeling!

VA, It sounds like you have a lot of baking on the horizon! And like you, I can enjoy a good Alpha hero, but personally I tend to write Betas. As for leaving a mark, I love that I have books to leave behind, but my real mark (I hope) is the children I've raised, the people whose lives I've touched, the people I've loved...that I hope is my biggest legacy!

Terri, Maybe your mom will make some this year!

Wanda, I think finding glee in the journey is a big part of keeping at writing! I really didn't want this article to come off as all-she-does-is-worry. Sure, there's always worry, but my glee so outweighs that! I just did a contest for readers. The only thing they had to do was give some glee to someone else. Their stories were so inspirational. Glee always beats out the worry for me. Hope for you, too!

Thank you, Kat! Love the idea of broken people.

Thanks so much, Zelda! I so hope I hit the mark! If nothing else, I hope readers can see that I really tried to hit the mark! LOL


Kat Sheridan said...

Sia, you and my son (and father) are a matched set. They "stop time" as well with watches. Some sort of weird magnetism, I guess! On the other hand, I collect watches, and have at least one for every outfit!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I'm a real *magnetic* type of girl, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Holly, I can't think of anyone that celebrates Glee with such enthusiasm as you. :-)

HollyJacobs said...


That was a lovely thing for you to say...thank you!