Friday, February 17, 2012

JO ROBERTSON: Becoming Banana Bread

Mocha Banana Bread--see Recipe Page

My guest is award winning author of romantic thrillers, Jo Robertson  She’s also a member of one my favorite groups, The Romance Bandits. 

Every morning I eat a banana. 

Not because I really like bananas at all; I'd much prefer a juicy peach or ripe pear, grapes or strawberries.  But I eat the banana instead. 

Actually, it's not so much a whole banana as what I call a "banana stub." Every morning my husband eats a banana, but since he doesn't want a whole one, he leaves me the stub. Mind you, if I don't eat that stub, it'll be there the next day anyway, and there'll be two banana stubs to eat or throw away. I can't stand waste, so I eat the stub.

My husband and I have completely different ways of buying bananas. I prefer them yellow with no bruised spots, but even if they turn a bit brown, they're still very edible to me. My husband buys them green and calculates exactly how many he needs to buy at a time to eat his daily banana portion and leave me the stub.

I figure a banana should never be thrown away. Why?

You guessed it.

Banana Bread.

In fact, when I frequent my local 7-11 store, I'm often delighted to see there are only bruised and slightly brown bananas. I see a banana bread loaf or banana pudding (another favorite of mine) looming in my future.

Sometimes when you start out wanting one thing, you just end up with something else. And often, in my experience, that something else is quite unexpectedly delicious and delightful.

I don't know about other writers, but my writing "well" is a lot like that. What I had envisioned as a simple piece of fruit ends up as a dessert, with all its varied ingredients – walnuts, sugar, vanilla, eggs – and all its varied layers – vanilla wafers, pudding, sliced bananas and whipped cream.

At least that's what I hope happens.  My ideas start small.  I don't think there's a large idea in my head (okay, maybe a lot of tiny marbles rolling around like Buckyballs, those tiny magnetic balls that were all the rage at Christmas).  Check it out here  But, like those magnetic beads, I hope I can twist and shape and create something quite beautiful out of those small kernels of imagination.

My characters also are like that. I'll see a feisty, ambitious, perhaps obsessively-driven woman. Lots of energy (of course, because you can't have the other traits if you're chronically tired) to deal with what drives her. I probably don't even know what drives her, but I suspect it borders on the edge of mania.

She can't rest, can't relax, can't love – until she solves the dilemma. At this point I'm not sure what the dilemma is, but I know the hero will be her Selexa. The one who helps her ground herself, center her soul so that she can accomplish her mission (should she choose to accept it and – of course! she will – this is a romance story at  heart).

I know the hero's a pretty solid, stand-up guy although he carries a bit of baggage from his past; however, he doesn't let that past define his future. He's an optimist and he sees in my slightly pessimistic heroine the woman who will complement him, although at the get-go he's sure she's completely insane.  Or trouble with a capital T.

What begins as something pea-sized in my head can flourish in my imagination into something quite large. And it always astounds me!

It's the same with my cooking. I often begin with onion, pepper, and garlic in olive oil. But what I add next is a mystery to me – a little meat, some beans, veggies, spices (who knows which ones) until the "smell" is just right. Yeah, I cook by odor. Then I taste.

I think I write a lot like that.

Readers, have ever embarked on what you thought was a small sojourn that ended up being a wild, wacky journey?  Started one project that ended up being something else?  Walked down one road to find yourself somewhere entirely different from what you'd imagined?

What about you, writers?  Do you find that a tiny kernel of an idea is the starting point for your story?  Or do your stories come in full-blown Technicolor?

I'm offering a free download of any one of my trilogy – "TheWatcher," The Avenger," OR "The Traitor" – to one lucky, random commenter!

THE AVENGER Jo  Robertson
A clandestine government organization called Invictus "recruits" outstanding athletes for secret projects. But their top agent Jackson Holt has special, almost preternatural, qualities not even the Organization can explain.

Olivia Gant, professor of Ancient Studies at a private college in California, was once Jack's childhood sweetheart. But when he deserted her, he left her alone to combat her stepfather's drunken attentions and her mother's careless neglect.

Nearly twenty years later, their paths cross in a mission to fight a bizarre religious serial killer whose methods include crucifixion and burial alive. Olivia and Jack battle for happiness against years of secrecy and distance as they use Olivia's expertise in Latin and Jack's special gifts to track a brutal killer.

Can Olivia forgive Jack for his long-ago betrayal?

Can Jack allow Olivia to witness the terrible Change that makes him such an effective killing machine? Excerpt (you can read the first couple of chapters on Amazon)



Jo Robertson, a former high school English teacher, lives in northern California, near the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and discussing the latest in books, movies, and television shows. Any "spare" time she has is spent enjoying her seven children and grandchildren.
When her Advanced Placement English students challenged her to quit talking about writing and "just do it," she wrote her first completed manuscript, "The Watcher," which won Romance Writers of American's Golden Heart Award for romantic suspense in 2006. The second book in the loosely-connected trilogy is "The Avenger," which won the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Overall Award for Excellence. "The Traitor is the third book in the series."
Jo's books are romantic thrillers, which means they straddle the line between mainstream thriller-suspense and romance. She feels that a strong relationship in a book makes the danger more intense. Readers have commented that they especially enjoy her complex, three-dimensional villains