This week on Behind the Pen I am delighted to welcome Juanita Kees. Over to you Juanita!
Hi, Theresa, and hello and welcome, readers. Thank you for sharing my writing adventures with me today.
How many novels have you written and published?
To date, I have seven published novels and three short stories. I write small town romance with a touch of suspense, but I have tried my hand at a paranormal/fantasy recently where I brought Greek gods back to life in Melbourne.
How long on average does it take you to write a novel?
It takes me about six months to write a novel, mostly because I can’t switch off my internal editor. I’m a pantser, so I need to make sure I know what happens next before I can progress with the story. The pace depends entirely on the story the characters want to share with me.
What is your favourite character from one of your novels and why?
Choosing a favourite character is like having to choose a favourite child – almost impossible! In Secrets at Wongan Creek, I’d have to choose Loki, the Catahoula Leopard Dog. Loki claims his own hero status in the book when he comes to Tameka’s rescue. He’s full of mischief and energy, just like his owner, Harley Baker.
What is your favourite scene from one of your novels and why?
I wouldn’t call it a ‘favourite’ scene, but this first kiss after eight years apart was one I had to get the balance just right on. I didn’t want Tameka to come across snarky or bad-tempered, instead I wanted to show that her internal battle and the need to protect herself and Harley from the dangers ahead are the catalysts for her reactions.
She didn’t want Harley poking around in her thoughts and discovering the fear that lived inside her. Not him. Nobody. Ever. Because the truth would shake this town so hard, the aftershocks would be felt all the way to Tasmania.
‘And what do you know about me anyway? What does it matter to you?’ The snipe in her tone made her shudder. Harley was the last person in the world who deserved it even if they weren’t friends anymore.
‘You matter. You always have.’
The quiet conviction in his words was almost her undoing. The effort to hold back her emotions burnt at the back of her throat. He drew her closer, a gentle tug that her body accepted but her mind rejected. She didn’t want to be plastered up against the man she’d been forbidden to keep yet wanted with every pixel of her obliterated soul because he was the only one who could put her back together again.
And there was all this heat still between them and the warmth of his denims against hers where their bodies still fit perfectly even after all this time apart.
‘Damn you, Baker.’
The bastard grinned. A cheeky, confident, knowing grin that took the edge off the irritation that swirled in her belly. He tipped up her chin, searching her face, his eyes seeing right through her tough exterior. She stared at the cleft in his because meeting his eyes would have her unravelling like a ball of wool in the paws of a kitten.
Then his head dipped and his lips were on hers, a sweet memory of the last time they’d been in that exact same spot. God, he tasted good—like forbidden fruit, wickedly smooth chocolate or a really good home brew, and just as heady.
But his mouth didn’t stay closed long enough to enjoy the drunken effects of his kiss. Or to forget why he’d kissed her in the first place. A trick he’d used before when times were different, and it had been all about discovery not distraction.
‘Now we’ve got that out of the way, what’s got ants in your pants, Tikki?’
Are you balancing a different career with your writing? How do you go about making time for your writing within limited hours?
I work three days a week in the motor industry, currently running the front office in a family Auto Electrical business. I have a diploma in Proofreading, Editing and Publishing, and occasionally take on editing work for regular clients. Add to that family time, and it leaves me with few hours to dedicate to writing. I carry a notebook everywhere so that when ideas strike, I can jot them down so I don’t forget. I’m up early in the mornings and late at night, and use my two days off a week to write as much as I can. Weekends are family time, but I do slip in some writing time if we don’t have anything going on. A lot depends on my muse. Some days, she takes off to Fiji without me and sips cocktails on the beach while I search my office for her.
What inspired your most recent novel?
Secrets at Wongan Creek was originally inspired by a discussion held with the wonderful group of ladies who created the Bindarra Creek Romance series. I’m blessed to have them to bounce ideas off, and to brainstorm plots and storylines. Some of the ladies in the group double as critique partners for me. Without their input, support and encouragement, I’d be lost.
How would you best describe this novel to a new reader?
I think Helen Sibbritt said it better than I could:
“Kees really knows how to pull a reader into a story with her words that bring to life characters who have been to hell and back, and this one is emotional, moving and suspenseful one that should not be missed. I was looking forward to revisiting Wongan Creek and I am glad I went.” — NetGalley
How much research do you do? How do you balance the demands of getting the facts right and telling a good story?
I do a lot of research. I like to get the facts right, but at the same time I don’t want to bore the reader with technicalities. Finding the right balance is the challenge. I try to work out how much technical information is necessary for the reader to have while keeping the attention on the emotional plot, which is where I’d like to keep the reader focused. It’s the romance and the suspense that I’d like to keep them hooked on.
Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?
Yes. I really appreciate reader feedback, good or bad. I won’t lie to you, some reviews hurt, especially if the comments are particularly nasty. Sometimes readers forget that writers are people with feelings too. When we write, we put our heart and soul into that story. I had one where the review was excellent in that the reviewer gave me plenty of constructive criticism I could use, but the shelf-tags she chose to bookmark it with were very hurtful. I believe constructive reviews help us grow as writers. We should never stop learning, it keeps our writing fresh.
If the reviewer doesn’t give reasons for the 1-star review or doesn’t say what they did or didn’t like about it, I can’t work on fixing it, so please tell me what didn’t work for you in the story. I take those reviews, dissect them, and look at how I can maybe make a similar scene work better next time.
What we have to learn to accept as writers is that not everyone is going to love your work. Reading is a personal choice, an almost subjective thing. Readers read to enjoy. They don’t want to read a book that doesn’t appeal to them, and that’s okay. That reader may not be your target audience, and that’s okay too.
As to dealing with a review (good or bad) – Wine, chocolate, tissues, a bit of a private sulk if needed (no social media involved) then pull up those big girl undies and get on with the job of fixing what you can, and writing the next book.
How much planning do you do? Do you plan/plot the entire story from beginning to end, or let it evolve naturally as the writing progresses? In terms of characters, are they already a firm picture in your mind before you start writing or do they develop a personality of their own as the story progresses?
I’m a pantser trying to be a plotter. Using Scrivener helps keep me on track. I work on a basic plot, write a synopsis, then write a story which has absolutely nothing to do with the synopsis because the characters have looked at it and gone, “Nah, I’m not doing that.”
I hope you enjoy Secrets at Wongan Creek! Happy reading.
Secrets at Wongan Creek
Still waters run deep in Wongan Creek…
When spray drift ruins his crop and throws his ability to hold on to the family farm in question, Harley Baker wants to confront his neighbour and shout his rage and worry to the sky. But arguments are tricky when the woman whose herbicides killed his crop is also the woman he’s loved his whole life.
Tameka Chalmers knows that her father’s farming methods are outdated, inefficient, and even dangerous, so when Harley charges her with the loss of his livelihood, she can only accept the blame. There’s so much she would like to do differently, but her father’s rule is absolute and if she wants to keep working the farm she loves, she must do as she’s told.
But the simple action of speaking with Harley, the man she wants but can never have, starts an unexpected chain reaction of events that throw everything she’s ever known into question: her past, her family, her life. Dark secrets come to light and when Tameka is injured in a house fire, she and Harley have one small chance to seize a lifetime of happiness, if only they are able to rise from the ashes and claim it.
Find it at your favourite etailer here. This title is also available in large print paperback from Read How You Want.