One of my favorite finds since I've been blogging is Janice Thompson, author of many terrifically entertaining books. I have a fun interview to share with you. And Janice is offering a book for giveaway; read on for the details!
Let's chat with novelist Janice Hanna Thompson, author of Love Finds You in Groom, Texas (Summerside/Guideposts, June 2011).
Janice Hanna (also published as Janice Thompson) has published more than seventy novels and non-fiction books. She has also published more than fifty magazine articles and several musical comedies for the stage. Janice makes her home in the Houston area near her children and grandchildren.
Please tell us three random things we might not know about you.
My dad was the president of the University of Houston Cougar Cagers Club, so my birthdays, holidays, etc. were spent at basketball games. Our family traveled to Mexico with the U of H Cougars to watch them compete, which was great fun. When I was eleven, I got to play (for fun, of course) with the Harlem Globetrotters, who came to Houston for a visit. To this day, I love a good basketball game.
I once lied to a fellow camper at church camp, telling her that my dad (Billy Hanna) was William Hanna of Hanna/Barbara (Flintstones) fame. That lie still haunts me, though, to his credit, my dad did eventually work as a movie producer on our co-authored movie, Liar’s Moon. (Yes, it’s true. I got to meet and work with Matt Dillon. Eat your heart out, girls!)
I occasionally bake wedding cakes. In 2009 I baked a lovely four-tiered white cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting that toppled less than an hour before the wedding. I managed to piece together two very messy/ugly layers. Thankfully, the bride did not murder me. It made for a great scene in a later book. (Nothing ever gets wasted, not even a mashed piece of cake.)
Please tell us a bit more about the plot of Love Finds You in Groom, Texas.
Always the groomsman, never the groom… It’s 1914, and Jake O’Farrell has gained an unusual reputation among the locals: He’s played the roles of groomsman and best man in all four of his older brothers’ weddings, but he’s never been able to find the woman to capture his heart. And now with the upcoming wedding of his best friend, Jake will become the last single man in the town of Groom.
Anne Denning has made the difficult decision to move with her sisters to Texas, but a train derailment forces them to seek shelter in Groom, near Amarillo. Mrs. O’Farrell, hopeful that Anne will catch her youngest son’s eye, invites the girls to stay at her home until the train is repaired and ready to pull out. Anne has no idea of the blissful chaos that lies ahead!
Why did you decide to write this story?
My editor at Summerside approached me with the name of the town because she knows I write a lot of wedding-themed stories. She wanted something lightweight/fun, and she knew me well enough to know I would enjoy a fun story. The only real question we had in the beginning stage was: “Should this be a historical or a contemporary?” We went with historical because I felt sure the story idea was better suited to the turn of the century.
Groom is a wedding-themed book. Why do you write so many stories with a strong wedding theme?
I have four grown daughters—Randi, Megan, Courtney Rae and Courtney Elizabeth. Yes, I really have two daughters named Courtney. (Long story!) All four of my girls got married within four years of each other. We’re told to write what we know. I know weddings, trust me! I helped coordinate all four weddings and even worked as a wedding coordinator at my church for a season. I was also tickled to be the “Wedding Planner Examiner” for the city of Houston for a spell. What fun! You’ll see me writing about weddings for years to come, so hang on for the ride!
What is it about your lead character that will make your readers care about her?
Readers will care about Anne because she’s been through so much and still chooses to move forward. They will also love her relationship with her younger sisters. She’s the only remaining parental figure and takes that position very seriously.
Why will readers enjoy your novel?
In spite of the lead character’s tough situation, the story is filled with comedic elements. Anne’s two younger sisters are a hoot. So is Maggie (the hero’s mother). She’s an Irish spitfire! I think readers will appreciate the romance between Anne and Jake. It’s filled with all sorts of sweet and comic moments.
Why do you like writing comedies with strong take-aways?
Comedy is a great outlet. We comedians can get away with a lot more than authors who play it straight. Want the reader to walk away with a little nugget of truth? Couch it in something humorous. I’ve found that light-hearted writing not only suits my personality, it’s the perfect vehicle for sharing the gospel.
If you were the casting director for the film version of your novel, who would play your heroine?
Because Anne (a one-time socialite from Denver) has dark hair and pale skin, I envision her looking a little bit like the character of Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables. Diana was played by Schuyler Grant.
Tell us a little about your hero? Is he true hero material?
Jake is a hunka-hunka Texas man! He’s a railroad man who loves his job, loves his family and loves the heroine. He’s got a great sense of humor, which is perfect for this story, because the heroine’s little sisters are loaded with antics! Jake has a lot to deal with: he’s the town’s last single man, which has made him the brunt of many a joke. His older brothers (all married with children) taunt and tease. Jake can never catch a break. Unless he’s with Anne, of course. Then he catches far more than a break. . .he catches the woman of his dreams!
What about your sub-characters? Call you tell us about any of them?
I love writing stories with fun sub-characters! Those who read my “Weddings by Bella” series know that I spend a lot of time creating my cast! Love Finds You in Groom, Texas is no different. Some of my favorite sub-characters are Emily and Kate (Anne’s younger sisters). Emily was patterned after Margaret O’Brien’s character in “Meet me in St. Louis.” Lots of fun! Another fun-loving character is Maggie, Jake’s mother. She knows just how to get what she wants! Even sour old Uncle Bertrand turns out to be a fun guy. . .in the end.
Are any of your characters patterned after real people?
The characters are patterned more after characters than real people. I wanted the overall “feel” of the book to be a bit like that in “Anne of Green Gables.” If the reader is paying attention, he/she will notice a few Avonlea-esque images, including my heroine’s name. There are also a few nods to “Meet Me in St. Louis” in this story, as well.
You always seem to add animal to your stories. Any animals in this one?
Yes! Most of my readers know that I’m an animal lover. My two miniature dachshunds, Sasha and Copper, are my ever-faithful companions. They’ve made appearances in several of my books. Love Finds You in Groom, Texas, is set on a ranch in North Texas, so I couldn’t possibly write it without adding animals! The cattle are a part of the story, naturally, but so is the family’s collie, Ginger. My favorite animal/character is Frances, the hero’s mare. He’s so enamored with his mare (and so comfortable talking to her) that he ends up practicing his “love speech” on the mare while working up courage to deliver it to Anne.
What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I was completely blown away by Judy Christy’s book Wreath, about a teen girl who lives on her own. I can’t tell you the last time a character impacted me like Wreath did. I read the book for endorsement. I’m pretty sure it releases in a month or two. Can’t wait to see what readers think!
What are you working on now?
I just turned in Love Finds You in Daisy, Oklahoma, a fun historical about a single woman in her late 30’s who moves from the Gulf Coast to the landlocked state of Oklahoma to become the director at an orphanage. It’s a love story, of course! She falls in love with the town sheriff, who has adopted two of the unruliest boys from the orphanage. I’m currently writing Wedding Belles, the first book in the Belles and Whistles series for Summerside/Guideposts.
What are your favorite things to do (besides writing)?
Honestly? I love hanging out with my grandbabies. They grow up so quickly and I don’t want to miss a thing! Maddy is four now. She’s the oldest. Avery is three. Peyton is three. Ethan is two. Boston is one and a half and baby Brooke turned one this week. I love them so very much. They keep me young (and give me plenty of fodder for books).
I heard through the grapevine that you direct theater productions on the side. Why theater?
I grew up doing musical theater and have always loved it. A good friend of mine (Brenda White) is a brilliant musician, probably the most talented I’ve ever known. She writes some amazing pieces. We co-direct at a local theater. I write the plays (mostly) and she does the music. We hold auditions and then rehearse for about two months. Our most recent production was Zaney Muldaney, on the Road to Kingdom Come. To check out the pictures on facebook, go here.
I notice you write under two names (Janice Hanna and Janice Thompson). Why?
Those who’ve been reading my romances over the past several years know me as Janice A. Thompson. My joy is mixed with a smidgeon of sorrow as I explain the change in my last name for some of my current releases. In 2006 I lost my father to bone marrow cancer. His last name (Hanna) is my maiden name—and it’s a name that means even more to me now that he is gone. In memory of my father, I use the Hanna name in my historicals. My Revell books will still release under Janice Thompson. I hope you my readers will stick with me, no matter which name I use!
Can you tell our readers about your recent road trip? Where did you go, and why?
In May of 2011 I went on a cross-country road trip to twelve different states. The goal, (as it relates to books, anyway) was to hit several key spots where I could speak to writers and teach on the subject of our God-given uniqueness. I also researched several locales for my new “Belles and Whistles” series while on the road. I took my mom along for the ride, and what a ride it was! We spent twenty-three days on the road, traveling from Texas to Oklahoma to Kansas to Colorado to Wyoming to Montana to Washington to Idaho to Utah to Arizona to New Mexico, then back to Texas. We met some amazing writers and readers along the way, and even got to spend a little time with my daughter, son-in-law and grandbabies in Montana. What a blast!
Anything else you want our readers to know?
Yes, I’m very passionate about my faith, which is why I write Christian books. I could no more leave out the faith elements than I could stop eating chocolate. They are integral…to my stories and my life. I’m a huge believer in stirring up the gifts that God has placed inside of us, which is what I hope to do through my teaching.
Any suggestions for writers who are trying to get published?
Learn the craft. Take courses. Go to conferences. Do the work. But don’t ever let what you’ve learned rob you of your natural, God-given voice. There’s only one you, after all.
Thanks for spending time with me! I had a blast!
I have a copy of this book that I would love to pass along to one of you!
There are several ways to gain entry:
1) Head over to Janice's website, and tell me which book looks good to you. Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.
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Win a book by @booksbyjanice from @andrealschultz. Details at http://bit.ly/oihxKq Please RT!
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So there are several chances to enter! Please limit one entry per option except for the Twitter tweet option (which can be done once per day) , along with your email address in the sample[at]gmail[dot]com format.
This give away is for U.S. residents only. The deadline for entry is Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST. A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 and will be contacted via email. The best to all of you!