Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Author Jo Robertson: Answers, Asks ?s, Offers Giveaway

Author Jo RobertsonIt’s a pleasure to welcome author Jo Robertson back to Thoughts in Progress as she tours blogdom with her latest release, THE TRAITOR.

After waiting five years for a New York publishing house to acquire her books, Jo finally decided to take her career in her own hands and publish them under Amazon's independent publishing platform. She’s here today to answer some questions about her writing.

Hi, Mason, thanks for having me return to your blog. I love these interview questions so here goes!

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that led you to writing?

Jo - As a teenager, I wrote lots of "stories" and poems. I still have some of my high school poetry and actually made a scrapbook for my daughter's thirtieth birthday filled with photos and poems. She's a much better poet than I, but I thought she'd enjoy having this little slice of family history. When I went to college I took a creative writing class and discovered I was terrible; that squelched my budding ambition.

The Traitor, final, webHowever, after I'd taught for a number of years, especially style analysis of Advanced Placement English, I realized I did have the tools to write creatively and took it up again at a rather advanced age! Now I have three published books, all part of the loosely connected Bigler County series: THE WATCHER, which was a 2006 Golden Heart winner; THE AVENGER, which won an overall Daphne Award under another name; and THE TRAITOR, which just became available at Amazon in e-book only.
Mason - What advice have you received writing that you have passed on to other inspiring writers?

Jo - As trite and clichéd as it is, never give up. If you have the desire, learn the craft, refine it, and continue writing. As with many successes in life, the task is achieved with 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.
But, and this is a big but, if you don't enjoy the process, maybe the industry is not for you.
Mason - How do you go about doing research for your writing? Is it a process you enjoy or just find it necessary?

Jo - I majored in history in college, so I enjoy historical research. I'm not as keen on digging out minor facts, for example – when the color "ecru" was first used  (1800, by the way) because that interrupts the creative process for me. But I'm afraid I'll neglect cementing that detail if I don't look it up right now!

Mason - Of all the authors (past and present) you enjoy reading, has any one (or more) been an influence in your writing?

Jo - It may sound strange to admit since I've taught the classics and contemporary literary works for 20 years, but I think J.D. Robb's "In Death" series has affected my writing most. She has a paucity of writing that is almost genius at times, but shows enough flaws that I realize this brilliant writing pretty much comes from her brain to the page as is. I'd bet money she does very little revision, which for most writers, is the heart of writing. Manipulation of diction, syntax, organization and point of view usually come during the revision process when the writer "re-sees" what she's written. For more information, see the article I wrote on Diction and Syntax at Five Scribes on August 30.  

Mason - In what order do your characters come to life - name, physical description, personality?

Jo - Name and personality usually precedeThe Avenger, final proof physical description because those can be highly symbolic and I guess I tend to think in symbols. I usually know the two protagonists (hero and heroine) and the antagonist (villain) from the get-go along with the ending of the story. In fact, I often see the end of the book before I understand completely what the conflict is.

Mason - Of these three elements (name, physical description, personality), which is the easiest to develop and which is the hardest?

Jo - Physical description is by far the hardest and as different aspects of the personality come to me, I often change that description. Which can be very tricky!

Mason - What is next on the agenda for you?

Jo - THE TRAITOR, the third book in the Bigler County romantic thriller series, went live on Amazon on December 31. 
I'm taking a month's break and then intend to publish my two historical thrillers, both set in the 1900's (1909 FRAIL BLOOD and 1901 WEAK FLESH).  They're both "inspired" by true events, one that occurred in northern California in 1909, and another in North Carolina's Outer Banks in 1901). 
I'm very excited about making these available to my readers as quickly as possible, probably early February.

Mason - You have been shipwrecked on an island. You have 2 books, 1 food item (plenty of it) and your favorite _____. Name the books, what food would you want and fill in the blank.

Jo - I take it my husband is nowhere to be found on this island scenario LOL (unless he's my favorite lover!).

The favorite food item (though it hardly qualifies as "food") would have to be an endless supply of Pepsis. My kids claim I'm a Pepsiholic, but hey, it's my only addiction! I figure if there aren't fresh water and some type of native edible vegetation, I'll be a goner soon enough, so I might as well enjoy my imminent demise.

My favfrontcover_lvqworite item would be my quilt. I cannot sleep without my quilt, which I've often packed in my suitcase when I travel. I swear I'm like a baby with a blankey or what my granddaughter Emma calls a "nonny."

As far as books, I'd definitely want ones I could read and reread without growing bored with them, so it's likely to be Shakespeare's Complete Works (does that count as one?). I know it's geeky, but I'm a serious Shakespeare fan!  

The second one would be Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield," or anything by Dickens I could get my hands on! His characters are amazing and his social commentary is as applicable today as when he wrote.

Thanks for having me today, Mason! I'd love to give a free download of my newest book, THE TRAITOR, to one lucky commenter.

A few question for your readers: 
*  Single title or stand-alone books?
*  Tall, dark and handsome or blond and athletic?
*  Shorts or briefs?

Oh Jo, thanks so much for guest blogging again. I enjoy learning more about a writer’s process. BTW, I’m a huge J.D. Robb fan myself.

Now a bit more on Jo. A former high school English teacher, Jo 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 16 grandchildren, who bring a great deal of joy to her life. 

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 the 2006 Golden Heart Award for romantic suspense. Following that came THE AVENGER, which won the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Overall Award for Excellence, and finally THE TRAITOR.

For more on Jo and her writing, visit her website at and she blogs at Romance Bandits
Here’s a brief synopsis of THE TRAITOR:
Assistant district attorney Isabella Torres and DEA Agent Rafe Hashemi want to prosecute the same man, notorious and vicious Diego Vargas. But Isabella believes Vargas knows something about the disappearance of  her older sister twenty years ago and wants to charge him for his current human trafficking operation. Rafe wants to nab the corrupt councilman for drug trafficking.
When Isabella and Rafe meet anonymously at an upscale bar and end up spending a passionate night together, only to learn the next day who the other is, sparks fly and the game is on for control of the case.  Forced to cooperate with each other, they must balance the danger of the case against the danger of their hearts.

Be sure to answer one or all of Jo’s questions for a chance to win a free download of THE TRAITOR. Thanks so much for stopping by today.


  1. Jo, thanks again for guest blogging and for answering all my questions. I enjoyed learning about your writing process. Wishing you much success.

  2. Congratulations, Jo! Best of luck, and thanks to Mason for hosting you.

    Happy 2012, Mason! :)

  3. Ahoy, everyone! Or Aloha or greetings wherever you are!

    Is it morning yet? I'm desperately trying to break my bad, bad Pepsi habit. Since I don't drink coffee, I need my morning pick-me-up! Wahhhh!

    Thanks for having me again, Pamela. I love how restful your site looks, always calms me when I visit.

  4. Talli, thanks for swinging by.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I'm glad to see the back of 2011. I think 2012 will be a very exciting year, especially for writers.

    The market is starting to pick up and indie publishing is growing like weeds! It's a great opportunity to check out some new writers!

  5. Great interview, Jo. I just downloaded THE TRAITOR and can't wait to read it!

  6. Congratulations on your new book. You are one prolific writer! I found the comment about your quilt hilarious. But I didn't laugh long. I can't go anywhere without my pillow!

  7. Hi, Jo,
    Great Post! I like your down to earth qualities of Pepsi and Quilt!

    I like Stand-alone books, tall dark and Handsome(maybe a little dangerous) and love the briefs!

    Happy New Year!

  8. Thanks, Brenda. I hope you enjoy THE TRAITOR. I'm always curious to see how readers react to my villains. One of them is clearly irredeemable but the other is very complex, a bad guy who shows a sliver of humanity at the most unexpected times.

  9. Heheheheh! See, Ruby, I think most of us have some little something that helps us sleep. It's not that I can't do without my quilt, but I much prefer it.

    My daughter's like you with the pillow. She carries it onto the plane with her! Also (and this is a bit weird), she takes a small fan with her when she stays in hotels. It acts as "white noise" so she can sleep better.

    I told you it was weird!

  10. Hi, Diana Mcc! You know that song about "Well, I would walk ten thousand miles and I would walk ten thousand more"? That's the way I feel about Pepsis. I'm soooo hooked.

    And what sold me on the briefs is when they came out with those briefs that cover some of the thigh. I think those are so sexy. Color me weird!

  11. Okay, I just realized I've laid out my entire life for you folks. And I know that anything that goes cyber is FOREVER.

    So here's a bit more. I have 7 grown children whom I adore -- they're such bright, talented people and I take no credit for it -- and 16 grandchildren.

    The paradox of children and grands is that they're such a job, but also multiple your anxiety when there are problems. Life, crazy, isn't it?

  12. Another great interview, Jo! I love the Pepsis and quilt. That's not what I'd want, but I can relate to the healing power of a good quilt and an iced cold fizzy Pepsi!

    Thanks for sharing some of your "process" with us. I often finish my stories before they really get started as well. Gives me something to aim for.

    Well done!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  13. Oh, I forgot to answer the question. Tall, dark and handsome for me! (Funny I married a blue-eyed blonde. But he is really tall, so I got 1 of the 3.)

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  14. Hi Mason! Hi Jo! Jo, I'm always fascinated that I find out something new about you every time you blog. And I can't wait for the historical thrillers to hit the stage. You know what a weakness I have for ye olden dayes! Congratulations on the release of THE TRAITOR! Sounds fab!

  15. Hi Jo. Your indie publishing journey is so inspiring. Great writing produces great sales!

    I'm a sucker for bedroom brown eyes. Everything else is optional. And yes, please arrange for him to visit me on my island with a plate full of chocolate chip cookies!

    I'm off to download THE TRAITOR. Keep up the great writing.

  16. Great interview! I have two of your books on my iPad and will definitely add the next one as well as the historicals when they come out. What made you go indie?

  17. Very enjoyable interview. Thank you both.

    The questions - single title, tall and dark, and...hmmm...could I say brief but not tighty whities.

    Oh, and I'm a big JD Robb fan as well.

  18. Ah, Patricia! You sound like my soul-sister. Pepsis and a quilt. Do you have a noise-maker too? My daughters bought me a really nice one about 5 years ago for my birthday and I go to sleep with the "rain" sounding in my ears.

    Truly, that consistent sound is lulling. It's the in and out sounds that wake me up!

    As you can imagine, when I was a young mother, with kids ranging from 11 to 4 and a newborn, I didn't get much sleep.

  19. Ha, Patricia, me too. My husband's 6'4" but he's a medium brown (going white very fast) fellow.

  20. Thanks, Anna! I really hope you enjoy the historical romantic thrillers. I tried hard to get the historicity correct, but you know something always slips through.

    In fact, in an early version I had the heroine going to her "secret" bathing pond, hearing a noise, and wondering if it was a bear (of course, it was the hero because she's naked!). What else?

    Anyway, I had a judge comment that there weren't bears in northern CA in 1909.

  21. Thanks for the support, Cindy. Wow, chocolate bedroom eyes and chocolate chip cookies! What more can a gal ask for?

  22. Hi, Linda, I hope you enjoy the books.

    The main impetus to my going indie was that my writing doesn't fall neatly into a box defined by NY publishers. I don't blame them; I got lots of compliments on my writing, but they didn't think they could "sell" the story to marketing.

    In the end I decided to "have it my way"! And I haven't regretted it one bit. The market is new and exciting and developing in ways most of us didn't dream of.

    I think it brings lots of opportunity to readers, too, which is our primary goal.

  23. Oh, yes, LD, no tidy whities allowed. They remind me of those undies I put on my sons when they were little. NOT a good image for a romance writer.

    So glad you enjoy J.D. Robb. I tell everyone we're related (since both our names are Robertson), but I inherited mine through my husband who's mainly Scottish.

  24. Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed learning more about you, Jo.

    As for your questions, give me single title, but can I say series, too? I love STs that are connected. Oh, and tall, dark and handsome and boxers. :)

  25. Hey Jo,
    It's so nice to see you here. I do like the tall, dark and handsome type. Definitely boxers/shorts over briefs, but I'm okay with boxer briefs. Stand alones are great, but I do love series. It's always nice to revisit with past characters.

  26. Hi, Jane! I think most readers like series. There's nothing more disappointing than to fall in love with characters in a book only to find out the authors hasn't written anything else! Especially if the secondary characters simply BEG for their own stories.

  27. Okay, Norah, we must've been sisters in another life LOL. My answers are exactly the same. I like series, but I hate when I start in the middle of a series and there's stuff going on that I don't get.

    My three books are designed especially to avoid that. A reader can read them in any order because each h/h has their own story and any returning characters' past experiences aren't pivotal to the current story.

    Did that make any sense? LOL, I must need a Pepsi!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  28. Jo and Mason, a fun post! Jo, I had no idea you were a fellow history geek.

    I loved The Watcher and am looking forward to The Traitor.

    As for the questions, I tend to write tall and dark but can go with blond and athletic--or blond and brainy, as with my dh. Boxers or briefs depends on the character.

    I tend to read more single title than category, often stand-alones, but I like related books, too. You know I love J. D. Robb, too--it's almost time for another one.

  29. Congratulations on your new release. I agree this is a great time to be a writer.

    Waving to Mason :)

  30. They definitely should be tall, dark and handsome. I am a sucker for dark hair and eyes!

  31. Hi, Renee, thanks for swinging by. I'm a sucker for that dark look too. Like Nestor Campbell? Isn't he the actor with those incredibly thick eyelashes who was on LOST?

  32. Yes, Carol, a great time. I feel much more in control of my writing career now than I ever have, and that's a great feeling!

  33. Hi, Jo, awesome answers and revelations. The Traitor sounds really good as well as the others. I agree if you write a series, they need to be able to stand on their own. Good luck with your books.

    Thanks Mason.


  34. Yes, Nancy, I'm a fellow history geek. I started out majoring in history in college and switched to English, so I have a minor in history. I loved the specialty courses like "The Middle Ages" and "Russian History."

    Robb's latest In Death releases next month, I believe -- Celebrity in Death.

  35. Hi, Teresa/Journaling Woman, thanks for the compliments!

  36. Mason, thanks so much for having me on Wednesday's blog. It's always a pleasure to visit here!


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