This week, we’re Rambling On with author EJ Flynn.
EJ Flynn is a mom and a wife first, then an author and business owner. She spends most of her time trying to improve her and her family’s life, always striving for more and better. She loves spending time with her daughter Abigail, hanging with her husband John, playing poker, playing rock band (expert guitar!) and of course writing. She’s a singer, actress, dancer and pianist although she doesn’t get to do much of that anymore.
Her company is In Like Flynn Marketing (www.inlikeflynnmarketing.com), geared towards helping people and businesses find success through strong comprehensive marketing campaigns. She also offers the Be Dynamic Intensive which is designed to help empower women to know that they CAN have it all and give them the tools they need to achieve it.
EJ’s new novel is PERSPECTIVES OF THE HEART, which focuses on teacher Alex Forrester and the various men in her life. “When Alex decides to post a flyer on a public bulletin board one rainy San Francisco morning saying that she has a room for rent, everything changes. She runs into Casey Morelli, gorgeous soccer player and cousin of the ex-boyfriend that she had feared all those years ago. The two fall for each other quickly, but when Alex’s new roommate, handsome lawyer Garson Reed, admits his feelings for her, her life becomes even more complicated than when she was alone. And when a string of devastating events take place that rock her life to the core, Alex discovers that happiness doesn’t come from the hand you’ve been dealt or how lucky you are, it all depends on how you look at things.”
Anthony: Welcome to Rambling On, EJ! Let’s start with where the book came from. What inspired it, what made you decide now was the time to take a shot at publishing it? How long have you been working on it?
EJ: I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been working on this book for most of my life. I actually started the book when I was fifteen because I wanted to imagine what mine and my best friends, Nikki and Tricia’s, lives would be like if we were grown up. I do realize I’m going to need to turn books around a lot faster than that.
I didn’t actually write non stop since I was fifteen. I dropped it and picked it up over the years which I think lends to Alex’s growth really well. She grew up with me. I never really intended to get it published because I thought that was so far fetched of an idea. I picked it up for the last time in 2008 when I took part in a Writer’s Intensive Weekend with Laura Banks, author of Embracing Your Big Fat Ass and Breaking the Rules (both co-written with author Janette Barber), and decided that it was time to get serious. It was tough to get through it and stay focused with life happening. With the help of people close to me I was able to stay motivated. And then this past December I learned about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest which had a deadline of February 6th and decided to make that my completion goal. I didn’t actually get to enter the contest, entries filled up before the deadline. I did, however, make my deadline. Then I figured, hey it’s done, let’s publish it. I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it when a friend of mine, Adam Weissman also a self published author, told me about CreateSpace.com. Shortly after that, I attended a “how to get published” webinar where I learned that the romance genre is the most downloaded genre for ebooks on Kindle and Nook. I used to have a bit of a chip on my shoulder saying that PERSPECTIVES was “literary fiction” not a romance novel but when I heard that about Kindle and Nook, I quickly dropped the chip and embraced the romance genre.
A: You’re a wife, a mother, and you hold down a steady job. Tell us a bit about your writing process. How do you fit the time in?
EJ: Once I committed to finishing it, most of my writing was done in bed, on my dell mini, late at night after my little one was asleep, and it still does. My husband works nights and doesn’t usually get home until after 1AM so I have a lot of uninterrupted time at night. I also started a writer’s circle which we fondly called a writer’s rhombus because there were only four of us. That was essential in gaining motivation and confidence and we always had fun. It’s now shrunk to a “writer’s line”, just two of us, myself and an amazing writer Patricia Faulkner. We motivate each other and encourage each other. Set goals and hold each other accountable. It’s really essential in my process to have someone pushing me and to have someone to read my stuff and tell me if it sucks or not.
A: Writers groups of any size are vital, I think. I’m involved in a couple. Back to PERSPECTIVES: the story centers on Alexandra, but shifts frequently to the internal thoughts of other major characters. It’s a bit of an unusual structure in that these shifts happen mid-scene rather than at chapter breaks. Was this a structure you decided on before you started, or something you noticed happening once you’d begun writing and then decided to keep doing?
The book was actually written in first person when I first started it. Then I realized that it handcuffed me to only Alex’s thoughts and feelings. When I changed it to third person it enabled me to delve into the other characters’ minds and feelings to give the story more depth and roundness. The structure then just happened organically. I didn’t plan to do it a certain way, I just went with what made sense to me and didn’t really think about it. When I tested it I did ask the readers if they found it at all confusing and not a single one said it did so, I kept it.
A: I have to admit, I’m not a modern romance/tragedy fan. I’ve never read anything by Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult, authors this type of story seem to be connected to. So what seemed to be “heaping one problem after another on the main character” to me might be the conventions of the genre. I felt like poor Alexandra couldn’t catch a break — one disaster after another befalls her and her loved ones. Did you ever feel, as you were writing the next horrible thing to happen to her, that perhaps you were throwing too much on Alexandra and wanted to cut her a break? Or was the intent always to prove how resilient she is by hitting her with one punch after another?
AJ: I have to confess, the book is somewhat autobiographical so I never thought I was giving her too much. I didn’t give her everything that has happened to me because I was afraid it wouldn’t be believable and one major tragedy that happens to her didn’t happen to me but I felt it important to where I wanted the story to start. There is much happiness in between the tragedies for her and it was meant to show that no matter what life threw at her, as long as she kept the right perspective on things, she could get through it just like I have.
A: Speaking of other authors: we all draw from the authors we love, intentionally or not. When I spoke to Evelyn LaFont a few weeks back about her paranormal romance book, she said that it was a genre she loved and also a genre she wanted to poke fun at because of its popularity. What authors do you see PERSPECTIVES OF THE HEART sitting alongside of on the bookshelves? Who influenced you as you wrote?
EJ: That’s an easy one. Danielle Steel. I have read most of her books. The first book I remember reading in its entirety, that wasn’t for school, was Danielle Steel’s Daddy (later made into a movie starring Patrick Duffy, Linda Carter and a very young Ben Affleck!) Anytime anyone asks me what kind of a book Perspectives is, I always say it’s a very Danielle Steel-esque type novel.
A: Without giving too much of the plot away, I think I can safely say: everyone in this book falls in love at first sight, and most of those relationships aren’t very successful. Was that an intentional theme of the book, the idea that rushing in doesn’t often lead to solid long-term relationships?
No that was not intended at all, the intention was more to follow your heart despite the risk, enjoy things to the fullest while they last and you’ll have no regrets.
A: PERSPECTIVES OF THE HEART is obviously a labor of love. What would you say to someone who doesn’t normally read this type of book (like me!) to convince them to give it a shot?
EJ: I would tell them that it’s not just chick-lit, it’s a story that most people can relate to on some level. It will hopefully evoke emotions good and bad and maybe change the way you look at things by the time you finish it.
A: So, what’s next for EJ Flynn in the writing realm? Working on anything currently?
I just started the actual writing of my next book. It’s a complete departure from PERSPECTIVES. I said earlier that the first book I ever read in its entirety was Daddy by Danielle Steel. The second book was Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Other than those two, my favorite authors to read are John Saul, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child and John Grisham. I can’t imagine only writing romance when there’s so much beauty in other genres too. My next book is a much darker, intense psychological thriller called TWELVE DAYS. I’ve also got a nonfiction in the works that’s called THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER, UNTIL YOU HAVE tO CUT IT YOURSELF, a real and funny look at relationships and dating, marriage and divorce.
A: Looking forward to both of those! Now for my usual last question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to recommend it to someone who hasn’t read it yet?
This is such a tough question. If I could pick by genre it would be easier. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It’s a very intense, very intelligent, science driven, supernatural story with amazing characters that you will admire and root for. I think though that for many people and definitely for myself, what’s happening around you when you’re reading a book affects the impact of that book on you. I read Cabinet of Curiosities while on a girls’ weekend in New Orleans for my 30th birthday. So really awesome memories surround it. When I reread it I think of that awesome time.
A: Thanks, EJ, for agreeing to be interviewed!
EJ: Thanks Anthony!! This was fun!!!