Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Jo Ramsey

Hello everyone! Welcome to another Friday Feature. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of having Terry Lynn Johnson on the blog. She is publishing her book, Dogsled Dreams, in 2011 with an indie publisher, and I thought that it would be great to be able to support other authors publishing with small presses. Please give them some love over at Indie-Debut 2010

I invited all the authors over to come for an interview, to talk about their books and their journeys toward publication and beyond! So, today, I am featuring Jo Ramsey, an author from that group, whose book, Connection, was released recently through Jupiter Gardens Press.

Welcome, Jo. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I've been writing since age five. From middle school through college, I wrote about 20 YA novels, all longhand in spiral notebooks that now reside in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. They're really not that good... I took a few years' break from writing, then returned to it in 2004. Since then, I've written 45 YA manuscripts, some of which I'm now revising. I live in Massachusetts with my soon-to-be husband (the wedding is April 17), my two daughters, two cats, and a fish.

Jo, your book, Connection, is currently out. Tell us a little about that book.

Connection is the story of Shanna Bailey, a 14-year-old girl with a not-so-good home life. Her mother is verbally and sometimes physically abusive, and her father pretty much ignores her. Shanna's also bullied at school, and so is scared to begin high school. On her first day of ninth grade, she meets Jonah Leighton, a junior who is also picked on, among other reasons because he tends to meditate in the school lobby. The two become friends, and when a demon threatens the most popular girl in school, Shanna and Jonah are the only ones who can help her.

What is your writing process like? How did Connection come about?

My writing process varies from project to project. Sometimes I have a fairly detailed idea of the plot; other times I just have a beginning and start writing to see what happens. Connection, which is the first book in a 10-book series, is semi-autobiographical, based on some events and some things I learned as a child and as an adult. Jonah is based on a friend I had from 2005-2007 (we lost touch after that), and Shanna, of course, is me. I chose to write them as teenagers because I thought teens would enjoy the content more than adults would.

How did you connect with the publishing house which published Connection?

Under a different name, I write romance novels. Through a writing friend, I found a romance publisher that I enjoyed working with. The romance imprint is only one imprint of that company; the other imprint is Jupiter Gardens Press, which published Connection. When I discovered Jupiter Gardens, I felt that Connection and the rest of the Reality Shift series would be a good fit, and the publisher agreed.

What are you currently working on?

Hmm... I'm working on a few projects right now, one in YA and three in romance (under my pen name). So this one's kind of hard to answer.

What made you start to write seriously?

I learned to read before I was three. I had a great imagination, and once I figured out that the stories in books came from other people's imaginations, I knew I wanted to see my stories in books someday too.

What, if anything, has surprised you about your journey toward publication and beyond?

Nothing surprises me. I've enjoyed people's reactions to my writing, though. Apparently they think it's better than I think it is.

What type of publicity have you done to get the word out about your book? What has worked? What hasn't?

For Connection, I've done several blog interviews, and was also interviewed on the Book Bites for Kids blog talk radio show. I'm doing a book signing in my town on March 13, and I'll be at a church fair on March 27. I've posted promos about Connection on a few Yahoo loops I belong to, and I have my own website where I talk about my books and other things.  I've also done a few school visits, and hope to do more; there's an information page on my website about what I do for visits. All of those things have worked.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

Can I say my own? LOL

What online resource have you found most helpful?

There are two: The Absolute Write Water Cooler and Verla Kay's Blue Board. Each forum has a vast amount of information for writers at every level.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Overcoming my fear of rejection to actually submit things.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

Playing cyber chess helps. If I'm really blocked or just don't feel like it, I don't force it. I just give myself a day off and remind myself that the world won't end if I go a day without writing.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

I can't think of any in particular.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

My practical goal, between the YA and romance, is to have a total of 8 new releases or at least contracts for 2010. (Not unrealistic; I had 8 for 2009.) My reach for the stars goal is a paranormal novel I wrote, which I want to see picked up by one of the major publishing houses and have it be my breakthrough novel.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

Seeing my stuff published.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

I'd rather just be myself.

What other distractions do you have in your life?

I'm getting remarried in April 2010, so planning for that wedding's been a pretty big distraction. My fiance is sometimes too, though he completely supports my writing, so he tries not to distract me too much. I also have two daughters, ages 14 and 11. And a cat who loves to initiate games of fetch with me right when I'm in the middle of a writing flow.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Coffee. Gotta have the caffeine to kick my brain into gear.

Thanks for the interview, Jo.  I know that you wanted me to mention that you are very excited for your book signing, tomorrow, March 13th, from 10-1 at the Winthrop Book Depot, 11 Somerset Ave., Winthrop, MA. Which sounds so wonderful!  Good luck!  Thanks again for the interview.  Everyone, please remember that Jo will be around to answer questions.  Leave them in the comments for her.


  1. Yay I love interviews! Thank you for sharing I'll be sure to check out her blog!

  2. Jo--thanks so much for being here today! I'm fascinated about your Book Bites experience--can you tell us how that came about, and what that was like?

  3. Forty-five YA manuscripts -- and you also write romance novels? Yikes! You must stay busy! I'm curious. About how long does it take you to write a first draft? Are you one of those super-fast speed writers, or do you take your time?

    Great interview!

  4. Thanks as always, Heather! You do fantastic interviews!

    Jo-I'm very curious what you do for school visits. What do you find most effective? Are these visits where students are reading your book? It sounds very fun!

    Also, I always like to know. Do you have a particular writing schedule that works for you?

    Wonderful to meet you!

  5. Great job! Love reading more about this book!

  6. Totally going to buy that book. It sounds right up my alley. Thanks, Heather and Jo!

  7. Thanks for hosting me, Heather, and thanks for stopping by, everyone!

    Heather, I belong to the Childrens Writers Yahoo loop, and Suzanne Lieurance, the host of Book Bites, posted a call on there for authors to be interviewed. I emailed her and she scheduled me. I thought I'd be really nervous, and I was before we started, but once the interview began I just kept talking, and it was over before I knew it.

    Sarah, I'm pretty fast on most of my first drafts; depending on length, they usually only take a month or two, though I've had some take longer. The least amount of time I've ever done a first draft in was five days, because a friend challenged me.

    Tina, for the school visits I've done so far, I've given a talk about bullying and tolerance, since those are themes in Connection, and then have donated a copy of Connection to the school libraries. So no, the kids hadn't read my book before my visits. I don't really have a set writing schedule; however, each morning I set a goal for number of words written or pages revised or whatever I'm working on.

    I'll stop by again later to answer any other questions that come in :)

  8. Good luck, Jo, in all your publishing endeavors!

  9. Jo--thank you so much for being here, interviewing for the blog. I wish you all the best with all your writing endeavors! Good luck at your book signing today.

    Laura--thanks for stopping by!

  10. Wow! I am impressed! 45 YA manuscripts written and 8 contracts in 2009. Most impressive. Great interview!

  11. Kelly--Jo is seriously prolific!

  12. Sorry I'm late, Heather.

    Jo-what a life writing since five?! Here's my question: having written so many words and ms's in your life, how do you balance your social and family life? What tricks have you learned or does your family give you space and you go buck-wild with your writing? Also, do you still write short-hand?