Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I live in the southeast with a couple of kids, a pack of show dogs, and a confused but supportive husband.
Fun fact—I never considered myself creative enough to be a writer. There’s a professor out there with a chronic eye-twitch thanks to The Great Thesis Crisis of 20-mumble-mumble. I only picked up a pen thanks to a newborn. Who. Would. Not. Sleep. I multi-tasked while also not-sleeping, and caught up on a favorite show. Where the writers killed off my favorite character.
I’m blaming it on the sleep deprivation because my (very fuzzy) thought process went something like ‘What? WHAT??? Are you kidding me?’ I could come up with a better ending.”
Yeah, not really. But that drunken moment led to my debut coming out this year.
How do you make time to write?
I’m lucky in that I can write anywhere, and in spurts—in the grooming area at shows, medical waiting rooms, sports’ practices, in the parent pick-up line.
That also means plot breakthroughs scribbled on the back of receipts, and notes on Starbucks sleeves. Everyone in my household has learned to ask if random wrappers and bags are book outlines or safe to go in the recycle bin.
What are your current projects?
I always, accidentally, have multiple projects going at a time. Right now, I’m working on another contemporary romance, and an urban fantasy romance. Watch my website and newsletter for deets.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Is there ever an answer other than yes?
As a reformed pantser, I don’t hit as many walls as compared to when I first began. When I do stall out, I turn to my Coven crit partners. So named because tossing around ideas and brainstorming with them is magic. Shiny, sparkly, save-my-butt magic.
How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any?
Laughs until tears ruin my latte
I have enough to wallpaper my house. And car. Maybe do the front and back porches to tie the look together.
No lie, those first rejections as a baby writer hurt. But they also kinda felt like a badge of honor. I was sending my work out in the world. I was in the game. This is where my writing community was priceless though. It’s always cathartic to vent to people who get it, and are willing to cheer-lead and send Jason Momoa* gifs.
*Dwayne Johnson gifs also work.
Can you tell us your story of getting “the call” (or e-mail)?
My path was more like a labyrinth.
I had stacked up rejections for SALT+STILETTOS. There were still agent queries out, but let’s just say they’d been out there for… a while. After a heart to heart with Brighton Walsh, my Pitch Wars mentor, I had the option of shelving yet another story, or querying imprints and publishers accepting un-agented work.
Critically, my manuscript had been through several in-depth revisions, and was sound. Emotionally, thanks to an anthology, I’d had a taste of the fun side of writing, and wow, was it tasty. Like, Samoa Girl Scout cookies tasty. I wanted more of that, so January 1st 2019, I queried every publisher I was interested in. It was one and done. Either someone gave my story a chance or I had to move on.
At the same time, I entered the Golden Heart as part of a pact to get my crit partners to enter. I’d sent in a different version of SALT+STILETTOS in 2018 so didn’t hold out any hope, but wanted to see my girls shine. I was just there as a cheering section.
Then I got the call that I had finaled. At Brighton’s urging, I updated my queries with “GH Finalist.”
Things blew. Up. I got multiple publisher offers. Updated the outstanding agent queries, only to be polite, while I angsted over which publisher to go with.
Then multiple agents asked to be upgraded to fulls or promised to read by the deadline. Many passed, because this is real life. But I ended up scheduling several calls. Ultimately, I signed with the fabulous Eva Scalzo, who seemed to get the story and my career hopes, dumping the publisher offers in her lap five minutes later.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
The writing community has its issues, but when it comes through, it comes through big time.
I was blessed with Brighton Walsh and JC Nelson, both amazing mentors during my Pitch Warsstints. Some wonderful contest judges reached out post-judging to an obvious newb writer, as well as the ladies from The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. I won a random draw during Mentees Helping Mentees before Pitch Wars, and Jen DeLuca’s encouraging notes came just as I was ready to trash this story. Laura Threntham, my TGN mentor, has been invaluable since.
Have you written in collaboration with other writers?
Not yet, but the idea is intriguing.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
My website: https://janetwaldenwest.weebly.com/
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
I hope you enjoy Brett and Will’s first meeting in SALT+STILETTOS.
Brett turned to Will and that softness evaporated. He froze while her gaze tracked over him.
When she pulled a phone out—from where in that tight outfit, he had no clue—and her fingers danced over the screen, he breathed again, one thankful wheeze.
Right. “I’ll be in the kitchen. It was nice to meet you, ma’am.” And by nice, he meant terrifying. Like looking at a tiger in the zoo. Gorgeous, but strictly hands-off.
He bobbed his head at the seemingly oblivious woman and scouted a path out.
“Don’t move.” The command snapped out though she didn’t put away the phone.
He shot Richard a look, begging for help.
“Don’t you dare let him leave.” She used some creepy sixth sense in place of vision, flicking away on the phone.
“You could start tomorrow,” his friend said, but rocked back on his heels, gaze on the rafters. Avoiding Will’s silent plea.
“With forty-five days until opening? I think not.” She continued a conversation Will didn’t get.
She closed the screen and her gaze pinned Will in place. “Let’s begin immediately. Either stay silent or state what you have to say. No ums, likes, qualifiers, or upticks at the end that turn statements to questions. None of those engender trust in listeners or viewers. The absolute first thing you must do is establish that you’re an authority.”
Anxiety settled in, turning the sweat on his skin clammy. “Man, what’s—”
“Ahht.” Brett’s sharp noise shut him up. “No questions.”
This was a waking nightmare he couldn’t escape, where he was destined to never get the right answer.
Richard slapped Will’s shoulder. “Breathe. We talked about Brett.”
Betrayal replaced the last of the confusion. He’d trusted Richard. “The makeover thing? You said we’d discuss that. I don’t—”
“Oh, you do.” Brett tapped the phone on her chin, eyeing him again.
Will’s stomach lurched, swirling chimichurri, eggs, and distrust together.
Like she felt it, Brett sighed. “Let me explain. ‘We’ll talk’ is Richard-speak for the topic being a done deal.”
“I never agreed.” Will pulled up to all six and a half feet, which usually intimidated people whether he meant to or not.
Brett just did that eyebrow thing again. “You signed a contract with Richard.”
“Yeah, but only with him.” Will gave up and slumped, hands in his pockets since the attempted intimidation didn’t do anything but make him feel like a bully.
“Richard’s standard Fleur de Lis Hospitality contract language states that you are committed to any and all modifications necessary to further the FDL line and brand, in a favorable light. The clause was originally my idea.”
“FDL has a standing contract with me for my company’s services. Which means you are mine for the next forty-five days. I assume you’re testing at The Coop with Richard since Khalli isn’t completed yet. I’ll meet you there.” She crooked a finger at Will, then slid through the crowd, slick as a shark through a wave, clearly expecting him to follow.