Interview with Jansen Schmidt
Author of On Hallowed Ground – Book Two in the Grounded Series
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I was born in Minnesota but transplanted to Northern California at a very young age. Five years ago my husband and I moved to the deep south where we currently reside in an historic home in beautiful downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
Too many things about life in California started to become unbearable, not the least of which was a 30-year career that was stagnating and the constant fear of having our home and livestock destroyed by wildfire. We were at a point in our lives where we needed a change so we bought an 1870’s historic inn and became innkeepers.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
I’ve always been creative. As a child, I designed and sewed my own Barbie clothes and made my own decorations for my Barbie house. My parents couldn’t afford the Barbie dream house so I had to build my own. Then, as a teenager I designed and sewed my own clothes. Yes, my parent could afford clothes, but I enjoyed sewing.
When I got my first apartment, I tried my hand at faux painting and interior design. I still enjoy designing and decorating my house for the different seasons and holidays. As an innkeeper there’s always an opportunity to decorate something.
For many years I was an actress, performing a variety of different roles on stage. That was a lot of fun but it took me away from home a lot. When I stopped performing I still had the creative monster clawing away inside me so I decided to try expressing myself and telling stories in a different way, on the page instead of on the stage. Thus began my career, such as it is, as a writer.
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
My books are very much character driven. I like to create smart and sassy characters who are bold and adventurous and who evoke strong emotions in readers. I like to include both romance, mystery and intrigue. I like my books to tell a story that readers can relate to. I try to enlighten readers about the worlds I’ve created and perhaps share a bit of knowledge that readers never knew before about people, places or things. I enjoy researching and I like to share interesting tidbits I learn along the way within the fictional worlds I create. My current tag line is: Sassy and sexy contemporary western romance.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
I think anyone who likes a satisfactory happy ending will enjoy my books. They’re not typical “romances” as people familiar with that genre will discover, but I do like readers to have a sense of fulfillment at the end of the book.
People who like a good mystery and people who have an interest in the cowboy way of life would certainly find my stories interesting. Romance readers and mystery readers alike would find my books interesting. People who are interested in both traditional and non-traditional belief systems would find my books engaging.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
I discovered that just because you have a really interesting idea doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a really good book. Ideas alone aren’t enough. Great ideas need the support of interesting and likable characters, snappy and believable dialogue, and a unique setting to really go anywhere. Actually writing a book is so much harder than just telling somebody about your really cool idea for a book.
If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?
Don’t try to write the “perfect” book. Perfection, like everything else in the writing world, is subjective. Get the book as good and error-free as possible and trust yourself to know when it’s ready to be published. If you wait for perfection, you’ll never publish. The more people you ask about the book, the more different opinions you’ll get and that’ll just make your decision harder. What’s “perfect” in one person’s world may not be “perfect” in another. Just write YOUR story and write it well.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
Well, I think every writer wants to reach a many readers as possible. We’d be lying if we said otherwise. But, what I’d really like to do is to reach my true followers. My people. My tribe.
I’d like to reach the people who become life-long readers and will stick with me through all future stories and tell their friends about me. I’d like to find my super-fans! And, with any luck, there will be thousands of them.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
As I mentioned above, I think my biggest struggle has been knowing when my books were truly as good as they were going to get. It took me awhile to learn when my edits were actually making the book better and when my edits were simply changing things. You can change indefinitely without making the book better.
My biggest frustration, like so many other writers, is marketing, finding new readers and building a bigger audience. It’s time consuming and expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ads work, but there’s a learning curve associated with them and mistakes can be costly. I know, I’m speaking from experience. My advertising budget is like that aforementioned Barbie dream house and wouldn’t it be nice if I could afford that.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
I believe my biggest strength is my stubbornness. Yeah, usually that’s a bad thing, but not in this case. I refuse to give up on a story if I know it has a message that readers will relate to. Some stories are easier to write than others but I’m going to fight for every story that I believe needs to be told. Sometimes sentences aren’t right and I can’t immediately see how to fix them. I’ll fight to find the perfect exact right word or phrase to make that sentence sparkle. I don’t stop until I know it’s exactly the way it should be.
The same things with marketing. I can’t afford to pay a publicist but I know I have to advertise in order for my career to go anywhere. I’m not a techy-type person so there’s been a lot of computer stuff to conquer. But conquer I will!
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
My biggest weakness is my time management skill, or lack thereof. I tend to prioritize my chores and other daily life stuff before my writing and my writing often suffers because of it. I own my own business so there are things that have to come first, but the lesser important stuff sometimes gets done before I open the manuscript for the day.
I have to be my own disciplinarian and that’s hard. I mean it’s not like I can put myself on a time out, because that just means I’ll sit in the corner and read and then nothing will ever get done. Time outs really don’t work for adults.
When do you think you will write your next book?
I’m already writing my next book and I’ve got two more lined up after that one. I’m hoping to release my third book in my first series in the spring of 2020. I hope you’ll all look for it.
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
I’m self-published but I used a service to help with the technical stuff. Again, I am not a techy person and despite my stubbornness, I really had no desire to conquer any of that stuff. I had heard horror stories so I decided to do the smart thing for me and hire a company to help. They did all of the different formatting for all of the different e-book platforms and uploaded to all the sites for me and they handled a lot of the analytical data entry and so forth. It saved me a ton of time so I could read – I mean – write.
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