Welcome back! Today, we’re taking a break from sharing Golden Leaf finalist snippets to recognize our 2016 Golden Leaf Hall of Fame Inductee, Holly Jacobs. This achievement is awarded to an author who has won three times in the same category! We have the privilege of recognizing Holly at this years’ “Put Your Heart in a Book” Conference on October 14, 2016. I had a chance to chat with Holly. Below, you can read about how she balances writing and her busy family plus learn some of her hobbies. You can also get a glimpse into each of her award-winning Golden Leaf books. Enjoy!
Hi Holly. Congratulations on winning New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf award three times in the Short Contemporary category. It’s a wonderful testament to the success of your stories!
Two of your Golden Leaf winning books are part of your Perry Square series (Be My Baby and Once Upon a King) and the third is part of your Words of the Heart series (Carry Her Heart). What’s your favorite part each series?
So many parts are favorites. Hmmm. My Perry Square series had a secondary character who popped up in each book. Pearly Gates is a fan favorite—and I’ll confess, she was one of mine, too. She was the wise-woman of the series. However, her wise words were frequently hidden in crazy, circular stories. Most of the time, she’d start talking in a book and I wouldn’t have a clue where the story was going. I was as surprised as the readers were when she reached a point.
My favorite part of Carry Her Heart? I started my career writing romantic comedy and sweet humorous stories. In recent years I’ve branched out and written books that I call Romance+. Women’s fiction and romance stories. I tried to coin the term Womance, but it never took off. LOL My Words of the Heart Series are those kind of books. My favorite part of the series is, well, their heart. Each one is the heroine’s journey…and part of her journey is a romance. I loved Ned, the hero of Carry Her Heart. He made me cry at the end of Carry Her Heart. And my September release, Hold Her Heart, opens in his point of view. I cry every single time I read it. It’s absurd. I wrote the book. I know it has a HEA. And still, I cry. When I can get so wrapped up in a character…well, that’s my favorite part.
What’s the most challenging part about writing contemporary? How do you keep your ideas fresh?
Coming up with ideas is never a problem. They’re everywhere. In the news. In a song. In a random thought. My problem is finding the time to write them all.
That being said, I have themes that I’m attracted to. Family. That’s a huge one for me. Looking at how families come together and what makes them work. To be honest, Be My Baby had a baby bring a couple together and make a family (BTW, my hero, Mac was really named Larry in the books…so a shout-out to my editor’s brother, Larry who loves Taco Bell as much as me and inspired Mac’s love of them). Once Upon a King had three friends who had become so much more than friends…they were family. And Carry Her Heart’s heroine was a teen mother who gave her baby up for adoption then built a life around that child she no longer had. That child was part of a family she knew nothing about.
Yes, each of those books (and so many more of my books) look at family, but all are (hopefully) looking at it from a fresh perspective. I think that as we grow in our writing and get older, we are constantly looking at the world around us from a new point-of-view and that influences our writing and keeps it fresh.
What is your writing process? Do you plot a series at a time? Do you plot a book at a time?
I was a seat-of-the-pantser when I first started writing. But as I started having more sales and contracts, I learned to write a synopsis and plot a story out. Although, I do write very loose synopsis. I like to leave myself wiggle room for unexpected turns. Like Pearly’s stories in the Perry Square series.
And frankly, most of my series are unintentional. I write a book. I fall in love with the characters, their town and their friends…and I want to know more. So I write another book, and then another… That’s how most of my series are born. That’s why there are eight Perry Square books. And it’s why there are four Words of the Heart books (one more coming next year)!
What’s your favorite/most productive time of the day to write? Do you need a certain type of atmosphere to write (noise, silence)?
Mornings. I got this interview a half hour ago and I’m sipping coffee and working on it at 6:49 am. I was working before that. I love mornings! After the house is quiet, I take the dogs on a quick walk, then sit down in the silence and work. I love mornings!
With four kids and very specific times you need to write, do you ever get writer’s block and if so, how to you work through the process?
My kids are older now, so that’s made writing so much easier. I call my years of writing at night after they went to bed my vampire years. LOL And as a early bird by nature, they were hard on me. Now that they’re older, things are easier. Although, I’ve discovered that older children still require a lot of time and attention.
As for writer’s block…no. If I get stuck on a story, I always have something else to play with. But frankly, I’m almost always on a deadline, so I don’t have time for writer’s block. And maybe that’s a good thing.
You have a seriously impressive career with 12 series and 47 books. What tips do you have for building a successful writing career?
Why thank you for the compliment! I guess my biggest tip is…write. I write every day. I have since I decided I wanted to be a writer. It’s become as much a part of my life as my family, or my dogs, or the fact I like mornings and coffee. It’s as much a part of my life as breathing. I write. It sounds simple, but sometimes it’s a challenge. Even when the world goes crazy around me, I write. Frankly, during the hardest times in my life, my writing has been a lifeline. It’s a constant in a sea of chaos.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
Well, since you asked…
I split all the wood for our fireplace, I weave baskets, I garden, I cook (and lately I’ve been doing videos called Cooks and Books that talk about both…well, cooking and books!), I antique, I do renovations, I read, I listen to music (I’m a huge Broadway fan…and I have tickets for Hamilton next year!!!), I walk the dogs, but most of my non-writing time revolves around my family. Here’s the thing, I’m so lucky to be married to my best friend, and together we’ve raised our kids to be our other best friends! I know I sound like one of those moms, but seriously, my kids are amazing!!
What are you working on now?
I’m almost done with a new Romance+ story. I’ll confess, it’s made me cry more than once, too. But it’s also made me laugh. And it’s made me look at my life and the people in it in a new way. As a writer, that’s all I can ask of a book. And hopefully, it’s what my readers enjoy!
Here are some rapid-fire questions.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve lived or visited? Erie, PA…I live here and set books here because it’s such a great city!
Print book or digital? I read any book format…I also read cereal boxes. I’m an equal opportunity reader!
Book or author who inspired you to become a writer: I grew up in books and can’t remember a time I didn’t read…so many, many authors and books inspired me!
Favorite color: Orange.
Dream date (place and person): Joss Whedon. I’m such a fan of his shows and dialogue. I’d love to spend an evening discussing dialogue. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing.
Favorite movie: Hm, I just mentioned Joss, so I guess I’ll go with Serenity. LOL
Favorite ice cream flavor: My favorite flavor is ice cream…what? You mean, ice cream isn’t a flavor? LOL I eat pretty much any flavor. Unless they make a Brussels sprout one. (See the next answer.) One of the quotes in These Three Words was “There’s never a bad time for ice cream.” It’s been a theme of my life!
Favorite food: That’s like asking what’s my favorite book…I like food. Almost all food. I don’t like Brussels sprouts. I keep trying to like them. I’ve had them prepared a bunch of ways. I just can’t. Sorry, Brussels sprouts!
Favorite season: Fall! I love to decorate for it. I love cooking fall foods. I love apples and grapes and… I love fall.
Tea or coffee? Both! I love coffee in the morning, but I switch to tea in the afternoons. I know, I’m complex.
Boxers or briefs? Have you seen ever seen boxer briefs? I’ll go with that as an answer!
Channing Tatum or Chris Hemsworth? They both seem like very nice boys, but can I say Sam Elliott??
Check out Holly’s Golden Leaf Short Contemporary winning books.
2005 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary
“…don’t go falling in love with me. Even if I were looking for a relationship—which I’m not—but if I were, it wouldn’t be with you. You’re the kind of woman that wants the whole ball of wax. That’s the last thing I want. And then there’s the simple fact that we’d kill each other. So, get the stars out of your eyes. I’m not the man for you.”
Mia tried—after all, men had such fragile egos—so she tried to hold back. Truly she did. But she couldn’t help it.
A loud chuckle escaped, just a small bark of laughter.
The baby gave a visible jump in Mac’s arms, but then snuffled in closer to his chest and went back to sleep.
Mia tried to stifle the laughter, but it built and the pressure was too great. Chuckles burst out and escalated until she was laughing so hard that tears streamed from her eyes.
2006 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary
Cara knew that sometimes something was just too strong not to be, no matter how long it took.
Call it magic.
Call it fate.
Call it destiny.
Call it love.
Her eyes met Michael’s and he mouthed the words, I love you.
Cara knew just what she planned to call it…
2015 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary
“I can see you thinking,” Ned said. “You’re running through a bunch of scenarios. What if we dated and it didn’t work out? Could we still be friends? What if we dated and it did work out? What then? What if . . .”
“Yes,” I admitted. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Here’s something else I know from our walks and talks, and from reading your books . . . running through multiple scenarios is a big part of your profession. But maybe just this once, you don’t. Maybe you simply try a date with me and see how it goes.”
“What if I lose you in the process?” I asked. That was my true fear. I’d come to count on Ned in a way I didn’t count on anyone else. Not even Coop.
He pulled me close. I thought he might kiss me, but he didn’t. He simply held me and said, “Of all the scenarios that you can imagine, take that one off the table. You’re my friend. My best friend, truth be told. I think there could be more between us, but I’m absolutely certain there can’t be less.”
You can catch up with Holly at the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference later this month, where she’s also a finalist in the Golden Leaf Contemporary Mid-Length category. Hope to see you there!