Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
I don't even know if author Jana Vandelaar will remember this, but the first time I saw her was at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in 2022. She was with a bunch of people who looked like they were having a great time, really enjoying one another's company. It was my first writers conference, and I was too shy to introduce myself. But they really looked like the "cool kids' table." That Saturday evening, I was awarded third place in Romance for my unpublished novel, and I remember walking passed their table, and Jana congratulated me and said she liked my dress. She had just won first in Women's Fiction for Mountains of Dough. I later found out who they were and all about their group and vlog, Virgin Authors. Now I tune in often to see who they are interviewing. And like that table at the conference, they look like they are having a lot of laughs and supporting one another.
CHRISTINA: So far, what is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
JANA: I’ve had a lot of “technical” great moments. I’ve won a few awards over the years and that’s always nice. My women’s fiction novel, Mountains of Dough, won first place at the PNWA conference and through the Orange Rose contest last year. And one of my beloved children’s series, The Puppy Tooth Fairy, won second place, again, at the PNWA conference. This year, I decided to join a class given by Joany Kane, who is, in my opinion, the queen of Hallmark movies. She taught a class on Holidays & Romance Screenplays. Such a great class through Story Summit. Anyway, I was so honored because she loved my script so much, she personally passed it on to one of her producer friends in Hollywood. Pretty cool. Honestly, though, I think it’s the experience in itself…meeting new friends, learning to believe in myself, actually entering contests, and going through the entire query/pitching process. It was a tough learning curve for me, so I’m proud of myself for climbing those mountains alone.
CHRISTINA: Ooh, I love hearing when a book has been passed on to a producer. I get giddy just thinking it. Crossing my fingers and toes for you.
Best advice for writers...?
JANA: Be like the Nike commercial… “Just Do It." Your story needs to be written. Get it done and have fun!
CHRISTINA: When did you first think you had a book to write and how did you start?
JANA: It’s interesting. For me, I like to honor my life and the people I’ve met, through my stories. The very first novel I wrote is in a drawer somewhere now, but it was about my first “official” job working in downtown Denver. It was during the days of the Dynasty and Dallas television shows, and my new job was at an oil company, which was a combo of both shows really. I was blown away by the fun people working there, raking in millions in oil, yet they were everyday people. Had to write that story, fictionalized, of course, but I wanted to somehow commemorate that experience.
It took me about ten years before I wrote another book, and it was right after 9/11. I was a flight attendant, and it was such a horrific experience, I think I needed to write as a form of therapy for myself. All of my books and scripts are loaded with humor, so I don’t know how I managed to write something funny after that, but it helped me get back on the plane and keep smiling. That book, Allergies Over the Atlantic, is one of my favorites, yet for some reason, I haven’t really gone out there and pitched it too much. Maybe because it was too important to me when I wrote it...? I don’t know. But I need to get past that hurdle and get it out there. Honestly, I think it’s one of my funniest. I’m working on the sequel, Bunions into Boston. Fingers crossed.
Finally, my daughter inspired me to write children’s books when she suffered from night terrors years ago. (She’s 20 now.) I would lay awake with her every night, feeling so bad because she was terrified of falling asleep as she was having horrible nightmares. Eventually, I realized it helped her if we took some time and talked about her day in details. It distracted her from worrying about having nightmares and she'd fall asleep peacefully. One day she announced she had a wacky dream after talking about her day with me. She laughed as she went into detail about how the day’s events transformed into a crazy night of fun adventures in her dreams. Bam! An idea for a children’s series… Jaq’s Wacky Dreams. I found my notes for the series during CoVid and it was a great project while we were all isolated. I wanted to self-publish these because they are so important to me, I wanted the creative control. I love how the first two turned out and the third one, Jaq’s Wacky Dreams - Swimming in Lemonade Oceans, will be out at the beginning of next year. I’m hoping this series will help other families deal with their children suffering from a similar experience and bring them giggles at night and encourage them to talk/focus on their fun day instead of having to "dread going to bed.”
CHRISTINA: I flew for Continental out of Denver in the early nineties. I still can't get over the courage it took for all of you to get back to flying after 9/11. I love how writing has been a sort of therapy for you too. I look forward to one day reading Allergies Over the Atlantic.
How has the publishing industry changed since you started?
JANA: Since I’ve been writing since the mid-eighties, a LOT has changed. Back then, everything was done by physically mailing things. Your synopsis and queries had to be printed and physically mailed to each agent/publisher you thought might be interested. And we had to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (or postcard) for them to respond with a no, or a heavenly YES… please send the first three chapters, or, even better, the entire manuscript. Then we had to physically print out our books and mail all those pages to that agent or publisher for consideration. Yep… No e-mails back then. So weird. Going to your mailbox back then, waiting for the response was like searching for that e-mail response now…only it took months longer back then.
CHRISTINA: Good grief. The patience it took just waiting for the mail. And all the paper publishers received daily! Boggles the mind.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
JANA: I pretty much continue to do what I love throughout my life. I definitely loved being a mother above all, so I’m glad I have been blessed with that experience and working as a flight attendant for more than 25 years. I also owned a scuba diving shop with my hubby for about ten years and worked as a dive instructor in the Florida Keys. But I want to take on being an entrepreneur next. Writing is sort of being one anyway, but I’ve always jotted down “ideas” and inventions of some sort, so I’d like to dabble in that. My entire “purpose” in life is to bring smiles and giggles to the world in whatever way possible. If it’s helping someone across the street, or giving someone an escape through my books, or inventing something that would make their life easier or more fun. I’m on it. I want to contribute to the world while I’m here.
CHRISTINA: I love that you have found your purpose.
I recently saw a post about your daughter's company in Oahu, Rainbow Helicopters, and how they are flying needed supplies to the fire ravaged Maui. Outstanding work! Here is the GoFundMe link to help support the purchase of baby formula, diapers, pet supplies, and so much more.
Thank you, Jana, for taking time to answer my interview questions. Wishing you much success on your next book project--you deserve every good thing. Next time I see you at a conference, I won't be shy about coming up and introducing myself. I might even plop down at your table and stay awhile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a flight attendant in the midst of 9/11, Jana found writing to almost be a form of "free therapy sessions." Fast forward years later, Jana still loves creating stories...especially if they give her readers a smile.
Or better yet, a snort-laugh.
Jana Vandelaar's latest book, MOUNTAINS OF DOUGH, recently won 1st place in the 2022 PNWA Conference for women's fiction, AND 1st place in the 2022 Orange Rose Contest for Emerging Writers.
One of her children's early chapter book series, THE PUPPY TOOTH FAIRY, won 2nd place in the PNWA 2020 Conference.
She also wrote as a humor columnist, published in The Reporter, and in the weekend edition of the Miami Herald for eight years where she became the queen of deadlines.