Monday, December 08, 2008

Spotlight in Six - Shirley Jump

This month please welcome bestselling author Shirley Jump to our Spotlight in Six! Shirley's got a new book out in the Brides for All Seasons series, and here she is to tell us a little about herself!

1) Where do you find new and fresh ideas?

My answer probably isn't a lot different from everyone else's--I find ideas everywhere. I read voraciously, everything from Newsweek to Rachael Ray magazine to cereal boxes, and watch so much television, I should just glue one to my forehead. ;-). All that media influence gives me a swirl of ideas floating around in my head. Like with MARRY-ME CHRISTMAS, I thought about food (okay, so I'm ALWAYS thinking about food) and whether a food could make someone fall in love. I've seen all these destination restaurant/shop/diner shows and thought I could combine something like that with a food that made someone fall in love and chose my favorite food--cookies. That's where the idea for MARRY-ME CHRISTMAS came from. I set the story in Riverbend, which was really popular with readers last Christmas (in MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS EVE) and brought back several favorite characters (including Earl, who gets more of a starring role this time, and a little love story of his own). I used to keep folders with ideas but they were starting to take over my filing cabinet, and I found that I kept having so many new ideas I didn't get back to the old ones. So now I just let them file away in the old noggin', and somehow they shuffle out when I need them.

2) Writers often use photos of celebrities as "casting". Do you do this, and who has inspired some of your characters?

I don't use any photos or images of anyone. I find it distracts me to base my characters on anyone real. I want them to form themselves, with their own looks, personalities and quirks. A few times, I've had to provide the art department with a photo of a character, and that's been tough, because I can see the character in my mind, but there is no one person who looks like my character, if that makes sense. They are as individual as my brother and sister, as quirky as my cousins and aunts and uncles (apologies to the fam ;-) and as unique as anyone you know in your life.

3) What are your favourite and least favourite parts of writing a novel? Is there a particular section that you struggle with?

I call the beginning of the book the "honeymoon" phase. It's like meeting a new person. You really, really like them. You can't WAIT to get to know them more, to hear their story. To see them again and again. I'm writing and writing and writing, dying to see what happens next. I get about a third to halfway in, and then--

The book begins to stall. I start writing one word at a time. Every sentence is a chore. I don't like these people all that much. I've spent way too much time with them and they are SO uncooperative. That's when I know it's time to go back and revise. I do a pretty massive revision at this point of the book, looking for all those clues that will tell me how to move forward. I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, so my subconscious usually buries everything that I need back in the original few chapters. There's that offhand remark by the hero about a girlfriend in the past, or the heroine's single reference to a tragedy. That starts my brain moving and asking all the questions that deepen the middle and move the book forward. Then I get to the point a couple chapters before the end, and I am stuck again.

That's when the next massive revision happens, and probably the time when I am the worst person to live with. I am writing the black moment of the book, when things seem the worst for the characters, and it seems there is no way they can solve their problems--and to me, as the author, I can't see a way out either. I go back and reread, and revise, and thank goodness, that trusty subconscious has buried little nuggets again, and I can write the rest. But those two stopping points are the worst for me as I puzzle through the turns in the plot.

4) When you are not writing, what do you do? How do you pamper yourself?

Anyone who knows me knows I am a shopper. I love the mall, love to get out there and shop! I just finished a book, and have a revision to turn in before the middle of the month, then I'm free for the holidays--to shop! I love, love, love shoes, and those are probably my biggest downfall. I also LOVE to cook. My blog ( is all about cooking. I post recipes most days of the week, and also do a writing lesson three times a month on Mondays. Cooking is my "downtime" thing and it really relaxes me. I'm one of those quick and easy cooks, though, so I'm usually in and out with most recipes in a half hour, hour tops. And the dishes are always left for someone else ;-).

5) Imagine you're stranded - where are you and who are you with?

Besides my family? And a whole lot of books to read? Because seriously, I'd want them and a LOT of books to read! That's the one thing I do on vacation, is read CONSTANTLY. I don't get nearly enough time to read when I'm working, and I've been known to read 10 or 12 books in a week when we go on vacation. And I don't get near enough time with my family when I'm on deadline, because my head is buried in my laptop, so I'd love more time with my kids and husband. So strand me with them ;-)

6) Finally, Shirley, please tell us what's up and coming for you in the months ahead!

So much! I am contracted all the way through the rest of next year, so I'll be busy writing all year. This month, I have a Harlequin Romance, MARRY-ME CHRISTMAS and a new single title out with Zebra, SIMPLY THE BEST. Then in February, a Harlequin Diamond Anniversary release, THE BRIDESMAID AND THE BILLIONAIRE. In June, I'll have another Romance, DOORSTEP DADDY, plus a new Christmas book in October, A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS. And my second release for Next, AROUND THE BED, is being released in August, with a second printing of THE OTHER WIFE. Also, my first collaboration with my daughter, THE WELL, a horror young adult, will be released in September 2009 under the pen name AJ Whitten by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Graphia imprint. I think I'll be sleeping in December ;-).

Um do realize that's EIGHT releases, right? (does it make you wonder when she has time to sleep? Cook? Watch tv?)

Shirley's giving away a copy of last season's MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS EVE! Just send an e-mail to with the subject line SHIRLEY and we'll draw at the end of the month!

Thanks Shirley for being with us!


  1. Merry Christmas, Shirley!

    I love that food and love go so well together, and I especially love that in MARRY-ME CHRISTMAS food, love and the holiday season are all combined. Your book is bouncing off my tbr and demanding that I read it! (Tell me, have you included the cookie recipe?)

  2. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Happy Holidays!

    I love anything that combines my favorite things....
    Reading, food, and eating food whil e reading!

    I have loved every book you have written. I pamper myself by buying them all.

    I also love reading your blog. But of course you know that!