Today we continue to get to know our chapter members. Please welcome Jen Doyle.
Thanks for stopping by, Jen!
Contemporary Romance: What inspired you to start writing romance?
Jen Doyle: It actually took a long time for me to find my way to the romance genre. For most of my life, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I will only go to movies that entertain me — basically, I want a happy ending. In terms of reading, I’d essentially only read mysteries and thrillers. It took me over half my life to realize that there was an entire genre devoted to happily-ever-afters! Once I realized I could apply my movie-watching criteria to reading, I was hooked.
When it comes to writing, I started writing fan fiction as a hobby about 15 years ago. By the time I’d gotten serious enough to think about genres, I mostly identified what I wrote as urban fiction. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction, FTW!) But I followed one particular couple across two connected epic stories that, combined, equalled about 750K words. Now that I know more about what I’m doing, I’d say the first of those stories was a romance as it was about the couple.
Once it was pointed out to me that I’d written the equivalent of seven books, I started thinking seriously about pursuing writing. By that point I’d found romance and realized that even though not everything I’d written was defined as romance, what truly interested me was the core relationship. As soon as that occurred to me, I was off and running with the first draft of what became CALLING IT, my debut novel.
CR: Tell us a bit about your process. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
JD: A pantser, for sure. Which was fine with book 1, because I could take all the time in the world that I wanted with that. Once I was under contract and writing book 2, however, it became a bit more difficult as I had a much shorter time frame in which to write and deliver the manuscript, so I resolved to be better about plotting the next time around. I’ve just put in my proposal for book 3, and it’s the first book I’ve truly plotted out. I talked it all the way through with three different people! That was a big deal for me. 🙂
Even as I was plotting I saw the scenes unfolding in my head, which is how I like to write–and something I was afraid of losing with the plotting part. So I’m looking forward to the next phase and seeing if my characters follow the path I’ve set out for them.
CR: How has your work as a librarian influenced your reading and writing habits?
JD: I’d say it’s less about it influencing me than about finally accepting that everything I do pretty much comes from the same place, LOL. I’ve been a huge reader since day one. As I think is pretty prevalent among us writers, I was always the kid who had a book at all times, often more than one. I loved summer vacations because I could find a place to hide somewhere and read two or three books a day. In fact, one of my earliest memories is standing in the children’s room at the Waterford Public Library and starting with the A’s and working my way through the shelves. (I don’t think I ever made it past the C’s because there were always new and awesome books coming along!)
I never considered becoming a librarian until I met my then-boyfriend’s (now husband) mother for the first time. I had absolutely no idea what to say to her, so I ended up asking her about her job. For someone who had such a love for reading and libraries, you’d think I’d have a better sense of the various types of librarians, but no. So when she described what she did as a research librarian for a management consulting firm, it was like finding nirvanah. I could get paid to find answers to questions? I could be like my favorite literary heroines, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden? Sold!
Of course, once I got to library school, it occurred to me that my first job was shelving books at that same Waterford Public Library, and one of my college jobs was working for the acquisitions librarian at my alma mater. Another major job I had was working at the switchboard/information desk of my alma mater, which was essentially doing ready reference so I’d been working my way there all along. But as it turns out, once I got out of library school I found that I didn’t love the day-to-day aspects of librarianship and ended up becoming an administrator at the grad school I had attended. So my days of being ‘a librarian’ in the traditional sense weren’t really that many.
I do find that the piece that’s stayed with me for all these years, however, is to have that question asked and then to follow the thread until the answer is discovered. Which is basically how I write. That first scene, or the first meeting between the hero and heroine, leads to one thing and then to another. Follow that thread all the way to the end, and there’s your answer: HEA.
CR: Baseball seems to be a common thread in many of your books, so I’m guessing you’re a sports fan. What role do sports play in your novels?
JD: The CALLING IT series so far consists of two books, with a third planned (and plotted!) as noted above. Sports are a major theme running through the books, but some reviewers have said that it wasn’t quite what they expected from a sports romance and I completely understand where they’re coming from. CALLING IT, book 1, is about Major League Baseball player (catcher) Nate Hawkins. He’s coming off of a six-week self-imposed exile due to what I’ve termed “NateGate” in the book. Choosing to escape the craziness in Chicago, he returns to his hometown of Inspiration, Iowa.
Part of Nate’s history, however, is that when he was in high school, he was a key member of Inspiration’s storied basketball team, which had a Hoosiers-like trajectory and became nationally known as the Iowa Dream. Four of the five members of the basketball team are still in Inspiration, and when he returns home, he finds that the ties that bound that team together still exist. And although they haven’t had much of a connection in recent years, he rebuilds those connections with his former teammates.
Because most of this book takes place during the off season, there isn’t a huge amount of baseball itself, but there are some shenanigans with team management that play a fairly important role in his developing relationship with Dorie Donelli, our heroine. (Who, incidentally, is a librarian. 🙂 ) Another huge component of the story is that there’s a clock ticking down to the moment he needs to report for “Pitchers and Catchers,” i.e., Spring Training. I do really love the way teammates’ bond is more like that of brothers, so in addition to the interaction with his high school basketball teammates, there are some current baseball teammates who play a role as well.
One more component is that Dorie is the youngest of seven, the six older siblings being brothers. So her sports knowledge comes into play quite a bit, including a pivotal Trivia Night scene.
The hero of Book 2, CALLED UP, has nothing to do with professional sports. But, ironically, there’s actually a little bit more direct baseball involved. (I had actual baseball consultants on this one. 🙂 ) Max “Deke” Deacon, one of Nate’s best friends, is the coach for his nephew’s Little League team and also plays in a men’s league. Those serve as the straight-up baseball parts. The heroine, “Fitz” Hawkins, is Nate’s baby sister and also the head of the foundation that was started back in the Iowa Dream days, so there’s a tie-in there as well that gets developed even further throughout the course of the book. There’s also a visit to San Francisco for All-Star Weekend with Nate and Dorie, along with an ongoing storyline which will play a part in subsequent books in the series.
CR: What are some of your favorite non-writing activities? Do you feel they make you a better writer?
JD: Once upon a time I had time to watch TV, and I do actually love to cook and garden–oh, and needlepoint! I love needlepoint! But writing and all of the add-ons have taken a huge toll in that regard, LOL. I have a somewhat demanding day job and three kids, ages 6, 13, and 16. So right now, there’s not a lot of off time for activities. But I will say that all the craziness is definitely making me a better writer–I come up with most of my best lines while my 6-year-old is in the middle of a tantrum, or I’m in a marathon pick-up/drop-off routine. I’ve finally learned to have my notebook with me AT. ALL. TIMES. Even if it’s just into my son’s room when I’m putting him to bed. Because the brain seems to work best when writing-time is not on the schedule.
CR: What advice do you have for writers just starting off?
JD: Don’t think, just do! There’s always a reason not to pursue this. Am I good enough? Will I get published? Do I have time? None of that matters. If there’s a story in your head, write it down. Keep at it. Don’t let all the (very, very good) reasons not to write bog you down.
I do have more practical advice, too. Entering contests was HUGE for me–I highly encourage it. The feedback from the judges is like a master class in writing. With CALLING IT, I got into a cycle of entering contests, revising those first few chapters and the synopsis accordingly, and then doing it all over again. Draft one was completed in January 2014 and I began entering contests right around then. By the time October came around and I had the chance to pitch to Sarah Younger (who I ended up signing with in November 2014), I had done enough revisions to have a fairly solid package to present. It still ended up going through some major revisions by the time publication came around, but without those contests, I don’t think I would have been ready to take advantage of that opportunity.
CR: What, in your opinion, is the appeal of contemporary romance?
JD: For me, it all comes down to those happily-ever-afters. I know those exist in other subgenres as well, but I see contemporary romance all around me and I want to put that to the page. When I’m out on a walk and see a couple exchanging a glance, or when I’m at the airport and I see an embrace at the arrival or departure gate, I want to know that story. I want to write that story. With the state of the world today, I think contemporary romance allows readers to escape to a place where, even with all of that going on, happiness and true love exist–right around the corner.
I like to believe that those things do exist 🙂 but even in the worst of times to be able to hope and dream… Contemporary romance provides that. And I hope to be helping readers find that feeling for a long time to come.
Thanks again for visiting! 🙂
If you’ve got more questions for Jen, leave them in the comments!
A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. Jen is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as a member of the New England, New Jersey Romance Writers and Music City Romance Writer chapters of RWA. She is represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. She has an M.S. in Library and Information Science and, in addition to her work as a librarian, has worked as a conference and events planner as well as a Communications and Enrollment administrator in both preschool and higher education environments (although some might say that there is very little difference between the two; Jen has no comment regarding whether she is one of the “some”).