“If you make mistakes in your life, learn from them. A broken heart can heal and love again. Forgiveness is a gift, both in giving and receiving.” -Jean Baxter
Are writer’s groups really that helpful? What do you do when you find yourself writing in a genre you didn’t expect? Is there a time limit for becoming an author? If you’re feeling like you’re running out of time, then it’s high time you—
Jean Baxter began writing short stories in grade school. After taking a creative writing class as a young mother, she had a story published in a magazine which fueled her interest. She wrote a novel. Then she found herself raising two kids as a single mom and the writing took the back burner. After a thirty-year nursing career, she is loving retirement and has time to pursue her passion. That original book was dusted off, updated and recently published. Her niche is young adult, a fascinating time when everything is drama and crisis and firsts.
When she isn’t writing or reading, her interests include walking, gardening, traveling and spending time with her grandkids (more fodder for her stories!).
Let’s get started!
“The trouble with trust is once it’s broken, it changes who you are and who you will become—forever.” That’s such an intriguing tagline for Salvageable, your debut novel. How did the story of your main character, Michael Jarrid, come to you?
Many years ago a friend confided about a girlfriend falsely accusing him of fathering her child and his parents believed her instead of him. It always stuck with me how this devastated him. I thought it was so sad and it changed him. That’s where the opening to the book came from.
What do you hope readers will take away from Michael’s story?
If you make mistakes in your life, learn from them. A broken heart can heal and love again. Forgiveness is a gift, both in giving and receiving.
I see that a sequel to Salvageable is in the works! What can you tell us about Unfathomable? What stage is it in (already written, in the revision process, etc.)?
This second book picks up with the same main characters a couple years later. Michael is finishing up college and he and Annie are about to start a life together. It is at the publisher, I haven’t started the editing process. We hope it will be released late this year!
Has anything surprised you about writing for the romance market? Would you say your stories contain more than one genre?
It honestly surprised me that these books are romances. They were not written with that intent, but they meet the criteria. I had a hard time with genre because I think there are lessons for everyone in my books. Because of the ages of the main characters, I went with young adult. Unfathomable is more new adult but both could be considered chick or contemporary lit.
You’ve got a solid core in the teen and young adult market. Reviewers have mentioned that they’ve read and enjoyed Salvageable even though they’re not in the target demographic! Do you ever see yourself branching out into other audiences?
Maybe, who knows. I do love young adult though.
You must have been so excited when you received your publishing contract—now for two books! Prospective authors will want to know: How long did it take before you received your first contract? What’s it like working with a publisher?
I believe I counted thirty-five rejections as I was trying to get an agent. It was a little over a year I consistently sent it out.
Finally I decided to go right to the publishers with my queries. With the second query I sent, I had a response within a couple of hours asking me for my manuscript. I was elated!
Working with a publisher is a very slow, drawn out process. But once I got into the actual editing, it went very quickly. It took almost a year and a half for the print book to be released. The e-book was out in just under a year.
Let’s talk logistics. I don’t think you’ve ever stopped being busy! A full-time job, being a single mom, two kids and now grandchildren, not to mention hobbies and being with friends. Was there any particular moment that made you sit down and start writing your first novel? How do you carve out the time?
I wrote the main bones of this book years ago, when I still had the kids at home. I wrote a lot in the evenings. The book got put away for long periods but every so often I would read it, and I just knew there was something good there.
It came out of the drawer when I was nearing retirement and needed something to pour myself into. I didn’t know how I would cope with not being a nurse anymore. The manuscript needed to be updated to cell phones and computers from dial phones and typewriters. I asked my kids and grands a hundred questions as I’m not a tech savvy person. It came out okay, I guess. Now I try to write a little every day.
You’re a member of both the Green Bay Area Writer’s Guild and Wisconsin Writer’s Association. What benefits have you experienced? Would you recommend that authors join at least one writer’s organization?
I love my writer’s group and would highly recommend it to everyone. So many things were confusing to me about this whole process. Someone always had an answer and they are so encouraging. They are the ones who told me to start sending my book out and to not be discouraged with rejections. And they celebrate each success.
You’ve had a couple book signing events so far! How did those go? What advice do you have for authors who want to do book signings but aren’t sure how to get started?
My first book signing was awesome. My advice would be to start letting people know far in advance. And tell everyone you know. I told the church, who put it in a news letter, I told friends, people I go to the “Y” with, former co-workers. My kids told their friends and neighbors.
The event was held at a coffee shop. I gave a little talk and my daughter read from my book. It was fun to be able to watch the audience react and I sold a lot of books!
What’s on your list to do next?
As I await the edits on Unfathomable, I am finishing my fourth novel. Numbers three and four are both standalone, young adult books. I still need to revise, then I will start shopping them around.
Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…
What type of book do you reach for to lose yourself in? Any favorite titles or authors?
I mostly read YA books, really like John Green. A Fault in Our Stars is my favorite book. I also really enjoy Kristen Hannah.
What’s your favorite non-writing, non-reading activity?
I love to ski, both downhill and cross country. I love being outdoors, I walk every day, rain, shine, snow or -20 windchill.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or challenging ones?
Yes, I read them. I find it very interesting that I have several from men who have liked the book as much as anyone. I haven’t had anyone really pan the book, yet…
If you could go back in time before you started your author career, what advice would you give yourself?
Believe in yourself and start sooner!
Here’s where to find and follow Jean, and purchase her books!