JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food ration books, Victory Gardens and black-out sirens as a child in WWII. These memories help her create vivid descriptions of time and place, which put you in the middle of the story as a participant in a fast-paced journey through paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies.
Ms. Ainsworth lives in California. She has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English and has completed her M.B.A. studies. Her agent is Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.
PJ: How long have you been writing?
JA: I started writing novels in 1998 when approaching retirement. I needed a way to supplement my Social Security. I had a Bachelors and Masters in English and my MBA studies. I decided that “author” was the way to go since, as long as you write a great story, no one cares how old you are.
Little did I know how difficult it is to create a novel. Just having a story in your head isn’t enough. You have to know how to present the action on paper—how to evoke images in the mind’s eye of your reader to bring the story alive.
It took me four years of online classes to learn the craft techniques to create today’s fast-paced, commercial novel. The result was my medieval romance, Matilda’s Song.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
JA: I felt successful as a writer (and switched to calling myself an author) when I completed my first manuscript. A first manuscript is no small feat.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
JA: I didn’t realize that creating and selling today’s novel would be so difficult and so time consuming. Authors have to wait months and years to know if their submission resulted in a sale or a rejection. I have a file of rejection letters.
In the end I sold all five manuscripts to mid-level publishers and I’m under contract to an agent (Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency).
Your readers can follow my writing life by visiting Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth. To learn about my experiences during WWII and about writing a novel where the U.S. govt. recruits five psychics to locate Nazi spies on the East Coast, visit Facebook at JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
JA: I met a few wealthy authors, but most of us need a day job. My day job is Social Security.
At about 90 cents a book, an author needs a large readership to make a comfortable level of income. For most of us, this is a slow climb with Word of Mouth being our best marketing tool for building a solid readership base.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
JA: No change in my focus.
Each manuscript must be submitted to stand or fall on its own.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
JA: Ten years almost to the month after I started writing novels.
My first sale to Samhain was Out of the Dark, a medieval romantic suspense novel with a sight-impaired heroine.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
JA: I don’t think so. Everything was a learning experience. The setbacks made me a stronger author and a more targeted marketer.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
JA: I am disciplined to the point of being annoying about it. My mind separates tasks into categories. Stubborn determination will not let me slack off. Each category must be completed on schedule, if humanly possible.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
JA: The most exciting thing was opening the box of author copies and holding my first book in my hand.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
JA: Finding that there is no “coasting” for an author. There is always something to do and these days the competition is greater. Each year, my books must be brought to the attention of readers despite the millions of other published novels in bookstores.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
JA: The most memorable is that what started as a business proposition turned into a passion.
I write stories of self-awareness and self fulfillment in historical settings. The heroine becomes empowered as she tackles each story challenge and transforms into an indomitable woman. Even if I never sell another manuscript, I will continue to write these stories for the rest of my life.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
JA: My historical settings are so detailed that readers become immersed in the time period. My novels have a moral tone: good eventually triumphs over evil. My stories entertain, inspire and keep the reader in suspense.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
JA: Never give up and never believe you’re too old to succeed. Keep getting up every time you get knocked down.
My fifth novel will release when I am 75 years old. It’s been a fifteen year journey, but I have touched my dream.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
JA: I believe we authors are our most effective tool in promoting. What we write comes from our hearts. We want to share our experiences and hope these experiences will inspire readers.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
JA: PINTEREST. I can keep track of 90,000 words, but I’m not visual. It’s difficult for me to think in terms of interesting graphics.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
JA: Many of the booksellers where I had signings and was on panels went out of business during economic downturn. For my recent release, POLITE ENEMIES, an historical western romance, I have author event invitations from Books, Inc. in Alameda (an independent bookstore) and from Barnes & Noble in Antioch.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
MATILDA’S SONG (978-1-60504-195-7)
OUT OF THE DARK (978-1-60504-277-0)
POLITE ENEMIES (Book 1) (ebook: 978-1-61160-636-2; paper: 978-1-61160-590-7)
THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH (Book 2) (ebook ISBN: 978-1-61160-660-7) release Dec. 2013
EXPECT TROUBLE (print ISBN: 978-1-61009-074-2) release April 2014
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Polite Enemies:
IDA OSTERBACH survived range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and determination. The last thing she has time for is romance.
JARED BUELL was never particularly charitable to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. When an old nemesis comes to town and threatens both of them, he has no choice but to get involved.
Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
JA: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook and from independent bookstores which used Ingram as a distributor.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
JA: I awake each morning with energy and excitement because I have a new day to craft another novel.
Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and my writing to your readers.