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Interview with Jacqueline DeGroot, October 16, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Jacqueline DeGroot, October 16, 2007
October 16, 2007
Jacqueline DeGroot, author of Climax and Worth Any Price, discusses how she came to be a writer, her writing process and sources of inspiration, and her experiences with self-publishing.
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Interviewee:  DeGroot, Jacqueline Interviewer:  Diesenhaus, Doug Date of Interview:  10/18/2007 Series:  SENC Writers Length  60 minutes


Diesenhaus: So, to start, I'm Doug Diesenhaus, and today is October 16, 2007. I will be interviewing Jacqueline DeGroot for the Randall Library Oral History Project on Creative Writers, and I suppose a good place to start is if you could talk about how you started writing, how you come to writing.

Jacqueline DeGroot: I started quite by accident, I guess. My daughter went to Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, and we live fifty-five miles from there, so, door to door, it was an hour and fifteen minutes. It got kind of old driving in, dropping her off, coming home, and then going back in the afternoons, so I ended up staying. And the first year I spent way too much money shopping and eating out and things like that, so I had to find a way to amuse myself for eight hours during the day without spending money, and I had a friend who had a laptop they were selling, and I asked if he would take it in payments and he said yes, so I got a laptop. And I had an idea for a book that I'd had over twenty-five years ago. And this was a little kernel of an idea and it grew, and that's when I wrote my first book, on a laptop in my car, my little Sunfire, Pontiac Sunfire convertible.

Diesenhaus: I was going to ask you that, so it was in your car, not in a coffee shop or an office space?

Jacqueline DeGroot: It wasn't really that big a deal back in 1999, the coffee shops, there weren't the Wi-Fi things and all that like - as there are now. But I did, on the really cold days or the really sunny days, when I couldn't see the screen, I would plug in at the Myrtle Grove Library. They were very friendly there to me, but generally I preferred the quietness of just being in the car by myself. So I had satellite offices, and I had, you know, Hardees and McDonald's were my bathrooms and my break places, so I was usually in a parking lot, either at the school or one of the satellite offices.

Diesenhaus: You talked about having an idea for twenty-five years. Was it the idea or was it the notion of wanting to be a writer, or trying to get these things on paper?

Jacqueline DeGroot: It was never about wanting to be a writer. It was about an idea that I had for a mystery, and I had never, ever seen this particular plot carried through, not even mentioned, so I thought, you know, that would be such a cool thing. And as it grew in my head, I found driving, when I did need to drive back and forth by myself, if I didn't turn on the radio, and I didn't listen to any books on tape, if I just let my mind wander, I could do some really good plotting in that hour and fifteen minutes back and forth. And the story just unfolded. It just, just took over.

Diesenhaus: So were you reading a lot of books that were similar to the type of idea that you had? You said you hadn't seen it anywhere else.

Jacqueline DeGroot: I have always read a lot of romances and mysteries, and I've stayed on top of some of the bestsellers for the most part. I'm pretty much an eclectic reader. I don't know if I could say I read a lot in this particular genre. I just had never heard anybody talk about a book like this. It's about a psychotherapist who hypnotizes his patients and gets them to do things that they - change their wills and things like that, to his benefit. So my first book was Climax and I had never, ever heard of any of the concepts, no one had ever said anything and, so, I just thought, "Well, I'll write this," and just because I wanted to do it, not because I was even thinking of publishing. I was just going to say, "I wrote a book." So.

Diesenhaus: And when, when you were in school, did, did the - so is it, it sounds like maybe the idea of being a writer wasn't necessarily on your radar. Did it, did it come out of something? Is there, is there a lineage to it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I took some English courses, and I was pretty good with English. I mean, that's definitely my forte verses math or sciences. I did some poetry, some things that I got really good grades on, and I was always really good - I loved the essay questions on tests because I could usually ace those tests pretty well. And in my business career I was always the one people came to, "Hey, I need a letter written," so I would do that kind of thing. And I was always, I've always loved words. I mean, I was just a maniac for crosswords. And I just read and read and read. So no, I never really thought I'd be a writer. I wrote a few short stories because I had to, but no, it was not something that was a dream, that something like one day I'm going to have this idea, I'm going to sit down and write this book. It didn't happen that way.

Diesenhaus: So, can you talk about the process, sort of. You've come to the writing, you've written a book. Where do you go from there in terms of what you wanted to do with it, or publishing, what was your, were your thoughts about it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I had no idea of publishing it, really. I had written the book and I let my husband read it, and my best girlfriend. And my girlfriend and her husband had come down from Virginia to visit for a week, and my husband and my girlfriend and I, we were joking about the characters, and back and forth, and Ron, her husband, was feeling a little out of the loop. And he had not read a book since Portnoy's Complaint. His, his idea of, of books to read were texts and manuals. He's very much the computer geek, and he's very much into reading about new technology. But he decided he was gonna read this book. So when we went to bed at ten, eleven, twelve at night, he would stay up and read until three or four in the morning, and in two days he read this book, and this is a majorly big book. And, at the end, he threw the manuscript on the table and said, "You have to publish this. You have to make this a book that other people can read." And that's when I thought, well, okay. And then I started reading about how that could be done, and how difficult that is, and I worked on that for quite a while. So.

Diesenhaus: What was the route that you took? Were you sending it out to publishers, were you (inaudible)?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I wish I knew then what I know now. I could have saved myself a lot of time and money. The publishing world was really changing at that time. There were, really, the small presses were going out and it was really becoming big conglomerates. And, even now, I think they're staying with their, their main writers, they're not really pushing to, to find newer writers in a lot of cases. Had I written romance back in the late '80s, I feel confident my writing was good enough that I would have been able to just slip in and become a romance writer then, but I, I waited until the '90s when things were definitely changed. So I started reading. I read several books on publishing, and, you know, there's an awful lot of books out there to help writers. And some were encouraging; some were discouraging. So I went the submission route for a while, where I sent out query letters and I joined - in fact, I helped found several writing groups in the area, and we all worked on my query letter. And we worked on synopsis, and I did everything I possibly could to try to get someone to read the book. I could never get anyone in the publishing world to read the book. They could read the query letter, and, honestly, I'm sure that my query letter was nowhere near the quality it should have been for the time. If I could have written it now it might be a lot better, I'd have a little bit more of a grasp of what they want to hear. I started going to workshops; I did a lot of things. I finally decided that I wanted to self-publish it, because by that point, I had opened my mouth, which was a big sin, and told people about it. And, of course, that's all - no matter where I went, that was the topic, "Well, when's the book coming out?" And it's like, after a while it just became, well, I'll just make something up, in a few months or a year. So I made it happen, so I self-published it.

Diesenhaus: Mm-hmm. And - what was that experience like? Were you fully in control of it in terms of distribution and promotion? Did you like that aspect of it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I liked the part about the distribution and the promoting. That part I was really good at, because that was what I had been doing before I had been in the car business. The part that I didn't like was the publishing part. They - I could not convince them that I was not a novice and that I knew what I was talking about. They wanted to do it their way, and I wanted to do it my way. The book took longer than they said to come out, and cost more than they said it would be because of different things. I finally got it the way I wanted it, but I was not happy with the process. Stupidly, I went with the same company for the second one and the third one. Then I wrote some pretty nasty letters to them and didn't use them anymore. I have tried a lot of different ways to self-publish my books, and I think I have hit on the right way now. I've been able to get the books out very quickly, very inexpensive compared to what they were when they first came out. My book, really, it was so, in order to make a profit, it had to sell for so much more than it was worth as a paperback. That was sinful. I mean, how can you charge someone $21.95 for a paperback? This was ten years ago. I mean, now it's a little more accepted in trade paper, but then it was not. But it sold. I was surprised.

Diesenhaus: Is there anything about your being in charge of the distribution, or your being in charge of that aspect of the self-publishing, that maybe brings you closer to your readers? That you're, I don't know, maybe you're having conversations with the bookstores yourself? Perhaps you're delivering it? Is there something about that relationship that's beneficial?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I try to be very accessible. I have cards that go with my books that have my address, and my email, and my website. People email me and I feel free to give them my cell number, and I talk to people, and I do - you know, most people who call want me to go to this women's group or to come to this college or this school. If it's at all in my schedule, I'll do it. I think because of the type of writing I do, which, back in 1999, I write somewhat spicy romances. And they weren't quite as spicy back then as they are now, so I had quite a fan base almost initially, really. And they were very supportive. And they wouldn't hear that there wasn't going to be another book. So they were very encouraging, and, of course, that's really good for your ego. When you're a writer you want to hear that people enjoy reading your work. So I kept writing.

Diesenhaus: And you were talking about the writing groups, can you talk about that process a bit more? Is it something that you're still doing?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: Was it something that was very helpful to you in keeping going on your work?

Jacqueline DeGroot: At the time that I was writing, there was a lady here at Sea Trail, her daughter was actually, was the CEO, her name is Claire Connolly and she was interested in writing a children's book. And she had read my book, Climax, and she had emailed me and we started an email back and forth. And we were being very supportive of each other, and we heard about this creative writing class at Brunswick Community College, and we said, well, why don't we go and let's do this. And we really enjoyed the class. Jean Stanley taught the class; and we enjoyed her class so much that we just got a group of people and we kept going. I think I've taken the same course with her maybe five or six times. But each time it was a different group of people, and we just made a wider group. And then Jean was not able to teach that class anymore, they had switched her to teaching where she had to teach students who were working on their degree and not doing, the, I guess you'd call it the adult education things, so we decided we didn't want to stop meeting, I mean, even though Jean was orchestrating the class, we were adding our own to it, and meeting, staying afterwards, or meeting for lunch before. So we decided to form a writers' group, and that writers' group is called Writer's Bloc, B-L-O-C, and right now we meet at Holden Beach at the El Bookworm Bookstore. We've met in several different places when we started, different coffee shops and stuff, but that's our new home, and that's been our home for a while, so we meet every other Thursday.

Diesenhaus: And, and you share your work with each other?

Jacqueline DeGroot: We critique each other, uh-huh. We share our experiences. You know, I've shared my publishing experiences; they share, you know, their things, what's going on with them. And we do joint promoting. We're actually going to be at the Holden Beach Festival by the Sea as local authors promoting our books, at the end of this month. So we do a lot together. We are supportive; we understand each other. I mean, a lot of the spouses are supportive, but some of them are not, or they're just too busy, you know, to really be there and read and, and, and just, you know, be as supportive as writers need. Writers need a lot of encouragement. So, that's what we're there for and that's what we do.

Diesenhaus: Is that - so it sounds like there are two elements. There's responding to the work and sort of helping the writing process along, but also perhaps an emotional aspect or a moral support to kind of keep going? Does that sound right?

Jacqueline DeGroot: It's a lot of everything. I mean, for instance, in everybody's writing, we all run into just little stumbling blocks. For the longest time none of us could figure out how to do a long dash in Word. And so, we had to do some research, figure out how to do it, and it's really interesting now, because four or five years after we've done this, and passed around emails, we still get a few people who join. And every once in a while we'll get the same email, "Does anybody know how to do a long dash in Word?" And so, we're educational. We do seminars, go to places together when we hear about conferences and things like that, so if we find an article, somebody reads a pretty good article on style or craft, we share it. But we mostly do read. We read our stuff and everybody slams them. And we tell them, you know, you need to fix this or, you know, that's not chronologically right, or, you've got, or - you know. We try to point out things that you wouldn't see. You know.

Diesenhaus: Are there other, do you show your work to other people in the process, besides the group? You mentioned your husband and two friends?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I have at least nine or ten people that I rotate and allow to read my stuff and beg for them to critique. And I give them red pencils and tell them, "Write whatever you want," you know. And then I go through, after I get each set back, I go through and I go through each and every correction that they've put on there, or what their advice is or what they would like changed. Some of them I change, some of them I don't, trying to, you know, keep it unique and mine. But it's been very helpful because by the time I've finished a book and it's ready for publishing, I've probably read it at least ten or fifteen times, and I'm not going to see that misspelled word anymore. It's just I am going to see it the way I believe I wrote it, and it could be spelled wrong forever. So I really appreciate the way people help, and they point out things that I just never would see or not know. You can't know everything, so the more people that can, can give you advice, the better.

Diesenhaus: And you talked about, you were starting at a, a, a workshop that was taught by a teacher. Did you feel like you could, that the act of writing or certain elements of writing could actually be taught in a classroom setting? Or was there - what were you getting out of that experience?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Oh, I think there was some craft things that we were getting, and some, some style things, and definitely some grammar. We were all picking up things. I mean, she's a very smart lady and knows her English very well. When you find new writers, like I do a lot of editing for people, and I look at things, you can see that sometimes you think you do well in English. I thought I did well in English but, you know, the punctuation goes in front of the quote marks. It's like you see it when you see it in somebody else's work, but when you're just a beginning writer, you don't know. And these are the things you have to learn. There is a lot of learning that you have to do. And you do learn a lot by reading. I think I have learned a lot by reading. But you learn a lot by being with people who are reading, too, and writing. I think you do.

Diesenhaus: And I think you said that your group has also taught seminars or workshops.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: Does that bring something new and turn it around like that?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, I think a lot of people have a book inside them, and they're all coming down, retiring, and they have extra time, and they're thinking about, you know, I'd like to put together either a family story or history or saga, or whatever, but they don't know how to start. A lot of people don't know how important it is to learn their word processing system. I wish I had spent more time with Apple Works and with Word, and maybe I should have started with Word and not worked on a Mac but, you know, these are the things you have to learn, and people have to take these steps to learn how to do all that. We tell people how to do this publishing thing. A lot of people are not going to even go through the submission process. It's tiring, it's expensive, and a lot of people know their book is not of that caliber, but they still want to publish it. So we have seminars on self publishing and tell them the pitfalls or what to look for, what not to look for, what to spend money for, what not to spend money for. There's a lot of people out there right now who will take your money and not give you the product that you're dreaming of or wanting to have. So we try to tell people the pitfalls.

Diesenhaus: And have you considered, or would you want to be a kind of professional teacher or a classroom teacher? Does that interest you at all?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I like talking to people about making their characters real. I like talking to people about the growth that a writer can go through and does go through. I don't think I have the qualifications. I mean, you have to - these days to teach you have to have a master's almost in order to teach, and, at the university level, you certainly almost have to have a doctorate. So I, unless I stopped everything right now and went to school, I would not be able to do the teaching. Certainly, people who are very proficient in their field, you know, the Nora Robertses, they can certainly teach because, you know, people are gonna come and listen because they, they are, they've shown that they can make their success. I do have some workshops and I do talk to people, but it's mostly about a certain aspect of writing, what you can do to make your writing better. You know.

Diesenhaus: In terms of balancing the writing with other aspects of your life, I know you said that you were in business. Are you currently in business, or just other obligations like family, how do you mix it in? How do you fit it in?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, I retired from the car business when we came down here, but I have had part-time jobs. I'm a part-time accountant now. I work three days a week doing accounting work. And I do have a very active social life. I try to stay involved with my women's club and I do a lot of things for charity and my church. So, yes, I do a lot of juggling. On my days off I try to get up early and go to my writers' class and come back and just start writing. And it's not unusual to wake up in the middle of the night and run upstairs and work on the computer. When I am actually in the process of writing a book, not editing or going back through it, but actually plotting it and writing it, I'm driven, so I will find the time. Maybe the laundry doesn't get done. Or, you know, maybe I'm not cooking as much as I normally would, or entertaining, but I find the time. I think if you really want to do it, you will find the time. You'll get up an extra hour, you'll go to sleep a little later, you'll take that Sunday afternoon instead of golfing or whatever. I don't golf, which I think is a big time saving thing. That's five or six hours that I have that a lot of people in this area don't have, three or four times a week so, my husband included, so I can, I can find the time.

Diesenhaus: So, I think you talked about you go to your class in the morning. And then, is it a set time after that, but then also maybe filling in when you, when you have, have spare time? I guess I'm thinking, do you have a rigorous schedule or do you have a mixture, where you have a schedule and you are also supplementing other times?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I am more creative in the mornings. I mean, everybody has their own time. I feel if I'm doing serious writing I am an early-morning person and I will get up and do that. I - I don't know. I guess I am structured to a degree, as much as I can be. I try to accomplish 1,000 words a day, three pages. I feel that's something I can do with my schedule and with my family and everything else. If I get to the afternoon and I'm not there, I'm a page away, maybe I will push it, if it's coming. If it's not, it's not. Because some days I'll do five or six or seven pages so, so it just depends. But that's what I try to do, 1,000 words a day.

Diesenhaus: And you're doing all that work on a computer?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Yes. Yes.

Diesenhaus: (inaudible)

Jacqueline DeGroot: I have tried doing it on legal pads and writing it, which I know a lot of people do; but my mind goes faster than that, and I find that I write faster than I should, and then I can't read it. So. So no, that doesn't work for me.

Diesenhaus: Yeah. When you talk about the middle of the night, is that, are you jotting down notes or are you running to the computer to kind of get your ideas out?

Jacqueline DeGroot: You know, the middle of the night, or just before you fall asleep, or just before you wake up, I think you get some of your best thoughts. And it's a mistake for people to think they're going to remember them. You will not. What you will remember is that you're supposed to remember something. That is all you will remember, that you had a wonderful thought that you don't remember. So, I have learned when I get something, a snatch of dialogue or whatever, I have learned to either get my notepad, come out here and write it up, or go upstairs and type it. Sometimes it's better just to go ahead and type it, because then I'll be able to read it in the morning. I normally have great penmanship but when I'm writing fast, and my mind is going fast, I tend to use shorthand that I don't understand later.

Diesenhaus: When you, when you sit down at your desk, are there any rituals or habits that you do to get started? Do you need things to be a certain way or clean or not clean?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I am organized and I like things to be neat. I don't like a lot of stuff on my work surface where I'm working. I don't like things piled here and there, helter-skelter. But sometimes that happens in the course of, you know, if you're working several projects at once, you do get some things going here and there, but I like things to be fairly neat. I usually take a cup of hot tea or some coffee and go upstairs and time just goes. Sometimes I'm amazed at, you know, gosh, five hours. You know, it's amazing sometimes how fast time goes when you're writing. And when you get into a character that you really are enjoying, it's just a pleasure, so it's great.

Diesenhaus: And I think a couple times you've mentioned plotting. Are you - do you have sort of an outline of a plot that you create at some point? How does that come into it? Or is it developing as you go on, get something together?

Jacqueline DeGroot: The idea. I start a book from an idea that comes to my head, you know, wow, that would be interesting, I don't know, I don't know how that would work out kind of thing, and then I guess I have just a little bit of a background. I don't always have the middle or the end, or whatever. I just have a kernel and I just kind of build on it. I have - I am able to write out of order. I am able to write the ending, then come back and do this or that. Or if I have a character that's really coming to life right then, I am able to stop and write that character and what they're doing and then mix them all back up and get an end, so that's quite - some people can't do that. They have to start from A and go to Z. So that does help me a lot, I think, but I have the timeline in a very complicated book. Climax was very complicated. I wanted to make sure I tied everything up. And I did write down everything, you know, I had wanted everything to be chronologically correct. I found the timeline was harder to write than the book, and, I don't know, I guess I don't do anything formal. I do cut out pictures and I do keep things that - and write notes, and then I move my notes up. I write them at the end and then, as I'm - so that I don't forget something, if, if a thought comes to me, so I can pick it up later. I don't really have a formal way of writing. Seat of the pants.

Diesenhaus: Yeah. And you said you cut out pictures. Do you mean from the newspaper? Is that what you mean, cutting out pictures?

Jacqueline DeGroot: If I'm trying to have a character, and, and I want to be able to describe him or her - my hero and heroines are very important to me, and if I, I see something in a magazine or something, I say, wow, she is striking. Or this, you know, whatever. If I think that I can get some kind of a descriptive thing out of this picture, I'll take the picture, and it will bring me back to character, too, if I'm doing something describing. And a lot of times, you know, if you're doing a lot of characters or bringing them from another book, you really won't always remember, "Well, what color are her eyes?" you know, so the pictures do help to keep you with that one character, I think. And some of the people I've written about are a conglomeration of people I know, so it's like trying to remember how I wrote that, so.

Diesenhaus: Do those people recognize themselves? Or do they know, and do they have something to say to you about it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Doctor Sandler in Climax, I used some characteristics of a particular person I used to work with who was very fastidious, and who was - he was very proper about everything, he had to have the proper - you know if you asked him to come over to your house to paint, he would show up in painter's clothes, white, fresh, crisp, whatever, he would be ready, he would be whatever. And I used him, a lot of his character and traits that I had, you know, watched over the years with him because I thought this was going to be just perfect. This guy wants everything this way. So I get a lot of him. And, then, after he read the book, actually, I asked him, I said, "Did you see yourself in that book?" And he said "No." And I said, you were, a lot of you was in Dr. Sandler. He said, "Really?" I said, yeah, you know, he had the special Gucci bag for the wine, whatever, you know, he's like, "Really?" I said, "Yeah." So some people just don't even recognize themselves that way.

Diesenhaus: And it sounds like at least two elements that are, are important are character development.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: Your characters and, and plot, the story that drives it forward. I guess I'm thinking, are there other pieces that you see, and do you feel like one is sort of more important or something more - something of more of a focus, or what you look at when you are trying to write something?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Characters are very important. That's what your reader is going to fall in love with. You have to make them real. I think one of the things I do particularly well, I think every writer has their strong points, but I think my dialogue is strong. I, I think my dialogue is believable. And I think that adds to the characterization. So I think if you can do that part, if you can do that part, you've got a good part of the game out of the way. The plot, you don't want something trite, you don't want something unbelievable - you want something interesting. There are so many things now, and everything has pretty much been done to some extent. I mean, you have to have a new twist on it or whatever. I don't know. I, I go for some really bizarre things. And, you know, I get my ideas from things that are just, just a kernel. Somebody says something, I read something, and then I just extrapolate it, and just wow, what if, what if, what if. And then it's like - yeah, I get some strange ideas.

Diesenhaus: And are you, do you actively search for things, say, through the news or sort of, you know, someone tells a story, maybe you (inaudible) follow up on it, try to get more because you see something in it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: The book that I did that is set in Wilmington is called Worth Any Price. It's about women. It's about a serial killer who kidnaps children and gets the mothers to do perverted things on video for him, for his sexual gratification, so it's kind of a weird premise, there. But I got that kernel of an idea from, there was a TV show on, I can't remember what, when, but it was about the girls gone wild in Cancun. And it was the thought that came to me, I really felt sorry for this girl they were interviewing, because she was having a lot of problems with her pictures becoming known, and I was like, in my mind it was like, what would it take for me to do this? I mean, obviously, you know, being drugged out of your mind or, or, or very well into the alcohol. I'm just thinking, you know, what would it take for someone who wasn't like that to do something like that? I mean, the only thing I could think of was to save your child. Then, from that it just kind of grew and grew. It's like, wow. And then, I had never heard of anything like that, but now I understand there are some crimes that are happening like that. So. But I think, I don't remember anybody really doing anything like that. I had heard that Saunders had done something like that, but I hadn't read any of his.

Diesenhaus: And you mentioned that kind of the bizarre, or the weird twists is - where do you think that comes from? Is it because so much has been done that you're looking for something new, or are you drawn to those kind of weird stories?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I think I'd like to give my reader a surprise, and I'd like to see if I can't make them - I mean, it's almost like a game of chess, let me see if I can make this move and make then them make this move, so they won't think this, but this is, you know, and then at the end it'll be like, "Aha, I got you." So I like to make it a game to see if I can - and that's one of the things I like to ask people, "Did you figure out who it was?" You know, "When did you figure it out?" Because, for me, that was my - that's the cool thing. So. Yeah.

Diesenhaus: At the very beginning you talked about as you were driving, certain ideas were coming to you. Do you find that that still happens, turning off the radio and kind of - something about driving that is helpful, or is it not really?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I, I think we have so much stimulation that it's very, very rare that we have time to ourselves where we can allow things that might be traveling out there to come in. You know, I don't really believe in TV during the day, and my family will - my boys, my, my, my girl, my husband - they know if they're off, I'm not gonna have daytime TV. I think you should be out, you should be doing things. But a lot of people have TV on all the time, or a radio on all the time, some kind of stimulus, some kind of a talk show, and that's not gonna give you what you need for your creative side to come out. So when I write - and I know, everybody's different, a lot of people like music, a lot of people can write with a lot, a lot of activity. My room is upstairs, the door has to be closed so I don't hear any of the noise downstairs, I don't have any music, I like it quiet, I like it bright, and I don't look out the window. My computer and everything faces a wall. I don't, I can't be distracted. So, I do set everything up so that whatever is gonna be out there, the news so to speak, I'm receptive. A lot of people aren't receptive, they, they just are so busy, going from - floating from one thought to another that there's not a place for it to come in.

Diesenhaus: The other piece you mentioned about the car was the audio books, and I'm just curious, I used to work in audio books. Is, is it something you still do, do you like it, does it help you write and think in any way, or - ?

Jacqueline DeGroot: There are so many wonderful books out there, and there's only so many you can read at a time, and I'm generally in the middle of one or two research books, books that people say, "Oh here, you've got to read this," books that I'm editing for other people, and then the book that I am reading for pleasure here and there. So it's a way that I can get more reading done, and I do a lot of driving. I drive back and forth to Wilmington; my daughter is in Wilmington. We drive back and forth to Charlotte a lot, so I, it's a good time for me to listen to a book. So I try to do that when I can. Especially, there are some books that are really so good with the dialogue. The Potter books are wonderful on tape or a CD - they're really good. Then Nora Roberts, a lot of her books, (inaudible) Ericson, and she's wonderful with her different character voices. So sometimes they're better that way.

Diesenhaus: Is that something that you have wanted to try with your books?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I have one, actually, one of my books is being done on audio. It's - the lady is almost finished. Last time I talked to her about it she was on chapter ten and that was about a month ago, so she's working on it. And doing all the different characterizations is hard, yeah, I don't know how they do it, because they have to do it as they're reading. So it's not a talent that I have, I can tell you. But yeah, I think that's where things are going. People are busy, they need an avenue in their vacuuming or doing some other thing that they can do. They, they want to multitask - I can see that.

Diesenhaus: And, you talked about the different places that you go, and, obviously, you have lived in this region. I wonder, does, do you think where you live affects your work, or how you come to your writing, or your ideas, the things that, that, that come up?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, I think you can put a romance anywhere. So I think no matter where I was living, I could probably come up with some romantic themes. I love this area, though, and there is a lot you can do with the beach and the ocean and the, the lifestyle down here. I do set my books locally 'cause that's what I know, I guess. And the people like to buy them because they can relate to the places in them. So that seems to be real, that seems to work really well. The tourists buy them. I'm amazed how far my books go from here. So I would say that does affect - I mean, I lived in Washington, D.C., and I've lived in northern Virginia, there's just nothing that comes to mind that I would want to write about in that area. It would probably have to be more suspenseful and more crime. I mean, I did have to move Worth Any Price from this area to Wilmington because I needed a bigger police department, and I didn't want to have that kind of crime happening right here. I was going to put it in a bigger city. So, so yeah.

Diesenhaus: So that's, that's very, kind of a technical aspect.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Yes. Yes.

Diesenhaus: It's that, it's almost as if they have a groove. The comm - you know, you needed -

Jacqueline DeGroot: I don't think you could have this caliber of a serial killer in this small of a community and, and him be able to stay under-cover, you know, for long, because everybody sees everybody, knows what everybody's doing down here. If somebody is an outsider, it hits pretty, pretty fast. But, yeah, I needed a bigger police department. I needed people who are, you know, who are able to, not that our police - I don't want to say anything wrong about our police department, but I needed more forensics; I need more, I needed a someone, a profiler; I needed all kinds of things that were not here at Sunset Beach.

Diesenhaus: And I'm not sure what my question is here, but, using real places, I'm just curious -

Jacqueline DeGroot: Dangerous.

Diesenhaus: Dangerous because of how, is it because people recognize certain things? I guess I'm wondering, have you also made up locations? Say that you had a specific town where, perhaps, the police department, you know, is larger. Do you also go the route of making up the place and sort of imagining the world?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I am very cognizant of legal issues, so I generally do make up the characters to fit in for the most part, unless it's somebody I know and I get their permission to write about them, which I have done. I don't, I have written some short stories, and they were in different places, and this book, the one I just finished this year, is about a woman who runs away in an RV. And she's never even been in one nevertheless driven one and made it her home, so there is a lot of making up there, because I hadn't either. So she's traveling to places I actually haven't been, and I'm doing research, calling people who have lived there, and things like that. Yes, I am doing that because that - it only makes sense if she's running away from her abusive husband, and trying to stay ahead of him, if she keeps on the road and, like, you know, I know the east coast fairly well, but not the west coast so much. Well. It's so easy to do research now, it really is.

Diesenhaus: How are you doing your research? You talked about reading books, are you using the internet, searching, what are your modes for research?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I do internet. I talk to people in the area. You can get a feel for places by movies, or reading another book that was set in that general area, I mean, like the Caribbean. I don't want to say this wrong, but I think if you've been to one or two of them, you can pretty much, you know, you can do some internet work about specific hotels or restaurants or whatever, but you can pretty much describe the water, or things like that. So you can incorporate some of your things. I don't think people - unless you're writing about a specific community like here, when I do write about things that are here, then I do use the real restaurant's name, and I'm doing that to help the people here. If I find a restaurant that I just really love, I'm going to make my characters go there so that other people will go there, and it is surprising that people who come to my signings and say, I went to this restaurant, I went to The Grapevine, it was great, you know, so it's like, that's kind of cool.

Diesenhaus: That makes me think about other things about your relationship with your readers. Is it - I guess I'm also thinking about how you said you carry over characters from book to book.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: Is it that they're kind of with you and they're talking to you and they're saying, oh, hi, I love how you brought this character into this book and how you've furthered their story.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Yeah.

Diesenhaus: What is that like when someone comes up to you at a reading?

Jacqueline DeGroot: That's nice. And like sometimes I can carry a character a little bit further, but my stories are romances, and that's really hero-and-heroine kind of thing. And, sure, you can start - I mean, most of mine end with a happily ever after. I mean, I feel I am a true romance writer, which means you have to have the HEA, you have to have the happily ever after, so, at the end everything is pretty tied up, so the only way you can go further, is, okay, now they're setting up housekeeping, having babies or whatever, so you're not - there's, you can have them as secondary characters for another couple, so that's what I think, you know, you have to have a fresh hero and heroine from the way I'm writing. So. Yes, you can continue on and have friendships. I'm doing a trilogy now called The Widows of Sea Trail, and that's going to be about three widows here and how they find love again. And I will keep their friendship, but each book will be about a different woman. So I guess that's the only way I see to do it.

Diesenhaus: I'm not so familiar with the romance world, so I tried to read a little bit, and I came up on some ideas from Jayne Ann Krentz -

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: And I don't know if they'll fit, but I guess just some thoughts I had, and I wanted to ask you about it and whether it applied to what you said. Some of the things you said sort of fit in. Just, I am reading a quote of hers, she talked about classic heroic virtues, courage, honor, determination, the mythic, the romantic, the larger than life elements as opposed to characteristics derived from psychology. Does that ring true to you? You were talking about heroic heroine.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: Does that fit into what you are doing or do you see sort of a mixture of - ?

Jacqueline DeGroot: You don't have to start out that way, but, ultimately, you want your heroine to be a strong-willed person. You don't want her to be wimpy; you don't her to be pushed around. I mean, maybe that's how it happens initially, but you want something to happen that's going to be a catalyst to change that, for her to become herself, for her to be more, I don't know, more demanding or more into herself, more true to herself. So when you say larger than life, I think romance generally is. I mean, the guy has got to be tall, dark and handsome, or some version of that. I mean, everything is different, but there has got to be what people want when they read romance. They want it to be the ultimate. It's like reading about Lois Lane and Clark Kent. I mean, they want it to be the superhero. So you can have flaws, and certainly you should. I think that really enhances your character if they've got something that people can relate to, but, for the most part, I think they have to be kind people, somehow, maybe. I mean, they can be villainous in certain ways, but they, intrinsically they have to be kind people, and they have to have the capability for caring. And the woman has to have some capability for nurturing. Towards the end it has to somehow evolve that way, whether it starts that way or not. So that's the kernel of the story is whether you can bring somebody that way. But yes, people want the heroine to be, as you said, you know, valiant, courageous, they want her to - you know, if she sees an injustice they want it righted, you know, they don't want her to stand back and watch people do wrong things.

Diesenhaus: Is that arc towards the happily ever after, is that structure that you work with or do you sometimes try to play with that a bit? It sounds like in the end it is important.

Jacqueline DeGroot: In the end it is important. That is, actually, the formula for romance. Well, there are several formulas. I don't particularly like formula, but that is, one of the things is that even if the happily ever after does not necessarily mean that they hook up and they're together. They can agree to go their own ways. But that is the happily ever after in that particular instance, if that's what they both want. But I think love is grand and I like to see - I think that's one of the best things going, that the human race has going for it, so I like to tie everything up and let everybody have a jolly old time.

Diesenhaus: Is the fact that there are certain structures, that there are formulas, does some of that ever feel limiting or does it actually flip it, and you feel like, well, I know sort of the overall structure but it frees me up to do what I want within it. How do, how do you approach it?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I don't have to approach it as you would think, because I'm not a traditional writer. I'm self-publishing my books, so I can do it any way I want. But there is a level of expectation with your reader, and they, when you have a fan base you don't really want to let them down, but there is a certain thing that they are expecting. I have experimented with many different things, and I have found, you know, I thought my books were too spicy, then I toned them down, then they didn't like that, they weren't spicy enough. So it's like, oh my goodness, what are you doing here? So, you know, you cannot make everybody happy. I have learned that. So there are going to be some times when you are going to offend, some times when you are going to make people happy. You just have to just write the story the way it comes out, and I try not to censor myself, or - if I think this would happen, and it's a logical way, it's believable, I'm not contriving things to make it happen, then I'll just go with them.

Diesenhaus: You said, I'm not traditional because I'm self-published. Are there other ways that nontraditional or that - being self-published allows you do some things differently?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Different romance houses buy romance a different way, and they expect it to have a certain thing. There is actually a formula for their writing and every place is different, but there are certain books where, certain series in lines, where the hero and heroine had to meet by a certain page, they had to have the first kiss by this here, if they were going to be intimate it had to be here, or it couldn't be before here. So yeah, if you're trying to get your book bought and you're trying to fit into a category line, and this is what they're, they want. They just, they just want you to take a template and fill in your little hero, hero, and heroine and their quirky things, but they want you to write with their timeline. But - and that was the way it was for a long, long time, but I think people are straying, even in that traditional sense, they're getting away from that. I think everybody is trying to get a little shook up now.

Diesenhaus: I read on your website that you, that in regards to one of your books, that each story was meant to be read as kind of a substitute date.

Jacqueline DeGroot: That is for What Dreams are Made Of.

Diesenhaus: How, how is that, is the date, the experience of the date, similar to reading a story for you?

Jacqueline DeGroot: When I was in the car business, I had this one particular family that I used to sell a lot of cars to. There were three girls, and they all had really bad hip dysplasia, and they were all very heavy. They were very sweet girls, but I'm not sure that they ever had a date, I really am not. And they used to come in, and one time they had just come from a George - I want to say George Jones; it wasn't George Jones, Strait, the George Strait concert, and they were wearing the T-shirt, and they were just oh, he is so hot, you know, and it was like, it was the sweetest thing. I thought, these girls have probably never been on a date. And I thought, when I was writing this book, I said I'd like to write some stories that would be, like, for someone who has never had the experience, to start from the beginning of the meet, the greet, the first kiss, the whole thing, all the way through the bedroom scene, for someone who had never, ever experienced what it was like to fall in love. And that was kind of what I had meant with that. And, and I wanted them to be like books that were short enough that you could read it in one night, you know, ninety pages, something like that. So if you were going to sit down at seven or eight o'clock, you could have it done by ten or eleven or something like that. So that was my feeling, is to put girls - not necessarily these particular girls, but they were sweet - but put people in a situation where they could live vicariously, they could see what it was like.

Diesenhaus: Is that a fantasy element as well?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, all women fantasize. Yeah. That's the spice of life, too.

Diesenhaus: Is that different from - I'm not sure, I don't know whether you find that men are reading your books, too, but is that, you said all women fantasize, is there a difference, do you think? Is there a different way of approaching greeting?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I think so. I think, now, this is just very general, though. I think men are more pictorial and that they like to see an image, whereas I think women want to read or, or, or, or have it spoken. I don't think that we need to actually have the gratification of the image. We - and a lot of us, I think we'd rather make it up, we just need a little encouragement. It was - just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, in one of the talks I had with some women, and I learn so much from the talks with women, but one of the women was saying that she kind of likes to get just the general idea for a character, not to have the character described too thoroughly. Well, I pretty much like a man with a hairy chest, so I - most of my heroes had hairy chests, and then this one woman said, well, you know, not everybody likes hairy chests. And hadn't, really, you know, I was writing from my perspective, it was like, well, you know what, she's absolutely right. You know, the Fabio guy is what turns on a lot of girls, I think, so maybe I shouldn't fill in so many details, and let their imagination be able to plug in. So yes, you are kind of trying to contrive a fantasy, but you can't do the dots all the way. You've got to let everybody take their little lead there, too, let them fill in the parts from their experience that they want to make it happen for them.

Diesenhaus: Somewhat connected to that. My son says that romance and mystery can only become more popular as seen in recent years, and are often bestsellers.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Mm-hmm.

Diesenhaus: And to make sense of why, is there something about what they offer to women, that you may be offering to women, as well, that sort of made them more successful?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I think it's a form of escapism. I mean, it's a way to get away from whatever drudgery you happen to be mired in at the time. It is for me. I like to read a romance when I'm at the beach or the pool, so I'm not just going to go sit at the pool like this, or at the beach, and just watch the waves. I've got to be doing something else, so that's the something else I can be doing. And so I can be reading about different people, and I learn a lot about different places and things like that that way. So whereas I, I'm not at the point where I would say I feel guilty for sitting here at the pool for five hours. If I have a book I can justify it a little bit better.

Diesenhaus: So is it multitasking?

Jacqueline DeGroot: It is, I guess.

Diesenhaus: Along with the rest of the world.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, a lot of women don't have the time to read, you know, they have careers, they have children they have to get bathed and fed, and laundry they're doing at night, and things like that, so, you know, some women maybe only can read fifteen or twenty pages here or there, but they might look forward to that for the next day, to catching up on that, so it's just living it along. It's just like watching a movie. You're just on pause a lot.

Diesenhaus: The other things that I sort of noticed is the rise of characters that maybe who are vampires.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Oh, yeah.

Diesenhaus: Kind of a fantastical or sci-fi.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Yeah.

Diesenhaus: Is that something you're interested in?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I can't get into it. I really, I have read a few and - but, I don't know, there's just, I guess, everybody is wired differently, and it's just that, it's just like the hairy chest verses the not. The vampire just does not do it for me. I don't know, I mean, even with futuristic I have a little trouble. I mean, I used to watch Star Trek, and who didn't like Kirk, you know, but it's not something that if I were sitting down I would do that story. I do read a lot of historicals and regencies, and I actually like to read a lot of the medieval things, 'cause I think it's interesting to see how women lived in those different times, their day-to-day life. I really particularly like a writer who is able to do her research and puts you there where you can see the - what a woman goes through. I mean, just to have a cup of coffee in the days of a woman being a pioneer. You know, you had to go get the water; you had to get the firewood; you had to haul everything up; you had to grind the beans. If you had the beans, do you have to milk the cow to get the cream? You know, it was interesting to see how people lived. And it is still interesting to see how people live in different places and different times.

Diesenhaus: What you just said about just to make a cup of coffee and talking about giving people audio books to read while they're doing laundry. The notion of a woman's life seems foregrounded in what you're doing. Do you - is that - do you have that in mind when you're doing your writing? Are you trying to write for a woman's experience and also thinking, well, this is something a woman would want to read? You know, just like you're trying to do with your characters. I'm just curious how that plays into your thoughts.

Jacqueline DeGroot: I don't think I am consciously thinking a woman would like to read this. And I do, in fact, have quite a few men that are good fans. I think it's just a storytelling thing. I want to tell the story, and this is the way the story is flowing. So I don't consciously think about the reader at the time. I'm thinking more of the characters; I'm there with the character.

Diesenhaus: This is the story that you're telling?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Right, yeah, yeah. So I'm not, I'm not thinking even that the book even being published, I'm just - I don't think you can. I don't think you can, really - I don't, I know I'm not under contract with anybody, nobody says, you know, in three months we need this book. I don't know how that writing would be different because you know it's going to be a book. I don't know if that would be different. I don't always know. I have books that I have written that are not published. So, you know, I don't always know if it's going to be, but it's just the way I see the story unfolding, and the way I want to tell it. It's not always - you know, I have had proofreaders. When my friend, Peggy, when the first book, I started it kind of in a flashback. She says, I had written the whole book, she read the whole book, she says you need to flip this. And that was a major rewrite but she was right, and I did. So, you know, the way you write it may not be the way it ends up. I mean, that's what rewrite's all about. And I would definitely believe in rewrites.

Diesenhaus: Is that where - what happens between your early draft and the rewrite, is it sometimes a total revolution or more subtle?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I don't think there's ever a major plotting thing that changes, it's just the subtleties that change, depth, feeling, it's catching trite phrases, trying to clean it up, make it sharper, make it read better. And you can see things, you know, if something is missing, the chronology is wrong, or you can see if you're reading through something, and it's like, well, this is not keeping my attention; this is not carrying this. You know, maybe I need a secondary character here. Maybe I need another plot, maybe I need something. You can see it after it's written, and then you do have to go back and fill it in, so, yeah, it can be... but the general plot of the story doesn't change that whole plot. I'm just starting over my, start a new story.

Diesenhaus: You talked about how many times you read your draft. Just how many times are you rewriting? How many revisions are you doing on average?

Jacqueline DeGroot: I am an advocate of when you sit down to write the story, write the story, and go from beginning to end, don't keep going back and editing your work. But when you are in a phase of time where you have broken snatches, you have to go back to pick up where you were, so as, of course, as you go back, you're fixing that part, but depending on how back you have to go and how many times you have to do that, you're getting that part. I generally read, before I pass it out, at least five or six times. And then I pass it out. And then, with each time I get it back, I'm going over it again, and then, maybe two more times before I actually say, okay, print it. And then, I end up getting the book, and I open it up, and the first thing I see is a mistake, almost always. So, then we do a revision.

Diesenhaus: Okay, so maybe two more questions if that's okay.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Sure.

Diesenhaus: Kind of a broad one. I just wonder, is there one particular book that's been the most memorable or your most favorite, or more than one?

Jacqueline DeGroot: My favorite is Perfect, by Judith McNaught. I think that was one of the best romances I ever read. And when I read that, it was a contemporary romance, I felt like I did not want that book to be over. So then I went and got her backlist. I did not read her books as they came out, I think I stumbled on to them a few years later. She's still writing, but her last few books have not impressed me as much. I think, she lost her husband, and I think that kind of affected her writing somewhat, but her first, her early books, were really great.

Diesenhaus: And then, of your books, is there one experience that has been your favorite, the one that you kind of still hold dear as your favorite?

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, you always, I think, have a fondness for your first book. I remember my husband and I were walking on the beach one early Sunday morning, and he saw a man reading Climax, and he had to drag me over there and talk to the man, and his wife had said that he hadn't read a book since high school. And it was just really a neat experience, and that was great. The book that I am probably the proudest of is probably For the Love of Amanda. That's my medical romance. And I did an awful lot of research on that one. But it's not a popular book in this area. It's not a local book. That one takes place in San Francisco and Denver. But this one is by far the bestseller, this one I cannot keep in stock, this one sells really, really well. That one is a very spicy book. I'm interested in people who have come to the area, what they think of it, and the police department tells me that they still have people come in there every once in a while asking if Michael is working. So that's kind of cool. I don't know if I answered your question or not, but -

Diesenhaus: I think that's a good answer. I guess, my last question, I just wonder if you have any advice for writers of all stripes, to kind of keep them going and be successful.

Jacqueline DeGroot: Well, if you can spend the time to take a computer class on your word processing system, I think that is immeasurable. If I had known the amount of time I could have saved. I did not know about the find-it feature when I first started writing. I did not know about cut and paste. There were certain things like that. If I had known about the computer, I could have saved myself an awful lot of time in rewriting and retyping, so that's something, if you're going to write and you think you're going to stick with it, learn your computer, learn what it can do for you, because there's so much it can do that people just aren't even tapping into. And go to places where other writers collect. There's so many things out there. There's conferences, there's online workshops, there's, you know, whatever genre you're in there's somebody out there writing it. And you can, you know, and I think most writers, especially writers who've, who have been successful, if they have the time, they are anxious to help. I think - you know, I'm anxious to help people, so I think it's good for people to get with like. It can't hurt.

Diesenhaus: Thank you very much.

Jacqueline DeGroot: You're welcome.

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