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Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Raye Stevens!

Please welcome the lovely, and talented, Persister, Janet Raye Stevens.  

 Janet writes YA, mystery, and paranormal and contemporary romance, all with a dash of humor. Her first novel was rejected an impressive 99 times, nevertheless she persists. Janet is a two-time Golden Heart finalist, in 2017 (BERYL BLUE, TIME COP) and 2018 (COLE FOR CHRISTMAS). She lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she indulges in her hobbies of drinking copious amounts of tea (Earl Gray, hot) plotting revenge (best served cold), and creating fictional worlds populated with cool chicks and hot guys.

I am in complete in awe of anyone who can write time travel. She also writes short stories and who doesn’t love cool chicks and hot guys?  Janet, please tell us more about you and your writing. 

 

 Hello, Rubies, and thanks for hosting me on the blog—I’m thrilled to be here.

I’d like to talk a little today about what the 2018 GH class name, The Persisters, means to me.  

Picking a name for this year’s group of Golden Heart finalists was fun and challenging. So many creative, fitting ideas were batted about I found myself with a new favorite almost every day. But when someone tossed out naming our group “Persisters” I was sold! It’s the perfect name for anyone in the writing game, with all its capriciousness, ups and downs and one-step-forwards/two-steps-backs. It also fit me and my writing journey to that proverbial T.

I’ve been at this writing thing a long, long time. I sent out my first query letter in 2005, back when 99% of queries went via snail mail and traditional publishing was the only way to go. I queried Berkley with my first novel, a paranormal about an immortal, soul-sucking demon. A surprisingly fast few weeks later, that thin self-addressed envelope arrived in my mailbox. What I expected to be a rejection was a friendly, upbeat note from the editor—asking to read the full manuscript. Well, that was easy, I thought. Next stop, NY Times best-seller.

Haha, no. I sent the manuscript, got a rejection about a year later, and my writing career has been a study in persistence ever since.

After realizing my immortal, soul-sucking demon story suffered from terminal first-book-itis, I tucked it into a cyber-shoebox, shoved it under my cyber-bed and moved on. Undaunted, I wrote and revised a bunch of novels and short stories, started twice as many more, and queried, queried, queried. In short, I persisted.

The ups and downs since then have been many, both personal and professional. I’ve packed up and moved four times (including one jaunt halfway across the country), seen my kids graduate high school and college and move onto their adult lives, said farewell to some precious pets, and let my hair go gray. In between, I wrote. I had some success in the form of several short stories published. I got The Call from an agent, who called back two days later to say they’d changed their mind. Got The Call again several years later that moved my career forward, but ultimately didn’t work out. And of course, I got many, many more rejections.  

The toughest test of my persistence came in 2009, a gut-punching year for our family, with the loss of four close family members, including our niece and my mother. Seemed like we were in perpetual mourning. My writing faltered. My stories didn’t seem important anymore. I write snappy banter and one-liners, but the jokes and the happily-ever-after just wasn’t flowing.

It took a long time to get back on track. I learned to get past my grief and take inspiration from both our niece, whose battle with Cystic Fibrosis was the very definition of persistence, and my mother, who persisted through too many challenges in her life to recount here. My mother, especially, inspired me to get back into the writing game. She was a voracious reader who adored snappy banter, one-liners, and that all important happily-ever-after. If keeping that in mind didn’t kick my butt back into gear nothing would.

So I got back to work. I persisted. That meant more rejections, of course, but it also meant more short stories published, more interest from agents and editors, more contest finals. Including the BIG ONE, the Golden Heart, where I am in excellent company among so many other talented authors, Persisters all.

For the GH ceremony last year, I drafted a speech in case I won. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared, right? In the speech, I thanked my mother for her support. I’m using the same speech this year, updated a little to thank my mother for her support—and for teaching me persistence. I didn’t win last year, and I might not win this year, but no worries, I’ll persist. As soon as I get home from conference, it’ll be butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Well, okay, maybe I’ll do a load of laundry first, but then it’s back to work.

Janet, I love the name, Persisters. Reading this I’d say you are the epitome of persistence. Thank you for sharing your story.  Do you have an inspirational quote that helps you persist?

I have two: Just keep swimming and never give up, never surrender! Fun and funny, but meaningful all the same.

Your Golden Heart final, COLE FOR CHRISTMAS, is a short contemporary can you share what it’s about?    

Sure.

Easy going event coordinator Katy Wilkins is called in last minute to sub for her high-maintenance, perfectionist sister at a Christmas Eve wedding. Nice guy chef Cole St. Onge takes over from his temperamental, womanizing boss for the same event. The problem? Each thinks the other is their prickly counterpart and they expect fireworks when they meet. It’s the sparks that fly between them that’s unexpected. And unwelcome—Katy’s skittish and wounded after a bad breakup; left at the altar, Cole’s sworn off women for good. They both vow to do their job and stay out of each other’s way.

That plan goes awry as troubles mount. An unexpected nor’easter blows in, making roads slick and forcing wedding guests and the wait staff to stay home. The stressed-out bride is left with no stylist, no photographer, and maybe even no justice of the peace if he can’t get un-stuck from the snow. Mix in an accident-prone groom, a power outage, Katy’s self-pitying ex making trouble, a matchmaking grandma, and lots and lots of mistletoe, and what’s supposed to be a magical Christmas Eve wedding fast becomes a Christmas nightmare. 

Forced to team up to put out the many fires, the fire between Cole and Katy burns brighter as the evening wears on. Can they ignore the growing attraction between them and keep their relationship strictly professional? Or will they give in to the mistletoe and say I do to a Christmas kiss that promises more to come in the new year?

Zowie! I’m particularly impressed by the conflict. Your characters are battling weather, relatives, a wedding disaster and their own internal struggles. Many authors find adding conflict difficult. Does building the conflict come naturally to you? Have you taken any conflict workshops?  

Oooh, you’ve bowled me over with your comment about my story’s conflict–thank you! It’s especially gratifying because I’m a pantser and most of the pieces of the story puzzle fall into place organically as I write. Though, looking a bit more closely at my process, I see I already have a strong external conflict in mind (as well as a beginning and an end) when I put my butt in the chair to write. The internal conflict unfolds as I write. For example, with COLE FOR CHRISTMAS I knew I wanted to go with a mistaken identity plot and a snowstorm wreaking havoc on a Christmas Eve wedding, but the internal stuff, such as Katy and Cole’s reasons for not wanting to get involved with someone new, came along as I “pantsed” the story together. 

Can’t wait to read how all this conflict plays out. Thanks for being with the Ruby Sisters today.  

Janet’s mother inspired her to persist. Who in your life has inspired you to keep going and never quit?

If you want to know more about Janet check out her web home. 

 

38 responses to “Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Raye Stevens!”

  1. Hi Janet! *waves* Congratulations on finaling again this year! I *LOVE* your book’s premise. I can just see it as the kind of madcap Christmas story I would read and/or watch every year.

    I totally agree that you guys have one of the most fitting group names for writers – we’ve all got to keep persisting! I hope all your persistence pays off very, very soon! Good luck in Denver! I hope I will see you there!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Oooh, Lizzie, madcap is such a great word to describe COLE–totally stealing it! Thanks and hope to see you in Denver too (and have more than a minute to chat!).

      2+
  2. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    So nice to meet a fellow pantser! You have a very relatable, inspiring story on persisting. Thank you for sharing. Sometimes it is very hard to continue on when the world seems to be holding you back. I still debate throwing in the towel. But, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

    Cole for Christmas sounds like a fun read!
    Good luck in Denver, Janet!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! Love your rainbow/rain saying, quite apt (though I could do without those occasional torrential downpours, LOL). Hang on to that towel, sister pantser, that rainbow is there for us both!

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  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    Congratulations on your GH final, Janet! Rita’s right; there’s conflict up the wazoo – and the wordplay in the title made me grin.

    I love your GH Class name. “Yet, she persisted” is pretty much a mantra to romance writers.

    Best of luck in Denver!

    2+
  4. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Thanks so much, Tamara! I know, Persisters is a perfect mantra for all of us. I was sold on the name the second I saw it proposed for our group. So glad COLE’s title made you grin–my work here is complete!

    1+
  5. Fenley Grant says:

    I’ll be there in Denver to cheer you on, my friend! Your post is timely–received another rejection this week–so I, too, will persist. We’ll all keep working toward our dream. I said it before, but I truly believe this is your year, Janet!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Aww, Fenley–hugs on the rejection. Keep on persisting! See you in Denver and thanks for stopping by.

      1+
    • Rita Henuber says:

      Big cyber hugs on the no thank you. That’s what I called them. LOL! The right agent/editor for you is out there. Keep looking.

      1+
  6. Cindy Maki says:

    Hi Janet, I’m so happy you never gave up and I love that you just keep swimming! Congratulations!!!!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your writing journey, Janet. *hugs* I’m so glad I’m able to call you one of my Persister Sisters and can’t wait to meet you in Denver!

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    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks, Alexia! Happy you’re my Persister sister, too. Denver is nearly here and I can’t wait to meet you and the rest of the gang. See you soon! – Janet

      1+
  8. Elizabeth Langston says:

    The people who help me persist are DH and DDs. Any time I get discouraged, they cheer me back up.

    Good luck in Denver!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      I’m glad you have such a supportive family, Elizabeth, and that they keep you smiling when you get down! Thanks for dropping by.

      2+
  9. C.R. Grissom says:

    Janet,

    I’m so glad the Golden Heart has made us sisters! Your story is such an inspiration to me. Especially at a time when I’m debating whether to query again or focus on something new. You’ve taught me that I can do both! <3

    I can't wait to read Cole for Christmas and anything you write. Shorts, blogs, or grocery lists.

    Denver in a week! Counting the hours sister mine.

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Hey C.R., my Rebelles & Persister sister! I’m so glad to be a GH’er with you again this year too. Keep on querying, kid, it will pay off in the end, I just know it. BTW, I’ve written a grocery list that needs to be edited, you in? Not sure I should keep the bananas or cut them to up the pacing. LOL, see you in Denver!

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  10. Tracy Brody says:

    Janet, congrats on persisting, pushing through tough times and ANOTHER Golden Heart final.

    For me it could be I’m just too dang stubborn to quit. There are countless stories you see on Facebook of persistence and I’ve been inspired by quad-amputee Travis Mills – https://www.facebook.com/ssgtravismills/ (and other wounded service members) who’ve demonstrated positive attitudes and figured out new normal and career paths in light of devastating injuries.

    Love the play on the name with Cole for Christmas as the title.

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks, Tracy! Congrats on another GH final for you too. I’m in awe of your talent and dedication. “Too stubborn to quit,” no surprise there–you’re a true Persister! And so are your inspirations, especially Travis; his fortitude is amazing.

      One week until Denver–looking forward to seeing you there!

      1+
  11. Hi Janet!! I loved Cole for Christmas!!!!! You are as talented and you kind and funny and smart 🙂 I’m sorry I won’t get a chance to see you this year. Have fun in Denver!! I’m rooting for you 🙂

    2+
    • Yikes – and apparently I should spell check before I hit send. You are kind, funny and smart is how it should have read. I know hows to write…lol

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    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      LOL, Jennifer, I knew what you meant, the typo-gremlin strikes again! Thanks so much for your compliments on COLE–I’m glad you liked it and I hope you get to read the full someday. Sorry to miss you in Denver; maybe next year we can have a Rebelles reunion! – Janet

      1+
  12. Cindy Maki says:

    Hi Janet, I love how you said just keep swimming, it is so true. Congratulations!!!!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Hi Cindy–thanks for coming by! Just keep swimming is a great motto for both of us–in more ways than one. See you soon I hope!

      1+
  13. Hi Janet,

    I’m so thrilled to be your Persister sister! COLE FOR CHRISTMAS sounds like the perfect mix of heartwarming and hilarious, with a touch of Christmas magic. Wonderful!

    My inspiration to persist is my husband. He always wants to know what happens next to my characters, so I keep on writing just for him!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Your husband sounds like a doll. I’m picturing him hovering over your shoulder at your desk eagerly saying, “And then what happens?” LOL! If he’s coming to Denver, I hope I get a chance to meet him. See you soon!

      1+
  14. Hi Janet, I can’t wait to meet you next week. Your book sounds wonderful. And your story is definitely an inspiring one of persistence.

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks so much, Leslie! Looking forward to meeting you too next week. Seems like just yesterday we got the GH calls, and now it’s here!

      1+
  15. Brenda Lowder says:

    Your book sounds so good, JANET! I can’t wait to read it. I’m inspired by your story and glad to be your persister sister!

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    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks Brenda! We Persisters are many and strong. Glad to have you along on this amazing GH journey.

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  16. Gwynne Jackson says:

    Hey, Janet! We Persisters need to stick together. It seems like there are so many common threads in our writing stories. Can’t wait to meet you.

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      I agree, Gwynne. We all have our challenges and yet we persist. Can’t wait to meet you, too–and it’s only a week away! Thanks, and see you then.

      2+
  17. I’m super late but thank you so much for being here, Janet, and congrats on the final! Your book sounds fantastic! I love humor and, judging by your post, you certainly have a knack for it.

    Good luck in Denver!

    2+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Hi Darynda and thanks for stopping by! No worries about being a little late; I’m always late for everything–we can be “fashionably” late together!

      0
  18. Jeanne says:

    Your book sounds excellent! I have a chapter-mate who refuses to read Contemporary because she says nothing ever happens. I’m going to show her this!

    As far as persisting, In my case it’s more about being too hard-headed to admit I made a bad choice. It takes me forever to change directions and I’m not ready to do that with writing. After all, it’s only been 55 years….

    1+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      LOL, Jeanne! I think stubbornness is just another word for persistence. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for spreading the word about COLE too! See you in Denver.

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  19. suzanne says:

    Janet, your grey hair is glorious! And your Persister spirit is powerful.

    I’m not sure any one person makes me persist, but I do try to stick to my dream so my kids know to stick to theirs.

    See you in Denver!

    1+
    • Janet Raye Stevens says:

      Thanks, Suzanne, and good for you for showing your kids that no matter happens, nevertheless, you persist! See you in Denver!

      0

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