WATCH OUT: Jannine Corti Petska
SC: I want to welcome you all to another edition of Watch Out. This week I’m excited to bring you author Jannine Corti Petska. Welcome to Watch Out, Jannine, it is so great to have you here.
JCP: Thank you for having me as your guest.
SC: For the readers out there who might not know about you or your work, can you please tell them a little about yourself.
JCP: I started writing historical romances in the early 80s. But I didn’t get serious about selling until the mid-90s when I joined RWA. I love writing medievals set in Italy where my family was from. I live in Southern California with my husband of 39 years and three Rat Terriers, and occasionally grandkids when they visit.
SC: Can you tell us a little about your current release?
JCP: LOVE’S SWEET WAGER is set along the California Trail. It’s about a gambler, Reno Hunter, who is accused of murdering another gambler on a river boat. His brothers help him escape from jail, disguise him as a priest and join a wagon train heading West. The heroine, Rachel Garrett, happens to be traveling on the same wagon train because her father was killed (allegedly by the hero) in a card game, and she was left penniless. She’s traveling to San Francisco where she has a fiancé awaiting her. Neither Reno nor Rachel know each other, but by the time they discover each other’s identity, they’ve already fallen in love, though both deny it. Rachel has a secret she’s keeping from the family she’s traveling with, who also believe Reno is an honest-to-goodness priest. So much happens during their travel, especially when one particular kid decides to break the monotony of the trail by doing things to Reno.
SC: The publishing industry is constantly changing; do you think that eBooks will one day make paperback books nonexistent?
JCP: Heavens, no! Paperbacks will never go out of favor. Too many readers love holding a book in their hands. I got a Nook for my birthday last summer, but I’ve downloaded only one historical romance, which I haven’t read yet. I guess I wasn’t quite ready for the advanced technology. To me, there is nothing more exhilarating than walking into a bookstore (or library) and being surrounded by so many books. I do think large bookstores must embrace e-books, which they are doing. I believe e-books are here to stay. They reach a wider audience. I buy paperback (and Hard cover) books for research. Those I will never put into my Nook. It’s just not right, lol.
SC: I read in your bio that you use to live in Italy. Does the time you spent there ever inspire your stories?
JCP: Being Italian influenced my writing, more so because I write medievals set in Italy. But the short amount of time I spent in Italy, living with my father’s brother (a general in the Italian air force) and his family, did give me an idea for one book, FOREIGN EXCHANGE. It’s set in 1970 U.S. and Italy and has all kinds of action in it, including the CIA, FBI, The Weatherman Underground, Red Brigades terrorists, the Italian military, and a hunky Italian national team soccer player. The heroine (FBI) was among the first women to be allowed as an operative in a foreign country. It wasn’t easy keeping it all straight. Unfortunately, the book is out of print. I hope to revise it one day and get it out there for readers, though I have no idea when that will be.
SC: Out of all the books you have written so far is there one you would consider being your favourite?
JCP: Those who follow my interviews can probably answer this one! But yes, I have a favorite—REBEL HEART, set in 1870s Santa Fe when the range wars began.
SC: One thing readers might be surprised to know about you?
JCP: For the first time ever, I will admit this: In high school, I was a go-go dancer at the school’s dances. Wore the white boots and all. Danced on the stage while the band played. I was extremely shy, but when I danced, it was just me and the music. Everyone and everything were gone. I had dreamed of being a professional dancer. While that dream never came true, I still love dancing. I’m a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Best Dance Crew (I think that’s what it’s called.) Anything with dancing in it, I’m hooked.
SC: What do you do to unwind when you are not working on a new book?
JCP:I garden, especially in spring and summer when I grow a multitude of vegetables and fruits. I also watch Italian soccer and play with my Ratties. Unfortunately, I rarely read a book, which I miss terribly.
SC: Some writers push the boundaries when it comes to their stories not for the story itself but for shock value. Do you think that in today’s market shock value has any impact?
JCP: Sensationalism fires up the media. People around the world love gossip and reading about the famous and infamous. I think those elements give ordinary people a sense of normalcy. However, as far as romance books go, stories should push the boundaries. For a shock value? Erotic romance books took care of that. But now, I doubt there’s much a writer can put into her books that would be shocking. Everyone is looking for a good story that can take them out of their realities for a moment. In today’s society, more readers are open to what the writer’s mind conjures up. Ten years ago, who would have thought GLBT romances would be a huge hit? There’s something for every reader’s taste, and that’s how it should be.
SC: Your favourite part about being an author?
JCP: Working at home. I leave the house maybe 2-3 times a week to run errands, shop, take the dogs to the vets, go to doctors’ appointments, etc. For the most part, I’m a homebody.
SC: If you could step into the shoes of one of your characters who would you pick and why?
JCP: Definitely Courtney Danning in REBEL HEART. I’d love to have Beau Hamilton as my love interest. He’s rough cut, crass, and more stubborn than a mule, but inside there’s a heart that cares deeply for Courtney, although he gets angry and frustrated with himself that he cares for her at all. He’s a tough one to break. But he’s sexy as hell.
SC: What are you currently reading?
JCP: Research books on Padua (for a short story), London (for book 3 of my medieval psychic sisters trilogy) and Siena (for book 4 of my Italian medieval series).
SC: What do you think sets your stories apart from other authors?
JCP: Other than my Italian settings, it could be my voice, or my style of writing. I’ve never given it thought. I just write. So I put the question to my editor, Nicole D’Arienzo, at The Wild Rose Press. Here is what she said:
To me, as an editor, what sets you apart is larger-than-life characters, the underlying humor, dialogue that keeps the story moving forward–to me your voice is “Lindsay-esque” (as in Johanna, of course, LOL.) Most writers hit upon one of those three things in their writing–but you nail them all, which makes for a truly enjoyable reading experience… even for your editor, LOL.
And I didn’t even pay her for saying that.
SC: When you are working on a story do you have any habits, maybe the TV playing or music?
JCP: When I was younger, I had the TV playing, music in the background, my 3 daughters being girls. None of that bothered me. In fact, I wrote better and faster with all that noise. I can no longer have anything that’s distracting. These days, a fly on the wall distracts me.
I had the bad habit of eating junk food when I wrote. I no longer eat all that terrible (but great-tasting) food. Since I’ve lost about 20 pounds earlier this year—45 pounds if you add what I’ve lost gradually over the last two years—I read labels, measure food, and allow myself a feel-good treat one day a week, though in moderation. For the first time in 14 ½ years since being diagnosed with diabetes, my sugar is under control, as is my blood pressure and cholesterol. My meds have been cut back, some stopped. I have loads of energy and am more enthusiastic about writing. Ideas seem to be returning, whereas before this year I couldn’t write a new book to save my life. For the first time in two years I’m working on something new. I don’t have any bad habits anymore when I write. Well, except for one: I can’t turn off my internal editor! She drives me nuts, lol.
SC: Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can give us a taste of?
JCP: My editor at TWRP invited me to write a short historical story for an anthology based on a letter either the hero or heroine receives that is life changing. The anthology is Love Letters, and my story is tentatively titled MINE TO KEEP. There isn’t much I can say about it now other than it’s set in 1405 Padua and is about an inheritance the hero and heroine come into. I’m halfway through it, but I can’t say where the story will lead me. I am not a plotter.
SC: What is the best advice you ever got with regards to writing?
JCP: Grow a thick skin and never give up.
SC: Any advice for new writers out there?
JCP: -Grow a thick skin and never give up. This business can wear you down emotionally.
-You hear voices in your head, and writing is lonely.
-Don’t write to whatever is in bookstores today. It can change tomorrow.
-And write from your heart; readers know when an author throws together a quick book instead of taking the time to nurture the story. Care about your characters and give them a reason to have a story of their own.
-Above all, believe in yourself. If you don’t, neither will anyone else.
SC: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
On my website: www.jcortipetska.com . I’m on Facebook—my daughters insisted it would be good publicity—but I forget to go there. It confuses me! I have MySpace and again, I don’t go there. I don’t have a blog either. If I did, I’d be chained to my computer 24/7! You can reach me through my website.
My newest release, LOVE’S SWEET WAGER, can be bought through The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=191&products_id=4573 , also at B&N and Amazon. Available in ebook and print.