She's married to a firefighter, cries over her own characters, and has conquered the Internet. We recently caught up with author Georgia Bockoven, whose new release Another Summer is now available from Harper Trophy. Come visit with this delightful lady!
Tell us about yourself - husband, kids, grandkids, pets, hobbies. Whatever you'd like to share.
Hmmm, now how do I make this sound interesting . . . On the plus side, I'm married to a terrific guy who is a captain in the Sacramento Fire Department. He's my hero and a hero to a lot of other people, too. If you'd like to know more about him, he's "Rick" in Disguised Blessing, a book that came out in 2000.
We have two fantastic sons, two equally fantastic daughter-in-laws, and four incredible grandchildren. The first, John, (named after his grandfather) was the inspiration for my first book for Harper, A Marriage of Convenience, which was made into a CBS movie starring Jane Seymour and James Brolin.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here? One way or another, friends and family inevitably wind up in one of my books.
I'm an observer, a skill developed early during my father's migrant military life. By the time our family settled in California, I was a freshman in high school and had attended seventeen different schools throughout the country. Always being the "new kid" was hard and when I set down roots, I set them deep. But there's a wanderlust in my soul that can only be satisfied by travel and I do so as often as I can.
After years of traveling I had one place left in this country to explore-Maine. On September 11, John and I were headed that way after visiting a friend in New York. Instead we took our rental car and headed home.
A lot has been written about firefighters belonging to a collective family. I don't have anything new to add except to say that it's true. We mourned the loss of everyone in New York and Washington DC, but the deaths of the firefighters were personal. Driven by the need to do something, we arrived home and immediately joined the fund raising efforts by our local firefighters. The response by the people in the Sacramento area was overwhelming and healing.
Still, I find there are times in each day, always unexpected, that I'm hit with a profound sadness. And, there are times every day that I purposely stop to savor the beauty that is all around me. This has been an amazing fall with incredible color and spectacular sunsets. The birds in the garden never fail to make me smile. I have said "I love you" to friends and family more often than ever before and am determined to continue.
Pets? Yes! The current residents are three cats and ten koi. The cats are a silver tabby Maine Coon, a blue Maine Coon, and a black long-hair of questionable lineage who at three weeks was rescued from the gutter with two litter mates on a 112 degree summer day. She is the five pound master of this universe, controlling the eleven-pound silver tabby and the twenty-one pound blue with sheer force of will and the belief that attitude is everything. I've learned a lot from this cat.
For readers who may not be familiar with your backlist, tell us about your writing background.
I sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance in 1982 after a seven-year career in freelance journalism and photography. After six Superromances and four Temptations, I stopped to write a book I'd been thinking about for a couple of years. That book didn't sell, but it opened a door for me with Karen Solem at Harper. I've been at Harper since-that's ten books with the publication of Another Summer .
What drew you to writing romance? Are you a long-time reader?
I'm a sucker for a love story; always have been, all the way back to grade school and Mrs. Mike. I'd probably have a hard time convincing you that I was born knowing how to read, but I can't remember a time that I didn't have my nose buried in a book. I was one of those kids who sneaked a flashlight to bed to read under the covers. If it was a particularly good book and more than I could finish in one night, I would try to convince my mother that I was too sick to go to school the next day. Sometimes it worked, most often it didn't.
Because books were so important to me I believed the people who wrote them had to be magical human beings. It never occurred to me that I could be a writer. I was far too ordinary. Funny how life turns out, isn't it?
What writers have influenced your own writing?
Every novel I read is a textbook of sorts. When an author makes me laugh or cry or see something in a new way I stop reading to analyze how they did it. One of the drawbacks to becoming a writer was losing the ability to suspend disbelief the way I did when I was that kid reading a book under the covers with a flashlight. I remember what it was like to be swept up in a story and I miss that feeling. Now, no matter what I'm reading, a part of me is paying attention to character development, point of view, plot, and all of the subtle things that make a book either wonderful or awful. But to be honest, I don't give the awful books the time I once did. I used to think if I started a book, I had to finish it.
The Beach House was a favorite with readers, and it was unusual in that it contained four separate, related stories. One dealt with an older couple facing a bittersweet end (I cried buckets over that one). Was it a difficult story to write? And was it based on personal experiences?
The Beach House started out as an idea I had for an anthology. I'd never done one and thought it might be fun. The more I worked on the idea, the more possessive I became with the characters and their stories. I couldn't imagine turning them over to anyone else. Which is how I wound up doing the entire book myself.
I took a chance with the older couple, Joe and Maggie, but I wanted to tell a story that fulfilled the promise implied in all love stories-that they lived happily ever after. Yes, their story was hard to write. I cried the entire time and I cried when I reread the story as a book. Joe and Maggie were real to me; all of my characters are. I know these people. I get inside their heads. I know what they are thinking and why. I'm disappointed when they are, I laugh when they do, and I fall in love when they fall in love.
Having dozens of imaginary friends that I talk to in a room all by myself may be a strange way to make a living, but it suits me.
Tell us about Another Summer. Is it a follow-up to The Beach House?
Yes, Another Summer is the sequel to The Beach House-four new stories, same location. I had such fun incorporating the characters from The Beach House into Another Summer but it was a challenge to do it in such a way that a new reader wouldn't feel she was missing something.
While I loved revisiting the original characters and updating their lives, I also feared what every writer who does a sequel to a book that captured readers' hearts the first time around fears-could I make it as good as the original? I'm both pleased and relieved that the early reviews have been wonderful and no one has been disappointed.
What are you working on now?
I decided it was time to tackle the multi-character family story that has been haunting me for several years. After that, I've been thinking it might be fun to do a third book set at the beach house.
What role does the Internet play in writing and marketing your books?
As far as the writing goes, I'm always doing research on the Internet. It's the most powerful, useful tool I have. As for the marketing of my books-I was slow getting on board even knowing how important it is to have a presence on the Internet. You see, I don't like things that make me feel dumb and setting up websites, registering domain names, dealing with search engines-the hundred details and decisions that had to be made became too easy to put off until tomorrow. Well, tomorrow finally arrived. I now have a website (a work in progress) and depending on how soon the kinks can be worked out, there will be a mini-movie trailer advertising Another Summer-hopefully, within the next two weeks.
Do you write full-time?
When I'm on deadline I work ten hours a day, six or seven days a week.
And, finally, how do you feel about fan mail?
I was on a panel with several other writers a couple of weeks ago when someone in the audience asked us why we write. One of the writers said she wrote for herself and would continue to write even if she were never published again. It was something of a revelation for me. I'd always thought that I wrote for myself, too, but I don't. I write for the reader. What I do doesn't make a complete circle until it becomes a book and someone, somewhere reads that book. Hearing from that person is like a gift, one that can lift spirits and brighten an ordinary day.
For all of you who have taken the time to write to me in the past, thank you-again! For those of you who have thought about writing to a favorite author but wondered if your letter would be welcome, trust me, it would be more than welcome, it would be a treat.
Readers, Georgia can be reached at :
P.O. Box 2254
Rocklin, CA 95677
December 24, 2001