Muriel Jensen is the author of more than 70 contemporary romances. Her strong characterizations and realistic portrayals of people meeting and falling in love have endeared her to readers around the world. We recently caught up with this busy author and asked her about her work and her years of success.|
Muriel, thank you for joining us. Tell us a bit about the behind-the-scenes author.
I was born in New Bedford, Mass., met my husband, Ron, in Los Angeles
when we were both working for The Times, he in advertising and I in the
secretarial pool. We moved to Oregon where we adopted our children, who
are now all grown with families of their own. Total count of
grandchildren is 11.
We have a 6-month-old black Labrador named Fred Astaire (because he has
such cool moves), and three cats - Hillary, Camille, and Shaman.
I like to do cross stitch because it requires no fine embroidery skills,
just the ability to count. I hate to cook, love to eat out.
For readers who are just getting to know your work, what is your writing background?
I sold my first book to American Romance in 1983, then eventually sold to
Superromance. Have also published two Harlequin Historicals, and one
novella in an anthology entitled 'Love by Chocolate' to Berkley-Jove.
I love the lighter-hearted Americans, and the more emotional
Superromances. Working on both seems to keep me balanced. (If you can
apply that word to a writer.) I enjoyed writing the historicals, but
worried constantly about accuracy.
I believe my total of titles sold at this point is 75.
Why did you choose to write romance, rather than some other type of book?
I write romance because I read it voraciously. I read Gothics in the old
days and tried writing one, but they require a serious darkness and that
just isn't me. Slapstick in a Gothic just doesn't sell. Then I
discovered Harlequins in the middle-seventies and loved Violet Winspear,
Anne Mather, Anne Hampson, Margaret Way, Lillian Peake. They London
office rejected my novel at about the same time Janet Dailey began
writing for them as their first American author. I was thrilled for her
- and loved her books. I had a manuscript ready when my husband came
home with a Wall Street Journal article about Harlequin opening a New
So, how did your first sale come about?
My first sale on March 9, 1983, was an American Romance entitled
WINTER'S BOUNTY about a woman unable to have children. On the
'write-what-you-know principle' that idea was borrowed from my own
experience and set in Astoria, Oregon, where I live. Debra Matteucci, my
editor, called to say she had a 'few revisions.' May I just say that an
editor's notion of 'a few' and a writers perception of 'a few' are
completely different. I rewrote half the book while working full time in
a retail store during Christmas. My husband is a saint and did
everything for the children and to maintain the house. It was an ordeal
that's been well worth the price. I've often thought since that it would
have been so much simpler for Debra to have rejected that book than to
have put herself through what it took to guide me to the published
product. There is no more noble person in the world than an editor who
knows what she's doing.
You've been writing for quite a while. What changes have you seen in the genre over time?
I believe Romance is so enduring because it transcends our everyday lives
while still being a barometer of the times. When most women were
housewives, romance novel heroines were secretaries and governesses. As
women moved to the workplace, heroines did too, eventually becoming CEOs
and members of the board. Now Romance reflects our love of small-town
life, blended families, heroes who know how to deal with children. Those
of us who understand the genre can relate to any woman's struggle to hold
together her family whether she's in Manhattan or on a ranch in Texas
because we know she does it for love.
Your characters are always down-to-earth; one reader described them as "really good people". To what do you attribute this?
I grew up with good, down-to-earth people. My father was a foreman in a
factory, and my mother was a short-order cook. We lived in an apartment
over a store in a mill town populated with many other wonderful people.
Our neighborhood was filled with French-Canadians and Portuguese, and I
can still remember how wonderful it smelled at dinnertime. As I recall,
we had few delusions or pretensions because our realitity was pretty
spectacular. We were probably fell into the low middle-income bracket,
but we were rich in family and friends.
When you start your stories, do you have them all outlined? Or do you let the characters dictate where you'll go with it?
I write about a twenty-page synopsis of what I intend to do because my
editor likes to know what I have in mind. Marketing trends are important
to know and she keeps track of those. That plan gives me a sense of
direction - very important when beginning a book, but I resist planning
every detail because - as in real life - the unexpected happens in the
process of getting the characters from start to finish and I get a better
result if I'm open to surprise.
Do you have a favorite among the books you've written?
A CAROL CHRISTMAS,, an American Romance published, I think, in '89,
remains my favorite. I'm very schmaltzy at heart and this contains
orphaned children, nuns, Christmas, and two lovers with big hearts. I
wrote it to the absolute outside edge of mushy and loved every moment.
It's one of the few books I've written that came out just as I saw it in
my head. I also like my DELANCEY BROTHERS series for Superromance.
Because they'd inherited a winery, it was my opportunity to buy wine and
write it off!
What role does the Internet play when writing and marketing your books?
The Internet's an invaluable tool for research. The first time I used
an unfamiliar setting for a book, looked up the city on the Internet,
e-mailed the Chamber of Commerce and was promised a relocation packet
would be put in the mail that afternoon - and I never even left my chair!
- I was sold.
I still don't have a personal web site (I know, I know. I'm going to get
to it.) but I have a page on eHarlequin.com and on Superauthors.com and
know that some readers have reached me through them.
I know that more and more books are purchased on-line and while I ache
for the little bookstores (I used to manage one!) I have to appreciate
the convenience of the Internet for readers who can't get to a store. I
hope all markets survive.
Muriel, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with all your upcoming projects! Readers, you can visit Muriel's websites at http://www.superauthors.com/Jensen.html or www.eharlequin.com.