Interview Transcripts

Janet Wellington, Romance Writer: World Building 11/17/05

Event start time:

Thu Nov 17 18:43:31 2005

Event end time:

Thu Nov 17 21:07:13 2005

Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello all!


Welcome to our Professional Connection interview with Janet Wellington.


Back by popular demand, I might add. Janet you are a very welcome guest here!


Janet's latest two novels are paranormal romances. FOREVER ROSE was a 2000 Prism finalist in the time travel category and her new novel, DREAMQUEST, from Dorchester Love Spell, is an "alternate reality" love story that features a Kumeyaay Indian hero and a contemporary ethno-botanist heroine. DREAMQUEST is available now and her newest release: Sweet On You will be out from Thorndike Press in January 2006. Visit her website at:


Janet, start out by telling us about the new book, please...the one due out in January!

Janet Wellington

Hi, everyone! The January book is a reissue of the second book I sold


called SWEET ON YOU. It's a short contemporary about a woman who


gives up the fast lane to open her own gourmet cookie business


called Celestial Cookies -- it's very cute, there's lots of chocolate


and did I mention the chocolate!!!???? The hero is the local DJ


who doesn't want to utilize her business for the Valentine's Day


campaign. It's a hot one -- and there's chocolate!

Mary Rosenblum

Cool...this sounds like a straightforward romance? Not paranormal, yes?

Janet Wellington

Yes, all romance!


There's no such thing as too much chocolate:--)

Janet Wellington

I agree

Mary Rosenblum

So I noticed that it's in large print? Why is that?


Is that a separate edition?

Janet Wellington

Well, I got my rights back and saw an opportunity to resell the story


so I did!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, cool! I thought the title was familiar but I wasn't sure. Want to explain how this worked for our audience?

Janet Wellington

Sure -- I had to write a formal letter to the contracts department


referencing my contract -- I asked for both titles (with Kensington) and


then got an official letter back from them awarding my rights back


which was part of my original contract agreement. A friend


had sold to Thorndike so she gave me the contact name


and I contacted them and basically pitched both stories and they


picked one (and might take the other one in the Spring).

Mary Rosenblum

Want to tell us a bit about how you got started writing?

Janet Wellington

I think my story is typical -- I've always loved to write


but I never really thought I could write a "whole book"


I decided right around my 40th birthday that if I was going to try it, it was time to get started!


I researched A LOT and saw that romance seemed to be the easiest to break into


and joined Romance Writers of America and the rest is history


well, more accurately, the rest was lots of hard work, going to conferences,


educating myself on the genre and the publishing industry, and writing and


writing and writing. I'm still learning, of course, and I believe


you have to keep studying the market and the industry in order to keep selling.

Mary Rosenblum

Hear, hear on that!


Did you read a lot of romance before you started to write it?

Janet Wellington

Honestly, no. I remember getting a box of old Harlequins and thinking there


was no way I could write them -- then I took a Learning Annex class


taught my author Diane Pershing, and HER BOOKS WERE WONDERFUL!


Filled with modern women -- imperfect characters solving their problems


and falling in love. I knew I could do it then! And


I still don't read a lot of romance -- I do analyze different lines, though, so I


can understand what editors are looking for as far as pacing and plotlines, etc.

Mary Rosenblum

And Janet has an article in Writing Craft: Genres about analyzing romance;


Analyzing Romance


Worth reading if you plan on submitting to the publishers.


So romance wasn't your first love in reading so to speak?

Janet Wellington

Roe: nope. Though I have to say that "happily ever after" is my cup of tea


and I love romantic comedy movies, so I guess I love romance in that way


but I grew up reading Nancy Drew and then I tended to read fantasy and SF.


How did you sell your first novel?

Janet Wellington

I still think it was a miracle! Well, actually, here's what I did:


I had written and tried to sell a time travel romance--it "made the rounds" and didn't


sell so I decided to try to write a short contemporary. I studied the lines and


heard that Kensington was taking submissions. So I sent it out


I heard back fairly quickly (maybe a month) and the editor asked me


to cut it (I write long) and I did and she bought it! While that one was


in production, I sent her a proposal for another one (SWEET ON YOU) and


she bought that one in about 24 hours! This is NOT the typical scenario


but it gives you an idea that "it can happen" if the story is right and


your timing is right, and you keep trying!


How do you know if you are a romance writer?

Janet Wellington

Okay, even though I've explained that I didn't read a lot of romance


I did fall in love with the genre! You HAVE to love romance to write it.


I really believe that -- readers can smell a fake! So, if you are drawn


to writing about relationships -- in this case, one man + one woman, then you


might be a good fit for romance. And the genre has so much diversity.


With paranormals, futuristics, Christian, action, suspense -- there's every flavor


of romance out there...really! So, I guess what I'm saying is that I love writing


about how people solve their problems; also about each character's personal


journey -- how they learn their life lesson and that opens up their ability to grow.


My, I'm long winded tonight!

Mary Rosenblum

That's're saying good things. :-)

Janet Wellington



Bet you were walking on cloud 9 when that novel sold.

Janet Wellington

Oh, yeah! There's nothing like it -- and it still thrills me to think about it!


Did you ever get your time travel romance published?

Janet Wellington

Yes! It actually sold next - I met with Cindy Hwang from Berkley at a Romance Writers of America


national conference -- I had an individual appointment with her.


Talk about scary!!! But, I pitched the story and she said "send it" -- I did


and about 10 months later there was a message on my


answering machine from her that she wanted it!!! That was on


a Friday evening, so I spent the whole weekend trying to find an agent


to do the deal -- even though it was "sold" I wanted the protection for the


contract and for someone to negotiate the deal. I did find someone by Wednesday the next week (I


stalled the editor, saying I was making final decisions on agents).


So there was lots of FedExing and we did the deal by the following Friday.


It was all very exciting!

Mary Rosenblum

That's very cool....and I've had Berkeley needed the agent! LOL

Janet Wellington



Those pitches are scary aren't they?

Janet Wellington

Pitching is always scary for me -- oh, I just finished teaching


a "Pitch Perfect" online class through Long Story Short School of Writing.


That was sooooooooooooo fun! I'll probably teach it again in January,


so if anyone wants to check it out, do so! Pitching is difficult and there


is definitely a right and wrong way to do it -- by doing what you need


to do to figure out what to say in a pitch, you also pinpoint if there


is a problem in your story. It's grueling, but so worth it!

Mary Rosenblum

It's like writing a very succinct blurb, isn't it?

Janet Wellington

Kind of -- though the editors want to know the ending


and I guess I think of a blurb as a "tease" -- designed to entice you to


ask for more. Hey, maybe we could do a chat on pitching sometime?

Mary Rosenblum

I was just thinking that. :-) I'll email you open dates!

Janet Wellington


Mary Rosenblum

I guess I was thinking more in terms of a synopsis of blurb length.

Janet Wellington

Right. A story blurb, then (I was thinking back cover blurb).


That's a great idea, I look forward to it.

Janet Wellington

And, yes, getting your story whittled down is essential for query letters, etc.

Mary Rosenblum

We will definitely do it right after Christmas.


Why did you see an agent for the time travel book and not the earlier ones?

Janet Wellington

Good question....the first two books had "flat rate" contracts --


they were a "special" deal between WalMart and Kensington.


The books were called Precious Gems. So there was no need for


an agent for them! No royalties, just a flat rate for the advance.


But, for Berkley (and later for Dorchester; my next time travel) I really


felt vulnerable -- I wanted to make sure my rights were protected


because EVERY contract from a publishing house is going to


benefit the publishing house and not necessarily be the


best deal for the author. I wanted to keep my dramatic rights, for example,


and I wanted more than the minimum of "free author books" for marketing


purposes...that's probably my favorite accomplishment...I kept asking for


more books if we "gave up" something -- I ended up with 75 free books! Heh heh.

Mary Rosenblum

Oooh, that's a nice number. I'll have to suggest that to Martha, my agent.

Janet Wellington

I's amazing they went for it!

Mary Rosenblum

Sayre asked earlier if you have to be an established writer to join the RWA... that's a good place to learn the business isn't it?

Janet Wellington

I always explain that I learned EVERYTHING I know about the romance


genre from RWA -- they are amazing and the thing is, it's an organization that


shares and educates. I sold 3 years after I joined (prior to that


I had been seriously writing on my own for a year). You can join the organization


and take advantage of merely getting the monthly magazine! And then


there are the conferences -- that's where you can really ramp up your education!


I had never written anything longer than a short story or a term paper


and, again, I really listened and learned and tried to emulate the


successful authors I met through RWA!


Did you join your local RWA group also?

Janet Wellington

Yes -- I joined both the San Diego and the Orange County chapters at the same time


as the national -- so, It's a little pricey to get going, but it was so worth it!


Now I live in Oregon and there's no nearby chapters -- I miss the meetings


and the energy of other writers! You can go to and


search for what's available in your area.


Do you still have the same agent?

Janet Wellington

My agent and I parted ways after DREAMQUEST (4th book) and I'm actively


looking -- I have some proposals out with a couple agents right now.


We parted ways amicably -- she never really LOVED my stuff (my


stories were just not what she really liked); she has since retired


to be a full-time mom. She was great -- so honest, and her follow-through


was amazing; very organized and communicative -- so, it was a good experience!


How long did it take you to write your first novel?

Janet Wellington

I think about a year -- I didn't keep track and I was working full-time and


really struggling with what I was doing. For the short contemporaries, though


I think it was more like a few months. I am fine-tuning my method all the time to


try and make things go more smoothly and more quickly!


Did you write fantasy/sf short stories and have prior publications when you made your first novel sale?

Janet Wellington

Nope. I know...a lot of people do try short stories first -- but, again, with romance


you don't have to be published in order to break in. Now, I had always


written in my job -- various jobs -- I always was the one who did the newsletter


or wrote articles or instructional pieces, etc. So, I've always written


but never much fiction!

Mary Rosenblum

That's actually true for all the genres. Book publishers claim that short story readers don't real novels. Short publications are nice, but not at all necessary.


When creating characters do you already know their background?

Janet Wellington

I love working on characters and think it's probably the most


important part of how I get ready to write something new.


If I don't know my characters well enough, I always get "stuck" with the


writing. Sometimes I write pages and pages of what is called backstory.


What that is, is the made-up history -- the past that the characters


have that make them act and react the way they do in the story you're writing.


So, I guess I mostly decide that up front (though there are always surprises


along the way -- new ideas pop into my head or a new "old" experience of


the character sort of shows up and I begin to understand them better.


Does that make sense?

Mary Rosenblum

I think it does. :-)


Are all your novels based on fantasy or are some based on your real life experiences?

Janet Wellington

My first two were short contemporary (meaning present day modern) stories


and my next two were time travels with paranormal elements.


I like to write both!


Thanks for the character advice. I feel much about the way I write. That's what happens to me too. :-)

Janet Wellington

Oh, I'm realizing I need to back up a minute.


The previous question, I think, was actually whether my own experiences


enter into the, I'm going to say that my belief


is that writers bring themselves to their writing -- that there are always


somewhat autobiographical "stuff" there -- whether it's how we relate to


people or the way we grew up...well, maybe we're influenced by it all


and I think our "souls" sneak into the writing -- but, it's all fictional stuff


though I do imagine my villains as some of the "men who done me wrong" and I


do like to send them to jail or kill them off! heh heh.


Okay, back to characters....yes, because the way I write is what is called


"character driven" as opposed to "plot driven" (think here: action adventure


and mystery and detective, etc.), characterization is so important!


Thank you for answer that last question. I think you just unblocked my writers block.

Mary Rosenblum


Janet Wellington



How did you deal with people around you telling you that you were wasting your time writing?

Janet Wellington

Oh, man...I guess I was lucky because I didn't have that --


I have a very supportive husband and parents who made me


believe I could do anything I really set my mind to doing


So, I guess what comes to mind as an answer


is "write if you have to write" -- whether it sells or not! Writing is


very therapeutic and there are some people who will never sell, but


they will learn to write something that they love -- maybe self-publishing


their work or just doing the writing will be enough. I guess I


don't put much value on anyone trying to tell me I'm wasting my time.

Mary Rosenblum

That's a very civilized answer, Janet. :-) I am much less civilized.

Janet Wellington


Mary Rosenblum

Here's a kudos for you, Janet. :-) You have quite the fan club. And deserve it.


I have to leave but I wanted to let Janet know that thanks to her encouragement months ago through personal contact, I never gave up and hopefully have a sale in my near future.

Janet Wellington

Oh, wow! I want to know more, so I hope babbles emails me with the juicy details!


This isn't a question but more of a statement, thank you for what you have said in the last two answers that you gave: I've just found out some somber medical news about myself and my writing gets me through it. You helped me clear me head and get to


a place where I could finish my latest assignment.

Janet Wellington

Wonderful...yes, writing is healing -- there's something so


special about the process...I think it's what keeps me sane


in this insane world. Good luck to you and feel free to email me


if you ever need a pep talk:

Mary Rosenblum

That's very generous of you, Janet.

Janet Wellington

That's for all -- I mean it! Just let me know we met here.


Did you have a lot of expenses, publishing?

Mary Rosenblum

Lapart asked this when you were talking about selling to Berkeley, but I couldn't get it up then.

Janet Wellington

Hmm...I'm not sure I'm following you


Can you elaborate, please?

Mary Rosenblum

Were you asking about paying agents or publishers, lapart?



Mary Rosenblum

aha...time for the agent caveat, Janet!

Janet Wellington

Oh, well, you don't pay agents -- they keep 15% of anything the writer gets...forever!

Mary Rosenblum

In other words, Lapart, they only make money when YOU make money.

Janet Wellington

I, for one, would avoid any agent who charged a reading fee of any kind.


You sometimes pay a "book doctor" to read and critique your work if.


you feel that you need help polishing it or analyzing your work


and I actually have been doing line editing and critiquing on the side.


You can read about this on my website (and what is typically


charged for this type of work), but agents don't normally charge for this!

Mary Rosenblum

You can also check on the Association of Artist's Representatives' homepage for answers to agent questions.


This is the agents' professional association and it has a code of ethics...including NO reading fees!


They have a great FAQ page.

Janet Wellington

Yes, be careful.


When building the world for your much do you know before you start writing?

Janet Wellington

Okay.....long answer ahead.

Mary Rosenblum

We're ready. :-)

Janet Wellington

Let's start with fantasy world building.


I am working on a fantasy story (a young adult story) and


I did about 3 months of research and world building before I


even started plotting the story! Yikes! Did I have to do this?


Maybe not, but I was creating a very complex world


and you really do need to know the "rules" of your world


in order to make it believable. As I recall, one of the first things I did was


make a map of my world (it is an island, actually) -- so I got out graph paper


and started just messing around and creating where mountains were


and streams and kingdoms, etc. There is a great site I wanted to mention.




there is a great article by Holly Lisle on Maps that you might want to check out!...


It's really fun! So, creating a physical world is just one aspect,


but in fantasy or science fiction, I think you need to do that work first.


Now, in "regular" stories, some of that still happens! For instance,


in my time travel FOREVER ROSE -- the setting was 1888 San Diego


in the Gaslamp Quarter; I found old maps and used them.


I created some fictional storefronts and a brothel, but I put them


on the actual streets of the era! I personally like the details.


But, no matter what, your setting needs to be clear and you need to always


remember to describe the setting (your world) realistically and clearly


and try to always use the five senses whether it's a fantasy or a "real" story.

Mary Rosenblum

Those five senses are very important. Most novice writers use about two...sight and hearing. :-)


Any tips on how to incorporate the rest?

Janet Wellington

Yes! Okay, I've prepared an exercise for you all to do (later)


Here's what I want you to do.


Pick a setting to describe and ONLY describe it visually (it can


be a real place or a fictionalized place).


THEN, describe it again, but this time incorporate sound...revise and rewrite.


THEN, describe it this time adding smell.


THEN, describe it using taste.


Now, describe it using touch.


Put it all together -- certainly you'll not use every single thing, but try


to come up with that setting description that utilizes something


from each of your exercises -- compare your first one (the visual only


one) to the final version and you should see a huge difference!

Mary Rosenblum

That's an excellent exercise, Janet. I'll have to add that to my portfolio of workshop exercises!

Janet Wellington



Want another?

Mary Rosenblum

You bet.

Janet Wellington

Okay -- I went to a workshop given by author Sylvia Mendoza.


and she was teaching about, know: using the same Rusty Roy Rocked the Rowboat.


Anyway, she suggested using alliteration to describe a setting


something like: the house was horrible, hinting at henous acts. Oh,


man...I gotta stop watching so much CSI!

Mary Rosenblum


Janet Wellington

Ha! Anyway -- it's just a creativity thing -- it


gets your writing juices flowing in a different way (and you can also


use it to describe your hero and heroine -- picking alliterative adjectives).

Mary Rosenblum

That's interesting.

Janet Wellington

It is .

Mary Rosenblum

You sure don't want to overdo it on the page, though.

Janet Wellington



What I wanted to add.


was that it's an exercise -- but, with that said, if you start looking


for it in books, you'll see it used just'll start to see


it in what I call the "pretty sentences." AND, it's more the internal


alliteration that sounds nice to our Claire found a pair


of trousers in there (the "air" sound).


It's kind of poetic, hm?




you don't want to create tongue twisters on the page, so


don't misunderstand me -- but it's a fun exercise!

Mary Rosenblum

Well, there really is a music to prose, isn't there? I know I choose certain words because they sound better in the sentence or maintain the rhythm.

Janet Wellington



Thanks, I'm writing a fantasy story on an island myself.

Janet Wellington

Oh, cool! How far are you?


Just a lot of ideas running around, will research more now.

Janet Wellington

Let me give you all some book recommendations...


Orson Scott Card's "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy"


The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference -- Writers Digest Books


For Middle Ages type settings: "Everyday Life in the Middle Ages" by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Mary Rosenblum

And for SF writers Steve Gillette’s World Building.


Get your planets right.


What can you tell us about details like the cover art, paper quality, typeface choices...from your experience?

Janet Wellington

Well, new writers have absolutely no say in cover art -- I've


been very lucky and pretty much liked all my covers! Paper quality --


I guess it's whatever they're using at the moment in the publishing house.


And typeface -- again, whatever they're using. The only new typeface size


I've seen is in Harlequin's NEXT line -- more space between the lines and a


little bit bigger -- they are appealing to "older" readers 35-55 or so.

Mary Rosenblum

The big publishers have a book design department...part of the art department. Pretty much off limits to us, alas.


My NaNo novel is a fantasy set on island world also. The Holly Lisle map article was VERY helpful.

Janet Wellington

Oh, good for you for doing NaNo -- I'm failing miserably right now (for


those who don't know -- November is Novel month and we're


supposed to be completing 50,000 words by the last day of the month)


and I haven't posted my numbers 'cause they're so low


but, I you want to talk about fantasy names?

Mary Rosenblum

Let me give you one craft question from lapart and then, yes please, let's talk about fantasy names.


Can the setting and theme be different in a chapter?

Janet Wellington

I'm not sure what you mean, exactly, but if you're asking


if you can change settings within a chapter, sure! You would do


a "scene break" -- skipping lines in between (in a ms. I use *** in


between the paragraphs -- usually there is either a change in POV


or a change in setting or time period.

Mary Rosenblum

I think perhaps lapart isn't clear about the nature of theme?

Janet Wellington

Lapart do you want to ask again?


I'll come back to this, but will start sharing some info


about how to come up with fantasy-sounding names, which


was one of my first hurdles.


There's another book I can recommend:


The Writer's Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook.


It's filled with ethnic names, so they're very useful!


And I found  a medieval name site:

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I'm going to have to go play!

Janet Wellington

I know -- it's great fun!

Mary Rosenblum

I think Lapart needs a definition of theme. That might help.

Janet Wellington

Theme makes me go back to high school.


To me, theme is the "lesson learned" in a romance or in any


fiction story where the character changes. So, themes are the


main idea of the story itself -- as opposed to different themes


within a chapter -- but, you certainly have different "goals"


within each chapter! These would be either "story goals" or


"scene goals" -- these you manipulate as the writer; and


it's part plot and part character driven. Hope that helps?

Mary Rosenblum

And of course each scene can have a different energy.

Janet Wellington



Ok thanks, that makes sense.

Janet Wellington

Oh, whew! I really wanted to answer your question!

Mary Rosenblum

Babbles had to leave but she had a may or may not be able to answer from personal experience.


Janet I recently signed on with an agent, my question is marketing. Where do you go to get bookmarks, pens etc as a give away to fans?

Janet Wellington

I actually make my own bookmarks because I like to do that sort of thing..


There are lots of places on line that help with that sort of thing


and you really don't want to get too carried away, though. I tried


to do most of it myself -- I made little pins of my covers, for example.


I took my cover flat (the cover before it's on the book itself, and you get


those before it hits the shelves) to Kinko's and had them reduce


and duplicate the cover onto a color copy (picture 30 tiny covers on one page).


Then I laminated the sheet, cut out the covers (maybe 2x3 inches)


and then I hot glued a little pin back onto it (from a craft store) and


gave those away! I always had some with me and when people would.


ask about my book I'd hand them a pin to wear! They loved them!


Re: sources for marketing stuff -- I don't have them in my head, but could


easily research this and get back to babbles if someone will tell her to email me?


You can order inexpensive items with your name from Oriental Trading Company 1-800-228-2269

Mary Rosenblum

A local writer here uses them and loves them. They'll put your design on stuff.

Janet Wellington

Oh, yeah! They're great!

Mary Rosenblum

They're very inexpensive.


Let me give you one final question from the audience...before your fingers fall off!


Looking back do you see anything you would have changed?

Janet Wellington

Oh, you made me laugh!


Okay, I guess you mean about the writing and not that guy that…


Okay, I digress....I guess I would have started writing seriously


sooner. I didn't have the confidence, though, so my timing was


probably right anyway! I honestly think everything happened right


when it was supposed to. Oh, I just thought of something.


I wouldn't have BURNED ALL MY JOURNALS when I was a teenager.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, gosh, that's the same thing I'd change -- starting earlier. Hind sight is 20/20 isn't it?


I still have the journal however.

Janet Wellington


Mary Rosenblum



Janet, you have been wonderful as usual.

Janet Wellington

Oh, you know I'd stay here all night if I could! You all are so much fun.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm just going to have to invite you regularly....we never have enough time to cover everything and you're a great guest!

Janet Wellington

And I love doing this -- your energy comes right through the keyboard


and into my fingers!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh you're contributing your share. We'll talk about the next date!


Goodnight Ms. Wellington , wish you well with all you do.


Thank you so much, this has been so informative/ my first time here.


Very cool...thanks for those links! I need a dragon name!


Thank you so much, Janet, for all the specific and helpful information. Thank you for coming.


Thanks for another good interview, Janet and Mary

Mary Rosenblum

Super job, Janet!

Janet Wellington

You're welcome (let me know the dragon name!)



Mary Rosenblum

We'll see you back here before too long!


I'll email you!

Janet Wellington



Thanks for a very informative and entertaining session!


and we look forward to your next one

Mary Rosenblum

We sure do!


But we'll let you rest now.


Thanks so much for coming, Janet.

Janet Wellington

My pleasure!

Mary Rosenblum

Good night and happy Thanksgiving!


Return to Interview Transcripts

Home | Writing Course | Short Story | Full Story Writing Test 
Send Me Full Info | Enroll | Our Instructors | Our CredentialsSample Lesson 
College Credits | Tax Deductibility | From Overseas  | Writer's Bookstore  
Free Writer's News | Life Support for Writers | Chat Room  | Live Forum | Writing Craft
Calendar of Events | Professional Connection | Transcripts | Post a Note | Surviving & Thriving
Student Center | Privacy Policy | Web EditorComments | Writing for Children 

LongRidge Writers Group
91 Long Ridge Road, West Redding, Connecticut 06896
Telephone: 1-800-624-1476 ~ Fax: 203-792-8406

Copyright © Writer's Institute, Inc., 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
No part of the electronic transmission to which this notice is appended may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the express written permission of Writer's Institute, Inc.