Interview Transcripts

Veda Boyd Jones: Inspirational Romance 1/26/06

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!


I'm glad you all could make it!


Tonight my guest is Veda Boyd Jones.


Veda Boyd Jones is the author of eight inspirational romances for Heartsong Presents and five novellas. Her Callie's Mountain won the 1995 best contemporary award (voted on by readers). It's just been re-issued with a sequel, Callie's Challenge. She has worked for Heartsong as a content reader for historical inspirational romance novels. Jones also writes fiction and nonfiction for children.


She's here to talk to us about Inspirational Romance...and to answer questions about Romance and writing in general.


Veda, welcome!


We're so pleased to have you here tonight.

Veda Boyd Jones

Hi, Mary, and hi to all you writers.

Mary Rosenblum

I was intrigued by Heartsong. Is it a publisher or a book club or both?

Veda Boyd Jones

Heartsong is an imprint of Barbour Books


It's a book club that comes out with four titles every four weeks


and after about five months, those same books are released for retail at bookstores.

Mary Rosenblum

Heartsong Presents Christian Publisher


What a very cool marketing idea!


It's sort of like selling to a bookclub and a regular publisher at the same time.

Veda Boyd Jones

Yes, it's been very successful for Barbour.

Mary Rosenblum

So how did you get started in writing?

Veda Boyd Jones

Like many writers, I read a romance and said, "I can do better than that!: Of course


it wasn't easy. I wrote four complete romances before


I sold the fifth one.

Mary Rosenblum

That's not a bad break-in record! :-)


That's a lot of books! Are they actively seeking writers?

Veda Boyd Jones

Barbour is seeking writers for Heartsong.


The editors are delighted to find a new writer with talent.

Mary Rosenblum

Here are their  guidelines.


I know we have a lot of aspiring romance writers out there.


Hi Veda! Welcome! I'm very excited you've joined us tonight. Inspirational romance is one of my loves. About how long does it take you to go from first draft to the completed book?

Veda Boyd Jones

I can write an inspirational in about four months


and that includes about five revisions.


I do a lot of plotting before I start writing.


It saves a lot of time once I get going.


When I begin the writing, I just keep going.


I read what I wrote the day before, edit a bit, and take off from that point.


I rarely end a scene at the end of a day.


I find if I'm in the middle of something


it's easier to jump back in the next day.

Mary Rosenblum

Those are very good tips...about doing your plotting first and quitting in the middle of a scene. I use them both myself


but I can't beat you on time. :-) Takes me longer than four months.

Veda Boyd Jones

My first book took eight months, but I'm faster now.


Do you write short fiction or books only?

Veda Boyd Jones

I write both, and for all levels of readers.


I've written short romance stories for Woman's World


and I've written novellas for Barbour Book anthologies.


I've also written quite a bit for children's magazines and thirtysome children's books from high school to first grade level.

Mary Rosenblum

I noticed those novellas, and wondered if they were for anthologies or were short stand alones.


Is Heartsong compeletly Christian based?

Veda Boyd Jones

Yes. Heartsong must have an inspirational message. If the characters aren't


Christian, they must be at the end of the story.


I have never written a conversion story. I usually base my novels


around a theme of forgiveness or acceptance or compromise.

Mary Rosenblum

Let's lay down a foundation here...would you define 'Inspirational Romance' for us?

Veda Boyd Jones



Inspiration Romance is a romance with a Christian background.


That's a simple definition.


There's more to it than that, or rather, they've developed into more than that.


When I wrote my first one in 1992, it was enough to have a Christian background.


Now I believe the books have more religion in them.

Mary Rosenblum

Which should be stronger? The romance or the Christian message?

Veda Boyd Jones

First of all, these books are romance. They were written for the reader to enjoy..


and those readers are Christian women who want a good love story..


without the carnal details that are in regular romance books.

Mary Rosenblum

What are the taboos? How far can the 'romance' go?

Veda Boyd Jones

Well, kisses are okay.


But there is never sex before marriage in an inspirational.


And there is no detail if there's a love story in a marriage.


I've written one romance (a sequel) where the hero and heroine were married.


I just had them go to the bedroom, but I never described what went on in there!

Mary Rosenblum

Does Barbour offer aspiring contributors a list of 'dos' and 'don'ts' in terms of what is and is not permissible?

Veda Boyd Jones

Yes, I believe those things are included in the guidelines which are online.


They don't allow cuss words or words like 'darn' and 'heck'


which they feel are substitutes for cuss words.


Don't you have to be careful in dealing with relationships?

Veda Boyd Jones

The main characters are not divorced, but secondary characters can be.


You certainly have to be careful in the sensual details.


What is a conversion story?

Veda Boyd Jones

A conversion story is where one character converts the other to Christianity.


Many of the stories have someone who has lost faith because of, oh, parents being kille


for example, and the hero or heroine is angry with God. The other character brings that


character back into the fold.

Mary Rosenblum

Is the market good for inspirationals?

Veda Boyd Jones

It's a growing market...


I read somewhere (so don't quote me) that nearly 15% of all religious titles are now romances.


I was stunned to find my Callie's Mountain --


the reprint that has two novels and a novella with the same characters --


at Wal-Mart, at Sam's, at Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.


That's huge distribution, and that speaks of the growing market for inspirationals.


The section of religious fiction at Barnes and Noble varies according to the section of the country where the store is located.


My son in NYC says one store near him has only two shelves of 'religious fiction.' The store near me in Arkansas


has two bookcases devoted to that genre.

Mary Rosenblum

Romance is a growing market right across the publishing board. Wow! Big congratulations on ending up in the big chains! Nice to know that Barbour distributes to them.

Veda Boyd Jones

Thanks. I'm excited about it. I don't have to tell other writers the great thrill


it is to find a book with your name on it in a big bookstore


If you haven't had the thrill yet, you can imagine it and keep the hope that it will be there for you soon.


How do you break into romance writing?

Veda Boyd Jones

I just wrote a book that I thought would fit the guidelines. When I was writing the first one,


the process was to send three chapters and a summary.


Then the editor would ask for more if she wanted to read the entire thing.


Once I'd sold a couple, I sold romances on the summary and a chapter.


Different publishers have different ways of breaking in


but I'd suggest first time authors have a completed book before sending a proposal


(that’s a summary and three chapters) to an editor.


That way when the editor asks to see the entire manuscript, you can send it off that day.

Mary Rosenblum

That's sound advice no matter what publisher you plan to contact


since I don't know any publisher who will buy on a simple synopsis from an unpublished author.


I live in Northwest Arkansas. Do you have any plans for a book signing up my way?

Veda Boyd Jones

Ashton, I rarely do book signings. Before I sold a book, I dreamed of signing


books at a bookstore. The first time I did it, I sold one book.


I felt like I was running a garage sale, and people wouldn't look me in the eye.


I've done better than one book, but I think my top is nine books at a signing that wasn't connected with


a literature festival at a school. I'm probably the rare writer


who doesn't like book signings.


By the way, I was born in NW Arkansas, in Sulphur Springs, and I have a masters in history from the University of Arkansas.


I love the state.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, Veda, you're very typical. Many writers, myself included, don't like bookstore signings. I only do them


for stores that advertise the event and usually do a reading too. Like you, I HATE


to just sit at a table and try to get people to buy my books.

Veda Boyd Jones

Here's another thing...


I long ago read an article where an author complained about her book cover


and I thought, get a life, babe. You don't know how good you've got it. You have a cover.


Now I've complained about book covers. It's true that covers sell books.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, isn't it interesting how your perspective changes as you advance from 'first sale' to regular author? :-)

Veda Boyd Jones

It sure is.


But I never forget what it felt like to sell that first book.

Mary Rosenblum

Me neither. That moment is priceless.


How hard is the market to break into for new authors? Is it like the other markets in that sense?

Veda Boyd Jones

It is no harder and no easier to break into inspirational romance than regular romance.


There are just as many writers scrambling for the publishing slots of those books. But the cream


will rise. If you write a really good book that fits a publishing niche, then it will sell.


You have to keep faith in yourself


and sometimes that's hard to do. I know. I've had well over


500 rejections in my writing career, and I still get them


and I still don’t' like them, but they're part of the business.


Remember, it was my fifth book that sold. Later I went back and rewrote those


first four books


and sold them..


It just took me awhile to learn the techniques of the selling writer


and there are tons of things I still have to learn.


What inspired you to write Romance? What inspires you to continue to write Romance?

Veda Boyd Jones

Okay, I thought it would be easy


but it wasn't.


Anyone who thinks romance doesn't take good character development and solid plots


just like a mainstream book doesn't know much about the business.


Yes, there is a formula to romance.


The ending is known from page one.


The hero and heroine will end up together on the last page.


But all the stuff in-between Chapter One and The End is up for grabs.


Can you name a few techniques of a selling writer?

Veda Boyd Jones



Dialogue. Watch the tags.


Said is an invisible word and should be used instead of replied, added, commented.


All those tag words that don't mean much, yet are read by the reader. There are good


tags like whispered, shouted, whined because they show how something is said.


You can't use impossible words as tags.


Ever tried to smile words?


I had an editor change one of my tag lines to she smiled, and I hated that it went out


in a magazine with my byline.


You can use actions, I call them dialogue beats, to tell who's speaking


for example: "Hand me the pliers." Jim held his hand out, just like a surgeon waiting for a scalpel.

Mary Rosenblum

I call them action tags, with my students. :-) VERY effective.


What kind of plots do editors look for in the inspirational genre?

Veda Boyd Jones

A careful writer mixes up tags and action tags.


You know, inspirationals are open to a wider variety of plots


than regular romances.


Category romances have taboos against land development plots or actors as characters.


Those are fine in inspirationals.


With all the 'Can't dos,' do you find it a challenge to come up with new characters and plots?

Veda Boyd Jones

Yes, sometimes I do


because we as writers like to mirror the real world and


present a take-away for the reader that can help her


in her life, and sometimes the confines of inspirationals don't allow the development


of a full character.


I'm saying this all wrong


but take divorce.


It happens, and not to allow the main characters to have suffered that horrible emotional


feeling means the book may not ring true. Oh, the secondary


characters can have a divorce, but it isn't explored. With half our population


divorced, that doesn't seem to mirror the real world.


By the way, as Jim says, he's still married to his first wife (that's me) and has been for 30 years.

Mary Rosenblum



So Veda were you a longtime Romance reader before you began to write it?

Veda Boyd Jones

My family moved to Tulsa and we knew no one. On the second day we


were there, I went to the library to enroll our oldest son in the story hour. I wasn't


allowed to get a library card because I didn't yet have proof of residency, and taxes supported the library.


I was allowed to take some paperback books on the honor system.


My choices were western and romances. I chose romances,


and the rest is history!

Mary Rosenblum

Do you think a would be Romance writer needs to be a regular reader of Romance first?

Veda Boyd Jones

Yes. Absolutely. A writer should write what she/he likes to read.


The best way to learn writing is to read, read, read.


As a reader, you've all judged books. At times, you may not have realized


why you liked one book or author better than another


but I'll bet by now you can see little things that make a book a good read.


I'm impressed. I can't imagine finishing a book in 4 short months. Are you contracted to do a certain number a year for's that work?

Veda Boyd Jones

No, I have never been contracted to write a certain number of books.


I've just sent the book manuscripts (or chapters) in one at a time.


And the writing gets easier, and that's my job.


So, I don't just write two hours a day.


I get breakfast for Jim (the boys are out of the house now), throw a load of laundry in, sweep the kitchen, and head to my office


which is a converted bedroom. Until a year ago, I wrote in a corner of the family room.


Then I spend the day writing, with a break for lunch with Jim, then I stop when he comes home. Unless


I'm on deadline, and then I work at night, too.


How long did it take to write Callies Mountain?

Veda Boyd Jones

That book took about four months. But I knew the plot and the location before I started writing. The


most I've written in a day is 13 pages. But I'm consistent. I drum out eight to ten pages each day. And that adds


up pretty fast. Revising is easier than the rough draft. You can't edit a blank page. Once you


have something on paper, you can figure out what works and what's too slow and fix it.


When I first started writing, I didn't like revising one bit. And I didn't do much.


Remember, my first four books didn't sell when I first wrote them


and one reason was lack of revision. One of the most important things I've


learned is to not


skip revision. When I was writing short stuff for magazines


I might write it in the morning and send it out in the afternoon. Obviously


I didn't revise...and just as obviously, most of the stuff was rejected.


What kinds of things did you change in those first four books after you sold your fifth?

Veda Boyd Jones

Hard question. It's been a long time


but I'm sure I developed the characters more. I had more introspection


and less dialogue. I wrote too heavy on dialogue in the beginning


and dialogue is important, but I had talking heads.


That’s two people talking on an entire page. Just like a phone conversation. The


reader needs to see action.


I also would have chosen words carefully.


A writer friend once told me that I'd written every word the first time,


now I had to go back and look at every word again and see if it was the right word.


I replaced a lot of adverbs with stronger verbs. For example, instead of saying


walked slowly across the floor, I might change it to she tiptoed.


Do you revise as you go or wait until you have your book complete?

Veda Boyd Jones

My system is to revise each day


and I do that because I reread what I've written the day before to get me started


and I can't let a badly constructed sentence stay. It's second nature to me now to


correct what I'm reading. I still do complete revisions after the rough is done


and I read the final version aloud to hear the rhythm


and it is never my final version. I always find something else that I need to change. Once I


get to the point that I'm changing a word back and forth, I know I've revised enough.


Do you write better in the mornings?

Veda Boyd Jones

I don't know.


I like mornings, and I like getting started, but I write more


in the afternoons, I think. Once you go in the zone


you just keep typing.


When I write, I'm watching a movie in my mind and describing on paper what


I see and what the characters are saying, and what they're wearing, and what they're doing.


When I first begin that day, I'm more in the mode of choosing their clothes. Does that make sense?

Mary Rosenblum

It does to me. :-) I know that progression well.


Did guilt about spending too much time writing ever get in the way of your writing? If it did, how did you handle that?

Veda Boyd Jones

When my three sons were young, they took naps every afternoon


from one o'clock when Jim went back to work from lunch, until three. That was my


writing time for years.


My oldest son won Best Rester in kindergarten because he fell asleep at rest time. He was so used to


sleeping in the afternoon!....Once my youngest son started first grade,


I became a full-time writer.


So, although I had to drop off and pick up from school


and take cookies to homeroom parties


I still had most of the day to myself


to write. My breaks were to talk on the phone


with friends while I was ironing.


Then I'd get back to the computer.

Mary Rosenblum

Have you ever run into a case of writer's block?

Veda Boyd Jones

So I didn't experience guilt because I kept the house going, the family going, but had the luxury of being alone in silence for several


hours a day to work.


I do not believe in writer's block, so I'm trying to come up with a new name for what I'm experiencing right now.


I've started a book, then last week erased the entire file.


I didn't plot enough. I didn't do character sketches, which I always do. I don't


know what I was thinking.


But there are times when the mind is on overload


and 2005 was a horrible year for me.


My dad died in June. Jim had colon cancer surgery in September and lung cancer surgery in November. Both contained


no chemo. As the doctor said, "What did you do in Viet Nam?" But we're through those times, and I must focus on writing again.


Anyone have a tip for me about that?

Mary Rosenblum

I’m not sure there is one, Veda. Sometimes life simply gets in the way.


What an awful year!

Veda Boyd Jones

Sorry to get so personal here,

Mary Rosenblum

I'm so sorry.

Veda Boyd Jones

But writers need the ups and downs or we wouldn't have things to write about, would we?

Mary Rosenblum

Alas, yes.


I'm glad you got persona. My sister just told me she has liver cancer, and I haven't written much ...can’t find a way to focus right now. How did you?

Veda Boyd Jones

Well, it was hard, but when I was on deadline, I just did it. I was working on a middle-grade novel about the Trail of Tears


when my dad died. I was with him when he died, and that scene is in that book. It helped me to write it. In my journal


I just wrote, 'my dad died last night.' That was all. But in a book, I could step back and give the emotions the heroine felt as she stayed with this


woman who was dying.

Veda Boyd Jones

Radioflyer, I don't have any magic answers on controlling the mind, except to write it, not as it's happening to you, perhaps, but as a character


would react to the situation. I'll be sending positive thoughts to you and your sister.

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's part of the power of writing, Veda....and part of what brings characters to life on the page.

Mary Rosenblum

Our own loves and losses and fears and triumphs.

Veda Boyd Jones

I just got the galleys


on that book last week


and I cried when I read through several scenes. Yet, the tears were healing.


I'm sorry, Veda. Don't think there are any easy answers. 2005 was a horrible year for me as well. Two of my fur babies died, my father, in remission from one cancer and a kidney problem developed skin cancer that ate through his ear. Had to graft the skin. I couldn't write under all that stress, but it was the writing that gave me something to wrap myself around when things finally settled down.

Veda Boyd Jones

Ashton, I understand your pain and the wonder of writing that can bring focus to our lives.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you find that you draw directly on your life experience when you build your characters?

Veda Boyd Jones

My characters are me. They have lots of my wonderful :) qualities and some of my bad

Mary Rosenblum

Do they have their origins in people you know?

Veda Boyd Jones

I've also written about my relatives and people I know


disguised by physical details and different names, of course.


By using actual people, I feel I'm drawing real characters.


And I set romances only in places I've been. When I once wrote


about Abilene, Texas, I took a video camera to old Fort Phantom Hill and watched it several times


to hear how the wind howled around the stone chimneys that remained from the original buildings.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, very cool. I'm sure it added a lot of richness to the book.


What a powerful detail

Mary Rosenblum

I agree.

Veda Boyd Jones

Sounds are details


we sometimes forget to add to scenes


but like smell, sound is a powerful sense.


I think smell is so very powerful. You know, if you mention a movie theater,


people immediately smell the popcorn


or if you mention a hospital, the odor of antiseptics pops into the mind.


Any of your relatives ever suspect who they were in your book?

Veda Boyd Jones

Oh, that question made me laugh.


I've written a mainstream novel that I'm trying to sell now


but I had to wait until after my aunt died to write it.


That came out wrong.


I wasn't hoping she'd pass on...she was my favorite aunt,


but I wanted to write a book about the life she should have had.


I use names of relatives a lot.


In Callie's Mountain, the hero is Morgan P. Rutherford, III. Morgan is my second son.


I've also written about Landon and Marshall. They each got to be a hero in a novel.

Mary Rosenblum

That's cool.


Sort of a family memorial.



Veda Boyd Jones

About names.


It's important to get the right name for a character. You all know that giving


a 25-year-old heroine a name like Eula isn't going to work.


Names have to fit the character and the historical time.


Do too many emotional scenes disconnect the reader?

Mary Rosenblum

What do you think, Veda?

Veda Boyd Jones

Think about a situation comedy on TV.


There's usually a light subplot and a serious subplot


and it's the same in a book.


You, the writer, are in control of your reader's emotions. You


want them to cry at a sad scene, and you want them


to laugh at something that's funny. There has to be a balance


for the book to work.


Is romance your favorite to write? Or do you prefer writing children's books?

Veda Boyd Jones

I started writing children's books for my sons. I wrote romance for me. I'm working


on a romance short story right now,


and I'm having fun with it. For short stories


I take something that's happened to me and fictionalize it


and I always enjoy the process. Of course


I usually feel that whatever I'm not working on at the moment is easier


than what I'm working on. If I'm writing fiction


then I think nonfiction is easier because there's a framework for


how facts must be presented


and you can't change the facts, they must be true.


But if I'm working on nonfiction, then I think fiction is easier because.


you just get to make up the entire thing and there's no need for three sources for every fact.


Oh, and writing for children


is harder than writing for adults. You have to think differently and yet not talk down to kids.


Do you write for only one reading level at a time or can you jump easily between reader's levels?

Veda Boyd Jones

I work on only one book at a time. So if it's a biography for high school level


I concentrate on that level of vocab and sentence structure. If it's a short rookie


biography for first graders


I work very hard to get it on the right level. The younger the child, the harder


it is, because the reading vocabulary is so limited.


I can jump from one level one week to start another book the next week because I've been


doing it so long. Like anything, the more you write, the easier it becomes.


How quickly do you write your short stories?

Veda Boyd Jones

I can write a romance short story in an afternoon. Then I leave it alone for a week.


Then I work on it for an hour a day doing revisions.


I do that several days, and then I send it out.


A market I like to write for is Woman's World. The romances are about 1000 words, and the pay


is good.  Still, I only sell about one in four that I send in. The market is very competitive.

Mary Rosenblum

That's a market a lot of folk have been trying to crack, I know.


How do you start your character chart?

Veda Boyd Jones

I start with a name


then I give the age, parents, siblings


place of birth, hair color, height, weight, eye color, important past experiences


best friends (and why), enemies (and why), pets, favorite food, job, type of car, sense of humor


goals, ambitions, philosophy of life, favorite music, sports, favorite color and type of dress


what makes the character sad, what makes her laugh, what makes her come alive,


what the reader will like about her, what the reader will dislike about her.


If I seem to rattle this off, it's because I'm looking at a character sketch sheet right now.


Tomorrow I'll fill one out for the character in my new novel.

Mary Rosenblum

Veda, I suspect we could keep you here for another couple of hours. You have been a marvelous guest and you've given us some wonderful tips and insights.

Veda Boyd Jones

Thanks, Mary.

Mary Rosenblum

Before we close, can you tell us about your current projects?

Veda Boyd Jones

I have a new middle-grade book coming out in April called Nellie the Brave. It's about the Trail of Tears, and it's in the Sisters in Time series for Barbour.


I also have a rookie bio of JFK coming out from Scholastic in March. And bios of Sacagawea and Thurgood Marshall coming out from McGraw-Hill this month.


But tomorrow is the big day when I start a new book--not the writing, but the planning. I may draw a map of the town after I do the character sketch of the main character.


The planning part is exciting. And I have the mainstream novel, The Keeper of Secrets, that an editor promises a decision on by mid-March (like that will happen).


I always double the time an editor says it will take her to read a book.

Mary Rosenblum

Veda we never did get a chance to talk about your historicals. Maybe you'll be willing to come back another time and we can focus on those?

Veda Boyd Jones

I'd be glad to, Mary.


Thanks Veda


Thank You Mary, this was right up my alley tonight. Please thank our guest.


Thanks so much for talking with us. I've enjoyed it! Would love to have you return.


Thanks so much for coming.

Mary Rosenblum

You have been very popular, and I'll email you about another visit. Thank you so much for coming!


Thanks Veda. And God bless.

Veda Boyd Jones

Good night all.

Mary Rosenblum

Thank you Veda, and good night!


Good night all!


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