Thursday, September 13, 2007

Author Janet Riehl - "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary" - An Interview

by Linda Della Donna

Meet Janet Riehl, award-winning writer and artist.

Riehl's artwork, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in Harvard Review, International Poetry Review, and Lullwater Review. Riehl is active participant in the community art scene, and has served on boards. She has given outdoor art performances, produced poetry readings, and performed in theatrical productions such as The Vagina Monologues. Riehl's work has been presented in several Women’s Caucus for the Arts exhibitions, and not once, but twice, Riehl was nominated for poet laureate of Lake County, California.

Today, Little Red Mailbox honors Riehl's recent book, Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, written after the tragic death of her sister, Julia Ann Thompson. Sightlines is a lasting tribute to Julian Ann Thompson. Moreover, it is a rich collection of poetry and family photos. In Sightlines: A Poet's Diary, Riehl documents her family’s coming to terms with grief--Celebrating past memories--And writing through difficult times leading to the present.

On behalf of Little Red Mailbox, this writer welcomes warmly Janet Riehl and thanks her sincerely for this interview.

Janet, please tell readers a little about yourself?

I was born and raised on the bluffs above the Mississippi River in Southwestern Illinois. In my early twenties I set out to find my fortune, or more accurately, my destiny, and traveled extensively all over the world and lived mostly in Western United States when I returned. Just recently I’ve returned to the Midwest to be close to my father, now 91, who is also a writer.

How has living in the Midwest affected your writing?

The Midwest definitely informs the rhythm and cadence of my written and spoken style. In “Sightlines” the Midwest and our homeplace here (since the 1860s) became not only topic, but also a kind of character in the book.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing one way or another since forever: first as a kid, then journals, then supporting myself professionally, then moving to creative writing as a focus. I had to overcome my English Major Syndrome. There are a lot of us former English majors out there, you know, suffering, and we should probably form a group, because our writing will never be good enough until we recover.

Where do your ideas come from?

Mostly my work is drawn from life. The piece ”The Starling” in the “Harvard Review,” for instance is about my father and what happens at a birdfeeder on a cold winter day. That piece came straight out of a journal. For me the big deal is not the writing so much as times in my life when I focus to really get the work out there into form and into the right hands.

what is the difference between anthologies and literary journals and getting published in them?

The biggest difference between getting work into anthologies and literary journals is time. It seems to take about two years from first submission to publication. At least that’s about what it took for “Stories to Live By,” published by an imprint of Travelers Tales and "Hot Flashes” (light erotica by women) published by the Left Coast Writers. “Hot Flashes” is launching at the end of the month and I’m going out for the reading and party. I’m pretty excited. There’s one in the works, too, called “Women Spirit” that’s been great because I’ve been in communication with the editor through each of her stages with contracts and shopping the collection to publishers and so forth. I was connected to that one through a reader of my poetry book “Sightlines.”

What is special about being in anthologies?

The thrilling thing about being in anthologies is that usually there’s a mix of names and no-names (such as myself) and the writing is often equally good. There you are, reading along, enjoying the other work in the anthology, when you turn the page and shucks, there it is—your piece. What a rush.

Janet, was there ever a moment in your writing career when you thought you just couldn't write?

I’m fortunate in that in addition to writing I’m talented in several of the arts—visual, performing, music—so I tend to go in cycles. I’ll be heavily into writing at a given time and then carve out a season to make and exhibit visual art. This has worked well for me and I never worry or wonder about the writing. I know it’s there for me when I’m there for it.

Do you have a favorite writing tip? A favorite book? Perhaps a favorite author?

Hmmm…. (A) favorite writing tip: Do your best to enjoy your writing while at the same time understanding that it’s work like all worthwhile crafts.

Favorite book? Read Clive Matson’s “Let the Crazy Child Write.”

Favorite author? Whoever I’m reading at the time, maybe. I love the books from my childhood written in the early 1900s such as Gene Stratton-Porter’s work.

Any advice for a writer working at maintaining a blog, creating a website, and writing a first book, care to share?

You know that slogan “Dance as if no one is watching”? Same thing with writing. Write as if only your heart is listening, and in time other hearts will want to hear, too. There’s so much advice out there now.

For a website, that’s a marketing tool, so that requires a sense of clarity about what you’re selling and what the result is that you want.

For a blog, especially a blog that is a face page for your own website, that requires a sense of mission, vision, dedication…because you’ll be doing it over the long haul. You need to decide how often you’ll post and who your audience is, and again, what you want out of it.

Janet, gotta ask, what’s it like to live your dream--book, author, ISBN number?

Your dream is only as good as you are. Whatever weaknesses you have before, you will still have. The dream is like a rainbow—appearing, yet illusory. That feeling of transcendence is a good thing. But, the author still has to live in the world.

How can readers learn more about you?

I hope readers will come visit my father and me at my blog “Riehlife: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century” at They can read sample poems there and talks I’ve given at readings.

Janet, when was Sightlines published, how long did it take to write, and can you describe the feeling?

Sightlines was published February 2006, about a year after I started writing the poems. Publishing a book is really a birth.

The actual writing of the body of work after its inception in late December took nine months. Through spiritual guidance—common sense really—I was shown not only how to begin but also how to protect the work while writing. I wrote with the door closed, so to speak, without much commentary or critiquing from others. I simply wrote from my heart. This is how the form of the story poem evolved.

Why did you decide to write the book, Sightlines?

Perhaps it was more that the book wanted to be written. I felt a spiritual leading to begin the book when I went on a small retreat at the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate. I received this message: “Cleaning. During this quiet time.” The whole world seemed charged with meaning. I resolved to tease out that meaning through writing these poems. This was my 56th birthday gift—the spiritual guidance to write the book.

Where did the words for Sightline come from?

Once I started writing, they just flowed. It was the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons. I wanted to use the work as an act of healing for myself, my family, and the larger human family.

What about themes. Where did they come from?

It’s a family memoir of six generations told in story poems. As such, it reveals stages in human life, but particularly caring for parents, aging, death—and the bereavement that follows as well as the ways in which that strengthens family spirit. My sister died in a car accident in August of 2004. The book shows how we moved through important stages of bereavement and became stronger as a family.

Janet, what is a story poem? Please expand.

A story poem combines highly compressed narrative, musing, and observation that avails itself of poetic techniques such as alliteration, imagery, and metaphor. I crafted the story poems in this book to be simple and direct to reach heart to heart.

There are all sorts of other names for a story poem, but I wanted to keep it very simple and direct—just as I tried to keep the work itself simple and direct. There were important reasons for that and I stuck to it.

First, I wanted the poetry to be accessible. We have truck drivers and teachers, lawyers and welders in our family. They were my first audience. I wanted everyone to feel welcomed into the world of the poems and not be shut out. That view helped keep the poems down-to-earth and highly readable.

Secondly, what had happened to our family was so traumatic that we didn’t need any more drama. I felt understated language was the language of healing. Lastly, I grew up in the Midwest and spent most of my time there during the year I put the book together. Midwesterners come from farming stock and are a plain-spoken people. I wanted the language of the poems to reflect the language of the people I wrote about.

In the story-poem, as in prose, the sentence is the primary unit, not the line. But everything is highly compressed. The same material handled in a personal essay would cover many times the words. It appears simple—and, I want it to. But, in fact, these story poems are highly crafted.

Frankly, I wondered how this worked. Then, I received some responses which reassured me. A friend of mine who is a fine musician kept saying when he first read the poems, "I hear music here. Would you mind if I put them to music?"

There are varying lengths of poems in the book—short, medium, long. And, there are also some lyric poems as well. But, the story poems are the backbone of the book. Because there was a story to be told—of and for the families of the world.

Once you wrote the poems, where did you get the structure for a book?

I’d thought that my friend and book-coach would do that. But, he told me that was the next stage of my creative work and I’d intuitively know how to do it. I’d never worked beyond the individual written piece before, but he was right.

Putting a book together is very much like putting together an art show. First, the artist must create the pieces. This process, pursued with discipline and focus, eventually grows into a body of work with its own integrity and cohesion. Next, the artist selects the pieces for the show, names it, finds the space for it, and creates the structure.

Making a book is very much like that. After my body of work was completed, I set about to find out what I had and where it would all fit. I got down on the floor and crawled around, placing the poems into piles. I came up with five categories. They were slippery categories in some cases because certain poems could fit in more than one or even two of the categories. But, I had to make a decision.

Then, I worked with the flow of the poems within the sections. And, I had to come up with the names for the five sections that celebrate three people and two places I love. I chose nicknames to make it more colloquial: SKEETER for my sister Julia; SLIM for my father; SWEET LITTLE DOVE for my mother; HOMEPLACE for our family place in southwestern Illinois; and LAKESIDE for my home-base in Northern California.

Was there risk? Inasmuch as you write from the heart, did you find it difficult to put your work out there?

Yes, that’s the work of making art: finding the courage and faith to take that risk. But creating and sharing any body of work brings its own enormous gift. These story poems touch on many themes. In “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” these themes build throughout the book and weave together. I've been re-reading the book and charting the themes to learn more about what is really there.

An artist does this with an art show, too. That’s when the work comes out of the studio, is seen in a clean space, and is revealed in its essence. It’s important to study the work and reflect on it. I find the same thing here. I want to find out what this author, Janet Grace Riehl, is revealing to me. It’s like listening with the ears of my heart to the other voices of myself.

How did you manage your time to write Sightlines, the book?

I carved out my time in the morning. This was private time of solitude when I felt most open. I believe that creative products come through us more than from us. We have to find a place, time, and way of listening.

Would you say this was your soul baby? Can you describe how it felt to write this book?

Yes. I felt different writing this work than anything I’d done in the past. I felt firmly, totally committed—without question. There were things that needed to be said and I knew I was the one to say them. I stood up for my voice and my view of what I was saying and how I wanted to say it. I stood in the truth of what I was speaking about. It’s a blessed place to be. A place of grace.

I understand that your father contributed to “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary”. How did that come about?

My father, Erwin Thompson, is a writer, historian, and, patriarch. He’d written some powerful and searing pieces after Julia’s death. I asked him for permission to include these, and he agreed.

Were any other family members involved?

My brother, Gary Thompson, edited letters my father was transcribing for the Riehl-Thompson collection archives at the University of Illinois. Gary showed me the letter that became the poem “String Bridles.” I told my father that there was a surprise for him in the book and I wouldn’t let him see it until we broke open the box of books when I came home after it was published. I immediately turned to that page and read the poem to him.

He then sat in mother’s armchair and read the entire book, with a tear escaping here and a chuckle escaping there. I felt at that moment that all my hard work had been repaid.

Was there a hard part in writing Sightlines?

There are basically five stages to bring out a book. First, you write it. Then, shape it. Third, produce it into an actual bound book. Fourth, you have to promote it. The last and most private stage is reflecting on the work, as I mentioned before. The private parts—writing, shaping, and reflecting are the most natural for me. Producing and promoting are probably the hardest.

Did you receive help? What kind?

There’s a lot of grunt work involved and an author on a small budget has to be willing to do her own grunt work. Although there was a paucity of labor force, I was so lucky that in moving back and forth between Illinois and California I always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for the type of help I needed. During the start of the author proofs I was with a long-time friend in New Mexico. She provided a safe emotional environment for me and also provided practical suggestions and help.

You can see on my “Thanks To” page that so many people helped. They came in and did what needed to be done in small bursts as they were able. One childhood friend who I met walking Riehl Lane—yes, the same one named after my great grand-father—came over to the old family homestead to help me work out instructions to the book designers. She validated that what I wanted was the right thing to want and gave me the language to get it. This is just one example of so many acts of kindness.

At what stage did you start to feel it was really a book?

The first time I printed out the author proofs, I felt a physical sense of thrill with chills running through my body. But, it wasn’t until I tore open the packing crate and held the book in my hand that it became real to me.

You have permission to learn more about Janet Riehl at

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Interview with Philip F. Harris - The Secret of My Success

by Linda Della Donna

Meet Philip F. Harris.

Prolific, as well as credentialed, Philip F. Harris's bio reads like a page right out of America's Who's Who.

Among his numerous credits, Harris attended The American Univeristy in Washington, D. C., completed graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado, and Howard University, including several years working with three governors, serving as Assistant Director of the Maine State Planning Office. Harris even held a post on the White House Task Force for the Development of National Rural Policy and later worked as Rural Policy Coordinator of the Federal Regional Council of New England.

Harris has written controversial novel, "Waking God," co-authored with Brian Doe.

Recently I caught up with Philip F. Harris and asked for an interview. This is what he had to say:

What is the secret of your success? You seem to have it all, Phil. Care to share?

Everyone has it all, they are just not conscious of it. Most people dread going to work or even getting up in the morning. I view each day as a blessing from the universe with new opportunities to express myself and to create a new reality. There is time to do these things because I require that there be time. You mention the 'secret' to success-I would strongly advise all to see the film and/or read the book called 'The Secret.' Everyone is a success in potential, no exceptions-people just need to understand that the universe holds nothing back from us-it is we who block our own happiness. When I retire at night, I create an image of what I 'have' accomplished the next day. When the next day comes, it flows accordiing to that image because in my mind it is something that has happened. Not something that will happen.

Do you have a set writing schedule? What is your typical writing day? Do you have one?

NO! I let the uninverse guide when and what I will write. I do not force chapters and do not write in a linear way. A middle chapter may preceed an early chapter if that is what I am inspired to write. Sometimes I will sit to write one thing, but end up doing something totally different. I do not outline because I feel that an outline is too prescriptive and too many people try to stick to an outline and miss opportunities for new ideas or concepts. Somehow it all seems to come together. I tend to write mostly in the evening as it is quiet and there are less distractions. Again, before I retire, I give thought to things I might want to write the next day or during the week. This allows the ideas to percolate in the gray matter and I often awaken with new insights or ideas. Anyone who knows e will tell you that if I force myself to write on a particular topic or chapter, it tends to be inferior and appears forced. That is not my best way to write.

Phil, please share with readers a little bit about your personal life. Are you married? Do you have a family? Has living in Maine affected your writing?

Everyone is supportive and they all think I am a little wacked. My wife refers to herself as a book widow. Actually my children are grown and on their own with their own famililes. Jessyca lives in NH, Greg in RI, and Matt is here in Maine. We have 4 horses, five dogs, one barn cat, and 4 birds. Writing in Maine is idylic. We live on 120 acres and I am surrounded by woods and the pasture is in the middle, sort of like an island of solitude. I am only twenty miles from our rocky coast, which is pure inspiration. My novel, "A Maine Christmas Carol" is set in Hallowell, Maine. It is a quaint little town on the banks of the Kennebec River and an ideal setting for the contemporary retelling of the classic. For those who don't know -- the story replaces old Scrooge with 16 year TJ who, after losing his father in Iraq, turns to drugs to cope witht he pressures of modern society. I am sure Maine will appear in more stories.

Do you believe in writer's block? Have you ever experienced it? If so, what did you do to work through it?

Block can occur and there are on-line writing groups that are set up for this purpose. I do not really get blocked because I do not plan what I am going to write. That is the problem with an outline. If you set to write a specific chapter in an outline and the ideas do not flow, it is easy to jam up the brain. I may have an idea of what I want to write when I sit to do an article or chapter, but if some other idea happens, I go with it. If a person is blocked with a character, or a concept, I think the thing to do is to just start wrting whatever comes to mind, whether it is relevant to the topic at hand or not. If you are blocked about a character, then just start writing about someone you know or heard of that may be similar to the one you wish to write about. You can always go back and change names. If a character doesn't come to mind-write a setting. The key is to get the juices flowing and let the story start to take on its own life and write itself.

Your recent novel, "Waking God" is co-authored with Brian Doe. Can you share that experience? How did the idea to write this book happen? How long did it take to write? Would you say coauthoring a work makes the process simpler, or more difficult? What went into the process and the decision to work with another author? Was it a positive experience? Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Is there something other writers need to know who may be thinking about coauthoring a work?

Co-authoring can be a challenge. I think one of the keys is not to write with someone just like you. A person with a different perspective and background is helpful since they bring differing viewpoints and experiences to the story and characters. Brian teaches English and is very mechanical. Initially my handing him chapters from 'Somewhere' in the book drove him nuts-He is an outline person-or used to be-He has now been enlightened. I came up with the concept for the book and he came up with the title. We are very synergistic. We did not assign each other characters or chapters, they just sort of happened. We would then shift characters and this added a nice dimension to the story. It helped to round out personalities. The nice part is that you do not have to do the whole story by yourself when you co-author-That works if it does not bother you. If I had something going on I knew Brian kept the work in process and vice versa. We are alighed philosophically and that is why the venture works. Keep in mind that "Waking God" is a trilogy and we are working on Book II. It took about a year to write "Waking God." We both lived in NY but now I am in Maine. Thank God for the internet-It keeps the writing flowing between us. It is nice to write on your own but it is also nice to co-author. It is a sharing process and the occasional disputes over plot actually strengthens the story. So, yes, I would recommend it but iron out general ideas in advance and above all, be open to the other's suggestions and ideas.

Philip, your professional and educational background is impressive. In what way, if at all, has this contributed to your writing?

We are the sum total of our experiences. The greater the experience, the greater the outlook on life. We all write what we know. Our characters are always some reflection of those we have known, loved, hated or admired. Even stories that come from the depths of out imagination in some way reflect or mirror some aspect of what we have known. All of our backgrounds are impressive, different, but impressive!

Tell readers, please, about your writing, how long, was there any one experience that brought you to the writing desk, why did you become a writer, and how did you decide to become a novelist? Did you find your writing niche? Or did your writing niche find you?

My first attempt at writing a novel was in the late 70'S. The story was great but the writing sucked. It read more like a government report than a novel. Do not be disappointed if the first attempt is a bomb. I hve a very strong mystical and philosophical background that, while beginning in early childhood, did not blossom until the 80's when I underwent numerous spiritual revelations. It was then that I learned to free my mind of linear thought and to use my imagination. But even then I was more interested in speaking and not writing. It was truly not until "Waking God" that I decided to put pen to paper. It is now an addiction. It has taken my life's experiences up until now to finally put together what I have to say. I write because I have something to tell the world whether it be in a novel, an article, a blog or an essay. Perhaps like good wine, I have finally ripened. My niche is not totally defined and I hope it never is. I will write on social, spiritual, political, environmental and religious issues for that is where my heart is. Perhaps that is a niche!

What are you working on right now? Can you share? Care to tell us a little something about All Things That Matter?

In addtion to Book II of "Waking God" I have been spending a lot of time with the blogging and articles. Other book concepts are in the deep recesses. I am working on possible biography of a 62 year old female endurance racer (horses) and a biblical basis that supports the concepts of "The Secret." 'All Things That Matter' is the title of my blog and my radio talk show. Basically, it is about issues that affect us all which are sometimes overlooked by the more mainstream media. It's fun because I write what I care about.

I discovered your quote, "...Reality is merely a reflection of what is occuring in your mind," what would you advise a reader about to make a change in their life?

Every aspect of our life is but a mirror of what lies deep in thought. Either consciously or, more often, subconsciously, we mold the pattern and energies of the universe to bring into manifestation what we call reality. Thoughts become things-No exceptions. If you start to read a book and you don't like it-You don't finish it and get a new one. The same holds true with life-If you do not like how it is unfolding-change your mind and create a new one. I would refer your readers to my blog for more details on this.

Have you a favorite writing tip, Phil? Care to share?

When you sit to write, close your eyes and experience the scene you want to write about. If it is winter, feel the cold and the wind, smell the snow, describe the dirty slush and the clothes you are wearing, etc. Do this for characters, as well and most will find this a rewarding experience.

One last question, phil. I like to end an interview with a funny story. Got one?

"A Maine Christmas Carol" was scheduled to be released on December 12th (2006). I was informed by my publisher on November 30th that due to health reasons they were closing down. I won't go into details, but the novel had been published as an ebook by EBOOKSONTHE.NET. They said that their hard copy division, Cambridge Books, would be willing to pick up the contract for the print version. I asked if it could be out for December 12th. They laughed. The kids at school knew of the book since the story actually begins at the high school. Several students had even pre-ordered the book. When I told them the story they were sad and asked for the address of the new publisher. On December 21st while I was in class, a student came up to me and asked if I could sign his copy of my book. I told him when it comes out that I would, but it wouldn't be for several months. He then produced a print copy of the book-I was floored. I did not know it was out. As a matter of fact, I did not get my copies for another week. I am not sure that is a funny story, but it was a bit embarrassing and very inspirational. I had held in my mind that the book would be out before Christmas and, like I said, thoughts become things!

Thank you, Phil. Here's wishing you much success with "Waking God"!

Learn more about Philip F. Harris by visiting - and

Friday, September 7, 2007

An Interview with Author Janet Elaine Smith - The Secret of Her Success

by Linda Della Donna

Meet Best-selling author, Janet Elaine Smith.
In her 15 novels, “Jan,” “explores roads less traveled.”
In addition to being prolific, Smith is business savvy, and adds to her long list of publishing credits, the title Marketing Director of Star Publish, which means all her books “are in the process of being published.”

Recently I caught up with Janet Elaine Smith and asked for an interview.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is what Jan had to say:

What is the secret of your success?

I have said that it depends on two things: God (for some reason I can’t explain) likes me, and I’m not about to argue with Him; and dumb beginner’s luck. I have added a third thing: I seem to do things the simple way. I don’t know they aren’t supposed to work, so I plow ahead and somehow they seem to succeed. It’s like Kristie Leigh Maguire said about my PromoPaks, “These things are so simple I could have thought of them–but I didn’t.” It’s like my daddy used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Do you have a typical writing day? Can you describe it?

I don’t have a typical day of any kind, but here’s what I try to do. Remember, I also have a full-time job running a charitable HELPs organization with my husband. I start on the computer by 7 o’clock (sometimes earlier). I check and answer my e-mail. Then I spend an hour working on whatever editing job I am doing. I check the e-mail again at noon, and try to do some work on my magazine writing then. Then after supper I check the e-mail again, then I do more editing, and try to write at least an hour. I would like to spend all of that time working on whatever book I’m writing at the time, but the magazine writing pays most of the bills, so I have to do that first. I write for a dozen magazines regularly, including Genealogical Helper and Writers Journal (I’m a contributing editor for both of them) and Red River Valley Memories and Mysteries, where I’m the Assoc. Editor, so it also involves doing quite a few interviews for every issue. In between times, I try to maintain about 6 websites, do interviews, reviews, tend to the weekly Star Publish Times ( and then there is the marketing for Star Publish, which I do at least 2-3 hours a day Mon.-Fri.

Is your family supportive of your writing? Can you tell us a little about them?

My husband, Ivan, is quite good about it–especially when I actually started making money at it! LOL! We have three children; both of our sons (Wilbert and Kevin) are very supportive of my writing. My daughter’s (Raquel) attitude is “Mother! Not everybody’s whole world revolves around your books!” Still, it tickles me when she comes over and some friend of hers wants an autographed copy of one of them! Until about 5 or 6 years ago we have always had a dog. My husband is disabled and I’m busy so I put my foot down and said no more dogs. I still hear about it, but so far I’m ahead in this game! I did love the dogs we had, but old age has its drawbacks.

What is your most difficult writing challenge? Do you have one? What about working as marketing director of a publishing company, does it help or hurt in any way?
Time, definitely. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and if I had more, I would probably conk out before they got put to good use anyway.

Working in marketing definitely helps. I have to market my own books anyway, so I might as well add the other authors’ books into the equation at the same time. I never knew anything about marketing before I got into this whole book business. Actually, I never even knew an author had to market their own books. It has been a real learning experience, but I have discovered I actually enjoy that end of it too.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Was there ever a time in your life when you couldn’t face the blank page? How do you, how did you, deal with that?

I don’t often have writer’s block. My head is so full of goofy characters and their antics that I have dozens and dozens of books pretty well all written in there. When things in “real life” interfere, I find that writing is the best therapy in the world for me. It makes me look outside myself, and I can always make a happy ending. If only I could figure out how to do that in real life!

What inspires you?

People! I love to people watch and eavesdrop. If you ever doubted that the world is full of zany characters and goofy storylines, just go to a restaurant, a mall, or a sporting event and study the people who come and go. It is true that real life is stranger than fiction, and after all, most fiction is based (at least loosely) on real life.

Where do you get your ideas?

I guess I’d have to just repeat what I said above: from people and what they do. Oh, and sometimes from my dreams. I guess I just have a sort of warped mind.

Is there any one thing that influences your stories? Can you tell us about your Santa Claus story? Where did the idea come for that one?

I love to get the start of a story from something I see somebody do, but then I sort of let it stew in my mind for awhile to see what led up to that point and where it went from there.
I have two Christmas books out: A Christmas Dream and A Lumberjack Christmas. Both of them have very special Santa Clauses in them. In A Christmas Dream, the main storyline deals with a young mother who lost her husband in Desert Storm. When she and her boss (who had his sight set on her) and her little boy Jeremy went to the mall, Jeremy went to talk to Santa. He discovered that Santa’s son died in Desert Storm, and the mom eventually found out that her husband and Santa’s son died in the same incident of “friendly fire” in Desert Storm. Santa got a very special Christmas present…but wait! I don’t want to ruin the story for you. You have to read the book. Or if you want to, you can go to and the whole thing is there as an i-pod. That was great fun to do! The other one, A Lumberjack Christmas, has a Jewish Santa Claus in it!

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for about 30 years. I have a whole file cabinet full of the best doggone rejection letters you ever saw! The magazine writing seemed to go pretty well, and it gave me hope that one day my books would succeed too. My first book, Dunnottar, was finally published in June, 2000. Now I have 14 novels out, as well as two non-fiction books. I still have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I hope to have 4 new books out this year. One of them will be the script that Billie Williams did for me of A Christmas Dream. I would love to see it in community theaters, etc. all over the country this year. The others will be Bank Roll: A Max Stryker Mystery, Tuesday Nolan: Women of the Week, and Wanted: Organ Donor for Sister Babs (the first Sister Babs Mystery).

Can you tell readers about your latest work?

The one I am working on now is Tuesday Nolan. I started it last year, but when I changed publishers it got sort of put on a back burner until my old ones got out again. You can see more about the Women of the Week series at . They are all based on the old poem, “Monday’s child is fair of face…” Each of the women in the series is named for the day of the week they were born, and their whole life has revolved around the line from the poem. Tuesday’s child is fair of grace, and Tuesday Nolan runs a finishing school for girls in South Carolina.

One more question, Janet, do you have a favorite writing tip you can offer to writers?

Believe in yourself, and write what you would like to read. And write, write, write, but don’t forget to read, read, read as well. You learn by everything you read; even if it’s a “bad” book, you learn what not to do.

You can learn more about Janet Elaine Smith and the books she writes by visiting,, and
Janet can be reached at