Reading and writing have always been a part of CJ’s life. Ever since she can remember, she’s been putting pen to paper, creating complex characters in rich environments. She lives in Western Wisconsin with her husband and fur-baby. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking, cake decorating, and of course, watching NASCAR. She picked up her first piping bag at age fourteen and started decorating full-time at age twenty-three. Using the experience she’d gained while working in her family’s bakery, along with her love of racing, she created the setting for her first series of novels.
Follow her on social media and her website. She loves hearing from her readers.
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
My most recent release was in 2016. I had three books come out that year but, regretfully, nothing since. My third one, Icing the Competition, is book two of my Caked With Pleasure series. The whole series revolves around three best friends who work at Jacqui’s bakery in Charlotte, NC. Persephone Williams falls for Jacqui’s boyfriend Nick’s best friend Shawn Sheldon at the time he’s planning his wedding to someone else. His marriage fails, and the two reconnect at a party they’d been invited to by Jacqui and Nick (the couple from Book 1, On Track with Icing). The same six main characters are featured throughout the series, but a different set of characters take the main stage in each one.
Book two was a novella in the In It to Win It anthology, titled Love in Victory Lane about a female racecar driver who falls for her crew chief at the beginning of her rookie season in NASCAR.
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
Probably making time to just sit and write. And when I do finally make time, the words don’t always flow when I need them to. I’ve also discovered that I suck at setting goals and deadlines for myself. I’ve discovered that it inhibits my creative process.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Being a night owl having to get up for a day job. I’ve discovered I do my best work between one and five in the morning. The house is quiet and no one is making demands on my time. It’s easier to think when my husband is asleep. However, I have a day job that starts at 8:30, so I can’t stay up that late.
4. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Working my day job. I would love to be able to live off of my book sales, but unfortunately that won’t be an option unless my books became wildly popular or if I ever win the lottery. Though I’m sure many of my fellow authors feel the same way! Okay. Let’s be realistic here. If I could give up anything, it would be the housework. Instead of washing dishes or doing laundry, I could spend that time writing.
5. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It really didn’t. I still write as much as possible when the creative energy is flowing. If I’m not feeling it or if writer’s block has set in I focus on something else until I’m able to start working again.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
Completed, unpublished books? Just one – I Crosse My Heart from my CityScapes series. It’s about a college kid from Texas who moves to La Crosse, WI to play baseball with the local summer developmental team (fashioned after the Northwoods League and the La Crosse Loggers), and he ends up falling for a local girl.
Half-finished? Too many to count! But my current works in progress include another in the CityScapes set and the third of my Caked with Pleasure series. Stuck in a Rut, part of the CityScapes set, is about a professional photographer from New York City who travels to Wyoming and spends a week traveling with a wagon train along the Oregon Trail from Fort Laramie to South Pass. Along the way she finds direction in her professional life, and she also falls for one of the cowboys helping out with the wagon train.
Book Three in my Caked with Pleasure series is called Knotted Up with Passion. By popular demand from my readers, Camille finally gets her story. Honestly I’m under more pressure with the third one than I was the first two, because I’ve set a high expectation for my readers that I’m obligated to live up to. And I’m kind of scared that the book has fallen way short of the mark.
7. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read all reviews, to be honest. I love the good ones, of course, but the bad ones I use as a learning experience for the next one. It’s like working a regular job. Can’t correct the mistakes if I don’t know which ones I’m making. But one thing I learned from the experience of my fellow writers – you’re never going to please everybody. It’s physically impossible to do so, because every reader has different tastes and opinions. I have no problem with someone who doesn’t like my work. But at least give me a reason why. Is the opinion based on the quality of writing? Or was it just one particularly annoying character that ruined the book?
8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Some. There are a few Easter eggs planted between On Track with Icing and Icing the Competition that hint to Knotted Up with Passion. It’s easier to put stuff like that in books that are part of the same series than it is for ones that are completely stand-alone. I’ve also modeled some of my characters after people I’ve met in real life, including friends and family!
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I love hanging out with Ashlynn Monroe. She and I are a part of the same critique group. On Track with Icing probably would never have gotten published if she hadn’t nudged me toward one of the publishers she’d worked with in the past. I have also gotten to know Ella Jade, Michel Prince, Beverly Ovalle, Michelle Shriver, Shelly Small, Linda Rae Sande and Suzan Tisdale. I’ve connected with many others via social media but there are too many to list!
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write first, edit later. And never give up. Don’t be afraid to go after your dream just because someone tells you that you can’t do it, or they don’t want you to.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I can’t speak for other writers. But my own experience? Let’s see. Probably trying to follow every piece of writing advice I’ve ever been given. Another one is understanding that this is an actual business, that publishers are using their money to put my books out there and it’s my job to remain professional to not only protect my own brand, but theirs as well.
12. What’s the best way to market your books?
I have yet to find the best way. But I’ve heard over and over to just write more books. The more my name gets out there the more chance I have of reaching a wider audience. Since I currently only have the three, it’s not as easy. But I do post in a number of Facebook group posts and I attend intermittent book signings, mostly local due to costs since I’m still trying to get my name out there.
13. What is your favorite childhood book? That’s a tough one. There are a few that I couldn’t get enough of. Charlotte’s Web, Boxcar Children and The Mouse and the Motorcycle were ones that I would read over and over. I was (and still am to this day) a fan of Roald Dahl.