Today my guest is author M.J. Schiller who writes contemporary romance with a touch of suspense.
Welcome, M.J. It's great to have you here. Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Overland Park, KS, in the heart of Tornado Alley, and my life has been a bit twisted since. Actually, it’s not all that twisted, but I’ve always wanted to use that line. I grew up in St. Louis, MO, went to school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and moved to Bloomington, IL, fresh out of college, after my husband got a job at State Farm’s corporate headquarters. I’ve worked as a high school/junior college teacher, personnel recruiter, office manager of a jewelry store, and, for the past ten years, as a lunch lady. I like to karaoke and attend rock concerts. I am actively involved at church and spend too much time on Facebook. I am the mother of an eighteen-year-old, and sixteen-year-old triplets, and have been married to my husband, Don, for over twenty-five years.
I have been a writer all my life. My first book, which was co-written with Mary Ellen Murphey in second grade, was titled The Black Cat, and was written on blue hotel stationary, hole-punched, and bound by white yarn. I believe it is currently out of circulation.
When I turned forty, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized those bigwig publishing houses in New York were now probably run by people younger than me, so I shouldn’t be intimidated by them. At about the same time I was watching one of those award shows, and Jaclyn Smith got up to give a post-humorous award to Aaron Spelling. She credited him for encouraging her to go into acting, saying something brilliant like, “Reach for your dreams.” Nothing new. Almost even seems a little Jiminy Cricketish. But, for some reason, it struck me that night. When Aaron Spelling was thirteen, he was probably just like any other acned thirteen-year-old. But he worked to achieve his dreams, and became a household name. So, I began to write. Once I finished my first book, I wasn’t able to stop. I would rather write than do just about anything else. After all, you get to make people (characters) do what you want and design your own happy endings. What power! What a privilege.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written twelve books and have published three. I am working on getting the rest of them in publishing shape. To pick a favorite is like asking a mom to pick her favorite kid. They all have something to offer, their own unique essence. Having said that, I’d have to pick my first book in the ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION, TRAPPED UNDER ICE.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters that you can identify with. Even if they’re rock stars. Rock stars once wore Pampers, too, after all. If the reader can’t feel along with them, then why should they read? And if they can’t identify with them, connect to them, they won’t feel it.
What do you enjoy most about life?
Just goofing around! Can I say that? I like just plain goofing around, with my kids, with my friends, with my family. Just being silly. I saw something on Facebook the other day that spoke to me. It said, “Don’t let people push you around, unless you’re in a wheelbarrow, cause that BLEEP is fun.” Or insert grocery cart for wheelbarrow. At work we sometimes use the rolling transport devices that hold our food…
What did you learn from writing your first book?
That I was addicted to writing!
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
I’m okay. You’re okay. He/she/it’s okay. I was a little uptight. The only person I was harder on than those around me was myself. I would say, when disciplining children, do it without emotion and don’t spoil them. Teach them the value of hard work. I’d say, don’t sweat the small stuff, and write. Do what makes you happy!
If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
That’s a hard question because I’ve found that different people are drawn to different parts of my work. My current release, ABANDON ALL HOPE, was my friend, Kendra’s, favorite. She told me she couldn’t put it down. But then my friend Kristi, who admitted that she wasn’t much of a reader, adored BLACKOUT. Personally, I like TRAPPED UNDER ICE.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t want you to learn a darn thing from my books. I want my books to offer you a break. A break from job pressures, family strife, health issues, whatever is eating at you. Life is hard, and sometimes you have to escape somewhere else for a while and let the world turn around without you. Peace, I guess you’d say. I want you to take with you a few hours of peace and relaxation!
Tell us about your latest book.
ABANDON ALL HOPE is a contemporary romance with a touch of suspense. I don’t think it crosses over genres, though. Here’s a blurb:
It was one of those mornings for newspaper-writer/photographer Hope Creswell. The alarm clock didn’t go off and she cut her finger on broken glass. Not one to let such things get her down, Hope headed into her assignment meeting with excitement, only to leave it stunned. Her new assignment is to trail the sensational rock-star, Chase Hatton, for an article. Chase Hatton! No one knows the power that name holds for her. No one knows of the childhood friendship that blossomed into romance, only to abruptly die on the night of Hope’s senior prom. No one knows of the ache that still fills her heart.
What starts out for Chase Hatton as an average publicity trip to Chicago suddenly becomes complicated when his manager tells him that Hope Creswell will be interviewing him in the morning. He had spent eight years trying to forget Hope, and now she would be in his penthouse in a matter of hours?
When Chase opens the door to his penthouse and finds Hope on the opposite side, his heart begins beating a rhythm the rocker has yet to capture in any of his music. The smoldering embers of their former romance are fanned by their mere proximity. Will they both be burned again? Can Hope ever trust her heart to Chase after what he did? Can Chase bear to see her walk out on him a second time? And what about Hope’s boyfriend, Phillip? Where does he fit into the picture that Hope is developing?
Excerpt from ABANDON ALL HOPE
Set-up: Chase and Hope are twelve and are exploring the corn maze he cut into his uncle’s corn field.
With a loud cry, he jumped out in front of her.
Hope’s scream of terror hurt his ears. She stumbled backward, landing on her rump in some mud. She stared up from where she lay, resting on both elbows for a second. “You are so-o-o-o dead!”
“Oh, come on,” he responded amiably, ready to make peace. “I’ll help you up.” He reached his hand out to her. She stretched out to clasp it, but not before she had clutched a handful of mud.
“Ugg!” Chase, mud dripping from his palm, was unable to hide his delight at her deception. “Now you’re dead!”
She laughed but scrambled to her feet, pushing him off balance. She ran with wild abandon down the path. He waited, good-naturedly, until the count of ten, giving her a head start, and then took off. Although dusk was playing tricks on his eyes, it was easy to find her by listening to the laughter as she ducked into several of the side paths.
But abruptly her laughter ended, replaced by a loud thud and Hope calling out his name in fear and pain. Chase picked the path he thought she was on, and ran as fast as he could through the green walls hemming the trail. He turned a corner, and saw her up ahead.
She was rocking back and forth, clutching her leg and moaning. As he got closer, he saw her white sneaker, despite the gathering darkness, wedged underneath a tree root. It snaked across the path where it had wound close to the edge of the field.
He raced up and crouched down beside her. Her face was contorted as if she were trying not to cry. “What happened?”
“O-o-o-h! It’s my ankle.” She spoke through gritted teeth, although unable to keep the tears in check now.
Chase looked from the ankle of her extended leg, which still had a sneaker on it, to the ankle of the leg she was hanging on to, whose foot was bare. It was clear, even to him, the latter was swollen considerably. Her foot also seemed to jut out at a strange angle.
“I’ll go get help.”
He was already halfway down the path when she called out, nearly hysterical, “Chase! Please, wait! Come back. Come back. Don’t leave me here!”
He returned to her side, where she was crying in earnest now, and squatted down, rubbing her back. She kept repeating over and over again, “Please don’t leave me. I don’t want to stay here by myself. Please don’t leave.”
“It’s okay, Hope,” he responded quietly, sitting down next to her. “I’m not leaving.” He put an arm around her and she leaned in, her tears dampening his shirt.
“It hurts! It hurts,” she whimpered.
“I know it does.”
He looked down the path, longing to return to the house for his dad. But the dark was falling quickly now, and he knew Hope would be afraid out in the cornfield alone.
Here is the trailer for ABANDON ALL HOPE
Last question. Where can readers find you?
You can find MJ Schiller at www.mjschillerauthor.blogspot.com, MJ on FB, twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Thank you so much for having me, Diane! It’s been a blast!
It was my pleasure, M.J. I wish you much success in your writing career.