Stopping by A&RBC today is author Jamie Beck. She is a former attorney with a passion for inventing realistic and heartwarming stories about love and redemption, including her bestselling St. James and Sterling Canyon series. When she is not writing, Beck enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking, and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to her supportive family and today she stopped by to give us the scoop on her new book, and some advice for aspiring writers.
Q& A with Jamie Beck
As a former attorney with business and real estate experience, why did you transition into a writing career?
I’d watched female lawyers try to work part-time once they had kids. They’d take a pay cut, but they ended up working nearly full-time hours (faxes, emails, etc.). That didn’t seem like a situation I could accept easily. I was lucky to have the option to stop working when my first child was born. Once my kids were in elementary school and I had free time, I finally decided to try my hand at my lifelong dream of writing.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.
Writing love stories had been a long-held dream, but not something that had been encouraged by anyone. When I decided to try to write my first manuscript, I didn’t tell a soul. I’d type while my kids were at school, then put it away until the next day. It wasn’t until I had written about three-quarters of that book that I finally told my husband and mother what I was doing. It took two more manuscripts before I got my agent, and another nine months before I had a publishing contract.
Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
Lots of places! Song lyrics, photographs, inspirational quotes, and headlines, to name a few. Sometimes even a dream. My stories tend to feature realistic struggles and people, so often just keen observation of the people around me will supply plenty of ideas.
Tell us about your favorite place to write your books?
I have a home office with two things I love. One is a handmade live-edge mahogany desk I had made as a treat to myself when I hit a certain sales milestone. I’d met a furniture maker (Tom Throop of Black Creek Designs) when I interviewed him as part of my research for the character of Hank Mitchell (Worth the Trouble). I loved his work and told him I’d be back as a customer some day. It made me happy to be able to keep that promise.
The other is a wonderful, overstuffed leather recliner that I’ve placed by a large window. It’s a comfortable spot for me to write and edit.
When I need a change of scenery, I might go to my family room (when the house is empty). I can’t work in public spaces because I get too distracted by the people, songs, and other noises.
Do you believe every writer should be a reader?
Eventually, yes. Some people are natural-born storytellers. If they have studied television and/or movies, they probably have a good sense of story structure, tension, and dialogue. However, reading widely teaches you things that are necessary to becoming a strong writer. This is especially true if you want to sell within a certain genre. There’s no substitute for reading within a genre when you want to learn the conventions (via its most popular authors and books).
Tell us two tips you have used in helping your publisher market and promote your books.
I honestly don’t know that anything I’ve tried to do has been very effective, but I try lots of things. Prior to getting my agent, I started a blog and Facebook page. I’ve participated in Facebook release parties, done multi-author giveaways and blog tours. I’ve spoken at libraries and taught workshops. I’ve created a small street team to help me with pre-release buzz. But ultimately, I know that my publisher is doing most of the work, and for that, I’m eternally grateful!
Tell us the story behind the making of Before I Knew.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about mental illness and stigma, and how that stigma prevents people from receiving proper treatment and support. Because I have some personal experience with this topic, it is very relevant to me. I’ve seen that struggle, and how it affects others who are close to the afflicted. That gave me the seed of an idea, but I did not want to write a story featuring someone with the illness. I worried that I couldn’t do that justice, so I focused on the one left behind, and how the mistakes they made together (largely because of the fear of stigma) lingered long after he was gone.
Tell us about Colby Cabot-Baxter.
Colby is a compassionate, bright woman and child of divorce. She is the peacekeeper in her family, and the middle child (she has an older brother, Hunter, and a younger half-sister, Gentry). She grew up next door to the Morgan family, and was very dear friends with Joe (her age), and friendly with Alec (her older brother’s BFF). Following law school, she impulsively married Mark, a man she hadn’t known long but had fallen hard for. During their first year of marriage he had his first manic episode. Once he was diagnosed, he wanted to keep it a secret because of the stigma. He didn’t want her family or his coworkers looking at him differently or with fear and anxiety. Without adequate support, Colby had a hard time keeping Mark in treatment (meds and therapy).
Her marriage was crumbling at the time when Mark and Joe went hiking, and Mark’s dare cost Joe his life. Mark’s depression over that led to suicide. The story opens two years later, when Colby has left the practice of law to start a new career as the owner of a restaurant on the shores of her hometown, Lake Sandy, Oregon. She hopes that this place, where people will come to celebrate life, will help her finally move on from the grief and remorse she has for her role in her friend’s and husband’s deaths.
Tell us about Alec Morgan.
Alec grew up harboring a crush on Colby. He was always passionate about cooking, which troubled his cop father to no end. His younger brother, Joe, was macho like their dad, and Alec endured relentless mocking from them. He left after high school, studied in New York and France, and returned home to open what would become a renowned, award-winning restaurant in Portland.
However, Alec’s poor relationship with his father and brother led to a misunderstanding he refused to clear up. That happened the eve before Joe took off on the hike that ended his life. His argument with his brother coupled with another secret between him and Mark crippled him with guilt, causing him to lose his restaurant and reputation. He went away to recover and is back. When he’s hired to help Colby with her restaurant, he’s hopeful that, in some way, he can help restore her happiness, which he feels he’s stolen. I can’t say why because I don’t want to spoil some of the story for the reader.
What message do you want readers to take away from Before I Knew?
I suppose there are several themes. One is, of course, that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of anymore than diabetes and cancer are. People need to be open and accepting, and to offer support not only to those struggling with the affliction, but also to those who are closest to them. Otherwise, everyone suffers. Another theme has to do with mistakes and regrets. We all have them, and some might be truly daunting. But we must learn to forgive ourselves and move on. To know that part of being human is making mistakes, and that we all deserve second chances. And finally, sometimes what seems like the end is actually just a new beginning. I think if you look at things that way, you can embrace change better and find happiness more quickly.
What should readers expect from Jamie Beck in the next five years?
I’m really enjoying writing the Cabot novels, and am planning another series that will be similar in tone (but probably revolve around three friends instead of a family). I like romantic women’s fiction because it allows me to explore all kinds of relationships within a single story (familial, friendship, and love). I also have a straight women’s fiction idea that I’ve outlined. It keeps talking to me, but my current schedule doesn’t allow the time to pursue it. Someday, though…
Tell readers how they can connect with you.
My website has a fun extras page where I post Pinterest boards related to my books, playlists of songs related to each story, videos, and other fun stuff. I have a newsletter, too, and offer giveaways within that realm.
In terms of social media, I’m most active on my Facebook page (facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks), but I’m also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram at “writerjamiebeck.” I’m also on Goodreads, where I love to leave reviews of books I’m reading (and my blog feeds to that page, so you can read it there). Finally, I encourage people to follow my Amazon author page because it’s an easy way to get updates on new releases.
Thanks so much for hosting me today!