I love introducing you to new authors and today’s spotlight shines on Janine Amesta, a brand new Tule Publishing writer, whose first book, Striking Gold, releases today!
Janine is a California girl who now lives in the high desert of Oregon with her husband and their cat, Hitchcock and dog, Pippin. She studied screenwriting in college, but her moody thrillers always had way too much flirty banter. She’s a master at jigsaw puzzles, skilled at embroidery, and critiques bad movies on Twitter.
GIVEAWAY: Janine has a fun giveaway going—just click prize picture here and the link will take you right to the Rafflecopter where you can enter for a chance to win a fun prize package.
I really enjoyed chatting with her and can’t wait to read Striking Gold!
N: Welcome to the blog, Janine. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. So, my opening question is always, what comes first—characters or plot?
A: Thank you! This is such a treat and I love having the opportunity to talk about my new book.
I’m definitely a character first person. Sometimes I get hit with a basic story idea but I really love fleshing out characters. I spend a lot of time thinking about them before I even get to the writing stage. Many contemporary romance books, including mine, are considered quiet, in that there isn’t a lot of fast action and danger happening. So much of a romance story can be internal and, because of this, the book has to really be supported by strong characters. I really try to strike the right note between making interactions between them engrossing while also developing the love story and showing character growth. The more real and complex the characters are, the easier it is for me to do this. You could have the most basic plot, but if your characters are fascinating, many people will stick around to see what will happen.
N: Your debut novel with Tule Publishing, Striking Gold, releases today (Woohoo!). Tell us how that story came about.
A: I’ve always been fascinated by the theme of things not working out the way you expect. You expect your life to go in one direction and then something shifts and you find yourself on a totally different path. My own life has definitely zig zagged. Like Mia, I grew up with expectations that I really needed to make something in my life. In high school, I had a real interest in working in the movies and heard many times that it wasn’t a realistic goal to have and I should look into something else. I actually worked in the industry for about ten years and then I switched to running a YouTube channel, quitting my film industry job, and was also told that it wasn’t a “real job.” And now I’m getting into being a romance author, one more career path that isn’t considered a “real job” to some people. The biggest thing I learned is that anything can be a legitimate choice if you make it that way. This journey of discovery is similar to one taken by Mia. She has to change her way of thinking, one instilled in her by her parents. She learns to choose her own ideas about what her life will look like and what true fulfillment is.
N: What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing Striking Gold?
A: I guess I was surprised at how much anxiety I still get over trying to be perfect, as if I was reliving this while trying to write inside Mia’s head. If writing teaches you anything, it’s that it’s pretty much impossible to write the perfect first draft. Everyone is always going to have notes about something. And, like Mia, I really have to work hard to move past the feeling of absolute failure if I don’t succeed right away. I like to think I’m tough and I don’t care as much but I secretly do care a great deal. (I guess it’s not much of a secret anymore.) With this book I really tried to make it the best story I could tell.
N: I love the blurb for Striking Gold—Mia sounds like a person I could relate to on several levels. Is she based on someone you know or is she a compilation of several women in your life? Or purely a figment of your imagination?
A: I think of myself, and my personality, as though it was a diamond, and every character I write gets one facet of that diamond. Because we’re always changing and learning as we grow older, my characters are usually inspired by one period of my life. Mia and I have a lot in common. We’re both biracial Latinas that have struggled to feel comfortable enough in our own skin, to feel like we fit somewhere. And there was a period in my life where I was this overeager, overachiever people-pleaser. Both of us want to find our people and fit in so badly that we’re willing to sacrifice self-identity in order to be everything to everyone. While it’s nice to be liked by people, it can also be an exhausting way to live. Mia’s charm at getting people to like her is both her strength and her weakness. Going on her journey to break away from this personal trap was very rewarding to me, both as a writer and as a person—like there still could be something amazing waiting for us on the other side of failure.
N: Give me three words to describe your heroine Mia Russo and three words to describe your hero Ross Manasse.
A: Ha, well, I already described Mia as an overeager, overachiever people pleaser…which she definitely is. She’s also charming, smart, and optimistic.
Ross is grumpy, stubborn, and an absolute softie. He will fully admit to being the last part as he tries so hard not to be affected by things and the world, thinking his heart is a stone, but he softens every time.
N: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
A: My goal in being an author of romance stories is to write something that is going to make people feel things. Regardless if it’s crying or laughing, I want to evoke emotions from people, and for them to feel like they’re falling in love again. It’s not fair that we can’t experience the feeling of falling in love several times in our lives. Romance books are a great way to do this.
N: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
A: I don’t like to get frustrated or to feel like I don’t have an answer right away. Maybe this goes back to my overachieving people-pleaser side of my personality. But sometimes during the writing process and, especially during revisions, you can feel yourself getting absolutely stuck. This is the worst feeling in the world for me. I don’t like forcing myself to let things sit before I can move forward in my writing.
Also, the waiting. I wrote Striking Gold in 2019 and have been waiting all this time for people to read it and I really hope they do. 🙂
N: Striking Gold is book 1 in your Love in El Dorado series. What’s coming up next?
A: There are two more books in the series. A Poinsettia Paradise Christmas is the second book in the series and comes out at the end of October. As its name suggests, it’s a holiday book and was a lot of fun to write. The third book is Lucky Strike and it releases at the end of January.
N: Writing can be an emotional, stressful pursuit. As a debut author, any tips for aspiring writers?
A: It helps to have venting sessions, especially when you’re stuck on a story. I usually vent to my husband during our afternoon walks. Sometimes I’m looking for suggestions but, a lot of times, I just like to talk about it out loud with someone. It feels like a miracle every single time the solution suddenly comes to you while venting about your story.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: It was either a teacher or working in the movies. Funnily enough, I’ve done a version of both.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: I think the book I read the most growing up was Pride and Prejudice. It was assigned in high school but I fell in love with it right away.
N: And here is my signature question that everyone loves: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: Oh, goodness. See, you’re asking this question to a person who gets anxious at the thought of having a dinner party—especially with people I don’t know. For me, I’d much rather have dinner with people I know fairly well because I already know we’re going to get along and there’s not going to be that awkward lull in conversation. My whole life is pretty much trying to avoid awkward lulls in conversation. I guess I’d want to have dinner with my virtual book club friends because we’ve chatted online for a few years and it would be fun to finally have dinner in person. I don’t care if this answer is boring, this is all I want now. ;D
Mia Russo is well aware that being voted “most likely to succeed” in high school doesn’t guarantee anything, especially after her political career crashes and burns. Without a plan for the first time in her life, Mia moves back home with her dad. After being rejected by the handsome local jewelry store owner who seems way too familiar, she takes a barista job while she determines her next steps.
Orphaned at a young age, Ross Manasse finally finds peace when he inherits his grandfather’s jewelry store. It’s been a tough road, and Ross is looking for quietness and stability. When his former high school tutor—someone Ross once thought of as a friend—barges into his shop looking for a job and doesn’t recognize him, his safest option is keeping her at arm’s length.
Mia’s determined to make something in her life work, but in rekindling a relationship with the grumpy jeweler, she digs up more about their shared history than they expect. Mia and Ross will need to decide what’s more important: finding success or true happiness?
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