Saturday, April 30

Welcome Shirley Jump

Word Wranglers is pleased to welcome Shirley Jump today. Okay, Shirley, I knew you before there were any published books. How many do you have now and what’s next?

How to Lasso a Cowboy, my 35th book is out in April (and is incidentally my first book featuring a cowboy her0) and my 36th is out in May. I’m writing a couple of connected series for Harlequin in the next two years. I have another Riverbend book out this coming Christmas, then a series featuring several brothers, and next Christmas, a continuity novel. It keeps me busy! ;-)

You and your daughter, collaborating as A. J. Whitten, have your second YA thriller, The Cellar, coming out in May. Is the genre-jump a whole different ballgame from romance, or does it require a lot of the same pre- and post-publication promotion and legwork?

It’s a different genre in terms of writing—different voice, different target audience—but really, in the end, a book is a book, and everything else is the same. It’s been a lot of fun writing with my daughter, though!

I know your mother passed away a few years ago and that you and she were very close. I’m sorry for that loss and remember how it felt for me. Did going through that last hard time with her change your writing?

ENORMOUSLY. I had put several books on hold while I was helping to take care of her, and then had to write them after she died. Out of the five, four dealt with death (including a heroine who was a funeral director). It was brutal, but it helped me grow tremendously. The following year, I wrote Around the Bend, my second women’s fiction single title (still in stores) and it allowed me to talk about the great, fun aspects of my mother. That book is the closest to an autobiographical book that I’ve done, mostly in the mother-daughter relationship.

Okay, a question that always gets asked, but the answers never fail to fascinate me. If you could have dinner with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

My mom, of course. Just one more meal…what a blessing that would be. One more chance to tell her I love her and to tell her all about the wonderful things her grandchildren are doing.

For a famous person, I would love to meet Oprah. Maybe sway her over to reading romance, but more to pick her brain about life and success and being a strong, powerful woman. I admire her for her achievements, and for becoming a leader in a tough industry—and then giving back so much of what she has made.

Other than that, it would be my grandmother (my mother’s mother) who inspired the creative side of me and was always so supportive and loving. She died when I was 11, and I miss her dearly.

What question would you like to answer but no one ever asks?

Um…I don’t think there is one. I get asked a pretty wide variety of good (and unusual!) questions when I speak. I think the one piece of advice I’d give to anyone wanting to write is to be willing to take criticism and spend a lot of time reading and analyzing what works and doesn’t work. Realize that this is a business, like any other, and approaching rejections and sales with a professional, smart attitude will get you further than anything else.

Do you ever think about writing historical or any manner of paranormal? (If you already have, I apologize for having missed it.)

I would love to do that down the road! I’m toying with a paranormal idea right now, and in my spare time (ha-ha-ha…four books to write this year yet so spare time is a precious commodity), I work on it a bit here and there.

If you were starting over again in the romance field, what would you do differently?

I would learn more before I started writing. I was so cocky, from being successful in non-fiction, that I thought I knew what I was doing. I was so wrong! I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot along the way, knowledge I wouldn’t trade for anything. And I think those failures toughened me up for the rocky publishing road. Okay, now that I think about it…I wouldn’t change anything. It has all prepared me, in a hundred different ways.

What do you want to be doing ten years from now—writing-wise? Margaritas on the beach are good any time!

Ten years from now, I’d like to be doing more big books. I love the challenges of single title, and the depth and breadth of bigger books. And I’d LOVE to be writing them from a Gulf-front home!

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d love to include an excerpt from The Cellar! It’s horror young adult—essentially a modern version of Romeo and Juliet with zombies.


Once upon a time, there used to be four of them. Now, there were only two.

They stood together by the window, watching. The only sound in the house came from the aquariums on the far wall. Two tanks, both large, the filters humming, the fish swimming back and forth, back and forth, waiting to be fed.

“Did you choose one yet, Adrien?” Marie asked. The tall, dark-haired woman beside him was not his mother, but over the last ninety years Adrien had come to think of her in that role. Not with love, but with the kind of understanding that came with someone who tended to his needs. Not that he had many, but she was there, and had been from the day he’d been awakened.

She’d helped him escape from the farm in Haiti where both of them had been raised from the dead for one purpose—to be slaves and work the fields morning and night, serving the whims of a master who had realized the potential for cheap, resurrected labor. She had helped him make his life, such as it was, become something other than what had been intended. And one day, he had promised, he would take care of her. When he had proven himself capable.

Everything she asked, every task she gave him, was a test. To see if he had what it took to become leader. Then, and only then, she’d said, would they expand the family. Such as it was.

Except, Adrien had grown impatient with waiting. With letting Marie make all the decisions. He was ready to lead the family, he knew it. Hadn’t he proved it back in Boise? He’d been the one to sacrifice the others, to make that call.

But Marie kept telling him to wait. If he heard that word again, he would throttle her. The hunger in him for more, for another like him, for a companion who understood his loneliness, grew every day, became something he could no longer deny or keep quiet. And now, he had finally met someone who intrigued him. Who made him, the creature who shouldn’t desire…

Want. Crave. Need.

“Yes,” Adrien said finally, watching as the girl exited a car and walked into the yellow house. The girl had a small, sad way about her, but Adrien intended to change that. All he needed was time. Not that he had a lot of time, what with Marie drooling impatiently beside him, but with this girl, he suspected he didn’t need much. “You will like her. Very much.”

“Is she healthy? That last one…” Marie shook her head. “She didn’t last. We need a good one this time, Adrien. You must think with your head. You never do. I’m the one who does all the planning and the thinking. You just live off me like a leech.”

Adrien bit back a retort. Now was not the time to argue. To remind Marie that if not for him, she would have gone back to the grave a long time ago.

The door shut, and the girl disappeared from his view. He sighed and turned away from the window. Patience, he told himself. Patience. “I am thinking. And planning.”

Marie gripped his shoulders, forcing him to look at her. Even he, who had been among these people for nine decades, couldn’t tolerate the sight of one who needed to be regenerated. The last woman’s body they had taken hadn’t been strong enough, young enough, healthy enough, to replenish Marie, and it showed.

In the skin peeling from Marie’s body, her second one this century, the fingernails that fell off with the slightest touch, scattering on the floor. In the labored breathing that heaved from her sunken chest, each exhale casting off the odor of rot, of the place from which this body had come. She was struggling to hold on to her remaining half-life. Now she wanted a younger body.

Seemed such a waste to Adrien. Considering how badly Marie abused the bodies she had. Adrien would much rather have the girl for himself. To keep her by his side. To make her like him. But he’d promised Marie and he couldn’t break his word.

Could he?

“I have very little time,” she said, her words so strong and forceful in his face he nearly tasted them. “You can’t be wrong. Not again. Or I will—“

“She’s the one.” He jerked out of Marie’s grip, hearing the nauseating soft clatter as yet another fingernail hit the floor, and headed for the door. “It’s nearly night. I need to hunt.”

“Are you sure you’re ready, Adrien? To hunt on your own?”

For years, they had done it in pairs. One circling the prey like a lion, the other pouncing. But now Marie was too weak, and of no use to him. The last two times they’d gone out together, he’d ended up carrying her weakened body home. This time, Adrien would go alone.

He hated hunting in the same town where they lived. The risks were high. Of being caught, of having someone see him capture the prey. But it was a necessity. If he strayed too far for a capture, he risked being captured himself. And where would that leave Marie?

Right now, he couldn’t abandon her. She needed him as much as he needed her. Marie had made sure of that, by keeping him from learning the last bits of information that would make him a true leader. It was her one trump card, in this sick partnership they had formed.

For that, he would stay close. And hunt.

And later, when they were strengthened by food, he would bring the girl by. Perhaps then Marie would be amenable to his idea. He cast one more glance at the yellow house.

From here, he could almost feel the girl’s pain, the hole in her heart that had called to him that morning, drawing him like a light to her, of all the people in the school building. That hole was his way in, the chink in the wall that would eventually bring her from the yellow house—

To the cellar.

My recipes are all on my blog ( and an excerpt of How to Lasso a Cowboy is here:

Thanks for visiting, Shirley.

Thanks so much! It’s always fun to be here!


  1. Thanks for an interesting interview, Liz and Shirley.

    How do you keep your manuscripts so organized, Shirley? I've noticed with your Online classes that you have examples from your early books. Plus, you will show the editing changes you made.

    Any secrets to an organized computer life? Do you take classes or how do you keep up to speed on the technology end?

    BTW, when is your next online class? :)

  2. I really related to your interview.
    I too was very close to my mother and took care of her through her terminal illness.

    I don't have a daughter to write with but my two sons and I collaborated on a YA novel for boys when they were teenagers and I loved doing it.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    STACY'S SONG--a YA coming of age novel

  3. Welcome Shirley, great interview. I especially liked your answer on who'd you have dinner with. I never thought of my grandmothers, but it would be so cool to sit down with them as adults and ask the questions I now have about their lives that--what made them the women they were.

    As always, I love learning from you.

  4. Hi, Shirley!
    Thank you for coming to WW today. Liz didn't tell you, but you were the inspy for this whole month of Pubbed authors here on WW!
    We wented to talk to you, and the thing exploded!
    It's been going on 19 yrs for me, writing, and no sale. I know I can write...I get "good" rejections, and I just got an agent again.
    Any sage advice?
    And what I really want to know you still have your braces? LOL

  5. Wow, Shirley, four books *still* this year? You are a machine - in the nicest way possible, of course!! :) Loved the excerpt.

  6. Great interview. Loved the excerpt.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Shirley.

  7. I love it that the person you'd like to spend some time with if you had a wish would be your mom - for just one more moment to be able to tell her how much you loved her. My mom died in 2008 and I SO wish I could talk to her again. And incorporating your life experiences in the books you write is what it's all about, in my opinion. Makes it real. And collaborating on a book with you daughter - that is so cool. My 12-year-old writes mini-stories and I think she's pretty darn good. Maybe some day she and I can do the same thing!

  8. What an intriguing excerpt, Shirley! I don't usually read YA (except those written by my talented critique partner :)---but The Cellar, I will buy. Must see how Adrain breaks free.

    I'd love to have dinner with my grandmother, too. She and I were especially close and I miss her all the time.

    Now off to delve into your 'first cowboy' :)

  9. Lovely interview. Thank you for allowing us to get to know you better. Loved your excerpt!!!

  10. Thanks so much everyone! Sorry to be a bit tardy to the party--my son had a tennis match this morning. He won two out of three matches, which was great.

    Cathy, I just keep my files in my computer organized like I would a regular filing cabinet with one main one and lots of sub-folders so I can find what I'm looking for. And a lot of things are cross-filed--like things I used in my classes are filed in the class folder, but also under the book file itself. The redundancy helps on the days when I'm having a blonde moment ;-)

    My next online class is in the fall: I'm teaching Writing Compelling Scenes for Colorado Romance Writers in October and The Brainmap in November for Writers Online Classes. FMI:

  11. So cool about collaborating with your sons, Jacqueline!

    Margie--thanks so much; you're so sweet :-)

    D'Ann--no, thank goodness the braces came off at the end of 2005. I never want to go back to those! Congrats on the agent! Really, it's about writing a strong book with a good hook. Lately the market has been tight for everyone because of the recession but I see signs of it easing, thank goodness :-)

  12. thanks for the kind words about the interview and excerpts, all! And also for the sympathy on my mom. Hugs to all who have gone through similar events. It's so hard...

    This past Christmas, for my brother and I, I made a photo book with pictures of us as kids, my mom, and I scanned in her hand-written recipes. It made me cry, and made my brother cry :-)

  13. The Cellar excerpt sounds exciting. Though I don't usually read YA I would read this!