Interview with Joanne Rock

Joanne Rock

Dear Joanne thanks so much for taking the time to satisfy my and the ARR visitors' curiosity. For those that haven't had the pleasure of knowing you yet, what can you tell them about yourself other than being a very prolific writer?

I'm the mother of three boys ages 8 and under, who keep me pretty busy. I write sexy contemporary romance for Harlequin Blaze and Temptation, a job I adore. Not only does it keep me home full time with my sons, it also allows me to work at my own pace. Most of the time, that pace is pretty manic, but I like knowing that I can slow down when I need to.

I read that you had been writing romance stories for five years before you sold your first book. How did you stay focused on your goals?

SILK, LACE & VIDEOTAPEA combination of offering myself incentives, and my natural obsessive compulsiveness, I think. I'd make deals with myself that I could have lunch with friends or treat myself to something special if I finished three chapters. But mostly, I am too stubborn to quit! I made sure to voice my goals to friends and family so that I would feel compelled to follow through on them.

What do you think were the most important stepping-stones toward being published and becoming a publishable writer? And does its importance still apply now that you are published?

Speaking in terms of writing craft, I think learning story structure was very important for me, as was learning how to write a synopsis. In fact, because of the way I develop my stories, these two skills are fairly intertwined. And yes, they are as important as ever! I'm continually refining my approach to story structure and tweaking it to incorporate new twists that are unique to each book.

I found out that you've done public relations and marketing in the past - for how long? And do you think that coming from that specific background has helped you in your writing and especially in the promotion of your books?

I worked exclusively in p.r. and marketing for two years, but once you've got the skills, you find yourself applying them to any other career you try along the way. I've definitely utilized my marketing sensibilities when it comes to promoting my books, but I think the knowledge was most helpful when it came to hooking an editor. For example, I constructed query letters with the same principles a marketer uses in a pitch letter-it made me very aware that I was trying to sell a product.

How do you approach a new writing project? What inspires you? A scene? The characters? The conflict?

I draw inspiration from all of the above. Usually I start a story with characters. But sometimes I begin with a premise and then fill in the characters that will make that premise work. That's how I developed SILK, LACE & VIDEOTAPE. The idea of a woman's sexy video that falls into the wrong man's hands was my initial premise, and then I searched out characters that could make it believable.

What research tools do you use for your characters, your dialogue, your settings?

For the settings I usually draw from real life. I've lived in many of the places my books are set thanks to my husband's job. But I do draw some research from contemporary magazines and movies.

Clothes seem to be playing an important part in your books. They have always given me a very good insight into the characters' persona. How important are they when writing down a new story; and do you actually send them to your "inner costume designer"?

Clothing is such an easy way to key into a character's personality-I can't resist playing dress-up with the people in my books! So yes, I do give special attention to wardrobe to showcase character.

Your first three completed manuscripts weren't in fact category romance titles, but historicals, set in the medieval times. I've seen at least one of them placed in a writing contest. What do you like about the period in history and will your readers ever get to read those projects? As I am a big fan of that era myself, I'm curious. Is there a particular author that stands out for you when it comes to medieval romance?

JOANNE ROCKMedievals signify castles and courtly love, chivalry and pageantry… such a beautiful landscape for romance! I'm not sure if I will revisit the Middle Ages any time soon, but maybe one day. The clothing offers lots of gorgeous options, after all ;-)

How did you come to switch to short contemporary titles?

I'd always wanted to write a Temptation. I started writing medievals as I finished up my graduate degree in English, when I was still immersed in Chaucer. The fit was natural! But I loved Temptations too, and told myself sooner or later I'd try one. After working in the medieval period for a while and not leaping over that hurdle of selling, I thought the time might be right to switch genres and see what happened. The results were really exciting! And it's surely easier to tap into dialogue when you are writing a contemporary as opposed to wondering what a thirteenth century knight might say.

As we are talking different sub-genres within the romance genre - what's the deal with "What's My Line?"

"What's My Line?" is a quiz I penned with fellow Harlequin/Silhouette authors Deborah Hale and Catherine Mann. It's meant to help writers and readers figure out which of the category lines they would enjoy the most. For anyone who is interested in taking the quiz, I invite you to visit the articles page at my website,

Reading your Blaze titles I found them romantic, sexy and playful. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel that unlike other authors writing for Blaze, you seem to use the longer story format for a more in-depth character development instead of as an excuse for a bigger emphasis on the sex. What else draws you to writing for this particular line?

Well, I definitely enjoy the sexy focus. Blaze allows me to really explore that intense physical awareness a man and woman experience long before they figure out the whys and wherefores of a relationship. Beyond that, I like having more room for developing a secondary romance, or exploring an intrigue and tapping into more mainstream elements.

You've got some excellent hooks in your books: sexy videotapes, handcuffs, private lessons… What catches YOUR eye?

LEARNING CURVESNew treatments of the tried and true. I love seeing a really unique take on the classic storylines.

And while we are at it… Why don't you tell us about that car wash scene in LEARNING CURVES? It's pink, soapy and very sexy. What triggered the scene, what inspired you to write it down?

That love scene inspired the whole book. I actually developed the premise for Learning Curves by thinking of a really unusual place to set a love scene. The car wash seemed over-the-top enough to fill the bill!

And now there are the cage and the handcuffs in IN HOT PURSUIT… How DO you come up with your sexy premises?

I make lists of sexy images and brainstorm from there. Sometimes a margarita helps.

Reading your biography it is obvious that some of your personal experiences have filtered through into your manuscripts - you share the same University as your heroine in your debut Harlequin Temptation release LEARNING CURVES and you've lived in the same neighborhood as your heroine in IN HOT PURSUIT - what else of yourself or your friends and family can be found in your characters and their stories?

My October Temptation, TALL, DARK & DARING takes place in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, where I currently reside. Also, the hero of that story-Mitch Ryder-shares a lot of qualities with my husband. Besides the fact that they are both thrill seekers, some of Mitch's snowboard adventures parallel my husband's skiing escapades. The book was very fun to write.

When you started writing SILK, LACE & VIDEOTAPE where you aware that your eHarlequin online serial, MANHUNTING MASQUERADE and your July 2002 Blaze release IN HOT PURSUIT would follow it?

I planned to write IN HOT PURSUIT as soon as Lexi Mansfield stepped into SILK, LACE & VIDEOTAPE. She was too much fun not to have her own story. But I didn't know about the eHarlequin serial until after I'd written the other stories. I ended up penning a friend for Lexi and Amanda-Chloe Leclaire, who is a buttoned-up lawyer type. She was very different from the other heroines, but she made a natural foil for their personalities.

Before you tell us more about your upcoming books, who can be found on your tbr pile and whom would you like to recommend?

I haven't bought Susan Elizabeth Phillips' latest yet, but I'm running to the bookstore this week! She's a must-buy. I always have lots of Blazes in my TBR because I think it's exciting to watch a new line take shape. Also, Carly Phillips' THE BACHELOR and Stephanie Bond's I THINK I LOVE YOU.

IN HOT PURSUIT So what can your fans and readers look forward to over the next twelve months?

IN HOT PURSUIT is my July Blaze, followed by WILD & WILLING (Blaze) in September, TALL, DARK & DARING (Temptation) in October, REVEALED (Temptation) in March, and WILD & WICKED (Blaze) next May.

And one last question, not related to your romance books but some other writing. While searching the Internet I came across a reference to your Master's thesis published in Anais, An International Journal. It sounded fascinating; can you tell us a little more about it? I know, I'm curious.

When I wasn't studying Chaucer in grad school, I was reading feminist theory and twentieth century women writers like Anais Nin. I wrote my Master's thesis on Nin as her unexpurgated diaries were being released at the time. Anais wrote some erotic fiction, but she is probably best known for her diaries, which were quite scandalous in her day. Later, scholars learned her published diaries were as much fiction as truth-fascinating studies in life writing.

Thanks so much for answering all my curious questions! :-)

Thank you so much for inviting me! I've enjoyed it tremendously and really appreciate that you put so much thought into your questions :-) Thanks, Kris!!

Submitted by Kris Alice, June 2002

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