I didn't conduct this interview myself, so you'll notice there are fewer ice cream references than usual, but I think you'll still get a few laughs out of it. So without further adieu, please welcome Janice!
From the time I was a little girl, I always had a creative bent. I loved to sing and dance. I got involved with drama in high school and ended up writing a little play, which we performed. In the late 70s my father moved our family to Los Angeles so that he could get into the movie business, (as a producer). He encouraged me to co-author a screenplay, which I did. In fact, I joined the screenwriter’s guild at age 18. Quite an honor! After I got married and had my children, they showed an interest in theater, too, so I ended up directing and writing musicals for Curtain Call Café (a Christian theater group). From there, my interests spread to books, and I started publishing fiction for the Christian market. I’ve now published over 80 books, everything from inspirational romance to non-fiction devotionals. I would have to say that my father was a huge influence. He passed away in ’06, but did a lot of writing in his lifetime (both screenplays and lyrics to country songs).
Janice, can you tell us about your latest book project?
Yes, I’m so tickled to share the news about my comedic historical, WEDDING BELLES, which is releasing on May 1st. Most of my readers know that I love to write light-hearted tales, and this one is no different!
What is the story behind this book?
I received a call from editor Susan Downs, who shared an idea she had for a series of books titled “Belles and Whistles.” The books in this series, she explained, must be historical, set in the west, with funny, quirky female characters. Because I write romantic comedy, she thought I would be perfect. I quickly put together a proposal for six books and two were picked up right away: WEDDING BELLES and SLEIGH BELLES. I was commissioned to write WEDDING BELLES first and had a blast doing so! The basic premise for the book was developed before I started writing, but something significant happened along the way to change my plans drastically. I needed a sneaky reason for Lottie Sanders (my heroine) to bring a group of women to Estes Park Colorado as potential brides for the town’s men. About a week after I got the contract for this book I went to a local restaurant that happened to be hosting a melodrama during the dinner hour. As I watched the drama take place, I realized this was my answer! Lottie would write and direct a melodrama to raise funds for Parker Lodge (owned by the young man she secretly loves). Out of that came the rest of this fun, melodramatic tale!
Can you share the “official” synopsis?
Lottie Sanders would do just about anything for the man she secretly loves. When Gilbert Parker suggests they put on a play to draw people to his family’s lodge, he begs Lottie to direct it. Lottie agrees to help, but is also worried if they cannot pull this off, Gilbert and his family will lose the lodge — and she will lose him. When the local single men look at this as an opportunity to catch a bride, they secretly hatch their own drama to win the hearts and hands of the actresses.
Why did you choose to write this book under the name Janice Hanna, instead of Janice Thompson?
Ooo, great question! I write most of my contemporary novels (like the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series) under Thompson and historicals (like the LOVE FINDS YOU books) under Hanna. My maiden name is Hanna, and I love to write under that name to honor my father, who passed away in ’06. I think he would have been very proud of this particular book.
Is there any connection between the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series and this one?
Nope. None whatsoever. Just an interesting coincidence with the titles/names.
What’s the deal with the wedding stories? Why do you write so many books with wedding themes?
My four daughters (all in their late 20s/early 30s) got married within four years of each other. Talk about wedding chaos! At writer’s conferences I’ve been told to “write what you know” and I certainly know weddings. I worked for a short while as a wedding coordinator and have catered many a wedding and/or bridal shower. It just makes sense to keep my writing wedding-themed, as much as possible!
What are Reviewers saying about WEDDING BELLES?
I just found out that Romantic Times gave the book a four-star rating. Woo-hoo! Here’s what the reviewer said:
Hanna’s Belles and Whistles series launch is filled with mayhem, drama and, of course, romance. The characters are engaging, witty and willing to do what they need to get what they want. Hanna’s magical touch ensures the book brims with laughter, charm and style.
Reviewed By: Patsy Glans
What outside interests do you have?
People might be surprised to hear this, but I bake cakes. Wedding cakes. Shower cakes. Birthday cakes. You name it, I bake it. In fact, I was once asked by a local restaurant to bake cakes for them.
Cute cover! What’s the story behind it?
My heroine, Lottie, is a tomboy. She’s not much for dresses. In fact, she wears pants most of the time. The men in Estes Park make it their mission to get Lottie “gussied up and lookin’ like a lady” as the story progresses. Of course, she’s still pretty attached to her cowgirl boots, so giving those up isn’t an option. I love the cover, because it merges the boots with the wedding dress.
How much research went into this story?
I drove to Estes Park while working on this book. Even though I had been many times before, I needed to see the area again so that I could envision it through Lottie’s eyes. The wonderful people at the Estes Park Museum spent a great deal of time with me, talking about the history of the area and pointing me to just the right research books to write. So, I would like to think I’ve got most of the historical elements right. I added the Stanley Hotel, of course, and the Stanley Steamer. But the setting for my story is Parker Lodge (which is completely fictional). Because I’m passionate about photography, I took dozens of pictures of the area. I particularly enjoy my trek up into Rocky Mountain National Park, where I did my best to absorb all I could about the scenery.
What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?
I learned a lot about the health benefits of living in Colorado! Did you know that Freelan Stanley (the man who designed/built the Stanley Hotel) came to Colorado at his doctor’s recommendation because he had tuberculosis? His health improved dramatically while in Estes Park.
What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?
I was directly inspired by the team of actors and actresses (here in Texas) who performed the melodrama. That little “spark” of inspiration completely changed the layout of my story and allowed me to tap into one of my strengths: directing. Many people don’t know that I spend part of my time working as a director at a local Christian theater and I love anything and everything about putting on shows.
What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?
Two things: I hope they see Lottie as the precious girl she is. I also hope they learn that perceptions are just that. . .perceptions. They’re not fact. Sometimes we look at situations and think we’ve got them figured out. When we give them a second look (and a third) we realize we were dead wrong.
What is the next project you’re working on?
I’m currently writing a novel titled LET THEM EAT CAKE, which is part of the new WEDDINGS BY DESIGN series from Revell Publishing. Many of my readers know me as the “Bella” author (from the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series). In this new series, readers can catch up with Bella, DJ and the whole gang!
What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?
I spend time with my grandbabies. I have six darling grandbabies with number seven on the way.
God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
I feel so incredibly blessed at this particular season in my life. I’ve been through several hard things over the past several years, but through it all, God has been right there, walking me through one book project, then another. He has used the writing to bring healing in so many areas, and I’m so grateful for that! I’ve made Ephesians 3:20 – 21 my life verse: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. God IS able to do so much more than I could ask or think, and He keeps proving that to me. In spite of any weakness on my part (and there’s plenty, trust me), He entrusts me with this gift (writing). I will use it to His glory as long as He allows.
Please give us the first page of the book.
A Reckoning in the Rockies
Estes Park, prepare to be razzle-dazzled! Parker Lodge, located on the beautiful Fall River, continues to offer the best entertainment in town. This month’s event is certainly no exception. Join us this coming Friday evening, April 27, for a rousing performance by local musician Jeb Otis, who will play several well-known ballads and folk tunes on his saw. Otis, who hails from the Estes Valley region, will be appear- ing at the lodge for one night only, performing before a packed house. C’mon out and share in an evening of fine food, rousing entertain- ment, and heartfelt fellowship. Front-row seating for the first ten guests to arrive. —Your friends at Parker Lodge
Estes Park, Colorado, 1912
“Jeb Otis says he’s going to jump off Longs Peak and end it all.” “What?” Lottie Sanders looked up from the rippling waters of Fall River into her boss’s worried eyes. “He’s going to end it all? Why-ever would he do that?”
“Oh, you know how he is.” Gilbert Parker plopped down next to her and sighed. “Melodramatic. Always wanting attention. Just like the other men in this town. He’s frustrated because the Widow Baker won’t give him the time of day, so I guess this is how he plans to remedy the problem.”
“He’s going to remedy the problem by taking his life?” Lottie swallowed hard. “Won’t that defeat the purpose?”
“Who knows?” Gilbert offered a little shrug, and a hint of a smile turned up the edges of his lips. “But if it’s any consolation, I reminded him that he’s got a concert coming up this Friday evening, so maybe he’ll wait till after then to do himself in.”
“One can hope.” Lottie thought about the many times Jeb and the other fellas who frequented the lodge had posed such ludicrous threats. How weary she’d grown of their antics. “What’s it going to take to convince Jeb that he and Althea Baker are as different as night from day, anyway?” she asked. “They would make a terrible match. I’m surprised he can’t see that for himself.”
“True.” Gilbert released a sigh. “But I guess it’s true what they say—love is blind.”
“Mm-hmm.” It’s blind, all right.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website: www.janicehannathompson.com
Facebook: Janice Hanna Thompson
My online courses: www.freelancewritingcourses.com
Where can readers buy this book?