Janet Chester Bly is the widow of Christy Award winning westernauthor Stephen Bly. Together they published 120 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and kids. Janet and their three sons finished Stephen’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, a Selah Award Finalist. Down Squash Blossom Road is Book 2 in the Reba Cahill contemporary western mystery series. Book 1 is Wind in the Wires. Find out more at www.BlyBooks.com
If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?
I’m a city girl with a country heart who doesn’t corral horses or mow my own lawn, but I enjoy my Idaho mountain top small town where I rake lots of pine needles and cones and survive the long winter, one snowstorm at a time.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
Besides reading? Lots of books on my TBR pile. Years ago I used to make pine bough holiday wreaths. Any extra time these days is given to library board (as president) and church board (as clerk) and ministering with the church worship team and choir (as director).
What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
I don’t remember the title or author, but I found the novel on my grandmother’s bookshelf when I was staying with her as a teen and will always remember this scene … the female protagonist cutting up the baby clothes she just knitted and flushing them down the toilet. The poignant sadness remained with me all these many decades later. When I finally grow up, I’d like to write memorable scenes like that.
Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers.
I love Matt Damon and the Jason Bourne movies … and anything starring Tom Selleck.
I don’t like coffee at all … except if it’s a latte or frappuccino or as an ice cream flavor.
I rode horses only because of my late hubby, Stephen, to be with him. However, I never feel real comfortable around them, even though I do love to watch them run.
What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
Even the early children’s stories we did years ago centered around a mystery of some sort. Adult novels co-authored with Stephen were cozy mysteries, such as The Hidden West Series and The Carson City Chronicles. Now that I’m writing solo, my new series, The Trails of Reba Cahill, is contemporary western mystery with a touch of romance. Stephen had the resource of the history detail expertise, 1880-1910 in the Old West. I’ve always loved mysteries and in order to try to cross-over with appeal to Stephen’s historical western fans, I’ve kept with the western theme, but with a contemporary setting. That worked better for me. Some have called my stories CowgirlLit, especially with the road adventure slant, much like Stephen’s CowboyLit One Step Over the Border and his Horse Dreams Series. Find out more here: http://www.blybooks.com/cowboy-lit/
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Toughest criticism … too many people and names in my stories and
The best compliments … when readers couldn’t tell where my late husband’s contribution ended on his last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, and my three sons and I began as we finished the project for him after his passing. Also, when reviewers mention they wondered if they’d enjoy my stories as well as Stephen’s and were pleasantly surprised to discover they did. High praise, indeed!
Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
Not really. I like what I’m writing … western flavor, mystery to solve, and a touch of romance. However, I certainly enjoy reading all types of different genres.
If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
As I think back to 1975 and later, I’m so thankful I attended writers conferences, learned the basics of submitting manuscripts, and was encouraged to do a lot of writing for my ‘slush piles,’ right from the beginning. I also got to know a lot of writers before I was one myself. Also, the best thing that happened was to get my hubby involved in writing too. Together we accomplished way more in being prolific than either of us ever would have done alone. To God be the glory!
Do something different? Can’t think of a thing. Except … perhaps read a lot more.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
Today is so different. Anyone can publish a book about anything, anytime. That’s the benefit and also the bane. If you want to become a good writer and find a reader base, get a critique team that fits for you, that will provide excellent feedback and edit suggestions you respect and make you better with each project.
My hubby and I had a rule that either of us could edit the other with any amount of red marks we wanted, but the creator of the project had the last say on what stayed and what got deleted. We learned from each other that way over the years. We each had a different approach that complemented the team effort. Everyone needs dependable critique partners. That might take some time to find. I recommend you hire at least one pro, if you’re not under contract with a mainline publisher. And perhaps trade editing favors with other writers too.
Janet is giving away a copy of her book, Down Squash Blossom Road. Either paperback (U.S. only, please), or a .pdf version for digital readers. Leave a comment, along with your contact information, and we'll pick a winner next week!