Wednesday, July 10, 2013

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author JoAnn Smith Ainsworth. She is the author of historical romance and paranormal suspense novels.

Author Genre: Historical Romance and Paranormal Suspense

Website: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth
Author's Blog: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth's Blog - Red Room

Author Description:
When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn't thinking, "I could use this in a novel someday." Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels.

Believing it's never too late to create your dream, she resurrected a desire to write when in retirement. Her debut medieval romantic suspense novels, MATILDA'S SONG and OUT OF THE DARK, received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews. JoAnn's two historical western romances will be e-published by Whiskey Creek Press (POLITE ENEMIES, ebook ISBN: 978-1-61160-636-2, releases Sept. 2013 and THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH, ebook ISBN: 978-1-61160-660-7, releases Dec. 2013). Both will release in print a few months later.

Her agent (Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency) sold an Operation Delphi paranormal suspense novel, EXPECT TROUBLE (print ISBN: 978-1-61009-074-2, releases April 2014), to Oak Tree Press. JoAnn was a child in WWII and her memories of those times add poignancy to the novel.

Among her achievements are Chief Clerk of a U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, database administrator for an international law firm and a 3 1/2-mo. trip around the world.

She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a double major in English and Social Science. She has her Masters in Teaching English and ESL from Fairleigh Dickinson University and her M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University.

She's most proud of becoming an author as a senior citizen. She will be 75 when EXPECT TROUBLE is released.

Contact Information
Twitter: @JoAnnAinsworth and @JoAnnParanormal
LinkedIn: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth
Facebook: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth and JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page
Pinterest: JoAnnAinsworth

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have several books on the horizon, coming this Fall including POLITE ENEMIES to be released in Sept. 2013 and THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH coming in Dec. 2013 plus EXPECT TROUBLE being released in 2014. Can you tell us what is on your drawing board now?

First things first, James: Thanks for this opportunity to interact with your readers.

Let me see, on the drawing board is book two of the Operation Delphi series entitled EXPECT DECEPTION. Here’s its pitch:

Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she’s clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVE Livvy Delacourt wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet. Just when her team of psychics thinks they finally have this Nazi spy chase thing under control, Hitler’s occult designee adds black arts and a minor demon to the mix. The U.S. team must ramp up their powers and strengthen their psychic proficiency or perish.

Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your writing and marketing?

I started writing late in life when the Internet was already making its way into businesses. I was in the forefront of that wave, being on staff at one of the first law firms to create a webpage. I coded HTML by hand before software to code it was created.

That experience taught me to write in shorter sentences and paragraphs and to leave plenty of white space so the eye can easily follow the on-screen words. Shorter sentences had the side benefit of increased pacing. If I hadn’t had Internet experience early on, I would’ve written in the style of novels of the 70’s and 80’s, with longer descriptive passages laced with adjectives and adverbs. Today, I compare my writing with that of a poet who must distill a thought until it captures the essence of the idea in as few words as possible.

I believe in social media. It’s a great tool to spread the word about my novels. Although it takes too much time and energy for me to be active on all social media sites, I maintain a bio and head shot on many sites and RSS feed my Tweets and blog posts to them, where possible.

I’m active daily on Facebook and Twitter. I tweet about my writing life as @JoAnnAinsworth and about WWII and my paranormal series as @JoAnnParanormal. I throw some philosophical and writing insights onto my Facebook profile page. I will hold contests and Q&A sessions on my Facebook Fan Page as the calendar gets closer to EXPECT TROUBLE’s release date of April 2014 from Oak Tree Press. I also list the books I read on Goodreads, Shelfari and LibraryThing. I maintain my blog posts on

To market the historical western romance novels releasing for sale this fall from Whiskey Creek Press, I plan teleconferencing meetings with reader groups via Skype, HangOuts or Shindig.

As you can see, the online world has been good to me as an author.

You do a lot of book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

You can find my appearances on my website at With the demise of Borders and the rise in self-publishing, the competition for event spots at surviving bookstores has increased. A year or so ago, I switched my marketing from in-store to online. I try to chat or blog as guest author on a variety of sites each week.

I still like to get out whenever possible to give a live talk or do a book signing so I can interact with readers to learn what they are looking for in today’s novel.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach?

Covers are in the realm of the publisher. We authors get a form where we can state our preferences and attach graphics to suggest the look of the heroine and hero, but the final look is controlled by the editor or perhaps the publisher‘s marketing department.

I lucked out. I got the same cover artist for both books and she blended the covers with my website, as requested. She read my novels and put her understanding of the stories into the covers. I’m glad you like them. I agree.

What writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I belong to the California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch and the San Francisco Area Romance Writers of America. At CWC, the focus is on ways to market. RWA is about craft and networking, as well as providing excellent online writing classes at low cost.

For over a dozen years, I’ve been part of a three-person critique group which meets every two weeks. My critique partners have been instrumental in guiding the structure of my novels and for character motivation.

I also belong to Yahoo groups where I pick up tips from other authors.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I’m annoyingly efficient and structured. My best hours are early morning, so I put my writing and the work requiring focus during those hours. Admin work and marketing or web updates come later in the day when I’m less alert because much of these now have set routines. Afternoon or evening is when I attend meetings or author events.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Although we authors have to buy our books, I give them away for gift baskets and raffles in the community. I’m willing to spend the dollars to give my books to charities and nonprofits for their raffles because I believe in the quality of my writing. A happy reader tells a friend. Word of Mouth is still the best way to sell novels.

As far as free books vs. selling the books, those decisions are in the hands of the publisher. I’ve never had a free day on my books.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going?

I am a plotter vs a pantzer (an author who writes by the seat of her pants). I outline my books before I write the first sentence. I start with the location and the time period. I then devise a story question for that century and decide what personality types or social standing would be needed to resolve the story question problem. I devise a half dozen crises points to carry the action of the plot. I do research and write character profiles. After all this work is done, I create an Excel chart outline.

By the way, this intense planning period is where my critique partners are invaluable. A cool head and another pair of eyes will find the structural or motivational flaws before they get written into the first draft. I don’t feel obligated to write the story as outlined, however. I change things as needed, but most of the time I stick with my design.

You have a great website. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal?

You answered this one for me. I’m happy the website is working as intended to keep readers informed, market my books and provide useful information.

You have listed your first-handed knowledge that runs throughout your books. Since I experienced most of these myself, I wondered why you left out drive-in theaters, radio dramas, running boards and party-line telephones? (I can still remember my grandmother’s 5-digit phone number like it was my own.)

By the time I drafted the website’s About profile and bio, the series stories I’d written were either medieval Britain or 1895 Wyoming. I only used the part of my experience that fit for those times.

Now that I’m writing WWII stories, I should add your suggestions to my About page and bio. I must put it on my To Do list.

You beat me in that I can’t remember our 1950’s phone exchange and number. I do remember we were on a party line where four rings meant the phone call was for our family and not one of the neighbors.

It’s been delightful sharing this time with you. Your questions were challenging and caused me to pause and think about why and how I’ve been doing things over these past years as a published author.

Author's Book List
Matilda's Song
Duty requires sacrifice…but the heart will not be denied. At the time, pretending marriage to her middle-aged widower cousin seemed like the best way to escape a politically motivated betrothal to a brutal knight. Now, her journey toward a new life has landed her in hot water—she’s been waylaid by a local Norman baron who’s mistaken her for a real bride. And he demands First Night rights. Hot water turns to steam in a scalding night of passion…passion she has never known. And now must live without. Lord Geoffrey is entranced at first sight of the Anglo-Saxon beauty, and finds that one night in her arms is not nearly enough. But all he can offer the low-born Matilda is a life in the shadows—as his mistress. Her head warring with her heart, Matilda resigns herself to her duty in a masquerade of a marriage. It’s a choice that could cost her life. For the knight who first sought her hand is back with murder on his mind. Now it’s Geoff who’s faced with the ultimate choice: which is more precious…his estates or the love of the one woman who can heal his soul?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Out of the Dark
Blinded—she by nature, he by loyalty. As a blind woman seen as a flawed commodity, Lady Lynett is used to the idea that she’s unlovable. But her parents’ plan to force her into a loveless marriage is too much. Wandering, upset and lost in the cellars of the King’s castle, the darkness doesn’t frighten her, but the murder plot she overhears chills her to the bone. Worse, no one believes her, and the only one she can turn to is a Norman sheriff whose voice sounds disturbingly like one of the conspirators. Basil, Sheriff of London, is battle-hardened, fiercely loyal—and torn apart. He’s falling in love with the Saxon beauty, and he longs to show her she is worthy of love despite her physical limitation. But the very corruption she is helping him root out may implicate his own half brother. How can he turn his back on family—for an Anglo-Saxon woman?

Book Trailer: Out of the Dark

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: Alon Shalev
Alon Shalev is an award-winning YA Author. He is the author of the YA epic fantasy, At The Walls of Galbrieth.
Check out Alon's Author's Spotlight.


  1. Interesting questions and answers. Enjoyed reading the interview and getting to know more about your background, JoAnn.

  2. In September, my novel POLITE ENEMIES releases at Whiskey Creek Press and we will be fellow WPC authors, John. I'm happy to have this way to get acquainted.

  3. I like the way your mind writer