When New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross was seven-years-old, she had no doubt whatsoever that she’d grow up to play center field for the New York Yankees. Writing would be her backup occupation, something she planned to do after retiring from baseball. Those were, in her mind, her only options. While waiting for the Yankees management to call, she wrote her first novella — a tragic romance about two star-crossed mallard ducks — for a second grade writing assignment.
Thank you so much for inviting me! I'm delighted you've enjoyed my books. I've enjoyed The Romance Dish, as well. It's difficult to keep up with what books are out, so it's a wonderful resource.
1. Thank you. That's lovely to hear. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of The Inheritance, your women’s fiction debut. What would you like readers to know about this book?
I suppose that it’s very personal to me. I don’t remember my birth father, who deserted my mother when I was a toddler. Although I knew he had a second family, it wasn’t until I found another of his daughters on Facebook that I discovered (oops!) he’d forgotten to mention his first family to her. When she asked her mother why they hadn’t told her, the response was —and this line got in the book because it was too good not to use– “It never came up.”
For years after that, I’d joking say that I was a secret baby romance trope. But a story about three sisters started simmering—one who knew about one sister, another who didn’t know about either of the others, and one who knew about all three. Each had a very different experience with that same father, which informs who they are when the book opens. As they gradually came alive in my mind, I knew I was ready to write the story.
And because I have to care about my characters, I gave Jackson Swann a hopefully understandable reason for being such a flawed father. While researching his career, I found several psychological studies showing that many (some studies went so far as to say most) conflict reporters develop varying levels of PTSD and survivor guilt.
2. I enjoyed the present-day segments and the flashbacks that told the story of Madeleine and Robert. Why was it important to you to include their story rather than focus the full attention of the book on the current journeys of the three sisters?
Madeleine and Robert were important because of the longevity of their love, and all they’d been through in their lives (especially Madeleine) had planted the roots for the family the sisters would become. That legacy of lasting love and strength, rather than the actual vineyard, was what I always considered their inheritance.
I especially enjoyed writing Madeleine’s growth from a young teenager buying her first grownup dress and shoes for the harvest celebration, when her biggest concern was whether a boy would kiss her, to joining the French resistance and becoming a woman willing to do whatever it took to save people’s lives and take her country back from the Nazis. I’ll admit that something she did later on in the story took me completely by surprise. By that time she’d taken on a life of her own and I was just following along to see what she’d do next.
3. It’s apparent that a great deal of research went into the creation of this book. I was fascinated by the details of grape growing and wine making and enjoyed the wine pairings highlighted throughout. I’m curious to know what wine you would pair with each of the sisters to complement her personality.
Oh, this is fun! I grew up in Oregon and believe the best wines are coming from there and are what I drink. My husband and I have also enjoyed visiting wineries and being allowed to watch the process.
Tess is the easiest. She'd definitely pair with a Pinot Noir because they're the most difficult grapes in the wine world to grow and can be a winemaker's biggest headache. They're stubborn, finicky, and late maturing. But when all the right conditions come into play, Pinot Noirs can be wonderfully smooth and complex.
Charlotte would be a Pinot Gris, which is made from a lighter mutation grape of the Pinot Noir. The classic Pinot Gris are crisp, refreshing, and well balanced with complex fruit flavors. They're made to evolve with age, often marked with a touch of sweetness, and have a smooth, silky touch to the palate.
I see Natalie pairing with an Oregon sparkling wine. (If you’re a wine drinker and didn’t know that some very good sparkling wine is coming out of Oregon, now you do.) Her choice would be a blend of Pinot Noir and chardonnay, made in the French méthode champenoise, that’s bright, effervescent, and lively, while elegant.
4. Readers may not be aware of the challenges you faced in bringing this book to completion. Would you be willing to share what you’ve gone through over the past couple years? Also, what have you learned about yourself in the process?
Oh, wow. Where to begin? In February 2019, I was diagnosed with vascular necrosis, which affects only approximately fifteen thousand Americans a year. What happens is that blood is cut off to the bones, causing them to die. By the time I was in enough discomfort to go to the doctor, the MRI showed my hip to be an empty white space, that also ran down the side of my femur.
So, I had what was supposed to be an easy peasy hip replacement and a long rod inserted inside my leg. Unfortunately, as my reconstructive surgeon, who was brought in to take over at the third surgery, said, every unexpected thing that could possibly go wrong, did.
I ended up having eight surgeries between March of 2019 and February of 2020, spent sixty-six days in the hospital and acquired the second and third most deadly hospital borne Superbug infections. But hey, I didn’t have the very worst! Though they did require fourteen weeks of three times a day IV antibiotics. That process took ninety minutes each time, and when my husband and I did it in the middle of the night, we’d turn on all the lights to be fully awake and say each step out loud to make sure we didn’t mess up. Just when we thought we’d beat it, the infections would return, and another surgery would be needed.
During this time I went 8 ½ months without a hip, which meant I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg. I did, however, keep up daily exercise and got so I could hop sixty-five feet with a walker. I am now literally held together with cement covered wires, and manage to walk, with a walker, and more recently partly with a cane, somewhere between a half to one mile a day.
I was grateful for all the wonderful nurses who helped keep my spirits up and literally saved my life on two occasions. I learned the importance of keeping a sense of humor, and, although I’m a micro-manager, I was forced to give up a great deal of control and go with the flow, even as I fought to keep going. (As I kept telling doctors, I had contracted books to write!) During all this, the support I got from readers on my Facebook page and all my friends on social media, especially those in Romancelandia, helped so much. I’m not sure they will ever truly know how helpful it was for me, during some long, lonely, and often scary nights, to have people to talk with. I’m also hugely grateful for everyone at HQN, who not only remained supportive, but were patient enough to wait a year for this book.
5. In addition to being an accomplished author, you’re also a prolific card maker. How long have you been doing that? How many cards do you estimate you’ve made over the years? And where do all those cards go when they are finished?
I’d been a scrapbooker when, at the beginning of the second Iraq War, I saw a note from an Army chaplain’s wife on a papercrafting message board asking for cardmakers to make blank inside cards for troops to send back home to family, loved ones, and friends. So, during that war, I made cards for Cards for Soldiers and Operation Write Home. I don’t know how many cards the first group mailed off. But by the time the troops marched out of Iraq, three million cards made by OWH volunteers had been sent to deployed soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Now I make Cards for Hospitalized Kids, which was started by an amazing teenage girl who’d survived cancer, and a more newly established group, Cards for Kindness, that sends greeting cards to hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and other places where people might need their spirits lifted.
6. As I mentioned earlier, The Inheritance is your women’s fiction debut. Do you have plans to write more books in this vein? (I’m hoping the answer is yes)
Absolutely. I’m pondering my next one, which is currently scheduled for August, 2023, while writing my fourth Honeymoon Harbor book, which will be out June of 2022.
7. You have had a fascinating life (I encourage readers to check out 10 Things AboutJoAnn at her website) with a wide array of experiences. Have you ever used – or considered using – your own experiences as inspiration in your writing? (I’m partial to the Girl Scout story - that must have been some powerful storytelling! And your grandparents’ HEA adventure. I need to know more about that kidnapping!)
Thank you. I have used some of my experiences. I had a heroine skydive in a book, I think in 1985. And although all my characters but one have been entirely fictional, Brady in A Woman’s Heart (MIRA) is absolutely my Irish Grandda McLaughlin who lived in the house behind ours for several years and was always telling grand, exaggerated stories while I was growing up. In fact, I heard his brogue the entire time I was writing it.
8. Where can readers connect with you online?
I’m at www.facebook.com/JoAnnRossBooks and also on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/JoAnnRossBooks, and there’s a link to email my on my website, at joannross.com, but to be perfectly honest, when I’m deep in a book, or on deadline, it might take a while to get a response.
9. Thank you for graciously answering my questions today. Would you like to add anything or ask our readers a question?
Thank you again for the invitation and I’d like to especially thank all the wonderful readers who’ve allowed me to live the dream I’ve had since I was seven years old. As for a question, which format do you prefer? Print, ebook, or audio? I like all three, so I’m super happy that THE INHERITANCE, as well as my Honeymoon Harbor books are available in all formats.
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