Jo is here to promote Connection, the first book in her Reality Shift series. Since she is as new to me as she is to you, let's get right to the questions, but stay tuned because an excerpt follows the interview!
ME: Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions like watching a Lifetime Channel movie marathon, spending the day with your significant other, writing, etc.? Do you have a favorite movie that you love to watch or a book you like to read on Valentine’s Day? Is there any movie or book that you’ve saved for this time of year? If so, what’s the title?
JO: I don’t have any Valentine’s Day traditions, but I’m hoping to start a new one this year. It’ll be the second Valentine’s Day since my fiance and I met, but last year he and I lived two hours apart and he wasn’t able to see me on Valentine’s Day. This year, we’re living together, and my daughters are with their father that weekend.
ME: Many of us feel that Valentine’s Day is just one more day that has been overly commercialized and isn’t something that should only be celebrated once a year, but at least once a day. What was the most romantic gift you’ve ever received, when did you receive it and who was it from?
JO: The most romantic gift I ever received isn’t something I can hold in my hand. Last summer, I became ill, and ended up needing surgery. Through the whole thing, my fiancé stuck by me, helped out with my children when I was too sick or tired to take care of them and while I was recovering from the surgery, and supported all of us financially. I went back to work too soon, and after about a month realized I wouldn’t be able to continue working, so my fiancé told me to take the rest of the winter off and focus on my writing. His help and support has been a huge gift.
ME: Since this is the time of year when many people (teens included) feel the need to find a significant other, what suggestion(s) do you have for our readers as to what trait(s) should be added to their list?
JO: Someone who treats you well. No matter what you might think of yourself, you deserve to be treated like the most wonderful person in the Universe, because you are.
ME: There are many relationship superstitions out there such as, “rain on your wedding day is bad luck,” are you superstitious when it comes to love or relationships? Why or why not? If so, what superstitions do you believe have merit?
JO: I’m not superstitious, though I do believe you receive what you think you will. So I try to always think positively.
ME: Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in the power of love? If so, do you think that love can exist beyond this life and carry over into the next or has the power to keep a soul attached to the mortal coil never to cross over? Do you believe that ghosts have the ability to effect humans in a sexual manner?
JO: Yes, yes, yes, and no.
ME: Please tell us, if you have any, 3 funny, strange or silly things that happened to you, or someone you know, on past Valentine’s Days. Any rendezvous fiascos that you now find humorous to tell? Have they ever been inspiration for some hi-jinks in your stories? Which ones? (Sharing may help others not feel so bad if it happened to them, as the saying goes, “misery loves company”)
JO: I’m afraid I’ve pretty much ignored Valentine’s Day most of my life, so I don’t have any stories to relate.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
ME: What genre is your work considered to be (besides YA Fiction)? Why this genre? What was the draw for you?
JO: Not sure whether to call it paranormal or urban fantasy. I guess I’ll go with paranormal. When I was a teen, I always wanted to have psychic abilities and be able to battle evil and that sort of thing, so that’s what my YA stories usually are about.
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please be creative and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
ME: Do you prefer romantic gifts (flowers, chocolate, jewelry, etc.) or romantic acts (massages, dinners, fun night out, etc.)? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
JO: I’d say romantic acts, and I think it does show through in the way my characters, whether friends or in a relationship, treat each other and do nice things for each other.
ME: What school of thought are you when it comes to romance, love at first sight or that love takes time? Does this show through in your writing? If so, how?
JO: I believe in both, because I think it depends on the situation and the people. I’ve written stories that show it developing each way.
ME: When reading stories, many of us find secondary characters to be as interesting as or more interesting than the main characters. Are there any secondary characters that you plan on giving their own story? Or any that readers have requested have their own story? Are any of them your favorites? Why?
JO: I don’t know that she’ll ever have her own story, but I have to say I love Kaylie Sturbridge in Connection. Or maybe I should say I love to hate her…
ME: Of all of your heroes, who would you say is the most romantic and why?
JO: Since Connection is my first YA novel, I don’t really have an answer to that. There isn’t any romance in it.
ME: Of all of your heroes, who would you say is the least romantic and why?
JO: Same answer as above.
At the start of high school, Shanna Bailey doesn’t imagine her life will change. She’s always been the one everyone else puts down, even her own mother. Shanna is positive high school will be no better. But when she meets Jonah Leighton, everything changes. Though most other kids make fun of and even fear Jonah, Shanna finds him to be kind and thoughtful, and he amazes her with the things he knows. Even more amazing, he wants to teach her what he’s learned, and he wants to be her friend.
When Kaylie Sturbridge, one of the popular crowd, starts acting strangely, flipping out in school and shouting about a dark thing following her, her friends shun her. Only Jonah seems to know what’s going on, and he persuades Shanna to work with him to help Kaylie. But can the two of them rid Kaylie of the entity that wants to take over? And can Shanna trust herself enough to do what Jonah needs her to?
In front of Kaylie’s house, we stopped. The place was huge, even bigger than Jonah’s. As far as I knew, only Kaylie and her parents lived there. My chest tightened and my lungs begged for more oxygen. “Kind of scary,” I said, trying to sound casual.
“The size of the place or the fact that it’s Kaylie’s?” Jonah lightly touched my arm. “We’ll be fine. Come on.”
We went to the front door. After Jonah rang the bell, it took a couple minutes for Kaylie to answer. Her eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with black. They widened in surprise. “You showed up.”
“Yeah.” Jonah scrutinized her. “Looks like you didn’t sleep well. You didn’t do any of that vibrational stuff I told you about yesterday morning, did you?”
“No,” Kaylie admitted. “I thought it sounded like a crock. If I’d done it, it would have helped me sleep, though, wouldn’t it?”
“Definitely. Are you going to let us in?”
Kaylie stepped back and Jonah and I went inside. The house looked like no one lived there. No magazines on any tables, no shoes by the door, nothing. “My parents aren’t here,” Kaylie said, as though we didn’t already know.
“You told us they wouldn’t be.” Jonah peeked around a doorway. “Nice living room. We can work in there.”
“No one goes in there,” Kaylie snapped.
“Then why do you have it?” I wanted to know.
Kaylie gave me a look that would have been withering a week earlier. Now it just annoyed me. “It’s a parlor. Parlors are for special occasions.”
“And you have your parties where?” Jonah asked, looking around.
She stared at him. “How do you know about those?”
He laughed. “Kaylie, everyone knows about those. My eight-year-old neighbor has heard about your parties. Where do you have them?”
“We have a finished basement. We could work down there.” From the way she hesitated, she knew that was a bad idea.
“Not a chance.” Jonah went into the parlor. “With everything I’ve heard goes on at your parties, the vibration of that room would be so low we wouldn’t be able to do anything. This room has a good vibration.”
I thought Kaylie might argue, but after a second she just shrugged and went into the room. I followed her. “Just don’t touch anything,” she ordered.
“Other than the chairs, you mean?” Jonah sat down and scanned the room. “This is a really cool room.”
A fireplace had been built into the wall opposite the doorway. I went closer to see what they had on the mantle. Mostly I saw only ceramic figures, but in the center sat a black bowl that held an oval brown and tan stone about ten inches long. I felt a strange tingling when I looked at it. “What’s this?”
Jonah came over and looked at it. “A Shiva lingam.” He turned to Kaylie. “How come you have this?”
“I don’t know,” she said scornfully. “It belonged to my grandfather. Or great-grandfather, or something. One of my ancestors. It’s like an heirloom.”
“Kind of an unusual heirloom,” Jonah commented. He reached for it.
“I said don’t touch anything!” Kaylie snapped.
“True, you did.” He went back to his seat. I looked at the rock for a couple seconds longer, then reluctantly left it and sat in the chair beside Jonah’s. “So the first thing we need to do is make sure your vibration is too high for the demon to make it through,” Jonah explained. “It would have been tremendously helpful if you’d actually listened to me yesterday, but since you didn’t, we’ll have to do what we can. Do you still have the piece of quartz I gave you, at least?”
Kaylie nodded and took it out of her pocket. “I feel better having it with me, for some reason.”
“Because it’s protecting you from the demon,” Jonah said. “Sit down.”
Kaylie glared at him for a moment then did as he said. “What do I do?”
“Start with the affirmation I told you yesterday,” he instructed. “I intend to raise my vibration to higher and higher levels. Shanna, it wouldn’t hurt for you to say it too.”
“I intend to raise my vibration to higher and higher levels,” Kaylie and I repeated in perfect unison.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flicker of black. Without knowing where the information came from, I knew I couldn’t let Kaylie become aware of it. But Jonah needed to know. I nudged him and tilted my head toward where I’d seen it. Jonah glanced over and nodded. “Say it again,” he told us.
“I intend to raise my vibration to higher and higher levels.” Again Kaylie and I spoke in chorus. This time, I felt a pulling sensation in my stomach, below my rib cage. After a second I remembered that as the location of the third energy center, according to Jonah, though that didn’t mean much to me.
The flicker showed itself again. This time, Kaylie spotted it. “There it is!” She covered her eyes. “Make it go away!”
“Kaylie.” Jonah’s voice was low and quiet, like when he’d done the visualization with her at school. “Don’t be afraid. If you fear it, you give it power over you. And you lower your vibration.”
“You try having a demon following you and see how unafraid you are!” she shrilled.