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Author Spotlight, Veda Boyd Jones

I met Veda Boyd Jones several years ago at a Joplin Writers’ Guild meeting. She’s a longtime member and was our speaker that night. I don’t remember her topic, but I do remember being captivated by her vast knowledge of the writing industry. I took copious notes during her presentation, and I continue to learn from Veda each time I visit with her.

Veda was my successor as president of Ozarks Writers League. When I asked her to be the 2020 president, neither of us had any idea the challengers the year would throw at us. She made tough decisions and did a wonderful job of keeping us informed. My respect for her grew exponentially as I watched her exhibit strong leadership.

It’s my great honor to introduce you to Author Veda Boyd Jones.

Veda’s publishing credits include over 600 articles and short stories and 47 books for traditional publishers, some fiction, some nonfiction, some for children and some for adults. She has received well over 1000 rejections and has 10 original e-books on Amazon. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast, a low-residency program from the University of Southern Maine.

Ozarks Maven Author Spotlight Interview

1. For those readers who are unfamiliar with you, please tell us a little about yourself.

I claim Arkansas as my home state, although I’ve lived a lot longer in Missouri. My husband of 40 years was the best architect in Joplin, and although he passed nearly five years ago, many times I feel as if it were five days ago or five hours. Our three sons are grown and gone, and I’m learning to live alone like I did in my single days. (The three check on me frequently, and I’ve discovered they have a brothers’ network and share info— about me.) I’m looking hard inward and trying to find my adventuresome spirit. Jim and I had planned to go to Savannah one day, so a couple years ago I took a solo road trip to Georgia. I’d planned to follow the sun westward to Montana last summer, and now that I’m vaccinated, I might just head out.

2. What kinds of writing do you enjoy?

When I’m imagining fiction, I sometimes long for the structure of nonfiction, and when I’m working on a nonfiction assignment, deep in research and fact-checking, I’m wistful for the luxury of making characters do, say, and wear what I tell them.

3. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

When I first started writing, I’d write a piece and submit it and collect rejections. It took some time before I learned to revise, and now I find that revision is a rewarding experience, and I like fiddling with a manuscript and making it better.

4. When did you start writing?

Monday afternoon, March 1, 1982. I’d read a romance and said, “I can do better than this.” Turns out I couldn’t. During the boys’ two-hour afternoon naptimes, I wrote five complete manuscripts before I sold the fifth one to Avalon Books. I’d finally learned revision. I later revised the first four manuscripts and sold them to Barbour Books for their Heartsong Presents series. Lesson learned: Nothing you write is wasted. It can be revised.

5. To what or whom do your attribute your love of reading and writing stories?

Reading is a mystery to me. How can you look at a page of scribbles and be transported to another time and place and become another person? I was Nancy Drew before I moved on to other characters. Maybe assuming another’s identity appeals to me on some level. My grandmother wrote a newspaper column in a weekly Arkansas newspaper about who was visiting who, and “a good time was had by all” was a standard line. I dreamed of sitting at her cubbyhole secretary and writing someday. I inherited that desk, but I don’t sit and write there with pen and paper like Grandma. Instead, I spend hours in my office in front of this computer.

6. How have your past experiences impacted your writing?

The first manuscript I wrote (later became A Sign of Love) pitted a history teacher (I have an MA in history from the University of Arkansas) against an architect (Jim, of course). The first manuscript I sold (April’s Autumn) featured a gal who worked as a hall director at a college in Denver. After grad school, I was a hall director at Loretto Height’s College in Denver. Most of my romances have a theme of compromise running through them. I believe compromise is a key ingredient in a marriage and in life in general.

7. What are some jobs that you have held?

In order: babysitting when I was a teen, library circulation desk in county library on Saturdays in high school, cafeteria worker and student secretary in history department in college, graduate assistant (graded papers, gave tests, did research), hall director, Assistant Manager of Actuarial Services for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma (definitely the token woman and had to go back to college at night for more math), writer (sold my first book in 1991), instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, adjunct instructor of creative writing at Crowder College, speaker at conferences, including the Highlights for Children’s Chautauqua Conference, and now still writer.

8. Does your past employment experience ever make its way into your books?

All the time!

9. What inspires you?

I think all writers are egotists, and I lead the parade.

10. What made you decide to write about the subjects or themes of your books?

Until lately, I’ve always written for a specific market and followed the guidelines whether for books or magazines. For most of the children’s nonfiction I’ve written, I’ve been assigned topics by editors.

11. Have you met any interesting people while researching your books?

Oh, yes. I spent a couple days at a TV station when researching a news anchor. I attended the citizen’s police academy when researching for a policewoman character. I’ve walked in the White House and Monticello, crawled in caves, ridden along a piece of the Trail of Tears. I believe hands-on research is essential.

12. What is the most difficult part of writing?

At times I find all of it difficult, but the pleasure of finishing a work and feeling proud of it, plus the great hope of selling it to a publisher, keep me at the computer.

13. Who are some of your favorite authors and why do you enjoy their work?

Writing has ruined me for reading. I most often want to edit what I’m reading, adding a comma here, taking one out there, changing a word, stretching one area, or cutting another. I’ve been in two book clubs for twenty years, so I read an eclectic assortment of titles. The only author I’ve read consistently is Laurie R. King for her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. I’ve never read one, but had them read to me via Audible. The reader is fantastic. I’m just starting David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, very postmodernism, and a difficult read. It may take months to get through it, reading a few pages an evening.

14. What writing advice did you find most useful when you were honing your craft?

Don’t be afraid of rejections. They are part of the game. You’ll never sell if you don’t submit your work.

15. Do you have any new work just released or coming out soon? If so, would you please tell us a little about it?

I sold a mini-mystery to the checkout-line magazine Woman’s World, circulation 1.5 million, which will go on sale May 13th. And a few days ago, I sold a romance short story to Woman’s World, and it will be out June 3rd. I’ve sold to that magazine through the years, but never more than one story a year with lots of rejections in between. To sell to them twice in three weeks is a huge record for me.

Each year, I take a month to write a Christmas novella (runs 25-30,000 words) and put it on Amazon as an e-book to help with sales of my other books. The 2020 one was On One Condition, and the 2019 one was The Christmas Parade. 2018’s featured the policewoman character in Here’s Your Trouble. Those keep me in the romance game, but I’m really focusing on mainstream novels now.

When Jim had a stroke in 2006, I quit writing to concentrate on him. He got better fairly quickly, but it was a wakeup call to me to write what I wanted to, and that’s when I started working on mainstream novels. I have yet to sell one. I earned an MFA in creative writing (University of Southern Maine’s low-residency program called Stonecoast) to help me learn how to write better. And I am a better writer for going back to school, but I have a long way to go. We never quit learning, do we? My thesis was a novel, Change Orders, which is based loosely on Jim’s time in Vietnam. I’m still collecting rejection letters from agents on that one and on another mainstream historical novel, The Corner of Pearl and Moffett.

16. Can you tell us a little about your current project?

I’ve spent the last year on a contemporary novel that takes place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, at a writer’s colony. There are four viewpoint characters and nine writers interacting at the residence. The novel explores the concept of what exactly makes a family. Of course, there’s a romantic subplot. I am a romance writer. I’ve revised the 106,000-word story several times on the computer and twice on paper. Now I’m struggling with writing a query letter to send to agents. Wish me luck!

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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