Friday, August 19, 2011

Author Interview: Heather Justesen

Today's interview is with Heather Justesen, author of Blank Slate. Find out more about her at

Bio: Heather Justesen spent hours every day with her nose in a book long before she could read. She grew up in the heart of rural Utah where there was plenty of time and space for reading and daydreaming. After attending Snow College, she transferred to Southern Utah University, where she met her husband, Bill, and received a BA in English literature.

While living in Utah Valley after they both graduated, they foster parented fifteen children and Heather worked for the newspaper and played in her garden. She now lives in her hometown of Fillmore, Utah, where she and her husband own a computer business, run the volunteer ambulance service, and raise a wild mix of cats, dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, guineas and one tom turkey. Once in a while she still finds time to play in the garden.

Heather’s prior novels include The Ball’s in Her Court and Rebound. To learn more about Heather and her writing, visit her website at or her blog at She loves to hear from readers and speak to schools, book clubs, and church groups. She can be contacted at

Jennifer Walker: Where can we find out more about you and buy your book?

Heather Justesen: You can find more about me on my website,, or my blog, My book is available on Amazon in both paper and ebook, and in pretty much all other ebook formats through major online retailers or

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your book, Blank Slate.

Heather Justesen: After waking from a coma, Adrianna can’t remember who she is, any of her family, friends, or fiancĂ©. As if her recovery isn’t hard enough, she finds she can no longer play the piano—something she’d always loved and made into a career. In a desperate attempt to do something that would make her feel useful, she steps in as office manager for her brother when his quits, and finds she has a knack for the position. That and the developing feelings for her brother’s business partner after she and her fiancĂ© split up give her a new direction in life and hope for the future. Until everything starts crashing down around

Jennifer Walker: Where did you get the idea for the story?

Heather Justesen: I saw a news story that fascinated me and I started playing with various scenarios from there. I get ideas from everywhere, and I write down ones that intrigue me, but lots of them never make it into books—there just isn’t enough to drive the story. This one was a happy exception.

Jennifer Walker: What is your greatest writing challenge?

Heather Justesen: Finishing and then doing the final edits. I LOVE the writing, I even love the rewriting if I’m making significant changes that are really going to improve the story. Finishing and getting those detail edits done is hard for me though. Critique partners really motivate me to get the story finished (because I have to have something to take with me next week), and I just have to really put my focus on a story to get edits finished. Setting deadlines for myself can really help with that.

Jennifer Walker: What do you find most rewarding in writing a book?

Heather Justesen: Seeing all the pieces come together, falling in love with the characters and enjoying the flashes of insight that come along the way. Blank Slate has a sister story that has some crossover characters and happens at the same time. During one of the scenes, the main character’s parents have a big argument in which we learn why they divorced—it was as big of a revelation for me as for the protagonist—those discoveries are so much fun!

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your previous work.

Heather Justesen: I have two previous books out called The Ball’s in Her Court, and Rebound put out by a small regional publisher. The Ball’s in Her Court is about a woman who was adopted out of foster care when she was twelve, and her decision to search for answers to her past. Along the way she finds family members she never knew about and falls in love.

Rebound is about her roommate a couple of years later. Lily comes home from her prenatal exam, toddler in tow, and learns her husband has been arrested for fraud. She faces losing everything they own, starting over, and raising her children alone. Thankfully, with a helping hand from her sister and a growing friendship with her former roommate’s half-brother, she manages to make a new life for herself and find love along the way. Unfortunately neither book is available as an ebook right now, but I know my publisher is working on making their titles available for Kindle and Nook.

Jennifer Walker: What other projects do you have coming up?

Heather Justesen: Oh, so many! I have another romance coming out with my publisher next January about a man whose brother and sister-in-law die in an accident, leaving two kids behind. Because he’s in the Marine reserves, the state is reluctant to give him custody when he has no family to take on the kids if he gets called up, so he convinces his best friend, Rena, to marry him and provide a stable home. It’s a sweet romance with lots of fun twists.

I have the sister story to Blank Slate, currently titled Switched that’s nearly ready for submission. Danny, a firefighter paramedic, falls hard for a young widow (and her two little girls) who does the daily cooking segment for the local noon news. When she finds out she isn’t her parents’ biological child, she goes on a quest for answers.

I’ve written the first book in a culinary mystery series which I’m totally excited about. It’s nearly ready for submission. And I’ve written the first book for a new romance series about seven women who show up at the reading of their father’s will and find out they’re all his daughters. He coerces them into moving to a remote Colorado ski town to open the latest in his chain of luxury hotels. In addition to picking out a house and jobs for them, he’s lined up what he thinks will be the perfect men—only not everyone is amenable to his matchmaking.

Jennifer Walker: Do you write full time? If so, tell us how you manage it. If not, what is your day job?

Heather Justesen: I do actually have a full-time job which thankfully allows me some time for writing and editing at work on most of my shifts. Between that and the time I log at home, I’m writing very nearly full time now. I have grand aspirations of being able to quit my job and concentrate on my writing more, as so many people do. =)

Jennifer Walker: What is your writing process like--do you outline first or just start writing, etc.?

Heather Justesen: I used to be a total seat-of-my-pants writer with no outlining at all, but over the past few years I’ve turned more and more to outlining—at least on a basic level. The amount of outlining I do varies depending on the story. I planned a lot of setup for my mystery: backgrounds, some journaling from most of their perspectives, motivations for wanting the victim dead. I let myself be surprised about who the murderer was in the end. In my other stories, the outline is a lot more linear, though I prefer to go with general checklists of what needs to happen rather than detailed lists.

Jennifer Walker: Do you work with a writing group or mentor? Why or why not? If you do, what do you get out of it?

Heather Justesen: I’ve been part of a critique group for more than three years, though I traded critiques with other writers even before that. I love my group, the feedback they give me, the embarrassments they save me from, and the motivation to keep going when I get discouraged, or I need a little help when the plot isn’t quite working. I can’t imagine not belonging to a critique group now (I actually have three because I can’t settle on just one book to work on at a time, apparently). I’d never submit a book without getting feedback from other writers first.