Sunday, May 17, 2009


Jo Ann Ferguson, who also writes as Jocelyn Kelley and J.A. Ferguson, is the prolific romance author of Regencies, Paranormals, Historicals, and Romantic Suspense. I first met Jo Ann in the late 1980s when we both lived in the same town in Massachusetts and credit her with introducing me to Romance Writers of America. Jo Ann is an incredibly generous person, having served in a number of positions for the benefit of RWA, including President. She received RWA's highest honor--the Emma Merritt National Service Award and I can personally attest to the fact that no one deserved that honor more.

Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?

Actually it was two people. One was my grandmother who was a storyteller in her own right. She always told us stories, and I loved hearing them. I wanted to bring that joy to others. The second was my 9th & 10th grade English teacher – Mrs. Musser. She helped me take my raw enthusiasm and turn it into something readable. When I published my first book, she invited me back to speak to her class. I was glad to share how much she helped me along the way.

Tell us what it’s like to write as two different people and in several different genres.

It’s fun! Except for the month when Jo and Jocelyn both had a book coming out. Talk about split-personality time. Actually, my historical voice is pretty much the same with both names, but going with a pen name allowed me to create something very different from the historicals I’d done in the past. The Ladies of St. Jude’s Abbey books were unique at the time – strong women warriors in a historical setting. There are several similar series now, which is why I moved on to ghostly Regency historicals with the Nethercott Tales books.

Who is your favorite author and why do you like his/her work?

Absolute favorite writer of all time is Madeleine L’Engle. I discovered her when I was in 7th grade and I’ve been reading her ever since. I learned from her writing that prose can be exciting and poetic at the same time, that adventures can be thrilling and filled with self-discovery. A Wrinkle in Time remains my favorite book ever! Followed closely by the other books in the series.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

The biggest challenge has been the market. One day, you’re the hot new property; the next, it’s what have you done interesting lately? It’s at times like that I’ve reinvented myself – moving into traditional Regencies, moving into inspirational, doing some ghost-writing, doing the movie novelization. My publication path has never been straight-forward, and I’ve learned so much and met so many great editors because of that.

What is the title of the book you have coming out in May? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

The title of the book is Sea Wraith. It’s a Nethercott Tales book – the story of Sian, the youngest Nethercott sister. As with the other two books (Lost in Shadow and Kindred Spirits), it has a ghost as part of the story. This book takes place near Land’s End in Cornwall and has elements of wrecking and smuggling to go along with the ghostly encounters. Readers who enjoyed the first two books will see some familiar characters in this one, but for those readers new to the series, the story stands alone. The book will be available through ImaJinn Books:

When you first told me (many years ago) that you don’t write from a set-in-stone outline and that you often write scenes as they come to you and out of sequence, I was horrified. Now that I have some writing experience under my belt, I understand the freedom that “pantsing” allows a writer. Tell us how this works for you – and why.

LOL! I’ve become less of a pantser and more of a plotter. Because of the requirements of the market, I’ve had to learn to write the synopsis first. Yet, even with that document in hand, I tend to follow my characters on their story path rather than directing them. Once I have the characters established with their goals, motivations, and conflicts, I trust them to tell me the story. So, I use the synopsis only as a guide. One thing I still do is that I write the scenes I know first. That usually means the opening scenes and one scene from most chapters. I just sketch these scenes out, which allows me to put my characters through different emotional situations. I get to learn how they react to stress, to joy, to grief, etc. That way, by the time I’m ready to go back to the beginning and write the story in-depth, I really know them. Those first scenes being sketched out usually run about 100 pages in a 400 page ms. Some scenes I have to toss when I get to them as I pull the whole story together, because the characters have evolved at a different pace than I originally envisioned. But that’s okay. I learned something about the characters and the story while sketching those scenes. I think most writers become a combo of pantser/plotter.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Know your market, but write to your heart. In other words, read and read and read what’s out there right now – both the bestselling authors and the newbies. But write the story that keeps you from sleeping at night. Don’t worry if there’s nothing on the market like it now. Markets change – readers’ demand for storytelling that touches their emotions never does. If the story touches you, it’ll touch readers, too.

You are an active member of RWA and one of its past presidents; what other writer’s organizations claim you as a member?

I’ve belonged to Novelists, Inc and Mystery Writers in the past. Now I belong to Authors Guild as well as RWA National and several RWA chapters. And of course, the Rhode Island Romance Writers, which is always my “home” group.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

Nothing planned at the moment.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

I like hearing from readers via email. I do answer all emails…even though it might take some time when I’m on deadline or traveling.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s)?

My websites are:
My blog (Writes of Passage) is at:
But you can get from one site to the other with a link at the bottom of the home page of each one.

Thanks, Linda, for interviewing me!

No comments:

Post a Comment