Guest Blogger: Jill Barnett

It’s a pleasure to welcome a special guest to Magical Musings today, New York Times bestselling author Jill Barnett.  I’ve been a huge fan of Jill’s for over 15 years now, ever since my mom bought me the A HOLIDAY OF LOVE anthology that featured Jill’s wonderful Christmas story, “Daniel and the Angel.”  That dogeared paperback is still on my keeper shelf, and I reread the story every Christmas.

I was thrilled to discover Jill on Twitter, and over-the-moon when she agreed to join us here.  I asked her to address the very broad topic of “Starting Over” because all of us face transitions in our lives: new school, new home, new job, new town, marriage, divorce, motherhood, empty nest and more.  It’s rich fodder for authors and it’s inescapable for all of us as we live our lives.  So without further ado, here’s Jill.


STARTING OVER WHEN LIFE
PUNCHES YOU IN THE FACE

A few years back, when blogging was at its inception, I wrote on Amazon one day about a gander I’d seen often near an island road. He had lost his mate a while back, but still some days you would see him, regal and tall, looking at us narrow-eyed as he stood guard while his goslings crossed the road.  The cars would be lined up, waiting as his young family waddled from a grassy knoll, over a strip of asphalt, to the harbor’s edge.  I made the mistake once of getting out of the car to shoo them along because I was late for the ferry and this one silly little goose kept running in circles and that gander came at me, wings flapping.  I did not know this until later, but geese mate for life. So after that, those times when he was alone at the edge of the harbor, looking a little lost, I felt a kinship with him.  I thought perhaps if I looked into his eyes I would see the same emptiness I sometimes felt.

My husband and I met my junior year of high school. He was a year older, and we were together on and off until we married in our early twenties.  Chris and I were married for twenty-seven years and I had never once thought of my life without him.  But one night a policeman knocked on my door to tell me he was gone, that he had died in an instant, and my life and my daughter’s life changed forever.

So now that you’re completely depressed, let me say that I have always felt I was lucky to have him as long as I did. That did not make the struggle of widowhood any easier, but it kept me sane for a long time…until I decided to write a book about a family like us, about a woman who has a great life, a loving husband, a successful business, four loud, independent and opinionated adults kids.

In a heartbeat everything changes and she has to start over.  Maybe I was insane to tackle a woman’s most difficult journey.  As I was writing BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS, I questioned my sanity too many times to count.

So many writers I adore, Pat Conroy, Danielle Steel, Elizabeth Gilbert, write about their own lives in fiction and memoir, recreating their own traumas as a way to release the pain or take them on a journey to a better place.  Maybe they want to rewrite the outcome.

My title says it all.  BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS.  I chose to rewrite the ending, to tell a story about a woman’s journey to hell and back and then to love and joy and happiness again.  I think I decided to write my own happy ending.

So you would think a book about starting over might be depressing, and who wants to read that?  (Not me, I lived it.) But I decided to tell March’s story honestly, her real pain, along with all the black humor that comes along with loss and our struggles to just get through the difficult times.  March’s journey is not mired in only loss and grief, but in a mix of all the crazy things that we do to heal.  And yes, I can eat three dozen cookies, an entire box of Wheat Thins, and spend too much money all in an effort to heal.  I can laugh and joke at a pink Elvis urn that plays In The Ghetto just as I can drink too many Margaritas and sing Jefferson Starship off-key at the top of my lungs.  I do not jog, so the book is really fiction.  Whenever I think of jogging I remember an old, funny Henny Youngman line, “I can’t jog because my cigarette goes out and the ice cubes fall out of my drink.”

So I would like to invite you to come along the rocky, ugly, but sometimes laugh-out-loud road that March travels.  We woman are strong.  We can carry an amazing human spirit, and we can find our own happiness.  Sometimes it’s just waiting around the next corner, or over the bridge ahead, or even…sitting right next to us.

New York Times bestselling author Jill Barnett has written 19 novels and short stories since she sold her first book over 23 years ago. She is a six time RITA® finalist and Favorite Book nominee, and Romance Writers of America® Honor Roll member, who joined RWA in 1984 and was one of the founding members of San Francisco Area RWA chapter. She has been published worldwide in 23 languages, her last book THE DAYS OF SUMMER was an international bestseller, and her first new book in over four years, BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS, is available this month.  For more info, visit Jill’s website or her Facebook author page.


Thanks, Jill, for joining us today.  I hope all your readers will stop by and say hello or possibly share their own “starting over” stories.  As an incentive, I’m offering up a $20 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter (randomly chosen from all the comments left by midnight tonight!).  This way, you can buy Jill’s ebook Bridge to Happiness and maybe one or two others as well!

Jill will be responding to comments throughout the day, so be sure to check back to follow the discussion.

About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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40 Responses to Guest Blogger: Jill Barnett

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Jill, thank you for being our guest today. I’m such an emotional wuss, I’m still tearing up. I’m already a huge fan of yours, and I must get this book. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Each morning I open my computer and begin to make a round of my favorite blogs. I read the posts, often comment and after the alloted time for cyber-travel, get back to the job I have retired into … writing.

    Before blogging, before crusing the internet and before learning about the dreaded query, I thought I had a pretty good grasp and a damn good collection of fiction. The variety was all in the right places, the names and faces interesting and the titles good enough to pass along to my other reader friends.

    Then I get up this morning and innocently come for my daily dose of Magical Musings and before I have a chance to get a cup of coffee to jolt my nervous system, I sit and have a good cry.

    Obviously, never being short on words :lol: you floored me, or nailed me to the floor and I thank you, Jill and this blog for introducing me to another great writer. Your web page is already in my favorites and your books are in my “sights.”

    • Jill Barnett says:

      Florence,

      My editors will tell you I am never short on words. My first book of the new Medieval trilogy coming out next year is 132k, which shocked even me.

      Hi Wendy,. (I love that name. Always wanted to be a Wendy instead of a Jill.)

      Lynn,

      Divorce must be a true struggle, especially with kids. I’ve watched my older sister strumble through a life of two divorces. I’m not certain she will ever be the same about how she feels about love. But she’s an independednt 69 yr old woman and I believe she is finally happy.

      Hi Laura. Thank you for my welcome.

      Hi Amy, the link worked! Amy and I were trying to test this yesterday and I failed miserably.

      Linda,

      That cannot be easy. My heart goes out to you. Have you ever read the wonderful author Sandra Canfield? Years ago she wrote about a heroine with RA, because she had it. She wrote for Superromance and her books are classic favorites and were always difficult to find. She was such a lovely writer. I need to get up off my fanny and lose more than 10 pounds.

      Arkansas Cyndi. Henny Youngman was really funny at times. Of course so many don’t know who he was, but he told that joke in Tahoe during a standup routine back in the 70s, when jogging and those godawful little silky shorts with the white trim were in.

      I used to live in Tahoe, as well as San Francisco, so I know the settings of BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS all too well. I chose to open the book in 1968 at a concert with Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin) and Santana. I was there.

      Yes, Cathy P, find it whereever we can. There is so much hardship in life. I read Mary Jo’s comment and I am crying. I lost my sons as babies but I cannot imagine the strength it takes to deal with the death of a schild. I watch my MIL and it was so difficult because my dear Chris was not her first loss either. Bless you for you strength.

      Cynthia, And I’m big on remembering those we lost in personal, tender and meaningful ways. I do little things to remember Chris that make me happy and make me smile. I did it mostly at first for my daughter, who was only 11 and I understood what she was going through. I lost my mother at 10.

      Now I’m going to run and feel my cat, who is pawing me because I sat at the computer before feeding them He is whining as if he’s starving and trust me, it would take a long, long time for him to use up his plump little store of fat.

      So now I’m looking at the collection of emotons–is that what they’re called? Would I be a crumudgeon to admit at hate those things?

  3. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Lynn Cahoon says:

    Jill, what a moving story. And I totally agree about jogging… although I always wanted to be a runner, it wasn’t in the cards.

    A starting over story? I have a few. The one I’m proudest of is leaving my dysfunctional marriage and starting a new life. One that has lead me 1600 miles away from home and married to a man who actually listens when I talk. My son\’s college essay proved I made the right move. He said we were a lot more functional as a divorced family than we’d ever been as a married one. Sometimes the kids are smarter than we are.

  5. Thanks for the sad-yet uplifting story.
    You’re right, women are strong. and we are stronger still we we can share our stories.
    Thank You.
    I’m looking forward to Bridge to Happiness.

  6. Amy Atwell says:

    Thanks for stopping by so early this morning, ladies. Glad to see I’m not the only one who cried when I first read Jill’s post. FYI, she lives on that “other” coast, so she’ll be by a bit later this morning to read and comment.

    I can already tell this is going to be a day filled with inspiring stories. Thank you all for sharing.

  7. Linda Henderson says:

    I’ve done the starting over from divorce with kids twice so that’s old hat to me. The hardest start over for me was learning to live with severe RA. It was like life as I knew it had changed overnight. I had to give up so many things I liked to do, even reading for a while because it hurt to much to hold a book. When I finally get my life in some kind of order I now get hit with diabetes. One of the medicines I’m on for my RA has made me diabetic. So now I get to start looking at food in a whole new way. To say I was pretty bummed out with the latest diagnosis would be an understatement. However, I’ve sucked it up and started watching my diet and have actually lost 10 pounds in the last month. So I guess I’m making lemonade out of my lemons. Thank you for your thought provoking post and to all of us, brighter days to come.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. The book sounds wonderful

    However, I am stealing the Henry Youngman explanation on jogging. It is perfect! :lol:

  9. Cathy P says:

    What an inspiring story – thanks for reminding me to find happiness in the right here and now as well as while moving forward!
    Looking forward to Bridge to Happiness – sounds wonderful

  10. Mary Jo says:

    Jill,

    I started over many times in my life. First by divorcing my husband, the father of my three sons. Then I single-parented for ten years, met a man who’s wife had died tragically and left him with a young son, 10 years younger than my youngest. We married after I thought about raising a youngster when mine were in their teens. We’ve been happy for 32 years. In those years I’ve had start overs, dealing with my husband’s serious heart condition which changed our lives, the youngest son’s catastrophic accident which changed our family dynamics, the death of my second son and most recently the death of my third son. Each has required a start-over and all of it has strengthened me as a woman and as a writer.

    I look forward to reading your new book. And I hate jogging also which is why one of my heroines jogs because she can and as a kind of penance. :-)

  11. Cynthia Eden says:

    Hi, Jill! Thanks so much for blogging with us today. I’m a big fan of your work, and now, I’m a teary fan b/c of your post. :-) Starting over can be so incredibly difficult, but if we don’t keep going, then how can we enjoy life?

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  13. Amy Atwell says:

    Jill–so glad you found us. Yes, I was unable to get you a preview of the blog yesterday, but I see you found it (and all our emoticons!) today. People are sharing such raw yet wonderful stories. I’m in one of those starting over phases myself right now–not from scratch, but just trying to pause, catch my breath and figure out the next steps. My father passed away last month, and he left a void bigger than I imagined it would be. Suddenly my schedule is off. Things that used to be a priority are no longer prescribed parts of my day. I thought casting off that extra stress might be a relief, but instead I just feel sort of lost.

    But starting over takes time. I accept that. Thanks for all the sharing.

  14. Donna Caubarreaux says:

    Great post. Loved the Henny Youngman quote.

    I read somewhere that you are responsible for your own happiness. It’s your decision to be happy or not. But sometimes, you can’t get your mind around that concept. Life throws so many obstacles in our way.

    You were fortunate to have a great love in your life. So many people never have that experience.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  15. Jill Barnett says:

    I think we are responsible for everything in our lives. Maybe not the events, but how we choose to deal with them, how we choose to live through them, and whether or not we can stumble our way out of them. I had moments where I did well and moments when I was so lonely without Chris I would cry myself to sleep. I decided when I wrote BTH, that I wanted to write to whole story. Most widow books start with the death of the husband and move forward from there. But part of the journey is the relationship they had, so I wanted readers to see this family, loving and competitive and funny, and to see that March and Mike had been married a long time, long enough to go through all those cracks in a marriage and get to the point where they knew they would be together forever. They knew there was no walking away. I had that kind of marriage. I wouldn’t to relive those rocky moments in those first 10 to 15 years again for anything but the last decade was so amazingly tight and together and safe. March and Mike had that safety. I love writing that part of the book. I also chose to write it from only their points of view, so the book switches to 1st person when it’s only March. It was very important to me that the reader see their life together adn then, with the suddenness of death, see her life without Mike.

  16. Jill James says:

    Jill, we share a name by default. My husband is with the CHP so I had to choose a pseudonym. Like Amy, my copy of that Christmas anthology is worn out with the spine falling off. I read it every holiday season. I can’t wait to get this new book. With a husband who is a cop, every day is spent just that little bit on edge. And a medievel!! Cool. Will have to get that one too.

  17. Jill Barnett says:

    I met a Jill Barnett years back at a conference. I remember because she said her agent told her she couldn’t use her name. Was that you? Barnett is my maiden name and my SIL in a cop. He just made detective. I adore him. My dear Kasey picked well.

    In fact, I go the idea for one of the family scenes in BRIDGE TO HAPPINESS from an exchange between Tom and his younger brother. It was easy to write about the family, three adult children and a teen, because my husband came from a big Catholic family. I adore them all.

  18. LaDonna says:

    Jill, thank you for sharing that painful part of your life. I experienced an event a couple years ago, when my husband had a TIA. Everything stops during a crisis, and at its core love is all that matters. It took me many months to relax my guard, and realize he wasn’t going to disappear in a poof.

    One thing I did come away with is a renewal for life’s moments; just standing inside of them and appreciating the journey. Thanks for the reminder that a moment might be all we have. I’ve enjoyed your work over the years, and wish you continued success and lovely peace. And thank you for being our guest at Magical today. :smile:

  19. Jill, I can’t wait to read this special book. My favorite of your will always be Just a Kiss Away. I keep two copies on my keeper shelf just in case I need to give one to someone. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    I’ve started over too many times to count, lol, but after a devastating layoff 5 years ago, I decided to give more focus to my writing and see what might happen. I’m still on that road, and I expect I have more fresh starts ahead. Such is life.

  20. Liz Kreger says:

    Thank you so much for joining us here at MM, Jill, and for sharing your story. I truly believe that women are incredibly strong people and can get through most anything. We have to pick ourselves up, dust off and continue … if not for our own sakes but for the sake of our kids.

    I’ve never been faced with the hardship of starting over, but I’ve had to cope with cancer for nearly fifteen years … and counting. We do what we have to do. I always tell other women that you never know how strong you are until you HAVE to be.

    Rock on.

  21. Rachel Grant says:

    Jill, I’m delighted to see you blogging with Amy, who happens to be one of my very favorite people.

    Love the Youngman line. I got nauseous just watching the poor marathon runner struggle to make it to the finish line during the Beijing Olympics. Of course, in my WIP my heroine is a runner–my heroines are always more athletic than I am. (But let’s face it, that’s not very hard.)

    As far as starting over stories, I’ve been fortunate (and superstitious enough to knock on wood and type at the same time) for the most part. That said, 2010 was a brutal year for me. At the end of the year I felt like I took control of the things that were within my power and returned to writing, which brings me peace and escape, and focused on my family, which brings me joy. It also helps that around the same time we got a kitten. Best therapy, ever.

  22. Amy Atwell says:

    Wow, Jill, you weren’t kidding about the anti-spam BROAD. LOL

    I’m loving these stories–the ones that make me smile as well as the ones that make me cry. And the ones that amaze me with the resiliency of womenkind.

    I especially love Rachel’s kitten therapy. You go, girl.

    Now, I’ve got to log off for a few hours to do some driving. I’ll check back on all the comments late tonight or early tomorrow morning–and I’ll draw a winner for that Amazon gift card. Wish I could stay and break out the wine and cookies with all of you.

  23. Jill Barnett says:

    Okay, so the SPAM word now is toast. I wonder…as in I am toast, or golden cripsy bread. I think I’ll take the bread.

    My husband had a massive heart attack at 40, when he was deep sea fishing off the coast of Baja, a place he went every year. Because he was out of the country, we could not med evac him out for about 48 hours, and even that was with lots of bribe money. Eventually he landed back in the US, had more heart attacks, and they did a triple bypass. But the damage was terrible. The truth is, I got Chris 7 years longer than I probably should have. I was lucky, but I have a confession to make. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and check to see if he was breathing. He never knew this, but I did alot that first 6 mos afterward. I remember looking down at him (I can see you doing this, LaDonna) and thinking ‘what would I ever so without him?’ That changes you, and your relationship, how you see life, and live it.

    The Big C. Bless you and your strength. I suspect you can tell many stories of reinventing your life.

    Thank you the comments about my older book. Just A Kiss Away is coming out in eBook in the next week or so. I’m very excited and was surpised how well the book stood up to time when I reread the digital edits. That book is an adventure romance, my 1990 tribute to Romancing the Stone. When the book was recently digitized, the word HUT changed to BUT throughout the whole ms. It was a jungle book, so I had rebels camps and naives and my characters were prisoners. Can you imagine the number of HUT changed to BUT? It was a nightmare. But the book is downright funny. I couldn’t believe I was laughing at my own story like I was. good to know it stands the test of two decades. Good grief I’ve been doing this a long time….

    Wishing you great success with your writing. Remember, Marley, to write what you love to read, njot what you think you can write. When it comes down to the nut and bolts and day ins and out, if you have some passion for your kind of story, it gets you through the hard times. Writing only looks easy.

    And my dear Rachel, a fabulous writer, who didn’t mention that she also moved into a new house in the middle of THE YEAR THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED. She carried everyone’s disasters on her shoulders last year. Moving is so very stressful. March avoided it by not going home, but you’ll have to read the book to see where and why and how.

    I’m LOL at Amy getting BROAD, too. Makes me feel better.

    Will check back again through tonite. It’s only 1:15 here, but I’m still not dressed. :)

    Jill

  24. Jill Barnett says:

    SPAM word WAY, not WHEY or WEIGH (thank God.) I’m typing these answers too fast. I should explain this is my UNDERGROUND week, where no one is allowed to call me and I am working 16-18 hours a day trying to ‘live” the book. I ahve to do this at certain stages in the book. So I’m typing way too fast. Please ignore my fumbling fingers.

    JB

  25. Jill, what a beautiful, heartfelt post…thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and for going that step further and transforming it into fiction. I was already a fan of your work, but I’m especially looking forward to reading Bridge to Happiness. p.s. I *love* your idea of having an “underground” week!! I think I need to try this soon… ;-)

  26. Marilyn Yetter says:

    Hi, Jill. Thanks for sharing your story. Haven’t been in the “starting over” stage, but 2010 was just a horrible year for me, too, as some others have commented. I lost my Dad January 2010, my Mom in May from complications of surgery. My father-in=law and 5 other close family members. And that’s not including the 4 I just couldn’t attend. BTH sounds like it will be a wonderful read. Can’t wait. I got a Nook for Christmas so I’m beginning to download some of the earlier books to re-read, that I no longer have because of a small basement flood and I lost a couple hundred of books and now feel I can afford to start replacing them.

  27. Jill Barnett says:

    I have no problem talking about writing and books and stories. There’s always a point in a book, where you get over the hump–it’s somewhere between 70 and 85 % of the way–then suddenly the book takes off and it’s flying together like the pieces of a 1000 piece puzzle. From that experience is where I discovered the living the book, blocking out the world. So I try and take sections of the book and just block out the world and write and write, sleep only a little. Everything that time is the book, and nothing else. I will do this three or more times in a book, then after each one I go back to the daily writing and living.

    Losses. When you lose your parents, you feel so untethered, as if you are floating through this life. It was the strangest feeling for me, once my dad was gone. I suspect after you recover from being battered in the side of the head with all those losses, you will feel as if you are starting over. When your mom and dad are gone, it’s as if your life is always a little off kilter. My cousin I were talking recently because our aunt died and she was the last of Streits, both our mothers’ family. There was this silence on the phone between Steve and I because Lydia, the last one, was gone.

    eReaders. I’ll tell you I love my Kindle, and I had no idea I was going to love it like I do. My best friend gave it to me for Christmas. I’ve spent a fortune on books, and I read more than ever. My reader is always with me, slim little thing that it is. I downsized a few years ago, once my daughter was married. We had a huge home, three floors of rooms and a separate out building office, & spa room, and I really only lived on one floor of the house. It was way too big, and when I sold it and packed up it felt fabulous to get rid of the massive numbers of books I had. My research library, which filled a huge room, is now in a local storage unit, complete with bookcases. I got rid of about 40% of my long-collected research library because the Internet has made general research so much easier than it used to be. Now I go and get the research books I might need for a certain book and keep those here in the house (condo) instead of all those 1000’s of books everywhere. And old books smell. That mustiness is not something I love as I get older. I’ve replaced a lot of my favorites as books become available in eFormat. So I feel lighter nowadays, not living under stacks of books.

    Happy reading to all!

    JB

  28. Rachel Grant says:

    Aaawww, thanks, Jill. I just got back from Costco in time for big snow flakes that are starting to stick (to the great joy of my two children) and I’m thankful I have a car load of groceries and thinking you’ve picked a great week to go underground and live the book.

    I can’t wait to read the end of BTH. I’ve turned in my scores for the Golden Heart so now I get to read for me again. I’m looking forward getting lost in the Cantrell family, and (as mentioned above) it’s snowing so a great time to read about snowboarding.

    Amy, I can’t recommend kitten therapy enough. The only family member who doesn’t melt with gooey, ridiculous joy at the sight of Rikki is our other cat. She’s still a little miffed.

  29. Tara says:

    Jill,
    I am so glad SEP mentioned this new release on her facebook page. I finished yesterday and absolutely loved the book. I had no idea about its autobiographical nature which if possible makes the book even better. I love a great read that makes me say “Wow” and this one definitely did. Thank you for a captivating story.

  30. Jill, thank you for joining us at Magical Musings, and thank you so much for such a wonderful post. I got all teary reading it, and BTH has gone on my must read list. I’ll look out for JAKA as well. I also got a Kindle for Christmas, and like you, am reading so much, and taking so many chances I otherwise wouldn’t have taken. Those sample chapters things are a great idea for selling more books. :)

  31. Jill Barnett says:

    To all the wonderful ladies at Magical Musings,

    Thank you for your warm welcome and for making this so fun for me. I love the writing and reading community. And a special thanks to Amy. You are the best!

    In friendship,

    Jill Barnett

  32. Jill, what an inspiring post–and a good reminder to cherish every day. Many of the other comments are just as touching. I’m heading to bed to snuggle with my hubby. Night!

  33. Jill, I am a long time fan of yours and am sooo ready to get this book. I don’t have a Kindle, but my new e-Reader should handle it just fine.

  34. Mariska says:

    I forgot to post my comments when i read this at 3 am (my time) now it\’s around 4.30 pm :)

    i know i’m late. but Jill, this is excellent post. thank you for sharing ! and you are a new for me author :)

    ps : my Spam word is Van. Maybe i should take my van and just drive in :)

  35. Amy Atwell says:

    Good morning all! Thanks for joining our conversation with Jill. I hope you’ll continue to follow her online at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

    I drew a winner this morning, the $20 Amazon gift card goes to: JILL JAMES. Jill, I’ll email you directly with deets.

  36. Jill –

    Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us all to be thankful for the blessings right in front of us.

    For some reason, I often hang out with people who think fitness is next to Godliness and they always ask if I run. To which I answer: “Only if I’m being mugged.”

    Best,
    Kelsey

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