FAQs

About the Books


What are you working on now?

I’ve recently finished Long Road Home, the second in my River’s Bend series, set in Southern Oregon ranching country where I grew up and fell in love with the boy who’d become my husband. This series, which spun off my Shelter Bay series, was originally scheduled as my Murphy’s Brother’s Trilogy, but there are so many wonderful characters in the town, I decided to expand it. 

I’m now writing on Finn: 7 Brides For 7 Brothers (Book 7). It’ll  be out December 13th. Then, somewhere around February or March, 2017, I’ll be publishing Ryan Murphy’s still unnamed River’s Bend novel. 

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Is Shelter Bay a real place?

Shelter Bay is a blend of a few Oregon towns: the hills are from Astoria, in the very NW corner of the state at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Oregon/WA border.

The resident whales, sea wall, and cliffs are from Depoe Bay, where, when I was eighteen, my high school sweetheart bought me a white bag of saltwater taffy, then proposed at the sea wall across the street. Decades later, that taffy store is still there and we visit often.

The bridge is from Newport, although I made it a drawbridge in One Summer. There’s also a touch of Banning, which is on the south coast close to the CA border. Some of Shelter Bay’s sea stacks and the touch of Cape Cod are from Cannon Beach.

Rainbow Lake, outside Shelter Bay is loosely based on Diamond Lake, one of my favorite places growing up. We’d swim in the lake, then drive up to Crater Lake and play in the snow in our swimsuits. The waterfall at Rainbow Lake is a blend of the many beautiful waterfalls in the Land of Umpqua and Multnomah Falls.

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Will you be writing any more books in Shelter Bay?

Although I LOVE Shelter Bay, which is set where my high school sweetheart proposed and where we visit often, I’m going to be concentrating on River’s Bend for a time because my publisher, who holds the rights to the earlier books controls the pricing and distribution of those. So, I’m uncomfortable writing new books for a series when readers might not be able to get the older stories. But, I never say never. 

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Is Coldwater Cove a real town?

No. It’s modeled after Port Townsend, a historic town on the Washington peninsula. As is Tribulation, where The Return of Caine O’Halloran was set.

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Did the book titled Fallen ever get published?

Yes, but the publisher changed the title right before publication to No Safe Place.

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What ever happened to Ricochet, the book excerpted in the back of Breakpoint?

Ricochet was going to be the fifth and final book in my High Risk series, but when I came up the idea for my Shelter Bay series, my publisher decided to begin the Shelter Bays with Sax’s story.

So I moved him from the bayou, where the scene in the back of Breakpoint takes place, to Shelter Bay.  The title was changed to The Homecoming.  That scene remains much the same; he’s still Cajun (his grandparents moved to Shelter Bay after a hurricane destroyed their home and shrimp fishing business) and his dog now finds that bone on the Oregon beach. 

The Shelter Bay books still have military heroes, but deal more with the guys settling into life back home and, being more family-centric, have less murder and mayhem.  Lucas Chaffee’s story was On Lavender Lane and other characters from the High Risk books also show up in Shelter Bay from time to time.

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Are readers ever going to find out the story of the mysterious Irishman who appeared in Shattered?

Eventually. He’s part of the Brennan Clan, so as I write their stories, he’ll be showing up. And let readers in on his secret. 

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So many of your books feature food. Do you actually cook any of those meals?

Cooking is both a passion and a stress reliever, so I’ve made every dish that appears in one of my books. I do share recipes occasionally on my blog and Facebook pages, where I posted Chef Maddy’s braised chicken. It’s especially yum; my editor asked for the recipe and reported back that not only did she and her husband love it, she especially loved the way it made her house smell while it was cooking!

Speaking of recipes, when I turned in the one for Dillon’s steamed clams for the back of Sea Glass Winter, I used  # for pound. Unfortunately, a computer program at the publisher or printer deleted that symbol so now it reads 1-2 clams. Which would not make a very hearty meal! You need 1-2 pounds of clams. 

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In The Homecoming, Sax is referred to as a Sergeant. How could you write about a SEAL and not know that sergeant isn't a rank in the Navy?

I really do know that. My dad was in the Navy. Unfortunately, somehow in editing, a line about the car dealer putting the wrong rank on the car sign —the same way he purposefully misspelled Sax’s last name —got cut from the final version of the book.

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Do you know you have the wrong number of players on the basketball team in Sea Glass Winter?

I do. And I have no excuse for that. Not only did my family attend many Suns games while living in Phoenix, I wrote several books on a laptop during my son’s basketball practices. Somehow, for no reason I can explain, I wrote six starters and six backup players, and although I read that manuscript out loud to my husband for a final proofing, neither of us, nor my editor, copy editor, nor Penguin/NAL/Signet proofreaders caught the error until I spotted it re-reading the book after it came out.

So, although it was too late to change the already printed books, I asked that the team be changed to five players in later editions. Which was done. Unfortunately, a line about a total of twelve players didn’t get changed in the Read Pink reissue of the book. So now five starters and five backup players add up to twelve. (I really can do basic arithmetic!) At this point, I decided I was really glad that I hadn’t become a brain surgeon or an airline pilot because at least my mistakes don’t kill anyone.

Alternate answer:  Good catch!  I purposefully put that mistake in to see how observant my readers are.  :) 

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Why does Sax's grandfather's name change in one of the Shelter Bay books?

It accidentally changed because I lost my book of series character names and places while moving  with three dogs in a motorhome, crossing ten states in nine days to beat the moving van.  I was writing on the trip temporarily went brain dead and made a mistake, which no one caught until an eagle-eyed reader, with afar  better memory than mine, emailed me.

 I always swear I’m going to keep detailed online files, but many times I don’t get around to adding names, dates, and places, which is why my trusty old journal, which was always next to my computer worked well.  Until I lost it.  

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About Writing


Where do you get your story ideas?

From Nordstrom because of their generous return policy for ideas that don’t work out.

Seriously, ideas can come from anywhere. And everywhere. The tricky part is sorting out the ones that can actually turn into a novel-length story.

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I have a great idea for a book. Why don't I tell it to you; you can write it; and we'll split the money 50/50.

Since I already have more ideas for books than I can write in one lifetime, my suggestion is that because no one knows your story as well as you do, you should write it yourself and that way you have the satisfaction of completing a novel and get to keep all the money.

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Can you read my book for a critique or cover quote?

I’m sorry, but due to the number of requests I receive, if I critiqued or read books for cover quotes, I’d never have time to write my own.

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What advice could you give an aspiring writer?

Read, read, read. Then write, write, write. Then read some more. Don’t write what you think will sell unless it’s a genre you really personally enjoy because readers are smart and if you don’t love what you’re writing, they won’t either.

Promise yourself that you will finish the book you start. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn away by some new and shiny idea whenever you find yourself bogged down. You may end up with a book that will sell and readers will love. Or you may end up with a book that will never sell, but was good practice. I can’t think of a writer who sold his or her first book. Which usually is a good thing.

Join a writers’ group. If you’re writing romance, and I assume you are if you’re visiting my website, I’d definitely recommend joining Romance Writers of America. Other genres have their own national groups. Meanwhile, keep reading. And writing.

Oh, and while you’re doing that studying, reading how-to books and attending writers’ workshops, never forget this quote from W. Sommerset Maugham: “There are only three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

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Do I need a college degree in creative writing to be a writer?

No. I changed majors five times, even switching from Lit to Geography the final semester of my senior year. I know many successful writers who’ve never attended a day of college. You do need to study and learn your craft the same way a plumber, musician, or heart surgeon does. And, as I said above, read, read, read. Write, write, write.

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Do you have a regular schedule?

For many years I wrote at least eight hours a day. Although I no longer always do that, I’ve tried, for thirty-two years, to write something every day. Even on those days when the writing isn’t going well, just putting down words, even if they end up getting deleted, keeps the wheels turning. On those occasions when I have taken time off, I’ve found it more difficult to get back into the groove.

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About JoAnn


Are those "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About JoAnn" in your bio really true?

Absolutely. Especially the one about the chocolate.

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A lot of your characters have dogs. Do you?

We’ve always rescued dogs, going back to the days when they were called Pound Mutts. Currently we have two “Golden Paw” boys who’ve been with us since they were puppies: Shih Tzu poodle mix who was the inspiration for Gabe’s dog in One Summer, and a Maltese poodle mix. We tend to bring home the dogs everyone else has given up on and while they admittedly come with issues, the unconditional love they gift us with is more than worth any problems. We’ve also had several cats over the years and, despite Disney’s less than flattering portrayal in Lady and the Tramp, we’re especially fond of Siamese.

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You look familiar. Did we go to school together?

If you attended Peterson Elementary, Altamont Junior High, or Klamath Union High School with JoAnn or Joni Brown, you did. If you attended Glendale Community College or Arizona State University with JoAnn Ross, that would also be a yes.

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