Rad-Reader: What made you want to tell this story?
Jana: I wanted to tell an emotional story about overcoming obstacles. In fact, in every book in the Masonville series, the characters have huge difficulties they must push past in order to get to their happy endings. I wanted to make the point that where there’s love, there’s hope.
Rad-Reader: How did you go about creating Blair and Garrett’s characters?
Jana: I introduced Garrett in the first book of the Masonville series. He’s a brother to Lauren, the heroine of CHILD OF MINE. At that point, all I knew about him was that he was a veteran and that he was struggling to find his place in the world now that his military career is over. I had to come up with a reason why he was no longer in the military and why it was such a struggle for him to move on. I decided that he was injured in a bombing in Afghanistan and lost part of his leg.
I wanted Blair’s struggles to be as daunting as Garrett’s, perhaps more so. So, I gave her selfish parents who were more concerned about appearances than with the welfare of their children. Then, an experience, in her late teens becomes the defining event of her life, leaving her unable to overcome guilt and move on with her life. Blair’s scars run very deep.
Rad-Reader: Do you create a storyboard or timeline or both to
keep track of everything and everyone when writing?
Jana: I don’t create a storyboard but I’m the queen of spreadsheets! It’s important to keep track of details when writing one book, but when you’re writing a series it’s absolutely crucial. I have one spreadsheet to keep track of details in each of the four planned books in this series. I keep track of the character's names (it’s very easy to forget a secondary character’s name, at least for me!), descriptions, and the relationships between characters. I need those details at my fingertips, so I don’t have to hunt through books and manuscripts looking for it.
I also, create a timeline for each book. In another spreadsheet, I keep track of what happens in each chapter and scene. I need to know what day of the week it is, what time of day the scene takes place, and who's point of view, we’re in. It helps with the pacing of the book, and also the logic. It can’t say the characters went to church on Sunday when the previous day was said to be a Wednesday!
Rad-Reader: Does Garrett have a family?
Jana: Yes. Unlike Blair, Garrett has loving, concerned parents. After his military career is over, he comes back to North Dakota to live with them on their farm. He hates that he’s depending on them, so he’s looking for a farm of his own to buy, though he has no idea what he’s going to do with it once he purchases it.
Garrett also has two younger sisters that he’s very close to. As I mentioned, the youngest, Lauren, is the heroine of CHILD OF MINE. Charlotte will be the heroine of the fourth book in series.
Rad-Reader: Blair said she thought she knew Garrett. What’s the connection?
Jana: As kids, Blair and her older brothers Ben and Damon spent summers with their grandparents on their farm near Masonville. The Bransons were neighbors of the Saunders, Garrett’s family, and Garrett hung out with Blair’s brothers during those summer visits. Blair tried to tag along whenever the boys would let her, but they mostly ignored her. Blair’s first crush as a young teenager was on Garrett.
Rad-Reader: How did Blair start working for Garrett’s brother-in-law?
Jana: Blair is a veterinary technician, a sort of nurse for animals. Garrett’s brother-in-law Cole is a veterinarian and he and Garrett’s sister Lauren has purchased a partnership in the Masonville Veterinary Clinic. Blair decided to move to Masonville from Minnesota to look after her grandfather, but she needed a job. The stars aligned when Cole and Lauren hired Blair to work at the clinic.
Rad-Reader: Why did Blair want to start over? What happened?
Jana: Blair has two rescue horses that she had been boarding at a stable near Rochester, Minnesota, where she formerly worked and lived. Her love for animals has grounded her and has made her believe she’s making an important contribution. But after her grandmother dies, she decides the best place for her, and her horses are on the farm with her grandfather. Everett’s not in the best of health and Blair wants to take care of him.
Blair’s been through a lot in the last ten years and has had to start over a few times. Moving to Masonville is another step in her healing journey.
I don’t want to give too much away about Blair’s past, other than to say she’s experienced a lot of pain and loss.
Rad-Reader: Where are the rest of her family?
Jana: Blair’s family is scattered. Her parents live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her oldest brother Ben lives in Chicago with his two stepdaughters. Damon is in California. Blair would love if her brothers lived closer to her, but she’s relieved that her parents live in another state and she rarely has to see them.
Rad-Reader: Did Garrett Get any therapy after his accident?
Jana: Yes, Garrett received physical and psychological care after he lost part of his leg. He participated in counseling, said all the right things about accepting his injury, but deep down he knows he’s not telling the truth. He hasn’t accepted the fact that he can’t do some of the things he used to do. He’s angry that he can no longer have the career he wants. Most of all, he can’t accept he’s not the man he used to be, the man women wanted to be with. He’s not whole anymore.
Rad-Reader: Now his drinking is out of control. What now?
Jana: Now he has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. He has to find a purpose or wind up at the bottom of a bottle.
Rad-Reader: What made Everett warn Garrett about hurting Blair? A look?
Jana: Perhaps. I think Everett recognizes that Garrett is interested in Blair, even if Garrett doesn’t realize it himself at first. Everett is protective of his granddaughter and even though he’s known Garrett all his life and knows he’s an honorable man, he wants him to be careful with her. He knows Blair can be easily hurt.
Rad-Reader: Why hasn’t Blair heard from her brothers?
Jana: Her brothers have problems of their own. Ben’s wife was killed in a car accident a few months ago, leaving him to raise his two stepdaughters alone. Damon’s emotional scars are a result of being sexually abused as a child. He’s dealt with most of his issues over the years and has worked hard to carve out a life for himself in the military and later as a counselor. But he’s restless, moving from one part of the country to the other every couple of years. And the deep anger he feels for his parents, particularly his mother, for letting his abuse happen, may never go away.
Rad-Reader: Garrett’s family seems to love Blair. Do they know her history?
Jana: They only knew her from childhood until she was about sixteen. So, they know nothing about what happened to her after that. But even if they knew her whole history, it wouldn’t stop them from loving Blair.
Rad-Reader: Both their parents sound like winners. How often were the kids with their grandparents?
Jana: Blair’s parents are never going to win any awards as parents of the year! Her father is an alcoholic who has tried, and failed, to live up to his family’s expectations for him. Her mother is a social climber, concerned only with money, status, and power. She married into a politically prominent Minnesota family and fully expected her husband to rise to power on the national scene. Appearances are more important to Victoria than her children.
Blair and her brothers spent every summer with their grandparents from the time she was six years old until she was sixteen.
Rad-Reader: Did the parents both come from Masonville, North Dakota?
Jana: No, only Victoria grew up in Masonville, the only child of Everett and Anna Branson. However, she couldn’t be more different from her parents. They were simple, honest, kind people while she is a ruthless user. Blair often wonders how people like her grandparents could have given birth to someone like her mother who is so utterly different from them.
Rad-Reader: How did things go at the parole hearing for her brother?
Jana: I don’t go into it in this story, but I can tell you that Damon and the other victims helped to keep their abusers in jail.
Rad-Reader: Why did Blair say she wants to make love to Garrett but it’s a one and done thing?
Jana: Because she’s afraid to let herself feel too much for him. Coming from a family where she was never told she was loved; she doesn’t know what to do with those feelings. She doesn’t feel she deserves to be loved.
Rad-Reader: What was Garrett most afraid of when Blair saw his stump?
Jana: That she would be repulsed. That she would think it was ugly, and that he was ugly. That she would reject him and think him less a man. But nothing could be further from the truth!
Rad-Reader: I loved it when she was so totally surprised that he even had part of his leg missing.
Rad-Reader: Blair not only wants to blame herself for someone’s death. She wants to blame Garrett too. Why?
Jana: It’s easy for Blair to accept blame. Her mother was always very good at deflecting blame from herself onto Blair and she grew up believing she deserved it. Whenever something goes wrong in her life, she takes it to heart.
This time when someone close to her dies, she blames herself because she wasn’t close by to help. And she blames Garrett because she was with him. Even though a part of her realizes there was nothing she could have done to change things, she still blames herself.
Rad-Reader: Where does all this blame and guilt come from, her parents?
Jana: It comes from the way Blair and her brothers were brought up. Nothing was ever their mother’s fault. They were taught that whenever something went wrong, it was on them. If they stepped out of line, they suffered the consequences. If not for the two months of the year that they spent with their grandparents in Masonville, they wouldn’t have known what real love was. And they probably wouldn’t have had any kind of relationship with each other either.
Blair also experienced a traumatic event in her late teens that continues to be a source of guilt for her. It has defined her life and she lives within its narrow confines. I won’t go into it here, but I can tell you that until she forgives herself, she won’t be able to accept Garrett’s love. She won’t believe she deserves it.
Rad-Reader: Does Garrett decide to become a counselor?
Jana: Garrett realizes that he doesn’t have the years of training and experience in counseling that his friend Hank, or Blair’s brother Damon has. But he has the real-life experience and an understanding of what injured veterans go through. Garrett will have an important role in Blair and Damon’s retreat for veterans.
Rad-Reader: Do all dogs know when someone is in pain or just some?
Jana: I’m not a dog expert so I can’t be sure, but my experience with my dog Lou, who passed away last January, was that she could sense my moods. She was happy when I was happy, and when I needed a friend, she snuggled close.
From my research I discovered that one of the reasons equine therapy seems to work is because horses are able to mirror a person’s emotions. Their empathy is helpful to troubled people.
Rad-Reader: If your book were made into a movie who would you want to play…
Blair: Shenae Grimes
Garrett: Gonzalo Garcia Vivanco
Damon: Chuck Wick
Ben: Nick Bateman
Jana: You’ve got some great suggestions! Once in a while, I’ll have a real person in mind while I’m writing a character, but most of the time my characters are total figments of my imagination. But I’ll give it a shot!
Blair: I actually like your suggestion of Shenae Grimes. She embodies a lot of the physical characteristics that I see in Blair.
Garrett: I see Nick Bateman more as Garrett than the person you suggested. Dark hair, dark eyes, and an amazing six-pack. What’s not to like?
I’ve also toyed with the idea of Henry Cavill, especially in pictures where he has longer, curlier hair that’s a little on the shaggy side. The only difference is that Henry has blue eyes rather than brown. That cleft in his chin really gets me!
Damon: I do like your suggestion of Chuck Wicks. He is very handsome.
I’ve also had in mind a Canadian actor named Peter Mooney (I’m also Canadian). I’m going to have to think about which one I like better, but really, I can’t go wrong with either one
Ben: I had Justin Hartley in mind as the inspiration for Ben’s character from the beginning. Like I said, it’s not often that happens for me, but somehow, he seemed perfect. I needed someone ridiculously good-looking and Justin fit the bill.
Rad-Reader: What song or songs best describes your couple or couple at times during the story or the book as a whole?
“Never Have I Ever – Danielle Bradbery”
As much as Blair would love to fall into her daydreaming and hope they could come true. She knows with her secrets she’s not good for him.
“Be Patient With May Love – Lady Antebellum”
After being injured while serving in the military and having to come home to his childhood home to the same bedroom, he was losing hope. Meeting Blair as a woman has given him hope. Again, and especially her not cutting him no slack.
“All of It – Cole Swindell”
No matter how much Garrett tried to deny his attraction Blair was slowly becoming his one. When he does, the first night in the gardening shed is the beginning of his full life.
“Make You Feel My Love – Lindsey Ell”
Blair could not cut herself any slack from her past mistakes. But never ever hearing those three little words before, ever, she can’t dream of ever telling Garrett. She feels it so, she tries to show him in every way.
Jana: I think these songs really help portray the emotions of TO HEAL A HEART. You’ve done a great job choosing!
Rad-Reader: What is your favorite music style?
Jana: I listen to country and pop, and even occasionally a little jazz. But I’m one of those writers who needs absolute quiet when I’m working. I know some writers thrive on creating playlists for each book they write in order to infuse their writing with the emotions of the music, but if I listen to music, I just get distracted!
Rad-Reader: What is your favorite type of movie?
Jana: I love romantic comedies and mysteries mostly, though I enjoy an adventure movie once in a while. I can’t do horror, though. One of my favorite recent movies is “Knives Out”. I guess I have a lot of overlap between what I like to write and what I like to watch.
Rad-Reader: What is your favorite type of food and dessert?
Jana: There’s not many foods and desserts I don’t like. My waistline can vouch for that! But if I had to choose, I’d say one of my favorites is pizza. And my sister-in-law’s cabbage rolls. Or just about anything my sister-in-law makes. She’s a fantastic cook! As for dessert, my mother left me a recipe for rhubarb pie that I love. The chunks of rhubarb are suspended in a kind of a custard that is just delicious. I’ve converted a few people who thought they didn’t like rhubarb into believers!
Rad-Reader: Are you the only writer in your family? If so, who else and have they given you good tips?
Jana: I am definitely the only fiction writer in my family. My oldest daughter is a journalist; she produces the evening news on one of our local TV stations, so she does a lot of writing and editing. But it’s a different kind of writing. You don’t want to take too much creative license with the news!
Rad-Reader: How have you been spending your time during the pandemic to keep busy?
Jana: I did a lot of writing! I finished writing book three in the Masonville series, which is Ben’s story, Blair’s oldest brother. The book is currently with my beta readers.
I also took a course in creating Amazon ads. Promoting our work is something writers need to do to get our books in front of readers.
I also did a lot of yoga. My yoga studio was closed of course, but my instructor went online and offered classes over Zoom. It’s been fantastic! I’ve discovered I love taking classes in the privacy of my home. The studio is continuing to offer classes online over the summer and into the fall. I’ll be here in my office, following along!
Rad-Reader: What is your next project and when is it coming out?
Jana: Like I said, Ben’s story is completed and with my beta-readers at the moment. There’s likely going to be some edits and reworking before I can send it to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. My hope is that it will be released in 2021.
I’m currently taking the summer off writing because I need a break from writing. But when I get back at it in September, I’ll be working on the fourth, and last, book in the Masonville series. It’s going to be Damon’s story and I’m excited to get started on it!
Rad-Reader: Where can our readers buy your books? Links
Jana: Readers can find links to all my books on my website books page: https://www.janarichards.com/books.html
Rad-Reader: Where can our readers find you on the Web? Links
Amazon Author Page:
Amazon UK Author Page:
Thanks so much for being with us. Your book is a good example of how we just need to step out of our own way and allow the fear to get out of our way. Thereby allow the good things to come to us. Both Blair and Garrett thought they were lost causes only to find out together they were a force to be reconded with. Love.