Stalkers, rock singers and one woman who vows never to fall in love makes for one juicy story, but when you toss in sudden wealth and secrets, you’ve been lured into Dark Secrets, the new adult suspenseful novel by Josephine Harwood. With a background in writing screenplays and a penchant for romance reads herself, Ms. Harwood talks to You Read It Here First about her career as a writer, and even throws in a little about her former dreams of being a rock star.
Interviewer: Christy Campbell
When and how did the plot for Dark Secrets first come to you?
My earliest printed copy of my story was dated February 1984. The original title, Just Friends, was written in dialogue only, like a play. My friends and I were crazy in love with Jon Bon Jovi, so I thought it would be fun to write a play about a girl who falls for a hot-looking garage band singer. Of course the girl has a beautiful sister who wants him, too…creating the conflict.
So, I made copies for my friends, we all chose a character, and we read the play out loud. On the rare occasions I could get a guy to read along with us, I always looked forward to their feedback and suggestions. Their advice helped me write more accurately from the male perspective.
You originally wrote Dark Secrets as a stage play. What prompted you to switch gears and adapt it to a full-length novel?
Well, whenever I received comments or suggestions about the play, I would revise the story for the next group reading. I began to add more dialogue and more scenes to keep the continuity of the story flowing. Inevitably the length of the play was reading more like a screenplay for a movie. My friends mentioned the story would make a good book. Spurred on by their encouraging words, I decided to rewrite the play as a book.
Let’s talk about the adaptation process and the challenges you encountered of reworking a story first destined to be performed aloud by actors into a print medium to be enjoyed silently by readers.
The original story’s content was honestly a little boring and dull. Everyone was nice to everyone else. There was jealousy among the sisters, but the dialogue was kind of juvenile and silly. The story was filled with playful sarcasm and good humor, but there were never any serious issues or major conflicts; no reason for a hero or a heroine. The story clearly reflected my naïve view of the real world.
Then, my mom suffered a massive stroke when I was six-months pregnant with my first child. Suddenly, my practically-perfect life had become uncertain and incredibly unfair. It was time to face the cold reality of the real world and grow up a little. My husband insisted my parents move in with us, and we helped my dad take care of my mom for four years. When she passed, I started working on my story, again, with a completely different attitude and style of writing.
I knew I needed to revise the original dialogue. My characters were almost as naïve as I had been. I created more adult situations for them along with mature conversations. I also tossed in a stalker to add a little suspense and mystery to the story, and I changed the name from Just Friends to Dark Secrets.
I envisioned Dark Secrets playing out like a movie on the big screen, and that helped me a lot when I needed to describe scenery and settings. But I knew I needed the reader to not only see the scenes I wrote, I needed to tap into all the other senses as well. This was a very time-consuming process because all I had to work with was straight dialogue, but I loved and welcomed the challenge!
Have you written any other plays?
A friend of mine was convinced all Christian people were arrogant and self-righteous, and I asked God how I could help her. He gave to me my very first Christian play, A Sister’s Love. I gave it to the drama ministry and the play was performed for the public at our church. It’s about two sisters; one a devout Christian and the other a non-believer. When the Christian sister gets into a car accident, the non-believer meets members of her sister’s church one by one in the emergency waiting room. Not only did my friend see the play, she was my co-director, and she even started coming to our church. My friend was my loving sister, Diana. I plan to turn this play into a book.
On the last night we performed, A Sister’s Love, a young man came up to me after the show and said, “Miss Josephine, can I be in your next play?” I was so touched, I asked God for another play. That same night, He gave me my second Christian play, a story about teenage suicide called, Second Chance. I wrote this three-act play in one night.
I plan to turn this play into a book as well.
What has theater taught you about character development, dialogue and staging?
I had never been on stage before or even worked behind the scenes, and suddenly I was directing my own play. I was very anxious to share the powerful message behind this story, A Sister’s Love, but first, I had to put my ego in check and listen and learn from the people who worked in the drama ministry.
They taught me how to set the stage, where the actors should stand, and when to make the transition from one scene to another. I learned about stage lighting and musical timing to empathize a character’s emotions. I also learned about crucial voice projection originally written as whispered dialogue.
Fortunately, I was blessed with an incredibly talented group of people, and everyone involved in the production seemed to share my passionate goal; to share the love of our Lord and Savior without being arrogant or self-righteous.
One of your characters is a garage band singer. Have you ever been in a band?
Yes. Although my garage band singer, Rick Anderson, is a fictional character, the burning passion he feels about wanting to be a famous rock singer is from my own personal experiences. Back in the early ‘80’s I wanted to be the next Pat Benatar or Joan Jett. I sang in a couple of bands, but obviously, neither Pat nor Joan had anything to worry about it.
Your female characters experience psychological abuse. Were these themes drawn from personal experiences or extensive research?
Many women I know have confessed to me that they have suffered some kind of abuse from a boyfriend or husband. From these women I have learned there is a misconception about putting up with someone. It is insulting to them when a clueless female flips off, “I would never let any man do that to me.”
Physical abuse does not happen overnight. There is a long period of psychological abuse; a brainwashing method. It’s not easy to walk away from someone who has convinced you that you have nowhere to go.
Tell us the story about the song lyrics that appear in the book.
I wanted the reader to believe Rick was a musician and songwriter, so I included a couple of my own original songs throughout the book for him. I also added my songs for my fictional rock band, Roulette. Roulette, by the way, is my tribute to my favorite rock band, Bon Jovi.
The original song in the story, I’m Watching You, was specifically written for my stalker. This particular song was inspired by one of the biggest hits of the ’80’s, Every Breath You Take, by The Police. I remember watching an interview with the incomparable singer/songwriter Sting. He explained the song was about control and surveillance.
I had never made the connection before and the information fascinated me, so I decided to read the lyrics without listening to the beautiful music. Chills ran through me, my heart started pounding, and I could almost feel someone watching me as I read the words. Despite the true meaning behind the lyrics, I still find the song hauntingly beautiful.
You’ve identified your target market as “women age 40+.” Any particular reason you chose this demographic?
Well, my romantic-suspense novel contains what I describe as, sensual content for the mature reader. For this reason the book has an adult rating and is highly recommended for mature readers over the age of seventeen.
I would love for any women or man for that matter to read my book, and I honestly was torn about choosing a specific demographic. I guess I wanted to target a special kind of woman.
She is strong and beautiful inside and out, but she doesn’t realize it. She has willingly and selflessly given all she has to those she loves, and she places herself on the backburner without hesitation. She may be single, married, divorced, or widowed. She may feel lonely, unappreciated, and even invisible.
Every single one of you ladies is special. You all have the right to be selfish once in a while, and you all deserve a little Me Time, whether that means soaking in hot bath with lots of bubbles…or getting lost in a book filled with mystery, suspense, and lots and lots of sensual romance!
Who inspires you as a writer?
Some of the best lines for my sexy alpha male character, Rick Anderson, are direct quotes from my husband. I’ve known him since the summer of ’79. He is my inspiration; my rock, my best friend, and the love of my life. He is the reason why I can write romance.
I must also give credit to my amazing Lake Orion High School English teachers; Ms Diana Lee Mills and Mrs. Judith Skiba. They never failed to encourage my passion for writing. I hope one day they will know just how much they meant to me.
What genres and titles currently inhabit your own bookshelves?
I love reading romance and romantic-suspense novels by Lisa Kleypas, Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, Christina Dodd, Karen Robards, and Kat Martin, just to name a few of my favorite authors.
I like very suspenseful genres written by Lisa Jackson and Dean Koontz. I also enjoy classics like The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
I am a book junkie. I love to step into a Barnes & Noble and just inhale…deeply. Once I finish a book, I can’t wait to open the next one. Sometimes I have four books, different genres, going at once.
I am currently reading Kat Martin’s Against series. I love the way she writes! Many times I’ve had to stop reading one of her books…and catch my breath before continuing!
What’s up next for fans of Josephine Harwood?
Fans? That word feels so strange to me, because I’m a first-time author barely getting my name out there. I can tell you this…it is an indescribable rush when people tell me they didn’t want to put my book down.
I’ve had one woman tell me she was annoyed when her husband came home, because she would have to stop reading to fix dinner! Another woman told me she was reading well into the night when she should have been sleeping. One of my male readers told me my love scenes should come with a warning label; may cause shortness of breath and severe heart rate acceleration.
All of these compliments mean so much to me. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but taking into consideration this is my very first attempt, I never dreamed I’d receive such an overwhelming response to my story.
I am currently working on my second novel, Empathy. This is the story about Delilah Walker, a caregiver who becomes too emotionally involved with her client and the client’s family. If you enjoyed the slow and steady passion that builds between Rick and Angela in Dark Secrets, you will love the sensual heat that radiates between Delilah and Bryan, the client’s oldest son.
I’ve been asked more than once if I will write a sequel for Dark Secrets. The answer is yes. Empathy will introduce April Callahan, and she will have a past connection with Gemini’s sexy lead guitar player, Chris Marringer. My third novel will be about Chris and April. Can The Starview Casanova find true love?
How can readers contact you?
I crave feedback, comments, and suggestions! I shamelessly beg for Facebook likes and book reviews. If you are reading my book, I would love to hear from you!
Please, visit my author page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/darksecretsebook
Or write to me via my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
My romantic-suspense novel, Dark Secrets, is available at major online ebook retailers including Barnes & Noble and iTunes, but only Smashwords offers a FREE six-chapter excerpt. I am not available on Amazon, but you can use the Smashwords link to download my story to your reading device of choice including Kindle.
Smashwords webpage: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/257000
Thank you, so much, Christina Hamlett, for this wonderful opportunity to promote my very first novel, Dark Secrets. I also want to thank you, Christy Campbell, for all your help with this interview and allowing me to share a little bit of the history behind the birth of my story.
I hope everyone who reads this interview will visit my Facebook page and leave a comment or like! Be sure to check out the FREE six-chapter excerpt on Smashwords. There are no hidden fees, no obligation to buy, and nothing to lose! I sound like a commercial, don’t I? Thank you, so much, for reading this interview. I hope to hear from you soon!