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Welcome, Jana Richards , author of Always a Bridesmaid, a contemporary romance published by Unica Press.Let's get to know Jana:

Ever since I can remember, I've created stories in my head, sometimes about real people but more often about people I made up. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I began to put my stories down on paper. I've been at it for more than twenty years, although I only become published in novel length fiction in 2007. Just think of me as the poster child for perseverance!

In my life away from writing, I’m an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to my husband, Warren. I enjoy golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. My husband and I live in Winnipeg with several unnamed goldfish and a highly spoiled Terrier/Pug named Lou.

We got Lou almost ten years ago and fell immediately in love. I mean really, look at that face! How can you not fall in love? 

Jana’s book Always a Bridesmaid has a bridezilla, a great hero, a heroine who has a self-image problem and undergoes something that I didn’t expect in this book. Here's the blurb from Always a Bridesmaid:

Dani Dipietro has always considered herself an ugly duckling in a family of swans. She's the bridesmaid her friends count on, but never the woman any man wants for his bride. So she plays the funny girl and guards her emotions, and her secrets, closely.

When Zach Morrison was dumped at his wedding, Dani was there to help him through the humiliation. A year later they meet again and once more Zach needs her help. To fend off the unwanted attentions of his former fiancé, he asks Dani to pretend to be his girlfriend. They play their roles a little too well, and make believe turns into reality. But their relationship comes crashing down around them when Zach's trust issues cause him to accuse Dani of cheating. Telling the truth means that Dani will betray a friend, something she will never do. But keeping her secrets means she may be destined to remain a bridesmaid forever.

What jumped out at me in Always a Bridesmaid is the heroine has breast reduction surgery.  Why did you want this for her?

I debated with myself over this one. Dani has a very large bosom, something she inherited from her mother. And ever since her large breasts made their appearance when she was about fourteen, she’s hated them. Men leer at her, people make assumptions about her intellect, and finding clothes that fit is a nightmare. On top of that, she’s physically uncomfortable, and suffers from neck and shoulder pain.

The safe or expected thing to do in this book would have been for Dani to accept the way she looks, just as Zach has. End of story. But even if she came to terms with her body, she’d still have the issues. Men would still leer at her and think she was a porn star. She’d still have a hard time finding clothes, and still have pain. I felt in my gut she needed to have this surgery for herself for her own happiness. I wanted Dani to feel comfortable in her own skin, and if it took breast reduction surgery to give her that level of comfort, then so be it. I believe women (and men) need to love themselves and accept themselves physically for their own mental well-being and happiness. But I’m not going to condemn someone if they feel they have to change something about how they look. Unless they veer into Michael Jackson territory!

I totally got why Dani had surgery.  She really struggled with her decision, too.

Yes. For a while there, I thought she might talk herself out of it!

You have some great lines: “...friends make the best partners in love.” “a person’s character counts more than what they look like.” “...he wasn’t any better at fake relationships than he was in the real ones.” “Never give your heart away unless you’re absolutely sure the other person feels the same way.” “Maybe I want someone who makes me laugh, and makes me believe happiness is possible.” “Happiness was beyond his grasp, meant for others but never for him.” “I’ve always felt like the ugly duckling.” “When you love someone as much as I love her, beauty is all you can see.” “I’m sorry for being a stupid jackass.” “A woman always feels her best when she looks her best.” “She hadn’t realized before what a devious bunch they were.” “Beauty is all I see when I look at you.”

Although these lines speak to me, the ugly duckling one is very poignant and I’m sure many women can identify with it. Your thoughts?

I think so many women feel like ugly ducklings. We look at women in TV and movies and feel we just don’t measure up. Growing up, Dani felt like she was the odd man out in her family because her six older brothers are all handsome and her two best friends in the world, Sarah and Liv, are beautiful. And when she meets Chantal in university, she becomes a standard of beauty that’s impossible for Dani to live up to.

But for every ugly duckling, there’s a beautiful swan that eventually emerges. Dani does the hard work, and through exercise and healthy eating, she loses weight and gets fit. She ditches her heavy prescription glasses for contacts. And after she has her breast reduction surgery, she feels happy, comfortable, and confident, the best version of herself.

Perhaps, Dani’s journey says more about me than it does about her. Like a lot of women, I’ve dealt with body issues all my life. I always think I could stand to lose a few (dozen) pounds. Dani was my magic wand. She became the beautiful swan that I wish I could be.  

I, too, felt like an ugly duckling. Very thin, ugly glasses, stick straight hair. It was wonderful to see Dani emerge.

Like a butterfly from a cocoon! It was wonderful to give a character like Dani, who I love dearly, such a happy ending.

You use some great adjectives—“well-preserved,” “cave man,” “Neanderthal moves,” “inner Meryl Streep,” “hissy fit,” “ugly stepsister,” “mousy girls,”  and on being a bridesmaid – “tour of duty.”  Where does that come from?

The bridesmaid “tour of duty” thing? Being a bridesmaid once or twice for a beloved friend or sister is an honor. But I figured anyone who’d been a bridesmaid as often as Dani had (some fifteen or sixteen times by her best estimate) would start thinking of it as a dreary job and an obligation. Dani had a hard time saying no, so she felt like she was drafted into the job, much like being drafted into the army.

What made me think that being a bridesmaid could be a less than fun time was when my daughter was bridesmaid for one of her dear friends. She hated her dress, the bride’s mom turned into Momzilla, and though she loved her friend (and still does), she didn’t love all the money she had to spend, and all the showers and activities she was expected to organize and participate in. After that experience, she swore that if she ever got married, she’d elope!

Don’t you think people expect too much in a wedding nowadays?  When I look back on what Handsome and I spent compared to what my son and wife did, wow.

Oh my goodness, yes! When I got married 35+ years ago, we had a big wedding, mainly because we both came from large extended families. And being from small towns, we were expected to invite everybody! But neither we nor our families went bankrupt putting on this shindig. My aunt made my dress. My mother, aunts and friends made the wedding cake and all the food for the reception. It was very much a do-it-yourself kind of wedding. I recognize that everything costs more than it did in the 1970s, but couples expect more, too. They want an extravaganza! I wish people would spend more time thinking about the marriage and a little less on planning the wedding!

Did you do research on breast reduction surgery?

I did. I researched the procedure itself, how much it would cost, where it would take place, and what the recovery would be like. I also found online forums where women who were about to undergo the procedure, or just had the surgery, talked about their fears and what they were going through. It was on those forums that I learned about the emotions associated with the surgery and in having over-large breasts. Since I don’t have breasts the size of Dani’s (let’s just say I’m several cup sizes smaller) I had no idea what these women went through. It was an eye opener.

I had a guy leer at me and say something not nice. It’s very uncomfortable and still I remember.

I can imagine. I wouldn’t want to be treated that way, and I certainly wouldn’t want my daughters to be treated with such disrespect.

The multiple bridesmaid turns reminded me of the movie 27 Dresses. LOL
Have you been a bridesmaid multiple times?

Actually, no. I’ve only been a bridesmaid once, many years ago, for my dear cousin.

In Always a Bridesmaid, you talk about the parents moving from Italy to Canada. Is this something that happened?
 
Not in my family, no. I don’t have a drop of Italian blood. But sometimes stuff from my real life sneaks into my writing. The ex-boyfriend of one of my daughters was Italian. His parents were both born in Italy and immigrated to Canada as children, at four and twelve years, I believe. His family was very close, and usually got together for a meal at least once a week, which gave me the foundation for Dani’s large, close-knit family.

I noticed you have your hero shave his head. This is absolutely touching. What made you decide to do this?

I felt that Zach had to do something drastic to get through to Dani. He wanted to prove to her that he loved her before the surgery, and he’s going to continue to love her no matter how she looks after the surgery. He knows Dani loved his thick, curly hair. He asks her if she would love him if his hair never grew back and he remained completely bald forever. When she says of course she’d still love him, he asks why she can’t believe he could love her the same way, no matter how she looks, just because he loves the kind, funny, loving woman she is underneath? It makes Dani finally believe in him.

How did you get from a career as a bookkeeper/admin assistant to writing?

I have no idea! Seriously, I think writing was a career that chose me rather than me consciously choosing it. I can’t not write. When things have become difficult and I’ve been discouraged by this tough business of publishing, I’ve sometimes thought about giving up writing. But the thought actually makes me physically ill. If I’m not a writer, then what am I? I think I’ve got it bad!

Now, down to the nitty gritty of writing. What is the hardest part --drafting, editing, research, or marketing? Why?

Marketing, definitely. There’s nothing easy about drafting, editing and research, but at least they’re under my control. I decide what I’m going to write about, and how I’m going to write it. But I can’t control if someone will review my book, or if someone will read it in the first place. It’s difficult to be heard and seen amongst the thousands of books published every year. A friend of mine said it’s like yelling out into the universe and hoping someone will hear you. All I can do is put myself out there (which is tough for an introvert like me) and hope something about my writing strikes a chord with a reader.  

What is your newest project? Anything else you want to share?

My new full-length contemporary romance, ONE MORE SECOND CHANCE, will be released in the near future. It’s part of a multi-author, multi-romance genre series from The Wild Rose Press set in the fictional small town of Lobster Cove, Maine. Here’s a blurb:

Dr. Alex Campbell has an agenda—finish his contract to provide medical services in Maine, pay off his medical school debt, and head back to his real life in San Diego. But when he meets Julia Stewart, all his carefully laid plans are put in jeopardy.

Julia Stewart, Lobster Cove’s high school principal, swears she’ll never let another man drag her away from the home she loves. Her aging parents need her, and the Cove is where she wants to raise her daughter. When her mother’s illness brings her and the big city doctor closer together, panic sets in. Her marriage taught her that men don’t stay. Can she put aside the heartaches of the past and trust Alex enough to accept the love he’s offering? Or will her fear of abandonment mean she’ll send him away forever?

And I’m hosting a big bash on my blog on November 5, which happens to be my birthday. I’m giving away over 30 ebooks, including 10 of my own, to celebrate. Join me at http://janarichards.blogspot.com on November 5 for your chance to win!

Let's do a speed round:

Favorite color: blue
Favorite drink: white wine, when it’s not red wine
Favorite movie: Jerry Maguire, even though I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan
Favorite accessory: silver hoop earrings, and of course, my wedding ring

Thank you, Jana , for being with Coffee Time Romance and me. I wish you much success.

Find Jana at:
Website: http://www.janarichards.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook/JanaRichardsAuthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JanaRichards

 

 

 

 

 

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