Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful.
Jonathan Harrow left a career in Hollywood topursue his dream of writing novels. He has an author crush on Charlotte Bronte, and a real crush on his author wife, YA bestseller Kelly Oram.
They live in Phoenix with their four kids and their cat, Mr. Darcy.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed this novel. I think Kelly Oram and Jonathan Harrow make an excellent writing team and I will be sure to keep my eyes open for any work they decide to collaborate on in the future. This is a well-written novel about a girl finding herself at sea. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s got a plot-twist or two I didn’t see coming. What more could you ask for?
- What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Jonathan: For me, the planning stage is the most enjoyable. This is the part between the development of the initial idea and the actual writing. My planning stage is very detailed—the final result is a scene-by-scene guide of the entire plot. But at the beginning of the process the story is still wide open and can go in any direction. I enjoy this freedom, being able to sit down, put music on, and tell myself: “Okay, just let your mind go to wherever it wants to go within the context of this story idea, and let’s see what we get.” During one of these sessions, I might come up with six or seven interesting ideas, and then my job is to decide which of those are worth trying to incorporate into the story. A lot of it gets thrown out by the end, but eventually I’ve got enough of these interesting bits to string together into plot. For me, it’s the most creative part of the process, as opposed to the actual writing, which feels more like work.
Kelly: Believe it or not, the more I write, the more I enjoy the re-writing process. I still love writing that first thirty thousand words the best. There’s something magical about getting a fresh start and introducing new characters. Plus, the romance lover in me will always favor the meet-cute moment. (The moment where the main love interests meet for the first time.) But I’ve really come to appreciate rewriting. After the pressure of finishing the story is gone and I can sit back and take a good look at it. There are always things that can be changed and made better. I know that, but I’m always still surprised how much stronger my books get after revisions. Just ask my beta readers! I love watching something I really like become something I absolutely love!
- What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
Jonathan: I don’t enjoy some elements of the feedback and re-writing phase. I know how vital that aspect is, because every one of my stories has improved greatly because of feedback from others. There’s no disputing that. Feedback and rewriting always makes your story better. But after the herculean task of finishing a first draft, I mentally close the project, and I’m ready to move on to the next shiny new idea, so it can be difficult to go back and rework old stuff. I get impatient with that process. Kelly is much better at this. She’s gone back and re-written entire books, practically from scratch. That’s an amazing feat.
Kelly: And yet, my least favorite aspect of writing is kind of the same. I love the feedback/re-writing phase. But I swear I have story ADD. I get very impatient and jump from story to story all the time. Right now I have eight current works in progress, and that’s not including outlined ideas or sequels that need to be written. My least favorite part of the process is how long it takes to get through one story, or having deadlines that force me to focus on one book for a long period of time. It stresses me out not to be able to decide on a whim that I’m not feeling a story that day and want to start something new. When writing was only my hobby, I could totally do that, or even completely abandon a story if I got bored with it. Now, as a published author I have a responsibility to keep to a schedule. UGH. Schedules are my archenemy! (Though they happen to be Jonathan’s best friend!)
- What is your favorite scene in Joni, Underway?
Jonathan: This is easy for me. It’s one of the first scenes I envisioned in the planning stage, and I couldn’t wait to actually write it. There’s a point in the story when Joni has learned the very basics of sailing, just enough to realize how difficult it can be, and how dangerous it can be out on the ocean. So she’s just starting to get more comfortable on the boat, and then BOOM, she’s thrown into her first real test when Captain Reid falls overboard, leaving Joni as the only person on the crew who knows how to control this 53 foot boat that is being pushed by strong winds away from Reid. It’s up to her to use what little she has learned so far in order to turn the boat around and get back to Reid before he drowns and/or freezes to death. It’s the first time we really see Joni’s true inner strength, and it also serves as a turning point in the love story.
Kelly: I agree that’s one of my favorite scenes too. Jonathan always likes the big, action packed, high-tension scenes, but I live for the smaller moments. I think my favorite scene in the book comes right after that scene. Once the craziness is over, Joni has a moment by herself to really sit down and process what had just happened, what could have happened, and everything she’d just accomplished. It’s a quiet moment of personal reflection and emotion. And then she has a moment with Reid after that, that still makes me swoon. My favorite scenes in books are always the ones that make me feel it. That scene really got to me.
- What inspired Joni, Underway?
Jonathan: I can speak for both Kelly and I on this one. “Joni, Underway” began as an idea I had while watching “Deadliest Catch”, that show about lobster fishermen. That whole world is so foreign to me, and I remember thinking: “Gosh, what if a city guy like me had to go work on one of these boats?” It would be a life changing experience. That sparked an instant comparison to “City Slickers,” a movie I have always loved. The idea sat in my mind for years, and then when Kelly and I were looking for a romance/drama to work on together, the “City Slickers on a lobster boat” idea morphed into “Joni, Underway.” Kelly was sold on the idea as soon as I said, “She falls in love with the boat’s super hot captain!”
Kelly: Yup. And I’m still sold. Captain Reid… *Swoon!*
- (For Kelly specifically) How did writing an adult novel differ from writing YA?
Kelly: It’s hard!!! Honestly, that’s why I needed a co-writer. Adult fiction feels so different to me. It needs more depth, and a wider range of characters and storylines. Everything has to be just a little bit more detailed, just a little bit more mature. (And considering my maturity peaked at the age of fifteen, well…) I think I have the hardest time with description. YA moves at a much faster pace than adult fiction and I’m always way too impatient to give each scene, each setting, and each character the time that they deserve. It was fun though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I brave a women’s fiction or chick-lit novel on my own some day. I’ve already got a couple of ideas brewing.