The following article appeared in Cactus Rose Sandscripts
February 2003: Volume 10-Issue 2
RWA®'s Cactus Rose Chapter
Las Vegas, Neveda
Meet Jacqui Jacoby
By Janet Kendall
Jacqui Jacoby is a doer. A breath of fresh air. She’s not one to wait for luck or opportunity to come to her despite the many disappointments in her writing career. Lesser souls might have surrendered to defeat, but not Jacqui.
Born and raised in California, she graduated from UCLA with a BA in 16th century British History, but not before she met and married her civil engineer and land surveyor husband. After sixteen moves, they, their three children, a dog, four cats, two birds and a fish have found their dream home in northern Arizona on three-quarters acres of land. The house is a “fixer-upper” where the previous owners “idea for repair was to get a tube of silicone and paste everything in place . . ..” But something very special about the house makes it feel like home. “Our grandchildren will visit us in this house. That’s the promise we’ve made to ourselves.” Undaunted by the work that lies ahead, she and her husband try to complete one project a month. Jacqui’s determination and fortitude appear in all aspects of her life including her writing career.
Jacqui began writing at an early age and made up stories “to get rid of the voices in her head.” Writing has given her a creative outlet to direct these voices and mould them into a story, thereby, muting “the fear of going insane.” At fifteen years old, she read Clive Cussler’s novel, Raise the Titanic. Inspired by his work and with ideas filling her mind, she started putting her stories on paper in April 1989.
Writing provided a creative outlet, but her writing profession also allows her the opportunity to be a stay-at-home Mom. Commitment and family are very important to Jacqui’s life. Romance novels contain those same elements, so writing in the genre is a natural extension of her beliefs. She loves the moment in a story when the hero makes the commitment and “ . . . the emotion is evident.”
Like most writers, she struggles with the characters until “I tell the hero to walk out the door and he crosses his arms and says no. But I know when I reach this point, I’ve nailed it and the characters are going to write the rest of the book for me.”
However, writing one story at a time isn’t her work style. She’s currently working on a paranormal titled MAGIC MAN, a historical western titled DEAD OR ALIVE, and marketing two romantic suspense novels. Her rationale is that “doctors don’t see one patient” and her “engineer husband doesn’t work on one whole map before moving onto the next. There is also the chance of boredom setting in. By switching projects, each one is always fresh.”
Working on several projects at a time has been easier than managing her writing career. Her biggest writing obstacle was time management. With her family and flock of pets, someone or something is always calling out to her. She gained control by reading Time Management for Writers by Ted Schwarz. Revelations came and gave her “Ah hah!” moments. Overcoming this obstacle goes hand in hand with her greatest weakness - to take herself seriously. “I realized it had to start with me. I had to take myself seriously before anyone else would.” “National in Denver changed everything. It was a realization that what I was doing wasn’t working. I would send out the queries then sit back and wait for the rejections to arrive. One book at a time, one rejection at a time.” Another thing that gave Jacqui insight to her career was attending a workshop called “Taxes and the Writer” at the Romance Writers of America® National Conference in Denver. The result was an eye-opener for Jacqui. “I learned that if you want it to be a real business then you have to treat it like a business. We may enjoy making up the stories and the characters, but in the end, it is a job.”
Determined to translate these insights into action, Jacqui opened a business checking account and obtained a business credit card she uses for writing expenses. She also created her web site at www.jacquijacoby.com. Here, visitors can read excerpts from her various novels and articles she has written, and they can also become familiar with her pseudonyms. She writes romantic intrigue under Jacqui Jacoby, historical romance under Jacquelin Lawrence, and non-fiction under Jacqui Wilson with the exception of her articles for an online magazine, FindaDeath.com.
Furthermore, she arranged her schedule at home so that her writing comes first. She writes Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 12:30 PM. Jacqui has told her three children, ages 17, 14, and 9 that “Unless you are bleeding profusely, dying in the nurse’s office, are under arrest, or being abducted by aliens, do not call home for a ride. I will no longer drive forgotten items to schools or drop what I’m doing to pick up the pieces of a catastrophe.” Jacqui refused to give in to pleas and retraining her family’s way of thinking took three months. She would not stop working because one of her children forgot something. Her vow has made her children more self-reliant. The result: “I saw a big difference in my own attitude as well as in how others perceived my job.” Doing these things made her feel more serious and professional about her writing career and of managing it, too.
With her new attitude and work schedule, Jacqui’s daily goal is to write five pages a day. She works for forty-five minutes and then takes a fifteen-minute break to do a house chore and at the same time, the break keeps her mind clear. Her short-term writing goal is to survive a week with her writing schedule intact. However, if disaster strikes and demolishes Plan A, she doesn’t angst over it. Somehow, she’ll make up for the lost time and her weekly page goal.
In addition to her writing, Jacqui also tends to writing-related business. She’s searching for an agent, but the lack of one hasn’t deterred her from marketing HEADS OR TAILS that Avon has now. This is the novel that a movie producer considered buying. But the agent handling the manuscript died, and no one told her about the death or the fate of her work. Ultimately, she received a “thanks but no-thanks.” The huge disappointment and rejection didn’t stop Jacqui from writing. She bounced back from that debacle and finished several other books; TROJAN HORSES, a story that she has sent to agents, and DEAD OR ALIVE, a novel that Dorchester is interested in seeing after she finishes the revisions. Besides marketing her work, she has begun entering her stories in contests, an avenue for exposure that she hadn’t explored until recently. Her long-range writing goal is to have a book contract by January 2004.
To insure accuracy in her stories, Jacqui tries to visit the sites where her stories take place. “I managed to convince my husband that we needed to see Hole in the Wall, Butch Cassidy’s hideout. He bought it and we spent the family vacation driving up to Wyoming. I was working on a western at the time, one about outlaws. We traveled the same road Butch would have taken and stepped into a dugout that he used as a hideout.” Recently, she went to Los Angeles to do research on her newest project, a paranormal titled MAGIC MAN, and there, she visited the old Greystone Mansion where many movies have been filmed.
Jacqui also has two critique partners and they exchange work when necessary. From time to time, she also requests critiquing from Lethal Ladies, a sub-group of the Kiss of Death Chapter of which she is a member. Her attitude about people critiquing her work is: “I usually read a critique, then sit on it for three days before rereading it to decide if I want to listen to them or ignore what they say. I’m past the ‘taking it personal’ stage and will ignore what doesn’t suit me.”
Aside from being a Cactus Rose Chapter member, she belongs to the Desert Rose Chapter, but admits that she is the most active in the Kiss of Death Chapter where she is the co-coordinator of their Daphne du Maurier writing contest. Jacqui also writes and markets magazine articles, two of which she’s working on now. One is titled GHOSTS OF LINCOLN which she’ll market to ‘old west magazines’ and the other is for a scrap booking magazine where the topic is journal writing. She also writes articles for FindaDeath.com. They recently asked her to write a piece about Rudolph Valentino, and she is doing the research now.
Speaking of the dead . . ..
Jacqui is fascinated with “the dead.” She loves to visit graveyards. The dead? Why the interest? Two things came to mind based on our communications: Jacqui is a historian by education, and she had a near death experience while driving across railroad tracks and ended up in a ditch. The frightening experience also kept her from writing for a year. Assumptions make bad bedfellows, however. When prompted to expand on her one-liners about “the dead,” she vowed her husband would pay me big bucks if I could find the answer to my own question. Really?
Despite my probing, Jacqui could only say that she’s been intrigued by “the dead” since she was a little girl. The first incident she recalls was when she was nine years old. She laid next to Ben Franklin’s grave where she proclaimed that she was “taller at that age than he was!” In college, she studied in London for four months and made it her goal to find all the graves of Henry VIII. She found six and visited five. During the early 1990’s, she and a friend spent the summer “doing Hollywood” and took the Graveline Tours (not once but three times) that carried the curious to sites where famous people died. In 1995, the owners of the house where Marilyn Monroe died hired Jacqui’s husband to survey the house. Jacqui’s husband hired her as temporary help. During her off time, she read Marilyn’s biography. Jacqui was in heaven. Despite her long list of ‘visitations’, she doesn’t know the reason for her interest in “the dead.”
Jacqui’s unique interest of visiting graves and writing about “the dead” isn’t her only extracurricular activity. Since the late 1970’s, Jacqui has been learning self-defense. A friend’s sister was a victim of the Hillside Strangler. This event prompted the LAPD to give basic self-defense lessons to the girls in LA schools. From that time on, she’s studied martial arts, including Kung Fu, and almost obtained a black belt in Tae Kwon Do before she switched to Tai Chi. Jacqui also teaches scrapbooking at a local craft store. She began her scrapbooking hobby because leaving her children a family historical journal is another one of her goals. She’s a busy lady and admits that she “doesn’t sit well.”
“It is wonderful what can be done when you’re always doing . . .” - Thomas Jefferson. This is her favorite motto that she cross-stitched and hung on her kitchen wall.
She’s striving to create her own path to publication, making opportunities where there are seemingly none, brushing off the pain of rejection (she’s received 56 for one manuscript), and reaching for her long-term writing goal. She has a philosophy about her work: “As long as I keep at it, keep sending them out, there is a chance. Once I stop submitting, it’s over. Period.” “Dean Koontz read my work and told me he had no doubt I would get to where I want to be. When I asked Clive Cussler, he sent me a copy of his rejection letter from RAISE THE TITANIC where he was told that they (the agent) ‘was not very enthusiastic about its prospect’.” “If they can stick it out, so can I.”
This is Jacqui Jacoby, a person who is an inspiration to writers. Her wonderful attitude, courage, professionalism, and work ethic are all elements that mark her for success.
I wish you the best of luck in your writing career.
Janet Wiist uses the pen name, Janet Kendall and has written for Harlequin Historical. She’s a long-time RWA® member, a member of three RWA® chapters, and is currently the web mistress and Technical Newsletter Editor for Cactus Rose RWA®. For more information about Janet, visit her website, http://home.att.net/~janetkendall/index.htm