Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest books. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Sherry Gore is LENIJAY! My assistant Amy will be in touch for your mailing address.

This week we welcome B.J. Taylor. To win a copy of the BJ’s The Complete Guide to Writer’s Groups That Work, leave a comment on this post!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I started writing later in life, in my forties. Late can mean great…I had more time to invest in what had become a passion. I’m married, work part-time and am blessed to have my mornings for writing, blessed because mornings are my most creative time.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I like to think of myself as a Mitch Albom sort of writer. Non-fiction is where I began, but writing novels has become a guilty pleasure. Why guilty? Because it’s a place where I get to write outside the box, break all the rules, tell little white lies and big globby fibs. I love my plots and my characters and how they grow and learn throughout each book.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?  

I took writing classes at a local college. I never dreamed back then that I would be a published author, I just wanted to write. Maybe a small nugget in my brain thought I could possibly help someone with what I wrote, and so I learned the craft. The classes taught by Kay Strom and Dan Kline were just what I needed to fit writing into my life–it gave me deadlines and made me accountable. Then the classes ended. I knew I’d stop writing the first time I submitted and was rejected, so I formed a writer’s group for encouragement, support, and motivation.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

Shortly after starting up the first writer’s group back in 1995, my career was kick-started by John Gray, author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. When he asked for people to tell him how his first book affected their relationship, I jumped right in by sending him four single-spaced pages. He printed my words in his follow-up book, Mars and Venus in Love. There was no byline, and no paycheck, but the fact that John Gray thought my writing was good enough to be in his book was a huge boost to my self-confidence. Thereafter, I submitted to many markets, preferring to believe in the old adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and thus have been published most notably in Guideposts and many Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?

I drink one cup of flavored coffee each morning. No more. No less. I’m not sure it does much to jump start my brain, but I love it. For me, there’s nothing like BIC (butt in chair), at my desk, in my home office with the big window overlooking the backyard with hummingbirds flitting around once in a while and butterflies wafting by on a breeze. I guess I could write anywhere, and I have, but I like this view the best.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

Having a good, professional writer’s group is the key to getting published. If you’re able to let others read your work, offer suggestions, and listen to their comments, then you have what it takes to be a published writer. Why? Because when you submit your work for publication, there’ll be an editor who is going to read it. And if he/she says, “We like it, but change this and this and add that and that,” are you going to say no? A writer’s group is the proven testing ground. Develop a thick skin, listen to others, but remain true to who you are as a writer (see “The Rule of Three” in my book, The Complete Guide to Writer’s Groups That Work).

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?

Yes, and more. I love working with editors to fine-tune a story for publication. I love the interaction with readers who comment on something I’ve written. I love developing a story that entertains and enlightens. The life of a writer is extremely fulfilling. Of course, there’s what some call “rejection” but which I like to call “non-acceptance.” That comes with the job. I remain cautiously excited and hopeful about all of my projects.

What are your biggest distractions?

Life. Things like social networking, taking care of the house, the bills, making dinner, planning trips to see family. But I love every bit of it and wouldn’t change a thing.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

I’m extremely blessed to have had many memorable moments in my writing career, including winning the Pacesetter Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and a coveted spot in the Guideposts Writers Workshop Contest. But there are many others that are just as cool and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

What I like least about writing is the marketing I must do. Why can’t I just write? But it must be done, and so I do it. What I love the most is hearing from readers. I once received an email from a pre-teen who read my story “Hot Potato/Cold Potato” in Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul II. She’d been thinking about running away from home too, and said the story really helped her to see how much she loved her home and family.

What is the role and importance of an agent?

I love my agent. Met him and clicked instantly. He looks just like my brother and has a sense of humor to match. His role is to help me to sell my books, and my role is to give him my very, very best to make his job easier.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Never give up. I know that’s been said before, but it’s true. Try everything. You never know what you’re going to like. Take every class you can. Learn as much as possible about all aspects of being a writer. Join or start a writer’s group and never stop learning.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

The promo sentence for the future book I hope you’ll find on the shelf will have the most adorable puppy on the cover possibly holding a fortune cookie under his paw:

Fortune Puppy is the story of 32-year-old Melanie, a divorced young woman searching for love, and the capricious dog that helps her find it.

What’s on the book horizon for you?

More dog-lit type books are in the works (think Chick-Lit for dog lovers!). Fortune Puppy would be the first in a three-book series and I have another book featuring an adorable Cocker Spaniel in the works right now.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

For news and up-to-date information on dog-lit and my upcoming books, stay tuned to my dog blog: www.bjtaylorblog.wordpress.com or look on my website at www.bjtayloronline.com If you’re a dog lover, and a writer, the blog offers a lot of things dog, some things writing, and book reviews and comments. Fun stuff!

To purchase The Complete Guide to Writer’s Groups That Work through Infinity Books you can click here: http://bit.ly/aU7eCC 

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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