Golden Heart Spotlight: CJ Eernisse Chase

CJ Eernisse Chase became a writer in an unlikely fashion: with a degree in statistics and a career in information technology. But after coworkers discovered she was a member of that rare species—a computer programmer who could also craft a grammatically-correct sentence—she spent more time writing computer manuals than computer code. Leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, CJ quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene, so she decided to take the advice of her ninth grade English teacher and write articles and stories people actually wanted to read. A member of Romance Writers of American, she loves to set her romantic suspense stories in times past. CJ is a six-time Golden HeartÒ finalist, most recently in 2010, who plays classical piano (badly) and teaches a special needs Sunday School class. She lives in Southeastern Virginia with her husband and sons.

 CJ’s Inspirational Golden Heart manuscript is UNFORGIVEN:

American Mattie Fraser arrives in Regency London with a chip on her shoulder and a pistol in her pocket. But her inquiry into the fate of her brother, a sailor impressed into His Majesty’s Navy, draws her into a web of lies, conspiracy, and danger. Is Kit DeChambelle—the one man who might help—working for her or against her?

Kit DeChambelle thought the war was over, until his government tasks him with one final assignment: find out what Mattie knows about British plans to nullify the Treaty of Ghent and claim the Louisiana Territory for Britain. Can the woman bent on vengeance and the man who won’t forgive learn true forgiveness in time to save Mattie’s life?

 And now a little about CJ:

1)  How long have you been writing?
I guess I’d have to list 1996 as the beginning of my “career” as a novelist. I’d started novels before that (going all the way back to my sophomore year of high school), but in 1996, I finally started a book and stuck with it for all 100,000 words to “The End.”

 2)  Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life? 
I wrote my high school newspaper, but when I got to college, I decided I really liked to eat, so I switched majors from journalism to statistics. I worked for a number of years in the information technology field. I tried writing novels occasionally, but after a long day at a keyboard, I seldom felt like doing yet more typing during my free time. The hours weren’t particularly family-friendly and our younger son’s health issues prevented me from working a typical outside-the-home job, so I left to stay home. After a couple weeks, I realized I wanted an activity that let me think in complete sentences — my time to write had come.

3)  What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
I raise boys. We have two biological sons and are adopting a third. (Unfortunately, the adoption has been stuck in bureaucratic … limbo and what should have taken a year is now at three years and counting.)

We left the Northern Virginia suburbs for a semi-rural part of the Southeastern Virginia swamps, and we’re turning our property into a hobby farm of fruit (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) and chickens. We now have 18 chickens: one rooster, one postmenopausal black cochin hen with a bad attitude, four 4-week-old Rhode Island red chicks, four 3-month old white leghorn pullets (which really aren’t ours yet but belong to the mosquito control program to track EEE and West Nile outbreaks—did I mention we live in the swamp?), and 8 white leghorn hens who are actually useful and lay eggs.

 4)  Who are your favorite authors?
Amanda Quick and Carla Kelly top the list for me in general romance. I read all Dee Henderson’s and Deeanne Gist’s books in the inspirational romance genre. I still go back and re-read Madeleine Brent (whose gothics I prefer to Victoria Holt’s – a sacrilege, I know). And one of the great things about being a parent is introducing old favorites to your children. I’ve read Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series and CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series more times as an adult than I did as a kid! And if you have children (particularly boys), you simply MUST read Franklyn Meyer’s Me and Caleb books with them.

I’m not much for heavy literature but I love meaty non-fiction such as the works of Thomas Cahill, David Hackett Fischer, Thomas Sowell, John Taylor Gatto, and Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom. Oh, and of course, CS Lewis gets a mention here as well.

And for poetry, I’d have to mention the Psalms. I’m currently rereading them all, and in keeping with my contrary nature, I decided to start at 150 and work my way backwards. I’m just amazed at how writings 3,000 years old can still speak so eloquently to the human condition. Now that’s impact!

5)  Do you have an agent?
Not at the moment.

6)  Where do you see yourself in five years?
Working to fulfill my third 3-book contract with all my boys playing oh-so-politely at my feet.

It’s great to have CJ with us!. And now, on to her post:

Perseverance and the Non-Selling Author

 “Welcome to the industry that will break your heart.” – Steve Laube, literary agent

Do you remember 1999? The preparations for Y2K? JFK Jr.’s missing plane? Americans wept with the families of Columbine and felt patriotic pride when Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France. We took our children to see Toy Story 2, spending a mere $1.22/gallon for the gas to get us there. And in Virginia, a young mom and wannabe published author got the most exciting phone call of her writing career – a Golden Heart finalist notification.

Okay, I’ll forgive you if you’re in the 99.99% of the population who somehow missed that last event. It was earth-shaking for me. The GH is the ultimate validation for an unpublished romance novelist. Surely, it wouldn’t be long from GH call to THE CALL, right? Or so I thought in my naïveté. After 11 years and 5 more GH calls, I’m a bit more cynical and a whole lot more stubborn than I realized back then. I have to be, or I would have quite long ago.

I contacted several of my fellow 1999 finalists who, like me, haven’t sold yet still continue to write, to submit, to hope. Along the way, we’ve finaled/won other writing contests. We’ve signed with agents and parted with agents. We’ve collected complimentary rejections and come close to sales. What keeps us writing despite the setbacks?

Debbie Swanson stressed the importance of looking forward, not backward. “I like steaming forward. Basically immersing myself in the current story is what works for me. That’s what keeps me writing.”

Candis Terry’s motto (from Galaxy Quest) is “Never give up. Never surrender.” “Over the years I’ve taken breaks when life interferes or I just get tired of being kicked around the publishing world. I’ve tried to quit several times but then I’d get a new story idea and . . . I realized I just love writing. I love the process. I love seeing characters coming to life and falling in love. And that keeps me going. I write for me because I love it.”

How do you keep going when rejections pile up or relatives offer well-meaning advice about quitting? Is there ever a time to give up–to stop writing, or at least, to stop pursuing publication? How long should one invest time and tears in a dream?

9 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight: CJ Eernisse Chase”

  1. Linda Lovely
    June 3rd, 2010 at 4:24 am · Link

    Your post speaks to every unpublished writer. Folks who get very tired of relatives asking/commenting — “Wow, how many books (years) have you written and you’re still not published?” Then there’s the self-doubt, especially when you’ve just picked up a published book that for one reason or another you think isn’t worth finishing. With that kind of negative feedback, it takes real stubborness to persevere. Thank heavens for the many published authors who share the fact that it took them decades of rejections and multiple shelved manuscripts before they got the call. Looking forward to meeting you in Orlando.

  2. CJ
    June 3rd, 2010 at 7:33 am · Link

    Thank you, Linda.

    And thank goodness for the Internet. Without the contact and encouragement of other writers who have gone through the same thing, I probably WOULD have given up.

  3. Sharon Lynn Fisher
    June 3rd, 2010 at 7:33 am · Link

    I once heard a quote about dreams/goals from an inspirational speaker with cancer, and it’s stuck with me. He said those walls we run up against were put there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. I think the truth is that for writers, it’s not just about wanting. For writers, no matter how many times our hearts get broken, we know we’ll be MORE broken by giving up something that’s so much a part of us.

    Thanks for sharing your story, CJ, and congratulations! SIX FINALS, wow!

  4. CJ
    June 3rd, 2010 at 7:50 am · Link

    Oh, I think I know the speech you mean, Sharon! For anyone unfamiliar with it, start here. There’s a bit of background and a link to the video:

    Just be certain to grab tissues first.

  5. Sharon Lynn Fisher
    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:00 am · Link

    Yes, that’s it!

    Forgot to say, my husband is rapidly converting our city backyard into a hobby farm — pears, apples, blueberries, raspberries, squash. He’s threatening us with chickens as well. 🙂

  6. Candace Irvin
    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:29 am · Link

    Excellent post, CJ!

    I’m always in awe when I read your work. You turn out one amazing historical after another & I truly can’t wait for the day when everyone is able to read them. So hang in there CP, because I know you will sell and SOON! 🙂

  7. Elisa Beatty
    June 4th, 2010 at 8:28 am · Link

    So great to hear more of your story, CJ! Your perseverance is inspirational in and of itself. You WILL find a publishing home!

  8. Shea Berkley
    June 8th, 2010 at 2:20 pm · Link

    How long should you chase your dream? I think you already answered that. “Never give up, never surrender.”

    Sorry I’m late to your party, but I’m here now! Congratulation on another final, CJ!

  9. Keli Gwyn
    June 9th, 2010 at 6:36 am · Link

    Congratulations on your current GH final–and the five that preceded it. Wow!! That’s sooo impresssive.

    That you’re talented is a given. That you’re persistent is admirable–and vital in this biz, as you said so well. That you’re on your way to a First Sale is obvious. I’m eager to join in your happy dance when you share news of your first contract with the Pixies and the Unsinkables.

Comments are closed.