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The Art of Storytelling: Author J. Marie Rundquist Shares the Joy of Literary Twists
Episode 7515th May 2024 • Author Express • Shawna Rodrigues, Kathleen Basi, Kristi Leonard
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J. Marie Rundquist believes a day isn't complete without time spent reading. Stories she loves best—to read and to write—feature characters from all walks of life who learn from one another. When she isn't writing, you'll find J. Marie exploring all the K‐12 public education world has to offer through teaching, learning, and supporting others in their educational roles.

In spite of trying to live in other parts of the US, J. Marie accepted her fate and now embraces six‐month winters in Minnesota, showing off photos of hiking in sub‐zero temperatures. She lives in the Twin Cities with her family, two cats, and a never‐ending supply of Dr. Pepper.

The best way to keep up with J. Marie Rundquist's latest stories and upcoming releases, is through her newsletter. You can subscribe on her website, www.jmarierundquist.com.

Order As Though You Were Mine in your favorite format:

https://books2read.com/u/mVeQ72

Order All I'm Asking in your favorite format:

https://books2read.com/u/m0lvny

A little about today's host-

Kristi Leonard is a modern Renaissance woman deeply rooted in the book world. When she's not immersed in crafting novels, she's orchestrating writing retreats through her business, Writers in the Wild, or lending her voice to non-fiction audiobooks. She leads the Women’s Fiction Writers Association as the president of the board, and interviews her writer pals as one of the hosts of the Author Express Podcast. She will start querying her first book in 2024.

Beyond the realm of words, Kristi embraces the Florida sunshine by hiking with her writer-hiker group and leisurely walks on the beach. She and her husband juggle a couple side businesses and take turns sharing the couch with their goofy Golden-doodle, Maddie. Kristi enjoys travel adventures with her twin sister and living vicariously through her grown children. You can learn more about her and connect at: https://linktr.ee/kristileonard.

Be sure to follow or subscribe to Author Express wherever you listen to podcasts and to follow us on Instagram @AuthorExpressPodcast

Learn more about our hosts, the guests we've had, and their books -

https://linktr.ee/AuthorExpressPodcast

Transcripts

We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at connect@37by27.com.

Kathleen Basi [:

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time, and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Bassey. I'm an award winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and, of course, storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest. Today's guest is Janet Roberts, a native of Western Pennsylvania living in Pittsburgh. She writes women's fiction with domestic suspense in which a woman finds her superpower and herself through adversity.

Kathleen Basi [:

She has self published 2 novels. Her next, what lies we keep, is coming out in May 2024 from 10 16 Press. A globally recognized cybersecurity awareness expert, she adds cybersecurity for the first time in her upcoming novel. Well known Pittsburgh based author, Laurie Jekyllis, said, What Lies We Keep will captivate fans of writers like Jennifer Weiner, and that it is Janet Roberts' brilliant and fresh prose, her big hearted messy real characters that set her world work apart. There's no easy ending here, and I'm so grateful for that. Welcome, Janet, to Author Express.

Janet Roberts [:

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here today.

Kathleen Basi [:

So let's start, by asking you what's the most interesting thing about where you're from?

Janet Roberts [:

I'm actually born and raised in Erie, but my mother is from the Pittsburgh area, from a small town outside of Pittsburgh, which I actually used in my first novel. And so I think that the most interesting thing is people obviously always think that it's a whole bunch of steel mills and it's a industrial town. And and there are still steel mills and everything here, but it's also one of the top in the world for artificial intelligence and robotics and cars that drive themselves and all kinds of things. And the thing that a lot of people don't know is Carnegie Mellon University often, spins off startups. And one of those startups with students a long time ago was Duolingo and is headquartered here. And it's about 10 minutes depending on red or green traffic lights down the road from me.

Kathleen Basi [:

Oh, that is interesting. Since you're brought in tech, I actually am really intrigued by this cybersecurity thing because, you know, all of us have been hacked. So can you tell me a little bit about what you do? Well, I just retired in August. So I do have a little bit of a consulting gig, but I haven't done

Janet Roberts [:

a lot with that yet. So what I do is use my communication skills and my writing skills to build cybersecurity awareness training for employees. And so I come in and and they don't have anything, and I build entire training programs from scratch for people so that they know how to protect data and information at work, and they can translate those skills to home. It helps to keep the company a bit safer. So I've been doing that since 2010, and I built about 2 programs and redesigned 1. But I mostly did it on the global, you know, multinational company level. So it required, understanding different cultures and how they accept or absorb, you know, training. And your biggest goal was to get them to pay attention and then get them to apply it.

Janet Roberts [:

So understanding human behavior, you know, in a bit as a writer, understanding your characters, their culture, human behavior, what makes people grab onto certain types of learning there's marketing involved. I worked with a great cybersecurity technical team who reviewed all of our work. And I would say I'm a bit of a translator because you translate from geeks speak to people speak, and that's how I first came into this was a CISO who said, I don't need you to understand all of cybersecurity. I don't actually want you to. I want you to be the average person and know enough, learn enough to translate from what the technical people want them to do to what they need to do. So it's how do you apply it? What do you do in your in your daily life, in your daily job?

Kathleen Basi [:

I feel like you need to do this for all of us, whether we're writers or readers or just general average people walking on the street.

Janet Roberts [:

Thing is it changes so rapidly. So I've been just out maybe 4 months and I have 10 things bookmarked that I need to read when I'm not marketing my novel to keep myself up on what happens out there. But, you know, at its core, there are just some basic things that people should do. They don't necessarily want to do it because it requires annoying things that take longer and everything. But yeah,

Kathleen Basi [:

that's me for sure. So let's switch gears and talk about your book, What Lies We Keep. Can you kind of give us the nutshell one sentence version of what the book is about?

Janet Roberts [:

I say it's where cybersecurity meets domestic suspense. And it asks the question, what happens when we embrace the life we think we should have rather than the life we have?

Kathleen Basi [:

The life we have rather than the one we think we should have. That's really interesting.

Janet Roberts [:

Life we think we should have rather than the life we actually have.

Kathleen Basi [:

Okay. I see. So you're being aspirational with it.

Janet Roberts [:

Yeah. What happens when you embrace the life you think you should have rather than the life you actually have? You don't have your priorities straight. You don't appreciate maybe the striving, the grasping, you know, all of that sort of thing.

Kathleen Basi [:

So do you have a is there a character in your book who you root for most strongly?

Janet Roberts [:

Yes. I accept now in my 3rd novel that I'm a multi POV writer. I keep trying not to do that, but that keeps happening to me. I also accept that it's very comfortable for me to write in the voice of a man and a woman. I guess I grew up with all boys, so maybe that's where that comes from. In What Lies We Keep, I root for Charlotte to find her own way, to find her own personal power, to find a life where she's independent with or without a man. But some of my early readers said they also rooted for Ted, her husband, to turn his life around and make better decisions. So I root for Charlotte, but I found some people liking that, you know, looking for Ted to have some redemption in there.

Janet Roberts [:

So

Kathleen Basi [:

Well, I think that's one of the nicest things about a book. And especially when you do multiple points of view, I think the temptation in this very black and white sound bite kind of world is to say we have a good guy and a bad guy. And when we get into reality, the reality is that that there's light and dark in all of us. And I remember this line from the movie Grand Canyon a number of years ago. Did you ever see that movie?

Janet Roberts [:

No. I don't think so.

Kathleen Basi [:

It's got quite a cast, and it's an ensemble piece. And, Mary McDonnell says to Kevin Kline in that movie, she says, the good and the bad all seem so close together. I feel it in us, even in our marriage. That line has stuck with me. I I think it's really beautiful when authors and when movie makers, when entertainers can can reflect real life that way. So it sounds like you've you've done that in your book.

Janet Roberts [:

I think when Lori Tequila said messy, I thought, oh, that's probably a really good word that I wouldn't have thought to use myself. So yeah.

Kathleen Basi [:

Yeah. That's very cool. So let's talk a little bit about your writing journey. Do you remember when you first decided you were gonna write a novel?

Janet Roberts [:

I think I probably was 8 years old. Well, a novel. No. So I started writing at about 8 years old because I just had all these thoughts and lines and things in my head. I always wanted to write a novel and I always was working 2 jobs or I was working long hours and, you know, I wasn't quite getting around to it. So in 1998, I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. And one of the things that someone told me to do in treating was to put 3 things that you were going to do when you beat it on your refrigerator. Like, don't think if, think when, and look at it every single morning.

Janet Roberts [:

Number one thing on the top of my list was I'm gonna write a novel and publish it. Did it every morning after every cancer treatment, I just looked at it. And so afterwards, I just started trying. I don't have MFAs. I've actually never taken a creative lighting class, you know, or something like that. I've gone to conferences and workshops and stuff. And I just started working on it, writing, you know, reading some writing books. Just started 2 of them at the same time because I had 2 ideas.

Janet Roberts [:

Like, that's a sheer amount of craziness. Working on them when I could, and sometimes there'd be multiple months when I couldn't even work on them. You know? So it took me a long time to create 2 novels. And then by that time, I had gone to some conferences in New York, and I'd figured out, I needed a developmental editor. And I had figured out that I wanted to self publish because partially because I just wasn't sure about an agent. And so partially because I had had cancer, and I didn't really wanna wait 2 years, and then it worked out and all that kind of stuff. I just really wanted to meet that goal on that list that was on my refrigerator. And so that's what I did in 2015, 2016.

Janet Roberts [:

I finally self published on my own 2 novels. And they did okay. I didn't have a lot of time to market, but I learned a lot too. I learned a ton by myself.

Kathleen Basi [:

Well, I really like that you're you're putting in this novel now, that whole aspirational thing, not the life that you have where I have non Hodgkin's lymphoma, but the life you wanna have. I'm gonna beat this, and I'm gonna publish a novel, and I'm just gonna do the thing. So I I really like that. I feel like you whether you did it intentionally or not, you brought something from you your real life into your newest book.

Janet Roberts [:

I did it intentionally, but I did it about people and corporations that, you know, wanna climb the ladder, and they climb over people and they put that need to validate through titles and money and power. They put all of that first. And I saw it over and over. I was in multiple corporations. I saw it a lot. So I complained about it to a really good friend of mine all the time. You know, these people just want a title and they don't care. You know, like, every so often.

Janet Roberts [:

There's a lot of wonderful people that became my friends and you know, but there was always a few characters like that. And my friend got tired of it. And she said, well, why don't you just write about it? And so it started this book as a bit of a catharsis where I just let it out, you know, with Ted. I went to some Sackett Street Writers online workshops, and everyone hated the character. They said that he had no redemption. He had no dimension. And I realized, okay. Either you're gonna drop this project or you're gonna go in there and move it from catharsis to a novel.

Janet Roberts [:

And what are you really trying to say here? And then that's when I made that decision. And I decided that Ted has a really great life with his wife and his child. And, you know, he has a lot of positives, but he's obsessed with embracing a life where he has a big title and he has a house and he makes money and he just loses sense of his morals and his self and everything in that process. And he blows up everything. He blows it all up because he can't see what's really important in his life.

Kathleen Basi [:

So now I can't wait to find out. We won't make you tell, but now I can't wait to find out, does he find his redemption or not? Stay tuned. Read the book. Okay. So on that topic, if people want to find your book or more about you, and specifically, tell us one place where they should go to find you online.

Janet Roberts [:

February 19th, it'll be open for preorder, and then it publishes on May 7th. So we're a little ahead here in this podcast of everything, you know, lighting up and you can link somewhere. But you can follow me on Instagram, which is Janet Roberts 77. Very easy. At Janet Roberts 77, because I had it way before I start marketing books. And I will always be posting there, you know, what's coming, what's happening, and all of that sort of thing. I do have a a website that I've had for a long time called books by janet roberts.com. There is a Jane Roberts skipper, please.

Janet Roberts [:

I have a t on the end. And it's, right now the website is being updated, by the folks that do that for me. And, so pretty soon it'll have more about this book. And also I'm waiting for the publisher to give me all the links and the QR codes and all the good things they can make take action. Yeah.

Kathleen Basi [:

Okay. So as we finish up today, tell me what book or story is inspiring you the most these days?

Janet Roberts [:

So I think crazy historically, you know, like any kid, I I love Nancy Drew. I love The Secret Garden. I loved Alice in Wonderland. I liked anything with a twist and a little magic. But I also, at 8 or 9 years old, figured out where my mother's novels were, and I used to sneak them off the top of the the closet under my pillow, and then lay there and meet them at the with the street light so she wouldn't catch me, which is when I fell in love with Leon Uris and the novel Trinity. And I didn't understand what I loved about it. The character development, the history, the movement, but I did. I just really loved that novel.

Janet Roberts [:

I've read it a number of times and I've been to Ireland a bunch of times, so it made it more interesting for me. So I think Trinity by Leon Uris moved me in a direction that I could didn't understand at the age of about 9 or 10 years old. And and I didn't get caught by my mom, so I read it a couple times even though I didn't understand everything. You know, today's world, I really like Kristin Hannah's work, but I like a lot of different authors. You know, there's a lot of people that I I read widely and and I love.

Kathleen Basi [:

Alright. Well, thank you. We always like to get to have our lists expanded on these. That's, you know, the best part about it. Thank you so much for being on today.

Janet Roberts [:

Thank you for having me. I I enjoyed it.

Kathleen Basi [:

Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday. And in the meantime, follow us on Instagram @uthorexpresspodcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget. Keep it express, but keep it interesting.

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