Saturday, 6 April 2013

Interview: Juanita Kees

Today I have Escape Publishing and Eternal Press author, Juanita Kees joining me on the blog to talk about her up and coming release, Under the Hood! Welcome, Juanita!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Whitney. I can’t wait to read What Happens in Ireland! Love the cover, so cheerful and bright.

Aw, thank you, Juanita. I love your cover myself. I remember first seeing it on your facebook page. What does everyone else think?

Don't you love it?
Now, enough about fabulous covers. Time to talk about you! First of all, tell us a little about yourself and your novels?

I’m short, feisty and fun-loving and that’s how I like to describe my novels. I hope readers agree :) I have a soft, romantic heart that bruises easily and I’m a sucker for Nespresso and George Clooney.

Under the Hood was inspired by my love for Holden cars and the history of Araleun Botanical Park. Wherever you look here in WA, you’ll find a blank canvas for a story. Small towns filled with charming characters and a wealth of history, the magic of the Pilbara, the lure of the Goldfields and the dry, red dust of the Nullabor – what more could an Author need?

I think you have all an author needs, Juanita.
So, how long have you been writing and what made you start?

From the moment my mum put a crayon in my hand :). I daydreamed a lot growing up, much to the frustration of my parents and teachers. It started with notes in the back of my school books and grew from there. I penned my first poems in primary school and followed them up with song lyrics. I even wrote the music to match. At about sixteen, I started to write my first novel, Fly Away Peta, which was published in August 2012 (twenty-something years later) by Eternal Press.

I come from a long line of storytellers and talented artists. My dad loved making up stories to tell at bedtime or read to us from our favourite books. We listened to a lot of radio series too. Stories have always been an integral part of my life. I can’t imagine being without a book to read or write.

That's fantastic. I always enourage people to start as soon as the muse awakens. I wrote What Happens in Ireland at sixteen too! But the story has changed much since then.
Juanita, can you pitch your novel, Under the Hood to us in 10 words or less?

I think Booknut 101’s review does it for me :)
“Cars, smouldering eyes, troubled teens and ice cold beers”

Booknut 101's review certainly does. Congradulations on such a fantastic response.
Now, what was the inspiration for this novel?

Australian businessman and politician JJ Simons founded the Young Australia League and established a holiday camp deep in the shaded Roleystone valley in 1929. Simons called his camp Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning ‘singing waters,’ ‘running waters’ or ‘place of lilies’.Together, League members and volunteers built cottages, designed by leading Perth architect WG Bennett, using local timber and stone. They created pathways, roads, steps and terraces and filled the dream garden with native and imported plants to create a garden heaven.

The Grove of the Unforgotten still remains today, built in memory of Young Australia League members killed in World War I.

Now known as Araluen Botanical Park, this has to be the most peaceful garden in Western Australia. Many of the cottages have been restored, except for one that burnt down, leaving only the chimney stack standing.

I chose a similar setting for TJ & Scott’s story, because of its history and original purpose. How wonderful would it be if young people could return to this peaceful place while they search for themselves through the trials of growing up?

Unfortunately, my story is fiction and TJ is no relation to JJ Simons, but his dream and my love for his creation provided the perfect background for this story of an extraordinary woman who has her own dream and a commitment that knows no boundaries.

That sounds wonderful. I can't wait to read it, Juanita!
Now, tell us, what's the best thing about being an author?
I can talk to imaginary people and no-one thinks I’m crazy! Oh, and then there’s the ‘research’ for the perfect hero… ;-)

Haha! It is a definite plus.
Have you always wanted to be an author?

Yes, and I am so blessed that my dream has come true.

Now, you recently did a post on receiving criticism ( What would you say is the best way to handle criticism and overcome the heartbreak?

Criticism—especially the negative variety—is like a knife to the heart. Only the author (and maybe their editor) knows how much of their soul is invested in that story—not to mention the research, planning and countless rewrites to get it perfect.

The best way to overcome it is to read it and put it aside for a while. Have a little cry and comfort (chocolate works wonders!) to get the emotion out of the way. Let’s face it, as Romance Authors, our lives revolve around emotion. So we’re allowed a bit of a sook :)

When you’re ready, take it out and analyze it. What did they like about it? If more than one reviewer finds the same flaw, you can look at how you can fix that. I’ve started a checklist of the mistakes I plan to avoid in my next novel —working title of Under Cover of Dark—which is the continuation of the investigation started in Under the Hood and Detective Mark Johnson’s story.

I'm so glad to see someone working so proactively to be the best writer they can. Well done, Juanita.
Now, I'm going to be mean, but out of your two novels Fly away Peta and Under the Hood, which is your favourite and the most fun to write?

Hmm…tough question. They’re two very different‘tones’. Fly Away Peta was more intense, I think, and Peta took herself very seriously. The scenes were a little more dramatic. Under the Hoodon the other hand, was lighter even though the plot includes murder. TJ is a bouncier, feistier character whereas Peta was more of a hothouse flower –delicate, fragile with a hidden backbone when the situation called for it.

Under the Hood was more fun to write because of the characters, but I think Fly Away Peta will always hold a special place in my heart because I carried it with me the longest.

I think we all hold a special place in our hearts for our first. And they tend to be the book that teaches us the most.
Do you find that it gets easier with every novel?

Gosh no! My current heroine—Lily—is giving me a world of trouble because she’s feeding me tidbits of herself and keeping secrets. What I have found is that with each story, my writing gets stronger as I learn from reviews, critique, tips from writers, and workshops at the RWA conferences.

Damn, I had hoped lol.
Do you have something inspirational or informative to share with aspiring writers?

Do your research, learn from your mistakes, write often and never give up on your dream.
Fantastic advice, Juanita. Thank you so much for joining me on the blog today. I look forward to seeing Under the Hood on my kindle shelf in the near future. :)
And to finish off this interview, here is the blurb for Under the Hood:

Under the Hood

When Scott Devin buys a struggling car dealership in a semi-rural area in Western Australia, the last person he expects to see in charge is a stilletto-wearing, mini-skirted foreperson. Exactly the distraction a struggling, male-dominated workshop doesn’t need! But there’s more to TJ Stevens than meets the eye. TJ Stevens has two major goals in life: to preserve her grandfather’s heritage and protect the teens in her rehabilitation program– and she’ll go to any lengths to do it. Scott Devin’s presence is a threat to everything she’s worked hard to achieve, so keeping him at arms-length shouldn’t be a problem…or will it?

Juanita loves to hear from fans and would love for you to enjoy her writing journey with her at:

Twitter: @juanitakees
On the Web:



  1. Under the Hood is one book I will definitely read. Love the title, and the cover. It really portrays what's in the novel. Your love of Holden's. I had a smile. I was a beetle fan, but then it changed to Ford. Now I love Ferraris, Jags, etc. Not that I own one. I want to buy a soft top sports car, but can't figure out what to buy. So many choices.

    1. LOL, Suzanne, we are spoilt for choice these days, aren't we? I would love a BMW Z3 or Z4 if I'm going for a sports car. But here's nothing like the roar of the lion under the hood of a V8 Holden GTS.

  2. Wow, Fly Away Peta certainly had a long gestation :)

    1. It sure did, Kez :D

  3. I loved Under the Hood Juanita! And apart from your excellent taste in sexy vehicles, I particularly like your advice to new writers and beginning writers: never give up.

    1. Hi Jennie, yep there's something sexy about a V8 motor for sure! It could be the throb of the engine, or the sleek body and power under the hood...