Jennifer Ryan is the author of the new novel The Me I Used to Be. Her many other novels include the Wild Rose Ranch series and the McBrides series. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Me I Used to Be, and for your character Evangeline?
A: The overall premise of the book came from something I’ve noticed in my own family. When something happens, everyone experiences the event in different ways. How they feel about what happens varies depending on their personal experiences and background.
When Evangeline gets into trouble, everyone in the family sees what happens in a different way and they have their own feelings about it. Their minds are made up.
Until the truth comes out.
The opening scene of the book where Evangeline is facing the parole board comes from the movie trailer for Ocean’s Eight where Sandra Bullock’s character is telling the board exactly what they want to hear, but in her mind she’s plotting what she’s going to really do when she gets out.
Evangeline has her own plans, but that all changes when the police officer who arrested her arrives, tells her, her father is dead, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse – not if she wants to get her life back.
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I’m not a plotter. I usually start a book knowing what the incident is that changes everything in the main character’s life. Then I go from there.
For Evangeline, I knew she needed to completely revamp her life, reconcile with her family, and find a way to put the past behind her. She’d already accepted the choices she’d made, but now she’s facing a lot of new challenges. And she way she handles those surprised even me sometimes.
In the end, I knew she’d be well on her way to a happy life, but the getting there was the fun part for me to write.
Q: The book is set on a ranch in the Napa Valley. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Setting can tell you a lot about the people who live there. Napa Valley is filled with wealth, but Evangeline lives on a failing ranch that she’s responsible for making prosperous again. She doesn’t have the resources to do that, so she’s got to get creative.
I love the ranch setting. It conjures feelings of home and hearth and a family connected to the land. Evangeline doesn’t want to lose the home her family has worked so hard to keep, the legacy her father left to them. It isn’t just a home, it’s the place she always felt safe and loved.
Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A: Some of my favorite recent reads:
Justified by Jay Crownover
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis
Unseen by Karin Slaughter
Q: What are you working on now?
I’m working on my next women’s fiction book that will be out Summer 2020 – The Silva sisters are all hiding their own secrets. When Sierra discovers what her sisters have been keeping from her, she’ll have to reevaluate the past and figure out what she wants for her future – and if it will include the family members who betrayed her.
Q: Anything else we should know?
Yes! I have a brand new romantic suspense coming out on 11/12/19. It’s the second book in my Wild Rose Ranch series – Restless Rancher.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb