Author Interview: Judy Ichkhanian

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

Amanda Quick and Julia Quinn – I adored the subtle humor and the intelligence of the heroines. I’m also a big fan of Dean Koontz because of the way he weaves hope into his stories (yes, different genre, but a good writer is still a good writer!) More recently, I’ve fallen in love with the books of V.E. Schwab, mostly because she gives a story permission to be hopelessly poetic and elegant. Then there’s J.K. Rowling, who created an entire world within her pages that actually bled into ours. I try to create smaller worlds with my characters and the overlap of their tales and destinies.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

Absolutely! In “Arabella’s Assistant,” Lady Winslow is modeled after my mother. In my upcoming second-in-series, “The Midnight Menace,” Lawry is modeled after my first love. I suppose I find it more of an homage and less therapeutic to write about people I admire, but it’s a way of exhibiting to the world the positive traits that helped form my life. For instance, my mother was quite proper and somewhat distant on the outside, but inside, just like Lady Winslow, she held a deeper understanding of both my foibles and those of humankind. I tell everyone I meet about one of her last acts: she was lying in a bed, a day away from death, on oxygen because she could barely breathe. My father, sitting in a chair next to her, took one of those deep, wavering breaths grieving wrings from us. My mother scratched the oxygen mask from her face and tried to make him take it so he could breathe easier. Lady Winslow would have done the same thing. And my first love? Well, we won’t talk about that just now …

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a writer and an actress. The acting bug left me somewhere around college, but the writing never did. My first “novel” was written when I was in the fifth grade. It was based on the American Revolution, stole shamelessly from “1776” (the musical), and earned me my first award from my teacher: a rose-imprinted porcelain teacup. Though I had been writing since I could first read, completing “Rose China” and turning it in for extra credit was the first time I knew what I needed to be: a novelist. Previously, I had spent my days writing bad poetry, abbreviated stories about heroines trapped in Victorian houses and gardens, and my name combined with the last name of whatever boy I was crushing on. Waking up at 4 a.m. to write before school, however, proved to me I had the hunger.

At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?

I’m going to take a somewhat dichotomous view here: I think writers are born with both a different way of viewing the world and a physical need to express that view on paper. Writers are creators of worlds. Their characters live only through their pen, and each existence is as unique as human beings and snowflakes. However, the profession of being a writer requires, I think, the publication of a work. I’m less certain if one requires a sustainable income, though it helps, but if one doesn’t take the leap of sharing the words with the world, it seems to me more hobby than profession. I happen to like belly dancing. I don’t call myself a belly-dancer because I don’t perform for others. I know a lot of people will disagree, and that’s okay. This is just my view.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

All the time! Chocolate-the-Dog is a constant need machine! The moment I sit down, he wants to be outside. As soon as I sit down again, he needs his water bowl refilled, or a pet, or a hug, or another meal. Lucky for him, he’s cute.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I have, and I might in the future in order to make the lines between genres more defined. Right now, I’m writing Historical Romance, but I have a bit of magic in me dying to be expressed, and some books in relative stages of readiness waiting to be published that are clearly outside my current genre. I chose my own name for my Historical Romance as a nod to my Armenian roots, and as a kind of thank you to my husband for sustaining me the past twenty-some years.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I am one of those annoying individuals who adore alliteration (see?). Anytime I can use the same letter consecutively, I’m on it. In the case of my Raised All Wrong series, the names of my first and second in series (“Arabella’s Assistant” and “The Midnight Menace”) came to me before I had even named the characters or written a word of their stories. I published Book One and a Half in the series in my newsletter (interested readers can sign up on my website, , and receive a free novella entitled, “Dangerous and Disguised”), but that title I played with a little bit. I knew I wanted the word “Disguised” because it plays such a crucial role, but there were a few other contenders for the first part. Disgusted. Delightful. Determined. Did I make the right choice?

How do books get published?

It’s not easy. There are only 4-5 (depending who you ask) Big publishers, and they normally require submission through an agent, and another couple handfuls of decent small ones one might query on one’s own. I was lucky to have been accepted by The Wild Rose Press because they not only have a great reputation, they live up to it. Self-publishing will gain a writer a greater net from every sale, but there’s no support. A lot of the smaller publishers go out of business or are vanity presses in disguise, so my advice is to look at a house’s track record carefully before submitting to them. Again, I was very fortunate. Once accepted by a house, there are rounds of editing, both of the manuscript and the galley(s). What most readers don’t understand is how long it takes to write the book, and then how long it takes to polish it into a saleable item. And then there’s the cover …

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

I take a few days off, go shopping, get errands done, and binge-watch television. I like to empty my mind in order to allow the next book time to percolate to the surface. But no – there’s no champagne and caviar except in my dreams.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

It depends upon the character. Sometimes they write themselves and surprise me by being names I would never ordinarily choose. Other times, I use a baby-name search for something that rings true to the character’s personality. I have a tendency to want to use archangel’s names. I’m not sure what that says about me (or I’m not sure I should admit it!), so now I go out of my way to name my characters something other than Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. And yes, the hero’s name in “Arabella’s Assistant” is Gabriel. Mea culpa … but it just fit.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

For the Raised All Wrong series, a few of my more important characters started as walk-on roles in a prior book. For example, Miss Honoria Cutworth is the star heroine in “The Midnight Menace,” but she was one of the simpering ingenues at a dinner party Arabella and Gabriel attended separately-together in “Arabella’s Assistant.” The last book of the series which is already in draft features Peter Bartholomew, also from “Arabella’s Assistant.” I’ll be honest: his love interest surprised me. I intended her to be English. Secret insider information: she’s not. In any event, once I have the first main-character’s personality down, I find the logical foil for the counterpart (or they find me). As to what happens to them and the plot? I usually have a vague idea of where I want their story to go, but then the characters write their own lives. They really do. At points, I do make decisions on pacing. Sometimes I try to force an issue, but the characters will constantly surprise me even then and turn my intentions on their head. All that said, after the first draft come at least ten more, so my conscious input is important in shaping the general melee scrawled across the pages into some semblance of order. In industry jargon, they call me a pantser. I own it.

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