NEW CANAAN Conn. -- What started as something of a secret has turned into a full-blown career for New Canaan resident Jamie Beck , now the author of two popular women's fiction series: St. James and Sterling Canyon.
A former commercial real estate and lending lawyer, Beck admits she's always been a huge soap opera fan, and so, after watching years worth of "Guiding Light" and other shows, felt she had what it takes to write something just as good -- if not better.
"I always thought to myself: 'Those writers should’ve had Beth say this, or Phillip do that,'" she said. Thus began her dream of writing romance stories. "One thing I always loved about soap operas versus other types of romantic stories is that you always had more going on than just a love story," she explained. "There were always many layers -- sisters, mother/daughters, father/son, friendships tested. I try to incorporate that into all of my work as well."
Once becoming a stay-at-home mom, she decided to finally put her words to paper and secretly write a novel. "I didn’t want to tell anyone in case I couldn’t or didn’t finish it," she said.
Beck confesses she went into her first book project not knowing much about story and character arcs, but she put her mind to it, joined the Romance Writers of America and her local Fairfield County chapter, and started to dig in "I found new friends and a willing network of women who helped me along this journey," she said.
It took her three manuscripts to land an agent, although the second manuscript is actually her first published book. "The experience has exceeded all of my expectations, although when you set low bars, you are usually pleasantly surprised!" she said.
Currently, all of her stories, from Montlake Romance, are romance novels, although "In the Cards" and the St. James novels have stronger women’s fiction elements than the Sterling Canyon books, which she said, "are a little sexier and sassier."
Montlake is alternating releases between the two series. In June, "Secretly Hers" came out (book number two in the Sterling Canyon series), basically a friends-with-benefits love story. The next release, set for Nov. 1, will be the third and final book of the St. James series ("Worth the Risk"), and involves a recovering alcoholic who trades one form of addiction for another (think love).
Beck is nearly finished with the first book of a new series (tentatively called the Cabot novels) which is set in Portland, OR and involves the Cabot family siblings. This book should release next summer, and, like the St. James books, will involve heavier topics such as mental illness, marital struggles, and other issues in addition to romance.
The New Canaan author said living in Fairfield County doesn't influence her all that much though she did set the first St. James book on Block Island after having spent several vacations there at a friend’s second home and based the family in Wilton because it's familiar and gave her a lot of options in terms of places her characters could go, i.e. nearby Manhattan and Vermont.
Mostly, Beck said she's inspired by her own experiences and those of friends and family, as well as song lyrics she likes. Non-fiction also plays a hand as, she says, it "seems stranger than fiction."
Romance isn't the only thing she does though. You can find Beck's parenting advice via her blog which includes information incorporated from New Canaan CARES , a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of youth and families.
For more details, go to her website www.jamiebeck.com/ .