03 March 2013

Guest Blog: Jeffree Itrich

This week, we're welcoming author Jeffree Itrich, whose latest title is Destiny at Oak Valley. Jeffree will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb: 

Imagine flying in a hot-air balloon, getting caught in an eclipse and descending over 100 years into the Wild West of New Mexico, where you meet a strikingly handsome man who challenges every notion you ever had about love. That’s exactly what happens to independent, high-spirited Rachel Kingston, who doesn't know how to get home, but must find a way without falling for his charms.

**Q&A with Jeffree Itrich**

What is the story behind Destiny at Oak Valley? What inspired you to write it? What was it about this story versus other ideas that compelled you to write it?

Destiny at Oak Valley began during a hot air balloon ride at the White Sands Balloon Rally in New Mexico many years ago. I was flying in the balloon with my pilot friend, Kathi Henderson. It was an odd morning. Very unusual fog covered the white sand dunes. Kathi and I lifted off through the fog and found ourselves alone above the fog; other balloons were just starting to rise through the fog bank. I described this every scene in the book. I turned to Kathi and said, “Wouldn’t it be wild if when we landed we found ourselves in 19th century New Mexico, in the Wild West?” Kathi laughed and commented on my zany imagination. After the rally, later that day our group visited a small town in the area, which got me thinking about life in 19th century New Mexico. The zeal, the sacrifices, the difficulties of living in a place far from large cities. At that point, the story of Destiny began to take form. By the time we got home at the end of the weekend I’d pretty much laid out the whole story in my head. As for what compelled me to write this story, I didn’t have a lot of choice. My characters took up residence in my head and began nudging me to write “their” story.

What are the book’s characters like?

Rachel is a strong, independent, no-nonsense 21st century woman who suffered a devastating love affair in college. After that she focused on building her career and gave up on love. Then she meets Matt in the 19th century who tosses every notion she had about men right out the proverbial window. Even though she is attracted to him, painfully attracted to him, she refuses to give in to the growing passion between them. She is as stubborn as stubborn gets, that’s one of her biggest weaknesses. The more she feels drawn to him the harder she fights to maintain her independence and sense of self. But as their relationship begins to develop she feels herself splitting between her old self and a deep feeling she can’t ignore. Her strengths parlay into her weaknesses.

As for Matt, he finds Rachel a complete conundrum. It’s not her beauty but her strangeness. He doesn’t know what to make of her independence, her spirit, her unwillingness to be awed by him. No woman has ever ignored his overtures and Rachel seems to ignore them as though they were a swarm of annoying flies. But he doesn’t know that he is getting to her and she does everything she can to make sure he doesn’t catch onto the growing infatuation she can’t ignore. Matt is your quintessential 19th century manly man. He knows that life in the territory is hard and he finds it perplexing that Rachel doesn’t function well in the 19th century. Of course she hasn’t told him she is from another century because she senses he won’t believe her. Regardless Matt finds himself drawn to her sexually, intellectually and physically. He can’t figure out how to get to her and it near drives him mad. His weakness is his inability to accept something out of the ordinary and hers is that she can be terribly bull headed.

As I wrote the characters, I envisioned that Rachel looked like the actress Olivia Wilde and Matt could have been the twin brother of Christian Bale or a young Tom Selleck, who I once met. The man is stunning. His smile could melt a butter factory.

What internal conflicts did your characters have to overcome in order to reach their happy ending? 

Rachel has to come to grips with the fact that she is in love with Matt and be willing to accept the consequences of loving him. She desperately wants to return home to the 21st century and when given the opportunity she must make up her mind whether love or her life back home will win. Matt has to stop looking at Rachel as a sexual object and start seeing her for the extraordinary woman that she is. That isn’t easy for him because that’s pretty much how he views all women. When they both finally overcome their hurdles (initially) the sparks fly. But it isn’t until the epilogue that the story reaches its happy ending.

What is the hardest part about writing, what is the easiest?

I don’t find any particular aspect hard or easy because I love the whole process. Each facet has its ups and downs. The important thing is to keep plugging along and not get caught up in minutiae. My favorite parts of writing are the research and writing dialogue, especially conversations with conflict. Sometimes I have to stop myself from overwriting dialogue and use some prose and description. Otherwise, it will be a screenplay, not a novel.

Did plot or characters drive your novel? Which came first?

They both occurred at the same time. Seriously, the story and its characters came to me while flying in a hot air balloon. The whole thing happened at once.

What motivates you to write?

Everything. It’s something in my soul. I can’t not write just as a musician can’t keep from playing a song or an artist can’t keep from drawing, painting or sculpting. It’s in my DNA. 

Where did you grow up and did where you’ve lived influence your writing? 

I was born and raised in San Diego, California. Our family also lived in Honolulu in the early-mid 60s for a couple of years and Cannes, France for a year, but ultimately returned to San Diego. Since high school graduation, I’ve lived in Israel, San Francisco and the Bay Area, New York City, Albuquerque and am now living back in San Diego.

As for whether my environs have influenced my writing, absolutely! I doubt I would be doing the kind of writing on the topics I am today were it not for my life experiences and the places I’ve lived.

Thank you, Jeffree, and good luck with Destiny at Oak Valley. Readers, please leave your comment for a chance to win this title.

Learn more about Jeffree Itrich on Facebook and check out her writing at Amazon.