Ryan Jo Summers is an author who writes across the genres. She pens romance novels, blending elements of sweet contemporary with inspirational, suspense, mystery, paranormal, and time travel in any combination, like blending a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Currently, she has about two dozen published novels and novellas, as well as contributions to anthologies. She covers non-fiction, fictional short stories, and poetry of these and many have appeared in trade journals and magazines. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her pets, bake, paint, go to the nearby forest and river, or gather with friends.
She pet-sits and dog-walks when she’s not busy writing, and she fosters homeless pets for area animal rescues. She lives in a century-old cottage in North Carolina with her own menagerie of rescued pets and way too many houseplants.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
My first book was written when I was ten. A family event occurred and I “wrote a story” about it as a means to cope and understand what was happening. I also did the illustrations. Sadly, the book has been lost—however, it was the catalyst for showing me that writing is both art and therapy.
I have also journaled for years and have written articles, essays, and soft pieces for various magazines, newspapers, and trade journals. There really wasn’t a particular person or form that influenced me. I simply found freedom in the ability to create written words as well as pleasure in reading another’s written work.
What inspired you to start writing this book?
This particular book/series was born from an unhappy work environment. I was working security in a huge warehouse, and I suffered from migraines. The place was unbearable sometimes. There were conveyors running non-stop overhead and twisting around like serpents. Powered industrial equipment (forklifts and lift trucks) zipped around and constantly tooting their horns. People were forever shouting and dropping wooden pallets. Walking around there sometimes was pure torture!
One day I just needed to escape from it all. I leaned against a steel support beam and envisioned all the steel beams were wooden pylons at the beach. The taped walkways became an old wooden boardwalk. The fork trucks and forklifts were boats’ horns blasting. The hard concrete became sand. The whirl of the conveyors became ocean waves.
With effort, traveling my warehouse route became a stroll along the beach in my mind. Eventually I put three sisters there for company on my solitary walks, and soon realized they would be happier if I gave them a family and men to fall in love with. Finally, I took my workplace happy place and began writing the Winds of Destiny series. River is sister one/book one. Storm is sister two/book 3. Raine is sister three/book three. Winter is brother 4/book 4 (twin of Storm). After that, we will just have to see where the winds of destiny blow next.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
It was relatively easy. I like nature-inspired titles, so I knew I wanted something to do with nature, the beach (story setting), and to indicate romance (genre). Anyone who has gone to the Outer Banks, where this is loosely based, will tell you wind is almost a constant. I had played around with a few other titles, but like naming a pet, nothing really stuck except Winds of Destiny for the series. And book 2, Storm’s Warning, was the easiest to come up with, because I just adore Storm, the middle daughter. She grabs life by the horns, makes no apologies, and lives on her terms. She ought to come with a warning to any male she encounters! I would like to have a real-life friend like Storm.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
“Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters, “Summer Nights” by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys, “Bearfoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen, “Wave on Wave” by Pat Green, “Coast” by Ryan Hurd, “Not a Moment Too Soon” by Tim McGraw, “Storm Warning” by Hunter Hayes, “Sunny and 75” by Joe Nichols, “Some Beach” by Blake Shelton, and “Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I have worked as a veterinary technician, a job I dearly loved. For the years I worked in that capacity, I never felt like “I went to work”. In similar fields, I have worked first as attendant, and then owner of a commercial boarding kennel, and part-time as a stable hand. I was also director of a breed-specific rescue non-profit organization. I used to raise and show dogs on the Midwest circuit for a few years. Lastly, I worked as a pet-sitter/dog-walker and also now own my pet-sitting/boarding company. Many of these have overlapped over the years. This was in addition to the ten unhappy years in security.
What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?
Because the setting was based on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and I had not been there personally yet, I studied books about the area. Weather, flora and fauna, history, maps, anything that would help me convincingly place my people in their little town. Later, I took a trip to the Outer Banks, and most of what I had studied was spot on. I don’t recall what I read for comfort during the writing process of the first two books. Right now I am reading a lot of non-fiction books.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
This series is about family. The sisters, their brother, and their parents. It’s about small town. Sweetwater Harbor is a collection of people who share more than a zip code. They share a passion for their homes and families and friends. It’s about romance and finding love. Each story in the series features a man coming to town for his own reason, and he finds one of the sisters. It might be love at first sight, at least for him, but usually it’s not. And the series is about relationships. I hope readers take away a belief in the possibilities of family, friends, home, romance and relationships. Whether they live in a town like Sweetwater Harbor or the middle of New York City, or somewhere in the middle, wherever they are, may they find a bit of their heart stays in Sweetwater Harbor.
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