Diane Capri Reveals S.J. Driscoll

Here on Diane Capri Reveals, we’ve featured some of the biggest names in our genre, including my friends and colleagues Lee Child, the father of Rambo, David Morrell, my colleague at the Bar, Steve Berry, the dynamite writing duos Maxine Paetro (and James Patterson), Grant Blackwood (and James Rollins), and more. You can check out those posts by clicking HERE.

For the next few weeks, by popular demand and as a service to our readers, we’re introducing Licensed to Thrill readers to new authors and new voices in this continuing series because the marketplace is crowded and finding good new authors is more confusing than it needs to be. So check out our entire series and see whether you’ve missed a few authors and books you’d like to sample for yourself or gifts for your favorite readers.

Today, it’s my pleasure to feature the talented and mysterious author S.J. Driscoll.

S.J. Driscoll


Like many authors in our Diane Capri Reveals series, S.J. Driscoll has been writing and publishing for a long time. Her short stories, poetry and articles have appeared in Ellery Queen, Daily Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Interzone, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Times, The Lyric, Woman’s Day and Seventeen, among others. One of her plays was produced in the Baltimore Playwrights’ Festival. 

S.J. Driscoll has written ad copy, edited art instruction books, taught writing at the University of Baltimore, co-founded and run a literary quarterly, and worked for a literary agent.  She’s also a generous contributor to the book community. For example, S.J. Driscoll provided copy editing of a 400-page novel for Brenda Novak’s first two Annual Diabetes Auctions. Now she’s senior copy editor on a medical journal. Like I said, S.J. Driscoll knows her stuff!

Diane Capri: Sally, it’s exhausting just hearing about this limited list of your accomplishments. Whew!

S.J. Driscoll: *laughs* By now, I must’ve used up four or five lives. I think I’ll stay here in Texas a while and concentrate on my stories.

Diane Capri: At what point in your busy life did you slow down long enough to realize you wanted to be a writer? Sometime after this adorable photo, I’m guessing?

S.J. Driscoll – author-in-the-making!

S.J. Driscoll: I was seven years old and in third grade. As homework, the teacher made us write a story. Since I loathed school and preferred running around outside like a free barbarian, I handed in the homework a day late. The teacher failed me! My first story was my first rejection.

Diane Capri: Yikes! That was a harsh introduction to the rejection-filled writing life, wasn’t it? I’d have been crushed!

S.J. Driscoll:  After I wrote the story, I realized we could read it. Stories came from somewhere. People made them. I could make them. Writing gave me the freedom and control I didn’t otherwise have in my life. I still feel that way. (I’d still rather run around outside, though.)

Diane Capri: Was that the beginning of your writing career?

S.J. Driscoll:  Yes. I constantly scribbled stories as a kid, many of them influenced by Edgar Allan Poe. My poor mom, with three little ones to care for besides me, was my first reader. Finally, she said, “Enough!” (I remember this vividly. She was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. My head barely came up to the top of the counter. I scowled and flounced away. Jeez, what did she need those other kids for?) So I never showed her a story again.

Diane Capri: More rejection? All writers pay their dues in the land of rejection, but you really did have guts to keep going.

S.J. Driscoll: When my fifth-grade teacher announced to the class that I was going to be a writer, I was so infuriated that for years I wouldn’t let anyone see my work. Hmm, maybe I wasn’t the most easygoing child….

Diane Capri: *laughs* Ya think? 😀 Okay, so when did you first publish?

S.J. Driscoll:  My first publications were articles I wrote for my boss while working in New York at Grumbacher, the art material manufacturer. Later, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine accepted the first story I sent them. It was published under a different name.

Diane Capri: Most Licensed to Thrill readers are interested in my genres of mystery, suspense and thriller. I see you’ve been published by the venerable Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine where many of the giants in our genre have been published for decades. You have published singles our readers can buy now to sample your work, don’t you?

S.J. Driscoll: Yes, and I’m putting together a couple of ebook anthologies of my published and unpublished crime and speculative fiction short stories. We should have those ready soon. The singles are available now: Rage, Sleep and What Jimmy Saw



Diane Capri: Jokes aside, writers do suffer a long road paved with rejections, even after that first sale. But most of us have had helping hands along the way. Many writers are generous with their time and willing to give those coming along behind a boost. I know that happened to me. Who helped or mentored you in your writing career?

S.J. Driscoll: You’re right that many writers have been paying it forward for years. I can remember several career boosts that helped me keep going.

With a few sympathetic words, playwright Arthur Giron helped me get over a period of being completely unable to write. Maybe the help came less from his words and more from the way he said them. Clearly, he understood that pain. The memory of his face sustains me on difficult days.

A and at a writers’ conference, Paula Eykelhof, currently Executive Editor at Harlequin Books, set her breakfast tray down at the table where I was eating alone. After I got over my astonishment, we had a solid talk about my writing. She explained how category romance is not just a viable career path in itself. It’s also a good path to a single title career. Considering the ongoing discoverability problem of e-published fiction, I believe this remains true.

Diane Capri:  We learn a lot from those early rejections, too. Did that happen for you? 

S.J. Driscoll: The rejections I received from Harlequin Superromance editors were unfailingly helpful. I’m grateful to those women because they convinced me I needed to create better novel-length plots. I’m naturally a short story writer and learning to plot long has been a real head-cracker, but at last I’m beginning to “feel” long. Novelist/teacher Holly Lisle deserves most of the credit for that.

Diane Capri: In fact, you’re working on a romance novel at the moment, aren’t you?

S.J. Driscoll: My current novel, first in a proposed series about a Texas Hill Country family, is almost complete. That’ll be submitted to Harlequin Superromance.

Diane Capri: Surely along the way you must have had some positive reinforcement to help keep you going.

S.J. Driscoll:  I’ve had the good fortune to experience positive reactions from agents, including Jessica Faust of Bookends (I won a pitch at a San Francisco RWA meeting) and Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency.

Diane Capri: Great writing isn’t the only thing we need to succeed in this business, though. Who helped you understand the ins and outs of the publishing world?

S.J. Driscoll: You’ve got that right! *laughs* When I lived in Northern California, I spent a couple of years working as fiction reader/editor for former agent Ruth Cohen. She was a wizard with contracts. What Ruth taught me about the business has been invaluable.

Diane Capri: Entice us. What’s next on the horizon for you?

S. J. Driscoll: Ah, that’s the question! There are so many stories I want to write, mostly romance and spec fiction. Everything hinges on improving my craft—and on just staying alive, which takes a lot of effort! Writing’s a challenge, sure, but my greatest challenge has always been surviving the constant earthquakes of my daily life. *laughs*

Diane Capri: *laughs* I’m starting to understand your story Good-Bye to Ayn Rand. Okay, I hate to say this but…

S.J. Driscoll: I know, I know. Maybe I’m not the most easygoing woman.

Diane Capri: If you’d like to know when S.J. Driscoll’s new work is available or simply connect with her, you can find her on her website:   SJDriscoll.com  and follow her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sj.driscoll.5



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60 Responses to Diane Capri Reveals S.J. Driscoll

  1. Louise Behiel October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    lovely interview, Ladies. Diane, I am constantly amazed at what you get people to chat about. And Sally, that picture of you a few years ago is a keeper. Good luck with SuperRomance. They’re a great bunch of writers and they’d be lucky to have you in their midst.

    • Diane Capri October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Thanks, Louise! Makes you want to break into a chorus or two of “You musta been a beautiful baby!” 😀

      • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am #

        Thanks, Louise! But “a few years ago”? Ha! That’s kind!

  2. Ginger Calem October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Great interview. I just love learning about everyone in the Reveals! Sally, the cover for What Jimmy Saw is fantastic. So much character and questions just looking at the cover!

    • Diane Capri October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      You are soooooo right, Ginger!

    • Oh my gosh, that was JUST what I was going to say. That one really sticks out.

      • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

        As I remember from the photographer’s note, this portrait was one of a series he shot about homeless men. I always wondered what happened to this man.

  3. August McLaughlin October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    You were rejected in the third grade?!? What a strong sense of purpose and direction you’ve maintained, S.J. I really enjoyed learning more about you here. 🙂

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Thanks for reading, August. Maybe it’s not purpose and direction… maybe I was just born purely bloody-minded. 🙂

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      I totally agree, August! My writing wasn’t totally rejected until about 10th grade, and it took me a very long time to get past it. Sally is a much stronger person than me! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Liv Rancourt October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Nice interview, ladies. SJ, I very much appreciate hearing about your publishing process and think most of us could learn from your ability to take rejection and turn it into something positive. Since the 3rd grade, no less!

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Thank you for reading, too, Liv. Writng/publishing does seem like a process with no end point. Or maybe one with constant endings and beginnings, but no real goal beyond continuing the process..

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Totally agree, Liv. Talk about tenacity! Sally was born to be a writer, right? Thanks for reading!

  5. Jennette Marie Powell October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    What a fun interview! And wow, Sally, you have an impressive resume – just goes to show none of us are immune to rejection (and even from your mom!). I’m a big fan of Holly Lisle – her courses truly took my writing to the next level – I hope they help you too! Good luck with Harlequin!

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      Holly Lisle saved my writing sanity, Jennette (such as it is). You’d laugh if you knew about the contortions I went through trying to teach myself to write long before I found her classes.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      I’m not familiar with Holly Lisle, Jenn. Sounds like I should check her out, though. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. CC MacKenzie October 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Great interview, ladies.

    The Harlequin editors are an amazing bunch as are the girls who run the writing blogs and competitions on their incredible website – the perfect place for a writer to find much needed support. It’s a great place to learn your craft since the best selling published authors, like Winnie Griggs for example, run romance workshops on emotional conflicts, goals and scene structure. Along with how to write a memorable heroine and alpha male – always handy for a romance.

    You have an awesome writing resume, Sally. And I wish you all the luck in the world with your submission to Harlequin.

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Thanks, Christine! Harlequin does an amazing outreach to writers. I wonder why other publishers do so little in comparison.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      Good to know, Christine. Thanks for reading and what a helpful comment, as always!

  7. Pat O'Dea Rosen October 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi, Diane and Sally! I have a burning question for Sally: Did you ever thank that perceptive fifth-grade teacher?

    Thanks for another excellent interview, and congrats, Sally on making a living with your writing and editing skills. Best of luck with Superromance.

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Oh, Pat! No, I’ll never forgive that teacher! He made me stand up in front of the class and read my stories to the other kids, who couldn’t care less. And I was a real ragamuffin, always growing faster than my mom could keep me in clothes.

      Yes, he was perceptive, but offered a kind of recognition that I hated. I felt used. And I don’t react well to that.

      Watch out for kids! 🙂 They’re really not little bits of clay waiting to be shaped. Each kid already has a shape.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Pat, I agree totally. Sorry, Sally. But the fact is that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and better at what we do. Think about how tough you were to keep up that presentation week after week, and how well it’s served you since. I’d send that guy a thank-you note right now!! 😉

  8. Prudence MacLeod October 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Wow, Sally, you sure have earned your stripes. From now on when things get tough, I’ll ask, “What would S.J.do? Why, she’d buckle down and keep going.”
    Great interview, ladies. Really enjoyed learning more about Sally!
    Bless, Prudence

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Hey, Pru! So glad you got here.
      Right, buckle down… Remember, it helps if you pout, stomp your feet and curse a lot first.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Pru, what a great idea! And I like Sally’s tips about the pouting, stomping and cursing, too! 😀

  9. Melinda VanLone October 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Great to get to know you Sally! These are so cool, Diane! That cover for Jimmy Saw reminds me of my husband’s step brother…who is, in fact, named Jimmy and looks an awful lot like that, with a handle bar mustache 😀

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Hi, Melinda, thanks for being here! You’re in Philadelphia now? Or am I mixed up? Arizona? I was hoping to see you again at DFWCon next spring. Strange that your husband’s brother should have the same name as the man on my cover, and resemble him, too.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      WOW! What an interesting observation. Maybe we all look like Jimmy and I definitely am wondering what the heck he saw!!!

  10. shannon esposito October 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Wow, Sally…those are some prestigious places you’ve been published! That, in itself, is an accomplishment. Ayn Rand is one of my favorite writers, so I’m going to go grab your story. What an honor to be there to say goodbye to her. Another great interview, Diane!

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Shannon! Thanks so much for getting my Ayn Rand tale. I tried to write it so readers would be there with me–hope I succeeded. 🙂

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Thanks for reading, Shannon – and great comment, as always!

  11. Karen McFarland October 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Wow Sally, you have to develop a thick skin when your own mother rejects your work at such a young age. I love what you said about kids! “They’re really not little bits of clay waiting to be shaped. Each kid already has a shape.” How true. I came from that generation where parents felt they needed to mold their children’s personalities and minds so I couldn’t agree with you more.

    What a wonderful job you do with this series Diane. You have a talent for bringing out the author’s hidden gems. Sally, thanks for sharing your personal experience with all of us. It was very encouraging! 🙂

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Hey, Karen, maybe I’m too hard on my mom… she had three other little ones by the time I was seven. And no dishwasher, no clothes dryer, no microwave. But–wow, I was angry. 🙂
      Diane does such a super job!

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Aw, shucks, you two. You’re making me blush. But Karen, so good to see you here — and such insightful comments, as always. Thanks for reading and sending you good vibes.

  12. Alicia Street October 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Great interview, Sally and Diane! And Sally, I love that picture of your little girl self! As to writing, I was just the opposite as you — my first manuscripts were long historicals, which I naturally favor. Your blogs are so artfully written that I’m sure I am in for a treat with your stories. And good luck with the romance submission.

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

      Hi, Alicia! Wow, you started with long historicals? I’m jealous. My early models were O. Henry, Poe and Maupassant. Short, short, short. Thanks for your good wishes and I’m looking forward to your next dance/romance.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Long Historicals? Geezzeeee….. What a lot of stamina you must have. All that dancing, I suppose?

  13. Lynn Kelley October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    What an awesome interview, Diane and Sally! I love the photo of little Sally. How sweet! Wow, that blows my mind that you were mad at the 5th grade teacher! You’re obviously an introvert, huh? That must be why you hated having to stand in front of the class. I was a ragamuffin, too, but I didn’t care! You were also a strong willed child, huh? Yay for you persevering all your life! I’m so impressed with your accomplishments, and I wish you huge success with your writing career. Oh, those covers are all beautiful.

    Thanks for revealing Sally to us, Diane. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Doesn’t Diane do an amazing job with these interviews? The amount of work it must take is mind-boggling.

      Lynn, I’m an extrovert trying to get out of an introvert. 🙂

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks for reading, Lynn — and I totally agree that Sally IS an introvert, but just because we don’t hear a lot of chatter from her doesn’t mean she’s lacking in any way. Quite the opposite, as we see!! (And you’re right about that little baby photo – what a cutie!) 😀

  14. Kristy K. James October 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Oh I LOVE the cover, Sally! I don’t love the bridge (fear of heights here), but the cover is beautiful!

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks, Kristy! 🙂 It was so lucky to find this amazing photo.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks for reading, Kristy!

  15. Sheila Seabrook October 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Sally, I learned so many new things about you in this interview. I love Superromance and hope to one day soon see your name on the cover of their books. Good luck!

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Thank you, Sheila. And happy anniversary! 🙂

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      Here, here!! I second that, Sheila!

  16. Lynette M. Burrows (@LynetteMBurrows) October 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Great interview ladies! To take rejection as a child and keep writing . . . Sally, I am in awe of your tenacity and independence as a child. Thanks, Diane. These interviews are fascinating.

    • S.J. Driscoll October 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      Hi, Lynette! I can’t say enough about Diane’s generosity with her time and abilities. So glad you liked the interview!

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      So glad you’re enjoying the series, Lynette. Authors are interesting people, but as others have noted here, introverts like Sally have a great deal to offer all of us. Thanks for reading!

  17. Patricia October 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    Very nice intereview Diane and Sally! And Sally, to have contributed to Brenda’s on-line auction is impressive. Brenda is in my local RWA chapter (or rather I’m in hers) and she is such a caring, giving, beautiful lady! And I believe Paula is her agent! You’ve been in some awesome company.

    Good luck with the writing.

    Diane – nice series of interviews.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • S.J. Driscoll October 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Patricia!
      I met Brenda Novak at a Silicon Valley RWA meeting when she was first starting her diabetes auction. Since then, she’s worked like mad and really achieved success. I wish her all the best!

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      I totally agree on all fronts, Jansen! Thanks for reading and for the great comment!

  18. Kassandra Lamb October 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Playing catch-up with my favorite blogs on Saturday. Just wanted to say great interview. It was fun to get to know you better, Sally. And you are so right about children already having a shape and we adults need to respect that.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Kassandra. Good to have you here.

      • S.J. Driscoll October 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

        Hi, Kassandra! Glad I dropped in again.
        Don’t adults remember what it was like to be a kid? I wonder why most of them don’t seem to. Any ideas?

  19. Karla Darcy October 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Great interview, Ladies. If you can survive a rejection as a kid, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. Love the cover of What Jimmy Saw. Totally haunting. Best wishes for the romance.

    • Diane Capri October 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Karla. You’re soooooo right about that cover!

      • S.J. Driscoll October 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

        Thank you, Karla. 🙂
        The covers of your Regency romances on Amazon are so striking. And the stories match the covers. 🙂
        Thanks, again, Diane, for featuring me here. I appreciate it.

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