An interview with CJ Matthew

CJMatthew_Postcard_FrontWhat genre(s) do you write in and why?

First and foremost, I’m a romance writer. Since I personally love to read about all forms of shape shifters, I’ve chosen to debut my self-publishing career with a paranormal series about Dolphin Shore Shifters. I include enough gunfire, bombs, and bad guys to also qualify as a romantic suspense so that’s my combo-genre: paranormal romantic suspense.

Tell us about your current series.

The Dolphin Shore Shifters live in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California, where the huge pod takes turns shifting into human form for 3 year missions working at their non-profit corporation, Save Blue Water, to protect the oceans. Much of their work is raising public awareness of conservation, and lobbying, but when they’re faced with criminals dumping toxic chemicals into the ocean or spills involving greedy oil companies, SBW sends an alpha shifter from their clandestine field ops team to protect the oceans at any cost. Featuring a different hero and heroine, each book stands alone and they can be read in any order. No cliffhangers.

What inspired your series?

During my research, I reread the Native American Chumash origin story where the mother goddess created a rainbow bridge so her people, overcrowded on a Channel Island, could cross to the mainland. When some people on the bridge became dizzy and fell into the channel, she rescued them from drowning by turning them into dolphins. That story became the foundation of how shape-shifting dolphins came to be, and it decided the Santa Barbara setting. From there, my love of paranormal world-building took off.

How far do you plan ahead?

I am a dyed-in-the-wool plotter.  I make spreadsheets, and a series bible. I glue picture boards and write huge outlines. So after all the (fun) work of world-building, of choosing characters with their physical descriptions, and names, their histories, goals, motivations and conflicts, their personalities and relationships, I would never consider restricting the Dolphin Shore Shifters to a solo novel or even a trilogy. Thus far, I’ve completed three books, am currently writing number 4, and have several more outlined. I plan way out into the future.

Do you have critique partners?

I have one terrific critique partner and we’ve been working together for several years now. She started out writing women’s fiction and has since moved to paranormal with a popular elemental/fallen angels series and she is now a Best Selling Amazon author with her southern ghost series. Despite our different writing methods (she is at heart a panster), we exchange and critique most all of what we write. I also use four beta readers and have a developmental and copy editor.

Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you avoid reading that genre? Why?

While I’m writing my paranormal suspense books, I tend to read both those genres. It helps put me in a fast-paced mood, especially reading an action-packed suspense novel. Since there aren’t many dolphin shifters in other novels, I can enjoy another author’s paranormal story without any comparisons.

When I want to relax, I read historical romance or contemporary.

 Did you have several manuscripts finished before you published?         

When I finally made the decision to self publish the Dolphin Shore Shifters, I had the first three books of the series completed. The year before, I had signed with a literary agent who loved the dolphin’s story but then couldn’t sell them (from a debut author) to NY. At that time, I also had a contemporary romance with a military hero and a romantic suspense completed.

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

My long road to self-publication was fraught with rejections. My first book ever was a contemporary romance with a military hero. I’d spent many years learning my craft, attending numerous workshops, working with two freelance editors, and rewriting that book over and over.

Finally, in late August of this year, I followed in my critique partner’s self-publishing footsteps. While the control self-publishing offers is exciting, and I love holding my book in my hand, love signing them for readers, truthfully each phase of the process has been more expensive than anticipated and I hate formatting.

What is your typical day like?

I write full time. Usually Monday through Friday from 6 am to 4 pm. I’m flexible about work days. I can trade an “errand day” mid week for writing on Saturday.

I wake up around 5:30, make coffee, feed Max, and look at social media and emails. Writing begins at 6 or 6:30. I stop to eat breakfast around 8 am while I text with my critique partner or a friend, then back to writing. Sometimes I look up to discover I skipped lunch. My mind begins to slow down at 3 or 4 and after I make my second typo I stop for the day.

After a walk, I play with Max, talk or email the family, and after dinner, I read or watch Netflix. Living in the woods is wonderful but I have no cable TV, no dish reception, and streaming can be spotty.

I keep little notebooks beside the bed, on my office desk beside the computer, and next to my living room chair to jot down ideas when they strike me.

How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?

Friends and acquaintances always ask that question! I tend to study people, always have, but rather than write an entire person into my book, I pick and choose traits or habits to use. I sometimes name my characters close to real people’s names.

Or I go for something very different. At SBW the computer used to create the Dolphin Shore Shifters’ fake backgrounds and IDs was the target of an internal practical joke. As a result, some of the incoming shifters have gotten stuck with obscure constellation names, or ones with silly shore references.


CJMathew_Blood Tide_eCover_800The Santa Barbara Channel holds a closely guarded secret… 

She had more than just her mission…

Sy’s rotation on land as a dolphin shifter couldn’t have come at a better time. With her best friend missing and no answers forthcoming, it was time to take matters into her own hands. And with the resources at the Save Blue Water organization, finding her friend would be a whole lot easier. Except …something sinister is going on inside SBW, something deadly, and Sy finds herself at the center of danger.

The last thing he needed was bullets and bombs…

Noah Nelson spent every minute trying to forget the war while fighting his PTSD, but jumping in front of a bullet was second nature. It had nothing to do with the fact the target was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Or that she was naked. But suddenly he’s caught up in her world, protecting her from unforeseen threats, and falling in love … but Sy’s got a secret that may rip them apart. Forever.

CJ at DellBIO: 

CJ Matthew is the author of paranormal romance suspense series Dolphin Shore Shifters. Her debut novel, Blood Tide, features a pod of dolphins posing as humans that work through their oceanic conservation corporation Save Blue Water, based in Santa Barbara, California, to protect the oceans at any cost.

CJ grew up in an Air Force family that travelled all over the U.S. and around the world. She spent her high school and university years living in California, which inspired her love of marine life and the Pacific Ocean.

A member of Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) Romance Writers of America, CJ lives and writes near a lake in the woods northeast of Atlanta. When she isn’t writing or reading romances, CJ likes to travel and to spend time with her two grown children, a brilliant grandson and a feisty cat named Max.





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