Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Welcome to my guest page, Joan. I’m so pleased to have a chance to chat with you. I’m sure we have met before at the RNA in London at one of their parties. I was there with my good friend Ivy Lord (Maggie Ford). It was a few years ago. Anyway, here comes our drinks and a selection of lovely cakes.
May I start by asking you, what drew you to your chosen genre? Actually, I don’t have one chosen genre. My books, some of which have yet to be published, include literary fiction, mystery, and middle-grade fantasy, including one that is bilingual (English/Spanish). Right now, I am concentrating on the Isabel Long Mystery Series.A few years ago, an author friend wrote a mystery, and being a big fan of the genre, especially British mystery shows, I said, “Why not try one.” I got hooked right away and here I have just finished my fourth.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better? I believe my dialogue is true to life, likely from my years working as reporter when I was required to listen to the way people talk and write it down. Also, I enjoy creating characters that become real to me, and hopefully my readers. As for doing better, I wish I had sharper eyes and mind when it comes to proofing my manuscript.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time? I just finished Killing the Story, the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, and it is set to launch Aug. 26. It’s an interesting project writing a series. In terms of the plot, I want to give only enough info from the previous books to acknowledge what happened to those who read them without giving the story away to those who haven’t. I also decide which characters I will carry over from book to book, ones that might make a cameo appearance, and those that are relegated to one only. Anyway, in Killing the Story, my protagonist Isabel Long is onto her fourth cold case — solving the murder of a small town newspaper editor. Isabel, a former journalist, feels a kinship with the victim. The case also takes her — and her 93-year-old mother who is her ‘Watson” — to a town that seen better days and where the police chief has made it clear she is not welcome.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer? Well, I have three adult novels and a middle-grade series that have yet to be published, so I will count them. I also have a work in progress for the kids series and toyed with the idea of using a few of the characters for a YA novel but that hasn’t gone very far. Then, there is the new Isabel Long Mystery, tentatively called Working the Beat, which I’ve begun but have to set aside to concentrate on the launch of Killing the Story. I am itching to let myself loose on that one.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? (If you only write short stories, or play or poetry do you plan your story ( poem), or let the characters lead you.) One of the best books on writing is Stephen King’s “On Writing,” in which he says writing is telepathic. Although I’m no Stephen King, I believe that’s the way it works with me. I sit down and let it go. Pretty much what I write in that one long fell swoop stays. Of course, I have to do edits, but those are typically not drastic, just word changes here and there.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people? In my mystery series, Isabel Long’s mother is loosely based on my mother, who is 96. Also, there is a lot of my personality in Isabel. But the other characters are strictly from my imagination, which is fueled by my experiences with people, especially in the rural areas I have lived. Of course, that doesn’t stop people who know me from trying to guess if a character is based on a real person. Sorry, no. Now, in an earlier book, inspired by my college experience, I used characters similar to people who I knew then, which ticked off a few. Lesson learned.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out? I have six kids, now adults. For many years, my creative energy went into them.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I have a full time job as editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper, which consumes a lot of my time in and out of the newsroom. Fortunately, I am an early riser. When I am writing, I will put in an hour or so, more on the weekends. I did the same when I was the editor of another paper. In between those jobs, I got to spend a lot more time writing, and I was able to finish my books faster. These days I aim for 500 words in one sitting. Anything more is golden.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Ha, I am too vain not to take credit for my books.
How do you select the names of your characters? & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story? Just like the rest of my book, the names of my characters just pop into my head. I get to each one as I write about them. I will admit I love all of my characters, including the bad ones. They are very real to me.
Thank you so much for joining me in the clubhouse tearoom, Joan.
If you would like to find out more about Joan’s writing please check out the links below.