It is with great pleasure that I welcome one of my favourite authors, Joan Livingston to my website today to discuss her writing career and best selling novels.
I knew since I was a young child that I could put words together to create a story. Fortunately, I had teachers and professors who showed me what others had written and gave me the tools to do the same. Ah, but it was many, many years before I became an author. Throw in a writer’s block that lasted 25 years, and I can say my writing journey has been interesting if not at times frustrating.
In college, when I was a hippie girl, I got into writing poetry. I was really into it, editing the college’s literary magazine, and giving readings at the local coffeehouse.
I managed to hang onto poetry for a couple of years, but then, real life got in the way. My best excuse was the birth of my first child, then the next …. In all I mothered six children. That is where my creativity went and I am glad for it.
I honestly tried to write during that time and just couldn’t. I was no longer interested in poetry. I wanted to write prose and for the life of me, I couldn’t sustain it at any length. Funny, I still thought of myself as a writer, so instead I decided to learn how to be one. I read what other people wrote, bringing home books from the library wherever we lived.
Then I got a job as a correspondent for a daily newspaper in Western Massachusetts, reporting on the small town I lived, population about 1,200. At first I was paid by the inch, then by the story. Then, I got hired fulltime. Reporting was the best thing I could have done. I listened to the way people talked and watched how they behaved. I paid attention. I found stories wherever I went. I’ve put all of that to good use in my novels, which are mostly set in the hilltowns of Western Mass.
So when did my writer’s block end? After I became an editor. Being a reporter sucked a lot of my creative energy. One day 22 years ago, I began writing fiction, yes, prose, and it became a part of my every day.
Since then I’ve written five adult novels (three of them unpublished), four in my Isabel Long Mystery Series plus one in progress, a middle grade series that has yet to be published, and a bilingual English-Spanish series for young readers.
Yeah, I have been busy despite being the editor-in-chief of newspapers in New Mexico and Greenfield. My habit is to get up early, say 5 a.m., and write before heading to the newsroom. I aim for 500 words and if I get more, that’s a bonus.
I am a solitary writer. No groups or beta readers for me. I don’t use outlines. I just sit down and let it flow. From time to time, I will print out what I’ve done so far. Frankly, except for correcting typos and word changes, the novel stays pretty much the same as I wrote it.
Now what about publishing? I had two agents and let them go when they disappointed me. I (Perhaps I will bump one off in my mystery series.) I struggled to find a publisher willing to take on my books. I became frustrated with the way the writing industry has evolved, but I kept the faith about my writing. Fortunately, I found Crooked Cat Books, now evolved into darkstroke books, a publisher based in France that has an international group of authors. Darkstroke publishes my mystery series, including my most recent Killing the Story.
My advice to writers? I once met a person who told me he was miserable writing but wanted to be a writer. I told him find a creative outlet that made him happy. Certainly, writing brings me happiness, and when I hear from a reader that they loved my book, that’s an added joy. And thanks, Val, for allowing me to share my story.
ABOUT KILLING THE STORY: For the record, Estelle Crane, the gutsy editor of The Observer newspaper, died after a hard fall on ice. But years later, her son discovers a cryptic note hinting her death might not have been an accident after all.
Was Estelle pursuing a big story that put her life in danger? That’s what Isabel Long — along with her 93-year-old mother, Maria, her ‘Watson’ — agrees to investigate in Dillard, a town whose best days are in the past.
As she did as a former journalist, Isabel follows leads and interviews sources, new and familiar, although quickly she finds a formidable threat in Police Chief James Hawthorne, who makes it clear Isabel is not welcome in his town or taking this case.
Of course, that’s after Isabel discovers the chief’s questionable policing and a dark history with Estelle that goes way back.
Killing the story means dropping it because there aren’t enough facts to back it up. But Isabel won’t make that mistake. She’ll see this one to the very end.
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and then the managing editor of The Taos News in New Mexico, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Currently, she's the editor-in-chief of the Greenfield Recorder. After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.
BOOK LINKS: They are all available on Amazon.
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