Thrilled to have Canadian journalist and author Joanne (J.C.) Paulson as my guest for March 2022’s newsletter. Welcome, Joanne!
Joanne, a long-time Saskatoon journalist, has been published in newspapers including The StarPhoenix, The Western Producer, the Saskatoon Express and a variety of magazines. Her unquiet brain requested a shift from fact to fiction four years ago, when she started writing mysteries based in Saskatchewan. Five have been independently published: Adam’s Witness, Broken Through, Fire Lake, Griffin’s Cure, and Two Hundred Bones, a novella. She has recently completed a historical fiction/western novel entitled Blood and Dust, published by Black Rose Writing.
Tell us where you live and what a typical day might look like for you
Thank you so much for inviting me, Cheryl. I am responding from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, which is a mouthful for most people! It’s a mid-sized city, by Canadian standards, in the middle of farm country and close to a beautiful northern lake district. All three locations wiggle themselves into my mystery-slash-romantic suspense novels, as well as my new historical fiction.
As a working freelance journalist, the day job takes up most of my time. I write fiction every chance I get. So I’m up at seven answering and sending emails, interviewing people, doing social media, and then usually writing articles the rest of the day. Novel work gets squeezed into the latter part of the day and on weekends.
I am occasionally involved in a variety of other writing-related work, perhaps described as community work. For example, I recently judged a local writers’ group contest, and served as managing editor for a magazine of new work published by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, of which I am a member.
What kind of writing do you do and what led you to that?
About seven years ago, I began writing mystery novels with a strong love story arc over the series. Each novel has a message close to my heart; I suppose the idealistic journalist in me still wants to be heard. For example, the first novel, Adam’s Witness, deals with homophobia and how it connects with hate crimes. Book two, Broken Through, deals with violence against women. I hope I write action-packed interesting novels in which I do not cram my messages down people’s throat, but I cannot write without thematic inspiration.
I began writing novels after a very dark period in my life fraught with insomnia. The plot of Adam’s Witness awakened me at three in the morning one night, and I was lost to my new muse.
You write multi-genre. How did that come about how do you juggle the different styles and marketing approaches?
I had no intention to write multi-genre until my husband had a horrific nightmare one night. He could not let it go. He finally asked me to write it down, and when I did, it landed in 1880s Canada. His dream was almost impossible to situate contemporarily. At the time, I was struggling mightily with the fourth book in my series, Griffin’s Cure; it needed a big scene that was simply not coming to me. And so that chapter I wrote for my husband became a full-length novel, Blood and Dust.
I have self-published the mystery series, but when this historical western story was completed and edited, I knew it was now or never if I wanted to try traditional publishing. (I am hardly a spring chicken.) I pitched it to two publishing houses and was utterly amazed when one accepted it. The whole process, from “we want to see the whole book” to contract acceptance took perhaps a month. I am, and will eternally be, grateful to Black Rose Writing.
As to how I switch from one style to another, I have absolutely no idea. I suppose I find research and writing more or less the same regardless of genre. Marketing? Oh dear. Managing two genres is an entirely new thing for me. I am still feeling my way.
How does writing begin for you? Is it an idea, a conversation, a title or an image?
The mystery series began with a plot spinning in my head. To this day, I have no idea where it came from; I only know my brain was trying to save my sanity. And that is coming from the most non-mystical human you have ever met.
Then came the two main characters, the detective Adam Davis and Grace Rampling, a reporter. Since then, inspiration has come from a variety of sources. The second book was indeed inspired by a real crime, related to me by a friend who lived next door to the crime scene. I had to write that one. It is fictionalized, but the basic crime occurred and was never solved. The glimmerings of book four began with its location. We have an enormous scientific facility here, The Canadian Light Source (a synchrotron; it shines intense light created by electrons so that scientists can see matter at the molecular level.) I desperately wanted to use it, and also had thoughts about a medical mystery floating in my head. And so, I combined the two.
What is your most recent book about? What inspired this particular story?
As I mentioned above, my husband’s dream was the inspiration behind Blood and Dust. It’s about a fairly innocent but extremely intelligent young man who is accused of a terrible crime in 1880s Toronto. He is forced to flee and ends up riding by train and on horse across a vast portion of the Canadian plains, ahead of the building of the railroad going west. Along the way, he meets raiders, Métis traders, women hungry for his attentions, and finally reaches the small but growing town of Moose Jaw, where the final third of the novel takes place.
Who are your favourite authors? Have they influenced your writing?
Unsurprisingly, female mystery authors. I love Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Martha Grimes, Louise Penny and so many more. They have powerfully influenced my writing, particularly Sayers. I loved her mystery plus love story arc, and that definitely was behind the Adam and Grace story.
If you could tell your younger writer (no matter how recently that might be) anything, what would it be?
Get on it. I wish I had started much earlier, but life had other plans.
What are your future writing plans and especially, when can we expect a new book from you?
I am presently writing the sixth and possibly last novel in the Adam and Grace series, entitled The Maddox Verdict. This one tackles Black racism, and I’m finding it difficult to write while respecting and honouring the voice of my main Black character. Concurrently, I am beginning to plot the sequel to Blood and Dust. Indeed, only two days ago (as I write this), I was able to find the point the plot will turn on. An exciting moment!
Find Joanne at:
website: JC Paulson.com
mybook.to/AdamAndGraceMysteries and mybook.to/BloodAndDust
At Black Rose Writing: https://www.blackrosewriting.com/historicaladventure/bloodanddust