I could relate to this author who writes in a variety of genre, and is a teacher. I think you will enjoy gaining insight into the works of this very diverse author.
A little about the author in her own words.
I am a New Yorker born and bred, graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota, junior year at Barnard commuting. My husband and I transplanted ourselves to rural Connecticut, where we reared our three children. I have taught high school English, edited a museum newsletter (archaeology), edited an anthology of memoirs, done the usual part time eclectic work of mothers with small children, and wrote occasionally. A computer enabled me to deal with the problems of editing without going mad.
I am one of those English majors for whom there was never another choice. My work is for the most part what an editor calls literary, though I have published several short stories in commercial magazines (years ago). I have written newspaper features and profiles, and now I contribute book reviews and the occasional essay to that marvelous e-zine Senior Women Web. My first two novels are perhaps a little more commercial than my third, but I did not pay a professional editor to go over them because, like a true beginner, I had hoped my publisher would take care of that. I have lately (since my husband’s death) returned to poetry and now I am somewhat addicted. Three are in online journals as of May.
Why did you choose this genre?
I did not choose a genre. If the term applies, it chose me. It is a kind of organic thing. I come of a family of autodidacts (I am the first with a college education) and have always had diction, vocabulary and art and music ingrained. I sometimes write in dialect or from a less than educated viewpoint, but I do not handle melodrama well, cannot get interested in happenings as much as in the people involved. Themes--morals, if you will, seem important as an excuse for the entertainment I hope to provide.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
Most recently, I have a story called “Rescue” at Bookstogonow.com. It was published first in 1988 in a little magazine long gone. I submitted it to the North Carolina Senior Games literary division in 2008, and it won the gold medal. I have had eight stories published in print journals.
The novels are Settling and Maiden Run.
I think there are over four dozen pieces on Senior Women: (http://www.seniorwomen.com/). I have a poem in http://www.lowestoftreview.com/ and two more in http://www.wildgoosepoetryreview.com/, and my collection of short stories called Peripheral Vision is coming out soon, I believe. I corrected second set of galleys this week.
The new book coming out soon is titled, Peripheral Vision. It is a collection of eighteen short stories and is being published by March Street Press of Greensboro, NC.
Settling (ISBN 1-59431-493-4) is about how a marriage can recover from severe trauma if the principles have good will, common sense, and maturity as well as love. For mature readers not because of the content so much as the point of view.
Maiden Run (ISBN1-594-801-8) is the name of the family farm where most of the action takes place. It tells about how the family who inherit it grow to understand themselves through a pivotal summer when their home is threatened. Three siblings with very different personalities discover how to appreciate Maiden Run as well as each other.
Both books are available from the publisher, Amazon, or on order from a local bookstore.
The short stories have varied subjects and are in several styles. Three are narrated by a nursing home worker with a wry sense of humor; one is adapted from a chapter in my unpublished novel. All illustrate how often life lessons are learned from indirection—hence the title.
My poetry is also somewhat mixed. The earlier things owe much to my homage to the Victorians and are a bit formal and old fashioned. The later things show my effort to catch up with “contemporary” poetry. Those are often sad because they are about loss and the pain and value of memories. I confess that poetry is a traditional and perhaps a trite means of dealing with big emotions, but it is effective both for readers and writers, I think. It is hard to deal with abstractions of some kinds in today’s fast-moving and materialistic society, so poetry fills the need for a place where one can talk about love and beauty and honor and spirit, and…you get my drift, I am sure.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
I don’t write fantasy, so it’s no surprise that most of my settings I either know first hand or have a good grasp of from reading, movies, and a long life of conversations with people who do know them.
As for names—I grope. All three novels have had more than one name for more than one character before I settled on them. I try to imagine a given name that will suit the characteristics I want, either to be outstanding or that cause problems the protagonist needs to solve. I have been known to resort to the Character-Naming Sourcebook.
The newest (unpublished) novel concerns a physician who has to learn to heal himself. I named him Serge Dziminowicz because among his other difficulties, he has to learn to fit into a different kind of society from the blue collar one in which he grew up. Serge sounded to me like a masculine name to fit a tall rather Gary Cooperish physical type who might strike women as sexy.
In Settling, I needed a practical, unimaginative but attractive name for the heroine. I chose Ruth March, a coastal Maine native. The man is named Alexandre (Alex) Duchamp because he needed to be a French Canadian, devastatingly handsome, impulsive. They just sounded like what I wanted. (Both had different first names in early drafts.) The situation in the novel is very similar to one in which a couple I knew intimately spent their married life. With both gone to their reward, I took off from their experience and part of their personalities. I used geography they knew, some actual circumstances they were in, invented events, and generally embroidered.
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
This is a hard question. I had a basic knowledge of the major character traits. I wanted to emphasize those I admire, and make them the crux of the outcome. With those in mind, I began with a scene to show the reader as much as I could about Ruth’s background. As she matures, I show her in scenes to reveal how her changing persona is growing. I often make time lines, list tags if I can think of some, but mostly I discover as I am going along. The best thing of all is when the characters begin to behave on their own so that all I have to do is write down what they are up to.
What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
There is no traditional antagonist in a story whose plot is not the primary focus. The problem is the marriage two well-meaning and sensitive people have made before they properly understood each other or themselves. The plot shows what happens as they learn what they need to know.
What is your favorite thing about your book?
It shows what seem believable people moving in real places with a theme that I think is simple and easily grasped by any readers. Reactions to the story told me I succeeded in that. Not much more you can ask of fiction. It should take a reader into a world that is new to him or her. It may or may not be an exotic one. It reminds a reader of the possibility of learning from life’s experiences so later ones are better than early ones.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
As I said, I do not think “genre” is the right word for my work. It is character studies and evolution that interest me. It is in a tradition of authors like Galsworthy and Stegner, like Anita Shreve and Carol Shields. I do not mean to imply I consider myself in their league.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I began as school assignments with an extraordinary teacher who made me fall in love with the process as much as with the reading. I now see that I cannot bear not to clarify what I want to know, discover what I know, and make it crystallize. Maybe all I have is an overdeveloped ego and not enough literary friends to talk to. Occasionally I think I have something to say that might instruct or amuse another person.
What is your writing schedule?
After necessary chores are done, I sit down at the computer. I do not always get anything accomplished, but I do it every day. Of course, reading blogs and tending to email consume far too much time, but I have to do those things too. Often I get a spark from surfing the sites I visit most often. It is online that I have met the people with whom I can talk about writing, now that I no longer have access to those where we used to live.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I mentioned the novel seeking an agent or publisher and the poetry that is my concentration now. I am far too old for long-term ambitions these days, though I think there may be another novel waiting to ne let out. Discouraging thought considering my experience thus far. If I were rich, I might consider self-publishing.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write (especially mystery)?
For anyone who wants to write anything, my advice could not be simpler. READ. Begin with the earliest popular classical mysteries like The Moonstone and Sherlock Holmes, and read until you “get” how they are constructed and what characters appeal. Work your way through the wonderful 20th C. writers like Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers, and get familiar with the types that are produced by the likes of P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Sarah Peretzky, the lawyer-mystery writers, and watch good mystery TV shows and movies. ABSORB. I adore mysteries and have a raft of favorites of different styles. If you were inventive enough to devise a good mystery plot with interesting (not necessarily likable) characters that play off one another, I would guess you could sell and sell well.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
Once again, read. Do not turn your nose up at good “how to” books like Stephen King’s on writing, or standards like Zinsser and dramatic models like Shakespeare and the Greeks. If you can afford it, go to a good writer’s conference, try correspondence courses. Do not stop. If you possibly can, find a few like-minded people who are at least as good as you are, and meet for critiques. How I miss the one I was in before my current situation!
What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading, gardening, drawing and painting when I can. Oh, and web surfing. I read blogs, do research, make comments, and in general depend on my little laptop as if it were an oxygen tank.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
My marriage—as close to perfection as I ever hoped to get in life; graduations (my own and my husband’s from years of night school; my middle son’s at forty from college); my children’s births; the Senior Games gold medal. Oh, and my first trip to Europe after my husband had been in export sales for twenty years, followed by his assignment to a year in England and an English major’s year of déjà vue. Again, if I were rich, I would go back in a heartbeat. Just viewing the actual settings for so much of my reading life was inspiring, nostalgic, and wonderful.
If you want to know more about Joan Cannon? Visit her website and her blog at: My websites are http://www.jlcannon.net and http://www.hilltopnotes.blogspot.com/.