In addition to her critically acclaimed novels, Joan Hall Hovey‘s articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Toronto Star, Atlantic Advocate, Seek, Home Life Magazine, Mystery Scene, The New Brunswick Reader, Fredericton Gleaner, New Freeman and Kings County Record. Her short story Dark Reunion was selected for the anthology investigating Women, Published by Simon & Pierre.
She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick, past regional Vice-President of Crime Writers of Canada and International Thriller Writers.
PJ: How long have you been writing?
JHH: Since I could form my letters, I’m sure. I was a voracious reader from the age of three, always with a book in my hands. And I was probably telling them before that except no one could understand me. My father taught me to read and I am forever grateful to him. It is from constant reading that the compulsion to write was born, as it is to all writers who sooner or later, take up the pen.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
JHH: When my essay about my grandmother, who had long passed, was published by Home Life Magazine. That was many years ago. The story was called ‘God’s Special Gift’.
There was a long, dry spell after that when nothing else happened and the feeling of ‘having arrived’ sort of waned. But I always knew I was writer, even since school. English was my favorite subject and writing stories a reward. I learned I could hold my classmates spellbound and that was a real high. A power I loved. There are different levels of success. While I’m hardly a household name, and definitely not rich from my word spinning, I feel very blessed to be able to work at the thing I love. I have such wonderful readers who write me often to tell me ‘Your darn book kept me up all night’. That equals success for me.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
JHH: The act of writing itself is always delicious A kind of magic carpet into my imagination. Not that it isn’t difficult to do well, because it’s probably the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But being a writer is a journey, and you never stop learning along the way. At least you shouldn’t. What’s different since I began writing suspense novels (my first two were published by Zebra Books, NY in 1991 and 1993) is the promotion end of things. The public persona must be called upon, when in fact most writers are introverts. But to paraphrase Truman Capote, A boy’s (girl’s) gotta hustle his/her book. And I do love to meet my readers at book signings. That can be a lot of fun and very satisfying. And you get to dress up. Your readers expect it and you owe it to them. And to yourself.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
JHH: I’ve never had dreams of being a rich or famous writer, just a good writer who is published. But yes, with my writing along with my tutoring, I am able to support myself. Though it’s a modest living. And that’s an understatement. J However, I did envision signing copies of my books for readers, and that has happened many time now.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
JHH: I’m always reading wonderful writers, writers who possess far more talent than I. So that’s always the goal – to do it a little better this time – whether it be with the dialogue, characterization, the pacing, and so on. I’m always striving for excellence in my writing. To become the master of my craft, when alas, no one really is. There is always more to learn. But the possibilities are boundless.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
JHH: Not that long, really. I am a voracious reader, and I submitted that first story to a magazine that I knew published the sort of thing I’d written, because I’d done my marketing research.
The same with the first novel. I actually browsed bookstores and found books in a similar vein as my own. I jotted down the name of the publisher and looked up the address in my latest copy of Writers Digest Novel and Short Story market book.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
JHH: Nothing. It all led me here, to this time and place, and I feel very blessed with my life.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
JHH: I’m very disciplined, a discipline acquired over time. I worked full time when my children were small, and wrote in the evenings after they went to bed. Sometimes I’d be very tired, but a walk or a shower always revived me enough to get in a couple of hours of writing. You’ll do whatever you need to do if you want something badly enough. And I wanted to be published.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
JHH: There are two. The first is having my first book ‘Listen to the Shadows’ accepted by Zebra Books, NY. The senior editor at the time was Anne LaFarge and she telephoned me to give me the good news. I knew I shouldn’t have yelled into the phone, but I was so excited I couldn’t contain my excitement. Like Sally Field at the Oscars when she emoted into the mic, “You like me, you really like me”. I actually don’t recall my exact words, but whatever they were, Anne laughed and seemed to enjoy my reaction. My latest special moment as a writer is being accepted into International Thriller Writers organization. It’s a wonderful organization I am honored to be included among so many fine writers.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
JHH: Having my third book ‘Chill Waters’ rejected by Zebra Books knocked me down for awhile, but things have a way of working out if you’re open to change, and don’t give up. Books We Love, exclusively an ebook publisher at the time, accepted it for publication. And they are now publishing my books traditionally, as well as formatting them for the Kindle. So you just never know. This arrangement works beautifully for me. I couldn’t ask for more.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work
JHH: I love it when any reader takes the trouble to come to one of my book signings. But it’s very special in a different way when that someone is a person you remember from childhood. They are like family, in a way, and they are always proud of you.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
JHH: I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to that. But I do know that if you develop your own voice as a writer, then that’s what will set you apart from everyone else. You are an original. No one responds quite the same way to life’s experiences as you do. No one sees things exactly the way you do. This is the only thing we really have to offer – our uniqueness. And hopefully the talent, however, modest, will sustain you as you express yourself through your storytelling.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
JHH: Believe in yourself. And never let anyone tell you your dream is beyond your reach.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
JHH: My work ethic. I come from a blue collar familiar and that Canadian work ethic is strongly ingrained in me. I’ll stick at a task until I’ve done it to the very best of my ability, and then move on to the next.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
JHH: Not really. I’m grateful to every bookstore manager that puts my book on their shelf.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
The Deepest Dark
The Abduction of Mary Rose
Nowhere to Hide
Listen to the Shadows
JHH: In The Deepest Dark, Author Abby Miller has lost her husband and daughter in a head-on collision. At her lowest point, she drives to the cabin where they last vacationed together to somehow connect with them. Unknown to her, three dangerous predators have escaped from prison, putting Abby on a collision course with pure evil.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
JHH: At a bookstore near you, both online and brick and mortar. Also, Amazon for Kindle.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
JHH: First and foremost I want to give readers a roller-coaster ride, one that lingers in the imagination long after the last page is read. But at a deeper level, I like to write about ordinary women who are at a difficult time in their lives, and are suddenly faced with an external evil force. I like to write about women who are stronger than they think they are. I didn’t think a whole lot about theme until I had written a couple of books, but I realized with the writing of my third novel ‘Chill Waters’ that my books generally have to do with betrayal and abandonment, and learning to trust again. And more important, learning to trust oneself. Almost any good book will tell you something about the author herself. (or himself.) You can’t avoid it.
Joan, it’s a pleasure having you here today! I hope you’ll find new readers and friends here.