CRW: Very exciting Joan! Please tell us about some of your other published works.
Joan: My short story “The Last Gift of Christmas” appeared in Covenant Communications’ 1996 book, "A Merry Little Christmas". Spring Creek published LDS Word Puzzles.
CRW: I understand you write music and offer it FREE to anyone. Is that right?
Joan: Yes, I have maintained a free LDS sheet music website for many years at:
http://joansowards.com/ that offers music for all church occasions, especially Young Women, including a song for the yearly theme.
CRW: What inspires you to write?
Joan: Any little idea. Each of my novels were sparked by one idea that someone presented—and each idea kept working on me until I had a plot. Jeni Grossman taught an ANWA writer's workshop about using newspaper photos and articles to get writing ideas, which led me to write "Haunts Haven".
CRW: What gets in your way of writing?
Joan: Life. There’s always something going on in the family, but now that my children are grown, I have a little more free time and I spend a lot of it writing. So often, I settle into writing and the grandkids come over, and who can resist grandkids? Not me.
CRW: How do you get past it?
Joan: Write when no one is wanting my attention.
CRW: Do you try to write daily, and if so, do you set a goal of a certain number of words?
Joan: I write daily, and sometimes I will set a word number goal if I’m trying to get something done. Writing isn’t number one, though. My family and husband get first priority.
CRW: Good for you. What makes you CRAZY about writing?
Joan: Plots. I love developing plots and subplots. I stick with it until it’s done, and usually will finish one novel before beginning the next.
CRW: Wow, that is impressive. I have so many voices, oops, I mean characters in my head that I have to write about them or I can't move on with my current main project. I have at least fifteen works in progress going on right now. Joan, how long does it take you to complete a book?
Joan: It varies. "Haunts Haven" was written in a few months. One of my favorite novels, "We Have Seen His Star," took three months, and that was writing all day, every day. I started "Chocolate Roses" a year and a half ago and had to set it aside (an exception to sticking with it till it’s finished) because I didn’t have the story to connect the beginning with the end. After a lot of pondering, brainstorming with hubby, and prayer, I picked it up again, and it all fell together.
Joan: In Jeni Grossman’s class, she handed me an article about ghosts that haunted old southern Arizona inns. She told us to ask, “What if?” So, I wondered what would happen if an unsuspecting young woman inherited one of those haunted inns, ghost and all. Haunts Haven blossomed from there.
CRW: Where do you get your character’s names?
Joan: I choose names that I feel the character wants—and they are sometimes quirky. After Walnut Springs Press decided to publish "Haunts Haven", they asked me to change three main characters’ names. They thought they were old fashioned or too odd. So, "Haunts Haven" is now the same cast, but new names.
I recently met a woman whose name is Cricket. I asked her if her parents had given her that name, and she told me that in high school there were five other girls with her real name, and that the principle told them to each pick a nickname. That night, I went home and changed the name of a supporting character in Chocolate Roses (she had a hiccupping problem) to Cricket, and also gave her the woman’s name-change story.
CRW: Cricket, what a fun name. What is your favorite writing food?
Joan: Sorry, I don’t eat while writing. I look at taking snack breaks as the way of getting my blood moving from sitting so long. I can sit and write all day, so I have to force myself to get up and move. Food is the motivator.
CRW: Why are you a writer?
Joan: Only because I love it. I’m not a master at the English language like some of my favorite authors, but I love to tell a story, work out subplots, weave it all together in a tapestry. It is very fulfilling.
CRW: Who do you hope reads your work?
Joan: Everybody! Everyone who loves an adventure. "Haunts Haven" is set in a tiny town in southern Arizona where everybody’s business is everybody’s business, small town politics prevail, and romance still happens. I think everyone—young and old—can find something to relate to in "Haunts Haven". A reader who dreams of restoring old houses can relate to Callie inheriting an old hotel and fixing it up. Along with the inn, she inherits a ghost—and everyone loves a ghost story. And for the romantic, Callie falls for a local cowboy and is also befriended by a unmarried, attractive rancher who is willing to stand with her against the ghost.
CRW: I am going to love it. I love scheming and fixing up houses, especially old ones. And who can pass up a good clean romance? What would be the best complement you could receive from a fan?
Joan: “I can’t wait for the sequel!” or “Your stories are so fun!” How about “Please send me 30 copies to send to my friends and relatives for Christmas—I loved it that much.”
CRW: Agreed! What is the topic of the project you are currently working on?
Joan: I just finished Chocolate Roses, an LDS Jane Eyre parody.
CRW: Please tell us more about it.
Joan: Rose Whitaker co-owns a chocolate stop in Tempe, Arizona and has developed a crush on a customer who comes into her store every Tuesday morning. He never pays attention to her, but unwittingly moves into her housing complex, bringing with him his four year old daughter. Rose is pulled into their complicated lives and the story goes from there.
CRW: Sounds like another great story to look forward to. Joan, I thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and wish you great success in all your writing.
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