Debut author, Joycia, a sixteenth-generation American, hails from a family tree steeped in Americana, especially the traditional South. Born in Tennessee, she grew up on grits, fried okra, pork BBQ, and Dr. Pepper. Today, she lives and writes near the Fountain River along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. A retired computer programmer, her passion for life and learning has transferred to her adventure stories. Writing is a passion now indulged in full-time.
What made you want to become a writer?
I have always enjoyed reading, and anything having to do with writing. I began writing poetry around age eight, and was editor of my junior high school newspaper. In high school, my fascination began with calligraphy, where art meets words. I love to learn and I love to read. I also love to teach. I wanted to share things, listen to music, and work anywhere. When I decided to start a new career, writing stories seemed to blend everything nicely.
Was the journey difficult?
I am still on the journey, and yes, many things were difficult. Most difficult were the technical things I needed to learn how to do. However, I did not worry about any of that “technical stuff” until I had already written several books. After my third book, I knew I needed to go back to the first book and “make it right” so it could be submitted for publishing.
I could not write without the support of my family. They helped cook meals, let the dog in, out, then back in again, and even answering the phone, aids a productive writing environment.
The biggest obstacle I have found along this journey would have to be me. I get in my own way sometimes. I found myself frustrated and impatient at my learning curve, and the mass of information I needed to absorb in order to begin competing in the literary arena. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that. I also knew I could fix it, but I wanted to fix/know everything now, and sometimes, time teaches best. Impatience with me has been the biggest obstacle. When I remember my dreams and goals, then I regain balance and patience.
What were some of your favorite stories growing up?
My earliest memories are of Bible Stories. They fascinated me for the adventures and lessons they taught. Author, Beverly Cleary, was a childhood favorite. Her books made me laugh, and left me feeling more confident about myself. I also enjoyed Pippi Longstocking stories immensely. I remember her as an independent, capable, and spunky young girl.
What inspires you as a writer?
People, places, and things. I love to visit special places, meet people along the way, and discover items that resonate with me. Each individual I meet is fascinating, has loved, dreamed, and hoped… but most take their hopes and dreams for granted. Many times, their antidotes, appearance, or circumstances inspire me, almost anything can spark my vivid imagination. I enjoy creating “mental movies” and exploring what happens when people follow their dreams and listen to their spirit. I also am personally committed to writing stories the whole family enjoys, from grandparents to young children, although my target audience is adults. I am fascinated how every character (person), at any age, can bring wisdom, insight, and humor to a situation.
What inspired you to write ‘Within the Mirror’ ?
Initially, I wrote it for my family, specifically, my grown children. I wanted them to know what I had learned so far in life, how to deal with situations, conflicts, and to know themselves, etc.,
I wanted to tell stories demonstrating how people are so similar, yet each so unique. How relationships, conflicts, and struggles can be some of our best teachers. How people learn–if they want to. How answers to all the questions you seek are available, however, you must look into the mirror to start learning. How to have peaceful serenity in a mad, chaotic world. How there is real magic in this world–if only we know what to look for. What is “real magic”? That’s what I write about! To name a few, “real magic” (for me) is the magic of understanding, the magic of learning, and the magic of forgiveness. And the magic of humor envelops everything, for Life can be funny.
What was the process like?
My main goal when I sat down to write my first book was to have fun–-and not let anything stop me. When I write, I keep a general routine, but it’s a whacky routine. I’m consumed with the process of getting the story onto paper. I may write twelve, eighteen, or twenty hours, then collapse to sleep, only to repeat it again the next day. I write almost non-stop for weeks or months. Then I take a break for awhile. When I am not writing a book, I scratch the writing itch by gracing family and friends with interesting long emails, and lately, have dabbled again in poetry. My point is, when I’m not writing books, I’m still writing something every day.
When I write books, my daily routine consists of selecting music to play, and then I eat breakfast while I read the last chapter I wrote. It’s not long before it occurs to me what’s supposed to happen next, and I start writing again. Or, I may spend time editing/fixing the previous chapter, and then move on to write the next chapter. I wear a watch, but don’t keep track of time. Time seems to have no meaning when I start working. It never ceases to amaze me after working on a chapter, that hours may have passed, not minutes.
The writing process goes great some days. Other days are more challenging, and you cannot get any writing done–because Life happens. On those days, I let it happen, and know I’ll get back to writing soon. I’m intensely focused, to the point of distraction sometimes, when I’m “in the zone” and writing. I never worry about the ability to “get back into it” since, for me, I never leave it until the story is finished.
Research and interviews occurred anytime I had a question about something specific. I stopped the writing process to find an answer I needed to continue. If I could research on the Internet, I did. Sometimes a telephone call to a family member or friend sufficed. Little details and facts can become overlooked, or buried in the story, so I try to make it right the first time (the “do it once” mentality).
What lessons did you learn in writing Within the Mirror’?
I learned many technical and occupational terms, techniques, tools, etc., all very important, and cover the boring, but necessary, hard work needed to write novels.
I’m still learning lessons from WITHIN THE MIRROR! The story is filled with lessons, some small, some big, and each time I read it, I still learn something! (which amazes me).
First lesson I learned was to make the decision to “just do it”–I sat down and started typing “my first book.” I knew I wasn’t afraid of trying, or failing. I realize now, but didn’t then, I learned to apply the concept of blind faith and believe in myself. I already believed in what I had to say, and strongly desired to convey. That passion gave me the initial courage to start. Once I began writing, I did not want to stop, so I didn’t. I have yet to become tired of my stories (no matter how many times I’ve reread it). They still inspire me, make me laugh, make stomach knot up, and cause me to tear. If they didn’t, I would not continue.
What advice would you give a writer with writer’s block?
First, I would throw away the concept, or at least the term/label. It’s upon hindsight, I realized I experienced “writer’s block,” but was too naive to realize it at the time. For me, I would reach a point where a character was stuck, (note I said, character, not me, LOL!)… what was so-and-so going to do now? They were in a proverbial corner, and needed to get out. How? I didn’t know, so I didn’t know what to write. Of course, this may be one instance where my natural impatience paid off, instead of hindering. I pondered ten to fifteen seconds, and if nothing surfaced, instead of fretting, that’s when I decided it was time to take care of me. In my way of thinking, it never occurred to me I was stuck, it was the story and/or character that was stuck. But, since they were, I evidently needed to eat supper, take a bath, or go to the store, something. So, I did. After every bath, supper, or walk to the mailbox, I returned to the computer, reread where I had left off, and continued from there.
When I wrote the first book, I learned many things. For example, I never let the small stuff stop me from writing. If I needed a name for a new character, I stopped and decided on one. If I couldn’t think or find one fast enough, I’d immediately ask someone nearby or pick up the phone. I knew I could go back later and change anything with the ‘scan & replace’ tool. Of course, I never have, so I still giggle at some of my labeling choices.
Besides naming people or places, a few actions were also selected this way. For example, when writing my third book, I reached a point where I needed the characters to do something, it didn’t matter greatly what, but they needed to do it together. Something fun, and I was stumped. My teenaged daughter walked nearby, and I grabbed her. I told her I needed three ideas. She blurted, “skinny dipping, trapeze artist, and poison ivy,” before she continued on her merry way (by book three, she had been kinda trained in what I wanted–random ideas). Her suggestions instantly sparked my imagination. The main character and his friends go skinny dipping, and get poison ivy afterwards. It worked perfectly. I’m not afraid to ask for help! (I haven’t worked that trapeze artist into any storyline yet though.)
What are you working on presently?
A professional editor and I have been polishing my first book. My focus currently is seeking a Literary Agent, and a Publisher. Until my first book is published, I realize none of my other books matter. Sad, but a true fact. That’s the hard-work/boring part of writing. The exciting thing I’m working on is completing my fourth book soon. Like my readers, I want to know what happens next too!
What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?
Pay attention in English class, everything you learn there will help you make good grades in all your other classes. No matter the purpose of the paper, punctuation and grammar are VERY important! It amazes me how much power the comma, or period, can give a thought. As an American, I believe our English language the common denominator in our country. Today, it unites us in ways nothing else can. The ability to communicate clearly is very important for a successful life, whether that communication is in written form or not. However, you will always be judged by your ability to communicate in written form–fortunately or unfortunately–but, it’s a fact of life. You don’t have to be eloquent, flashy, or even intellectual, but you must be clear and accurate.
Some practical tips I would like to share are simple, but effective. One; don’t watch the clock, writing is work, and requires concentration. Be kind to yourself. I personally cannot listen to music with words when I write, so don’t befuddle your brain, which is always trying to analyze everything it hears (whether we realize it or not). Two; before turning that essay or writing assignment in for grading, print it out once more, but use a different font. It is important to use a really silly or bizarre font, one you would never actually turn in for a grade. However, the different font forces your eyes (and brain!) to read what you have written, as if for the first time. You’ll be amazed at mistakes you’ve overlooked. Make the corrections, put everything back into the appropriate font for submission, and have confidence you edited your work to the best of your ability. Three; if you have the time, after you believe you have completely finished with the paper, let it “chill” overnight at least, and then read it again in the morning. Again, your eyes and brain will catch more from having a fresh look.
Don’t be afraid to “do the homework,” even after graduation (this could be additional reading, research, investigation, and almost always means applied “elbow grease”). Read, read, read, and write, write, write. I started my first journal around the age of eight, and have never stopped.
Most of all, discover yourself, your passions, and have the courage to follow your dreams!
Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?
Parents and children can discover more about WITHIN THE MIRROR stories, and me, by visiting my website www.joycia.com. Everyone is welcomed to email me at Joycia@joycia.com with any questions or comments. Nothing motivates, or inspires me more, than hearing from readers, other writers, or those interested.
Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: email@example.com. Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.