Award-winning and National Bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan is the creator of the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries (an Agatha Award Finalist) and The Jane Eyre Chronicles (Winner of the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award). This fall will see the debut of the Cara Mia Delgatto books, a new mystery series set on the Treasure Coast of Florida, featuring a young woman who runs a recycling/repurposing shop. In her past life, Joanna was a television talk show host, an adjunct professor of public relations, a sought-after motivational speaker, and a corporate speechwriter. She is the mother of Michael Slan, a professional poker player, and she is married to David Slan, CEO of Steinway Piano Gallery-DC. The Slans and their two dogs make their home on Jupiter Island, Florida. Joanna is here today because she is touring her book, DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. There are two giveaways which you will find near the bottom of the page. Welcome Joanna.
You have been very candid about your difficult childhood. Has that had repercussions? Are your parents still alive? How did your sisters feel about it?
Actually, I haven’t shared some of the worst of it, and my son has encouraged me to write a book about my upbringing. Maybe I will.
As for the repercussions, there’ve been a few, but not as many as you might think. My father died at age 48 of alcoholism, so he wasn’t around to read my work. My mother never saw herself in any of my work. She died about five years ago, but before she went, she was happily taking credit for all my success.
As for how my sisters feel, you’d have to ask them. I suppose that varies from day to day. Mainly we are all proud of what we’ve lived through. I hope if anyone takes anything away from my personal story, it’s that all of us can walk away from the past and create our own futures.
I’ll be honest with you, I know I read Jane Eyre in high school but I don’t remember it. So I don’t know how close your Jane is to Charlotte’s or your style to hers. How difficult has it been to take on someone else’s character? What do you feel obligated to keep the same and what, if any, changes have you made? I mean beside the whole sleuth thing.
Originally I was actually channeling Charlotte Brontë. So much so that my husband was thinking, “Exorcist!!!” But I managed to find a style that was reminiscent of Brontë without being too difficult for modern readers to consume. Believe me, that was a challenge.
Taking on someone else’s character is tough. However, I’d already done it by writing as “Lila Dare” to create the fourth book in the Southern Beauty Shop series, and in my work as a speech writer. It helped to have a great editor at Berkley!
I felt obligated to keep true to Jane’s character as well as the character of her husband, Edward. I also had to keep to the time period in which the novel was originally set, which was tricky because it’s a Victorian novel set in the Regency era. But I had to add more characters because at the end of Jane Eyre, Jane and Edward have decided to “honeymoon” for the rest of their lives. If they stayed as isolated as Brontë suggests, it would have been a very lackluster series indeed.
Do you have habits or routines you find yourself following to be able to get into writing mode? Or do you just sit down from 8 a.m. to noon, come hell or high water and write every single day?
I sit down at around 9 a.m., come hell or high water (which is right outside my window) and write every day, usually six days a week. But I do it because I love, love, love to write. I took three days off this week because I had to go to Miami to sign books and then do an event at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach. This morning I was absolutely frantic to get to my computer. I get nervous. So, ahhhhh. I’m here now and all is well.
I usually get up around 6:30 or 7, take care of the dogs, and do about an hour of housework. Then I carry both Victoria and Rafferty upstairs. Victoria is too old to climb the stairs. Raffi has three legs (because he was abused and one had to be amputated), so he slips. So I haul both of them, 12 and 25 pounds respectively. Once they are on the sofa and happy, I get cracking. Around 11, they are ready to go outside and eat their meal. I carry them downstairs, take care of them, and eat my lunch. I try to group all my errands so that if I go out, I’m out for awhile, and then back to work. At night I usually do crafts or research. I love my life.
What is the harshest review or criticism you’ve had about your writing, published or made to you personally, and how did you deal with it?
Let’s see…it could be the sci-fi author who told my sister I was a lightweight. Or the agent who told me my Kiki Lowenstein books would never sell because the whole idea was too boring. Or the reviewer who suggested that after writing about a crafter that I had no business trying to follow up on Jane Eyre. Or the fellow author I asked for a blurb who told me that I had no idea how to write a mystery. (That book was later nominated for an Agatha.) Or the book doctor I paid $1,000 to who told me I was a racist. Need I go on?
I ignored them. They were wrong. Why on earth would I let a few silly people stop me from doing what I want to do? They are nothing to me. The world is full of people who’ll put you down, who’ll be jealous, who’ll try to sabotage your success, or hurt you. But here’s the deal: I’ve been treated worse by people who supposedly knew me better, so why would I let these dopes determine my future? I love writing. This is what I was put on earth to do. And blessedly, there is a wonderful group of readers out there who love my work. I write for them and for me.
(And as you wrote in a blog post, there are a lot of people in this industry who are clueless.)
Now three things that have nothing to do with writing:
- What is your favorite food? If it slows down, I’ll eat it. How embarrassing is that?
- What is your favorite TV show? I don’t have one. I know that makes me booo-ring. But I supposed if pressed, it’s Anderson Cooper 360. When I watch TV, I tend to binge watch on my iPad while I craft. I’ve watched all of Orange is the New Black, every British crime drama, Downton Abbey (natch), The Tudors, and Fringe.
- What is your favorite music? When I’m writing I listen to 11,000 Virgins singing chants for St. Ursula by St. Hildegard von Bingen. I love just about every kind of music from my aunt’s handbell choir playing “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” to flamenco to latin tunes to “trap” and even classics. But most of all I love the music of the ocean and my dogs snoring.
I have a brother that used to play in those big poker tournaments in Vegas so I kind of follow it. So are you a poker player or do you leave that to your husband and son?
I leave it to the guys. I’m hopeless at cards. My husband and son just bought a professional esports team, a League of Legends pro team called Coast. But I don’t play that either. In fact, the last time I played a competitive game with my son, I started crying because I was so bad at it! However, I love my guys. I love hearing about “their” world. So it’s all good.
Thank you so much for being here today Joanna, I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour and good luck with DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL and the rest of the series. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?
I am so blessed to have a vibrant Facebook community where my readers and friends gather. I hope some of your readers will stop by as well. http://www.Facebook.com/JoannaCampbellSlan
Death of a Schoolgirl
(The Jane Eyre Chronicles)
First in Series
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (August 7, 2012)
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, Jane’s life has settled into a comfortable pattern: She and her beloved Edward Rochester are married and have an infant son. But Jane soon finds herself in the midst of new challenges and threats to those she loves…
Jane can’t help but fret when a letter arrives from Adèle Varens—Rochester’s ward, currently at boarding school—warning that the girl’s life is in jeopardy. Although it means leaving her young son and invalid husband, and despite never having been to a city of any size, Jane feels strongly compelled to go to London to ensure Adèle’s safety.
But almost from the beginning, Jane’s travels don’t go as planned—she is knocked about and robbed, and no one believes that the plain, unassuming Jane could indeed be the wife of a gentleman; even the school superintendent takes her for an errant new teacher. But most shocking to Jane is the discovery that Adèle’s schoolmate has recently passed away under very suspicious circumstances, yet no one appears overly concerned. Taking advantage of the situation, Jane decides to pose as the missing instructor—and soon uncovers several unsavory secrets, which may very well make her the killer’s next target…
I have to admit, I’m not a fan of historical mysteries (anything before I was born – as a matter of fact, I prefer the characters to have cell phones) and while I had to read Jane Eyre in high school, I can’t even remember it. But because I am a fan of the Kiki Lowenstein series, I signed on to this tour. I just did not have the time to read Charlotte Bronté’s Jane Eyre so I can’t speak to how close the style is, but if other ‘s opinions are any indication, then it is definitely in the same voice. I really did enjoy this. The book just draws you in it is rather mesmerizing. The elegance of the speech back then is lovely. Jane and her Mr. Rochester (Edward) have a very loving relationship. Jane is a character with a quiet confidence, great compassion and an ability to deal with whatever happens with a comforting calmness. She was quite liberated for the day. The book opens in 1820 with the birth of their son (Ned). When a letter is received indicating that Edward’s ward, Adèle, at boarding school in London may be in some danger, Jane (who used to be her governess) travels on her own to London. She bravely makes the trip, even though she has never been to London, because Edward cannot travel due to injury to his eyes (from a fire if you read Jane Eyre). There are stolen jewels, a dead student, a missing teacher… Jane goes undercover as a new teacher. Don’t be fooled by this talk of the beauty of the speech, this is a page turner – Jane puts herself at risk to solve the mystery. There are clues along the way if you are clever enough to recognize them, but my guess is you will be surprised in the end. I plan to read the next in the series, THE DEATH OF A DOWAGER and will continue on with the series. This book gets a very unreserved ♥♥♥♥♥
For a chance to win a print copy of DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL, just leave a comment – be sure you can be contacted through your link or by leaving you email address. One copy of the book will be given away here, at this blog.
There is an additional prize package consisting of a Lowood Institution Lacrosse sweatshirt, a “Being yourself is the key” pencil case, a Jane Eyre mug, and a small Jane Eyre quotations journal that will go to one person, tourwide that enters this rafflecopter giveaway by clicking HERE Good Luck!
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