Monday’s Friend: Joan C Curtis
My guest today is fellow mystery writer Joan C Curtis, whose book THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT, is released by MuseItUp Publishing tomorrow. Welcome, Joan!
JCC: My guess is I knew I was destined to be a writer when I wrote the short story for Reader’s Digest about the summer after my father’s death. I had been thinking about that story for a long time. When I put it to paper, it felt right. That story won second place in a national competition and was later published. My journey as a writer began in that moment.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
JCC: One of my greatest influences is my mom. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but she certainly taught me about reading. She never is without a book and she reads everything. Furthermore she has written some wonderful poetry. Influences come in different ways. My mom’s support and her love of books influenced me to pursue a literary career. I’m sure that was not her intention!
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
JCC: Writing is a craft. It is not something that you can do just because you know how to pick up a pencil or type on a keyboard. My first (practice novel) novel taught me how little I know about the craft of writing fiction. Had I known that ahead of time, I would not have written an entire manuscript to find out. Pursuing a career as a writer means learning the craft, going to classes, listening to feedback, writing and re-writing, exploring new genre, practicing, reading with a writer’s eye, and finally understanding that learning never stops.
SJT: You have said in earlier interviews that you are more a ‘pantser’ than a ‘plotter’. How did the plot for ‘The Clock Strkes Midnight’ develop?
JCC: I wish I could tell you that the plot came to me and poof there it was. Instead it was more of developing characters that acted in certain ways, given their circumstances, and allowing the story to evolve. I put the reins in the hands of the characters. I knew I wanted the story to move forward and there was an end result. If a character got stuck, I’d ask myself what can she do to move the story along? That often brought out a new plot point.
SJT: The story revolves around two sisters, Marlene and Janie, each of which is dealing with her own demons. The rivalry between these two siblings is very effectively written. Do you have siblings of your own from which to take inspiration of sibling rivalry?
JCC: That’s a great question, Sara Jayne. Yes, I have two sisters. I’m the middle child. My older sister basically removed herself from the sib ship. She is my half-sister and I think she always felt separate, even as a very young child. She pushed me away and created her own friends. My younger sister was born when I was 18 months old. As my mom describes it, as soon as she was born, I latched onto her and took care of her. We became inseparable, similar to Marlene and Janie as young children. As teens, we clashed as all young teenagers do. There were big arguments over clothes, boyfriends, and chores. But, the foundation of trust and love was created in our early years, and eventually when the teenage craziness abated, we became close again.
SJT: The sisters both harbour resentment over their mother Eloise, who they both seem to regard as a weak-willed alcoholic. But the second section of the book gives us some insight into Eloise’s early life, and paints a very different picture of her. How did you see Eloise when you started writing about her? Did you see her as a villain, and a bad mother, or someone you felt deserved sympathy?
JCC: I’m afraid I always saw Eloise as a narcissist. Yes, she engenders sympathy, but her core character is not so much a villain as a person who cannot love anyone but herself. You will note that there are two sisters in the Eloise generation as well. Eloise’s older sister, Sarah, plays an important role in the development of Marlene and Janie. She is also a stark contrast to Eloise. I can’t say too much more about Eloise without giving too much away. I would be interested in learning how readers saw her. They may have gotten a very different picture than I did and that would be great.
JCC: This is the question all my friends are asking me! You can buy the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and MuseItUp Publishing. Right now it’s still on pre-order for $2.99. I’d also like to invite your readers to our Facebook Launch Party on 25 November from 3:00 pm-5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. There they can join in the fun and maybe win a free copy of the book along with many other prizes.
SJT: Any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?
JCC: My second mystery will be published by MuseItUp in the Spring, 2015. The title, e-Murderer, is about a serial killer who sends anonymous emails to a young woman working for a psychiatrist. The descriptions of the murders sound ominously similar to the deaths of co-eds in the college town where the story takes place. The e-Murderer is the first in a series starring Jenna Scali.
SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JCC: My favourite pastime is reading. But that sounds a bit boring. I also love tennis. I played for years and now prefer to watch. Going to the US Open is a special treat. I tend to spend a lot of time exercising. I swim, spin, do Pilates and walk many miles a week. I also love to entertain and travel. Italy is my country of preference.
Joan C Curtis is an award-winning writer who has published 5 books and numerous stories. In her newest mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing on 25 November 2014.
Joan has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She reads all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, mysteries, biography, and memoir. Her passion as a reader lies closer to literary writing with a commercial bent. She writes books she would love to read.
“I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman’s point of view. Characters drive my writing and my reading.”
Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the southern traditions with the eye of a northerner. She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Georgia.