I must admit to not being someone who is a big reader of Joanna’s work, not because I don’t rate her, but simply because I like mystery and intrigue rather than contemporary relationship stories, so I tend to avoid this type of book. In fact, I tend to avoid almost all contemporary books entirely as they just aren’t my kind of story.
However, having said this, I have been known to read one or two and so when I got the opportunity to go to the event, as a writer with the chance to listen to a very well established and successful author, I jumped at the prospect.
And, I have to say I am so glad I did. Joanna was an amazing speaker and spoke with passion and conviction as to her thoughts, beliefs and positive attitude to her work.
Over the course of the evening, held at my daughter’s lovely school, Teesside High, she answered questions from the host Drake’s Book Shop, read a couple of extracts from her new book and answered questions from the audience, before signing copies at the end.
Interestingly she said she writes all her work long hand on an A4 pad and writes only on the right hand page, as she uses the left hand page for editing and changes. I found this a fascinating way of working. And I must say there is something different about writing long hand, something freeing that you can’t quite describe. When I first began to write and all through my teen years, I wrote long hand, right up until I began working as a content and copywriter. It was under this demanding, results driven industry that I changed my system and now write almost purely on the computer.
However, I do use a writing programme called Scrivener, which is the only reason I write on the computer and would definitely recommend it as being vital to a writer’s toolbox.
Following an audience question regarding this process, Joanna did say that once her drafts are complete, she has a PA type it up and she again looks over the manuscript and makes further changes, so the whole process of writing and typing effectively aids the drafting process.
I did enjoy listening to her discuss how in her early life, despite cultural expectations on women, she was determined to work all her life and has managed to succeed at that. However, what I did find amusing is the story of a tabloid paper asking her, on the release of her first successful book, what it felt like to be an overnight success; a success that did in fact take her 25 years of writing and work.
This is a common story with writers, they appear to come from nowhere but what isn’t told is the the years of work and failure that got them to that point. This message really resonated with me and is one I found to be very heartening at a time when I have been having a confidence crisis within my own work.
Joanna’s message spoke to me in a way that showed even successful authors like her have had to do their time in the trenches with the rest of us struggling writers, and in fact have spent more time there than we can imagine before their apparent overnight success.
The other aspect of the discussion that really spoke to me was the audience question asking whether a writers life was a lonely life. This Joanna answered perfectly, in that she said that asking if it was lonely was the wrong question, instead it should be looked on as a gift to see the beauty and opportunity that solitude can bring.
I completely agree with this. A writer doesn’t look at loneliness as a negative in the way it is portrayed in the media, solitude, as Joanna called it, is when the best work gets done, it’s when you can clear your mind of distractions and can focus on the story. For me, it’s the best part of writing.
So, I have my new signed copy, of An Unsuitable Match, and am excited to start reading. Maybe it will turn me from my historical mystery fiction genre and widen my reading vocabulary.
Thank you Joanna for an inspiring evening, Drake’s for hosting and Teesside High for providing the venue.