When and how did you start writing?
I’ve been a writer all my life and make my living with words and their specific arrangements for various purposes: articles, columns, books . . . and I’ve written advertising and corporate stuff too.
Early early EARLY on, I dabbled a bit in poetry, short stories and other bits of things. But I only started writing novels when my life took a sharp left turn about eight years ago. I never aspired to it, at least not seriously.
Terrible events in one’s life make one look at things a bit differently. Even so, it was my unconscious or perhaps subconscious self that forced me to try it. After some months of hiding under the bed and battling insomnia, my brain awakened me one night with a plot, a sexy police officer and a beautiful reporter not very much like myself.
Miraculously, I remembered it in the morning. So I wrote the damned thing down. I have said that Adam’s Witness, my first book, may have saved my life and definitely saved my sanity. I still believe that latter bit.
I’m rather fond of it, to be honest.
Tell me about your books.
The Adam and Grace series — now four novels and a novella — follows the love story and crime-solving exploits of my two main characters: Adam Davis, detective sergeant (later inspector) with the local police service, and Grace Rampling, a journalist with the daily newspaper I worked for (and loved, and still write a bit for as a freelance columnist).
The idealist journalist in me informs the plots. Generally, each one deals with a different social issue, although I do my best to surround those issues with action, love and actual plots.
Adam’s Witness, for example, examines the violence and mental instability that often underlies homophobia.
In addition, I recently published a historical fiction/western novel, Blood and Dust, which perhaps unsurprisingly was also inspired by midnight miseries, so to speak. My husband’s terrible nightmare was translated into the first chapter. Once that was written, I couldn’t stop, and the thing turned into a novel.
I have also just tried my hand at a book for wee ones. Magic Mack and The Mischief-Makers is a bit of an ode to my neighbour’s adorable grandson. He full-on inspired the little story.
What journalistic skills have you found helpful in your writing?
All of them. Basic skills like spelling, grammar and punctuation; an appreciation of deadlines and an instinct for when to ship your work; research; what kinds of things might cause copyright problems.
Authoring comes with its own unique and special skills, however. I certainly had to learn how to structure a novel, not to mention how to format it and post it on Amazon, among many other things.
When you start writing a series do you plan it out and know how many books there will be, or do you take it one book at a time?
When I wrote Adam’s Witness, I thought it would be a one-off. There: I’ve done my little sanity-saving vanity project. Once it was published, though, a friend said to me, “So have you started book two yet?”
Well, damn, I thought. You mean I’m supposed to keep going?
So I did. True story.
So I suppose the answer is, I have no idea about anything ever.
What do you consider your greatest writing accomplishment? And which was your biggest challenge?
I think just being able to crawl out of myself and get the first book actually written was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It was a monstrously huge incredible thing for me.
Even so, it somehow didn’t feel like a challenge. It wasn’t easy, and it may not be the greatest book in history (ha), but it felt like it poured out of me.
Deciding to actually try to collect some readers, and the subsequent self-education about marketing . . . now that has been a challenge.
I have to say I was proud of myself for sticking my western novel out there for publishers to see and potentially reject. That was hard. But it was accepted by Black Rose Writing, and I must say, what a day that was. I still feel the shivers of that thrill.
What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?
I have had some nice reviews and some bad reviews, some lovely feedback and some very negative feedback. Not everyone appreciates my political point of view, as they see it.
A review that panned Adam’s Witness for being supportive of the queer community meant a lot to me. I know that might sound strange, but it validated that I had made my point if homophobic readers wanted to give me single star reviews.
Becoming accepted by the queer community of indie writers post-publication of that book is among the things I am the very proudest of. I am honoured to be called ally and friend.
What would you do if you didn’t write?
Has a book really touched you? Made you rethink your views on life? If so, what was it?
So many books have touched me greatly. Your own poetry has made me weep and see my own pain and experience illuminated in new ways.
Coming About by Mario Dell’Olio has an incredible final chapter, in which he explores his faith in light of two near-death experiences. Again, I wept and felt powerfully moved and validated by that work.
I am not sure if a book has made me rethink my views on life, but many have significantly expanded my understanding of those views, and my empathy, I hope, for others.
What are your current projects? What should we be looking out for?
I am struggling mightily with what I think will be the final novel in the Adam and Grace series. The character around whom the plot turns is a Black male teacher who has been professionally attacked by his community for racist reasons. It’s been so hard to write. I am desperate to represent this man (based on two real men — a friend and one of my father’s clients; Dad was a lawyer) realistically, fairly, and to capture his voice authentically while not appropriating it. You could say I’m a little blocked. I hope to make progress on The Maddox Verdict this summer. Indeed, I’m hoping to take a month off to figure it out.
There will be a sequel to Blood and Dust after that. I am also hoping to publish a strange collection of small works: poetry, short fiction, short stories, that sort of thing.
What is your ultimate dream as a writer?
There has always only been one dream, whether as journalist or author: to change the world for the better. Where we love each other regardless of our differences; where we eschew violence under all circumstances; where we are all free and whole and healthy to the extent humans can be.
Of course, I would have to be read MUCH more widely if that were ever to happen. So that would be nice, too.
Joanne (J.C.) Paulson, a long-time journalist in Saskatoon, Canada, has been published in newspapers including The Star Phoenix, The Western Producer, the Saskatoon Express and a variety of magazines. Her unquiet brain requested a shift from fact to fiction four years ago, when she started writing mysteries based in Saskatchewan. Five have been independently published: Adam’s Witness, Broken Through, Fire Lake, Griffin’s Cure, and Two Hundred Bones, a novella. She has recently completed a historical fiction/western novel entitled Blood and Dust, published by Black Rose Writing, and a wee children’s book, Magic Mack and The Mischief-Makers.
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