Today we welcome Joan Early.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Joan Early: After a career in mortgage banking and mortgage law, I turned my focus to writing and real estate. I will celebrate my 40th anniversary with husband Dale in December.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Joan Early: My books are Look Both Ways, Fireflies, Oak Bluffs, Friends in Need, Separate Dreams, Nightsweats, Sara’s Reward, A Tangled Web, Heartstrings, and The Other Two-Fifths.
I began writing family sagas before an acquisitions editor advised me to try romance. The messages all deal with daily situations and the strong women who never give up. Most of them were written while on vacation and include my favorite places to live or visit. The Other Two-Fifths was my most difficult book. It is historical fiction that required much research. It begins with a race riot in Springfield, Illinois in 1908 and lightly details civil rights struggles. It was difficult to tell stories of racial discord because many of the experiences were lived, not imagined.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Joan Early: I am working on several manuscripts and have seven that are completed.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Joan Early: The last section of The Other Two-Fifths deals with voter registration drives in Mississippi in which I participated before I was old enough to vote.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Joan Early: The Other Two-Fifths required a lot of reading and verifying facts, including events that led to the formation of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) that resulted from the 1908 race riot. I spent time in Martha’s Vineyard before writing Oak Bluffs.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Joan Early: There are no limits on my reading list. I try different genres simply to achieve a feel for the author’s view. I find inspiration current authors as well as the masters. I’ve read every Lee Child and Nicholas Sparks books, and constantly re-read my Steinbeck favorites.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Joan Early: The first was my grandmother who felt our family history should be documented for future generations. My husband is still my strongest supporter.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Joan Early: I have too many things going on in my life to conform to a strict schedule. Winter is my most creative time. When it’s cold outside (though we have little cold weather in Texas) I am either reading or writing.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Joan Early: I am striving to have a book on the New York Times best seller list by then. Of course I always reach high.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Joan Early: Never accept rejection as a resolution to your dreams. Never give up.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Joan Early: A nurse once told me she used my definition of schizophrenia in a story to explain a patient’s condition to his parents.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Joan Early: It was a man’s room, alive with the aroma of aged brandy and expensive cigars. Brown leather blended with rich, dark wood. Overstuffed chairs framed a large mahogany desk next to an array of firearms that were partially hidden behind a corner of etched glass. No horns protruded from the wall, but a 32-inch bass, expertly preserved and mounted on a wood plaque, was anchored between pecan-veneered blinds. Photographs of handshakes with three former presidents and numerous dignitaries adorned the walls. Paintings depicting three generations of distinguished looking gentlemen were grouped in age-descending order around the faded likeness of a family huddled in front of a Christmas tree. The pendulum of an ancient Heatherfield clock swung in rhythmic continuity.
Alex Duvelier adjusted his glasses over deep-set eyes shaded by heavy salt-and-pepper eyebrows below a mane of matching hair. He blew another puff of cigar smoke into the haze above him, shifted a stack of paper from one trembling hand to the other and dropped it on the edge of his desk. Pausing for a second, he looped his finger through the handle of a gold-rimmed cup and lifted it to his mouth. The shakes of too much caffeine sent splashes of murky liquid into the saucer. Though his body quaked and wavered, his mind roared with extreme clarity.
He reread the dense paragraphs dotted with figures. Demographics. Logistics. Demagoguery. Political forecasts. Everything was different now. Added to rising concerns of gas prices, a sagging economy war, crime, and the unrealistic cost of education, was a hurdle he never expected to face. His city had been ravished and left to die. He could not let that happen. New Orleans would come back and he would help guide it to the future. He mixed the ingredients before him, sifted them through a fine prism of common sense and watched as they drifted into a satisfying culmination of hope.
He had long ago given himself to feel confident in his ability to succeed, but furrows of doubt still creased his forehead. This was not an easy decision. He had consulted the experts, weighed the pros and cons, and estimated potential pitfalls. His character would not allow him to back away from a challenge. Though the notion was jarring, he was not frightened by the stench of failure. His uncertainty hinged on something much greater. It was a fear that few would imagine in such a formidable man. It had been the determining factor in many of his major choices. He feared no man, no feat, or demon, but dared not imagine the chafing the one person whose opinion mattered most. Lilliana was hauntingly beautiful. Magnificently regal. She was his only daughter, and the most important person in his life.
Alex loved power and adored control. His life was a series of premeditated boundaries, carefully calculated plans, and strategic maneuvers. His accomplishments were vast, yet he was far from satisfied. It was more than money and power. His goals were his reasons to live. In fact, he feared life without them. It was the unrealized dreams, unfulfilled ambitions, and eager expectations that provided strength and fortitude.
He also feared old age, dreaded death, and knew both were approaching with great rapidity. The numbers were frightening and numbers never lie.
Age had not tarnished his manly cravings. He stared at the strands of silver around his temple, thinking they added definition and distinction to a face tanned by heredity. He still felt desired and desirable. His exuberant love of life had sharpened with age. Inside, he felt a rapidly developing consciousness of those he loved. His passions had heightened and were alarmingly vibrant. To Alex, this meant everything that followed would be a downward slide.
Born with as much money and material possessions as even the most gluttonous man could want, his life had been a valiant struggle to reach an apex known only to him. One that he constantly altered to create the needed challenge. His children were the extensions of which he felt most protective. Causing them pain was the sin he rigorously avoided. Losing their love, especially Lilliana’s, was the only thing holding him back.
His first journey into politics had been virtually effortless but this time would be different. There was only one governor’s mansion, and a growing list of hopefuls pining for occupancy. He knew further emergence into the steamy world of politics would place him and his family under a microscope. He had lived a full and bountiful life. There were no regrets. He wanted to believe his indiscretions were buried too deep for even political bloodhounds to sniff out, but he also knew the lengths to which the media would stoop. His indiscretions were dark. They could tear his family apart. Pushing the coffee aside, he poured aged bourbon from a crystal decanter. No water. No ice. Glass in hand, his gray-green eyes walled up to the ceiling as he spoke out loud. “If you dig it, do it. If you dig it a lot, do it twice. Here’s to the second victory.”