Author Interview with Carolyn Jourdan

Today we welcome Carolyn Jourdan.

 Book ‘Em:  Tell us about you and your life outside of writing. 

Carolyn Jourdan:  I am a 62 year ethnic Appalachian (hillbilly) who has never married, but dated off and on for 40+ years (which I hope is enough, can I stop now?). I have engineering and law degrees and live on my family’s farm in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. It’s near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I always have at least one rescue dog and one rescue cat, sometimes many more.

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?

Carolyn Jourdan:  I’ve written 13 books. The first was traditionally published and the rest I’ve published myself. I write mostly biography and memoir about wildlife and medicine. I’ve written 3 mysteries. My consistent message is that we should always try to do our very best knowing that the likely result will be a mess, but that’s the way life works. The best we can hope for is to be lifelong well-intentioned amateurs.

Book ‘Em:  Do you have a work in progress?

Carolyn Jourdan:  I always have multiple books in progress — in various stages from piles of indecipherable notes scribbled on fast food napkins, to a bare bones outline, to a meager start filling in key scenes.

Right now I have a mystery-thriller set in Yellowstone mostly plotted and am nearly finished with a nonfiction book about rangers chasing poachers around (and vice-versa) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Book ‘Em:  What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  The first book. I had no idea how to write. I knew nothing about the book business. I had to take a lot of classes and a huge amount of hazing and abuse before I could get my writing to a professional level. It took about 14 years, off and on, to get it finished.

Book ‘Em:  What sort of research do you do for your work? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  Most of my books are done by interviewing world experts in the topic who provide the source material. I love to talk to people and write up what they say. A lot of supplemental research has to take place after that to clarify any obscurities in what the interviewees are saying. When I write nonfiction I can’t make anything up. It has to be right. When I’m writing fiction I still want it to be correct.

Book ‘Em:  Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

Carolyn Jourdan:  I read a lot of nonfiction like Michael Lewis. I also love the mysteries with exotic settings, like Craig Johnson (Longmire in Wyoming), Donna Leon (Inspector Brunetti in Venice), Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana), and Andrea Camilleri (Inspector Montalbano in Sicily). Then I watch the TV series or the movies after I read the books.

Book ‘Em:  Was there a person who encouraged you to write?  

Carolyn Jourdan:  No, I was a science person, then a science lawyer. I never thought I could write a book and didn’t consider it until all other options were exhausted. I finally realized the story of my career disaster was all I had to sell (or starve) and that resulted in my first book.

Book ‘Em:  What would you say are your strengths as an author? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  Endurance, persistence, sense of humor, and a genuine love of hearing other people tell me their stories.

Book ‘Em:  How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  I try to write every day for the first half of the day. Usually 2-4 hours of composition or editing in the morning and then a few hours on business matters in the evening.

Book ‘Em:  Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  In my dreams I would like to do an entertaining series with a very worthy spiritual theme, like the Cadfael books Dangerous Davies. I can’t conceive of that yet, though. I hope I can continue writing into my old age, like Ellis Peters and Leslie Thomas (if I should live that long).

Book ‘Em:  If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Carolyn Jourdan:  If you want to do it bad enough, anyone can do it. But you have to want it pretty bad. Desperation was my key to success. Hysteria and hopelessness drove me to FINISH a book. Finishing the book is crucial. That’s what most people won’t do, so if you finish it, you’re in the top 1%.

Book ‘Em:  What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book? 

Carolyn Jourdan:  Because of the unusually personal nature of my books I get a lot of extraordinary compliments. One of my favorites was from a lady who told me that she prayed that God would forgive her for not carrying her bible with her to her chemotherapy treatments, because she was taking one of my books instead because she knew it would make her feel better and keep her courage up.

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