Almost everyone has thought of writing a book at one time or another. Inspired by our favorite books and authors, we sit down, pen in hand and just stare at a blank page., thinking , Where do I start? What do I write about? Today, Joan Young joins us with her mystery, NEWS FROM DEAD MULE SWAMP and shares how she went from Cobbler’s Knob to Dead Mule Swamp.
Anastasia Raven is running from the pain of a failed marriage, and hopes to hide from the world in an old farmhouse she has purchased at the edge of Dead Mule Swamp. When a hundred-year-old newspaper she finds inside a wall is stolen by Cliff Sorenson, and then Cliff disappears, Ana is convinced that the paper holds the key to the mystery. But what old news could be important enough to put Cliff in danger?
From Cobbler’s Knob to Dead Mule Swamp
I’ve been in love with mysteries for at least 55 years. I read my way through the two shelves of kid’s mysteries at the school library several times, and started my own collections of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Ginny Gordon, and The Hardy Boys.
However, my favorite mystery of that time in my life was Cobbler’s Knob by Eleanor M. Jewett. I must have read it ten times. Last year, I bought a copy and was eager to discover if the story held up in my adult estimation. It did. The elements I loved were all there: a mysterious old house on the seacoast that made strange noises and had a secret room; a courageous girl as the hero; someone who needed help, and a surprising but satisfactory ending.
I’ve spent a lifetime reading and re-reading mysteries. I like almost all of them, but my favorite authors are Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Lilian Jackson Braun, Sue Grafton, Rita Mae Brown, and probably others I’m forgetting.
The point is, I love mysteries that develop a collection of characters, a fictional world, and present a series of puzzles that need to be solved.
I suppose it was inevitable that I would try to write a mystery. However, I had some reservations. The biggest one was simply personal. I didn’t want to spoil my enjoyment of reading mysteries, and I was afraid that if I analyzed them enough to be able to write them, I wouldn’t be able to disappear into the stories. The jury is still out on this question.
The next question was, “What kind of mysteries would I write?” As it turned out, there’s now a name for them. They’re called cozies, where the emphasis is on a puzzle rather than gore and violence.
Only one issue left, “What kind of hero would I create?” This was tougher. The person had to be someone I could understand and sustain without constant research. Although I like procedural mysteries with lawyers, medical examiners, detectives, etc., I don’t know enough about these non-fiction worlds to write about any of them accurately as an insider. So, the question became, “What do I know?”
I wasn’t happy with the apparent answer, “Not much.” And that answer wasn’t accurate, but it took me a surprisingly long time to find the actual answer. What I know is the northern outdoors, and small towns.
One long car trip with a broken CD player gave me plenty of time to think up Anastasia Raven and her situation which brought her to Forest County and the edge of Dead Mule Swamp. By the end of that same drive I had thought up basic plots for two books.
It will be up to readers, of course, to decide if Ana is intriguing enough to keep their interest. Meanwhile, I’m having fun dreaming up stories to tell.
Thank you for joining us Joan!
Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp is FREE on Smashwords and hopefully soon Amazon. Here is the Smashwords link, but I will update when it goes free on Amazon. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/154647
Personal blog: http://myqualityday.blogspot.com
Author blog: http://joanofshark.com
Book website: http://www.booksleavingfootprints.com
Joan H. Young has been writing stories about the outdoors since the age of 7, when “The Adventures of Skippy the Field Mouse” made its debut. The work survives, but is best left in the box with crayon drawings of squirrels and pressed leaves.
“The Family Christmas,” a seasonal poem made it as far as the local newspaper when she was 12, proving that the serious child was already harboring an evil sense of humor.
As an adult, Joan has made a career of proving that she can bumble through life without ever deciding what to be when she grows up. She began with a degree in Communication Arts with an emphasis on theater. Realizing that drama, for her, was like whiskey to an alcoholic, she left a possible career in stage management for a driven man and 10,000 teenagers. (What was she thinking?) A few years later the couple had legally adopted one of the teens, and two younger children, but were still feeding most of the stray 10,000 teenagers as well. No time there for writing anything except grocery lists, and a journal of the wild ride!
In 1986, still longing for a career in sciences, she went back to school, taking higher math and chemistry in hopes of being accepted into the University of Michigan graduate program. From 1992-1995 she lived in Ann Arbor, and did receive a Masters in Environmental Engineering, cleverly getting U of M to pay for it too! Meanwhile, the writing bug still squirmed, and Joan worked hard at collecting rejection slips from a nice series of reputable magazines and publishers. Also during this time slot she began hiking the North Country Trail (NCT), the longest foot path in the United States.
Now armed with an “advanced degree” she returned home and attempted to establish a reputation as a wetland specialist. Well, she was one, but she wasn’t very good at marketing herself, and when offered a job as a web site manager, that became the next career. Essays about her hikes on the NCT demanded to be written, and friends urged her to publish.
In 2005, /North Country Cache/ made its debut for the 25th Anniversary of the North Country Trail. Since then, more and more of her time has been spent writing. If only more and more money came from that endeavor, it could be called a career!
Recently, she has begun writing more fiction, including several award-winning short stories soon to be published by Twin Trinity Media, and the Anastasia Raven mystery series.
Young has enjoyed the out-of-doors her entire life. Highlights of her outdoor adventures include Girl Scouting, which provided yearly training in camp skills, the opportunity to engage in a 10-day canoe trip, and numerous short backpacking excursions. She was selected to attend the 1965 Senior Scout Roundup in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, an international event to which 10,000 girls were invited. She has ridden a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1986, and on August 3, 2010 became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot. Her mileage totaled 4395 miles.
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