Joyce Magnin likes baseball, football, needlearts, cream soda, video games but not elevators. I have three fabulous children and two baby grandsons. And I take care of a neurotic parakeet who thinks she’s a chicken. I am a frequent conference speaker/workshop facilitator. You can find me at joycemagnin.blogspot.com or joycemagnin.homestead.com.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow
is the story of an unusual woman, Agnes Sparrow. No longer able or willing to leave her home, where she is cared for by her long-suffering sister Griselda, Agnes has committed her life to the one thing she can do—besides eat. Agnes Sparrow prays and when Agnes prays things happen, including major miracles of the cancer, ulcer-healing variety along with various minor miracles not the least of which is the recovery of lost objects and a prize-winning pumpkin.
The rural residents of Bright’s Pond are so enamored with Agnes they plan to have a sign erected on the interstate that reads, “Welcome to Bright’s Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow.” This is something Agnes doesn’t want and sends Griselda to fight city hall. Griselda’s petitions are shot down and the sign plans press forward until a stranger comes to town looking for his miracle from Agnes. The truth of Agnes’s odd motivation comes out when the town reels after the murder of a beloved community member. How could Agnes allow such evil in their midst? Didn’t she know? Well, the prayers of Agnes Sparrow have more to do with Agnes than God. Agnes has been praying to atone for a sin committed when she was a child. After some tense days, the townsfolk, Griselda, and Agnes decide they all need to find their way back to the true source of the miracles—God.
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been critically acclaimed and received a starred review in Library Journal.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?
I didn’t really have a “what if” moment. Agnes grew out of many conversations and many hours of day dreaming and ruminating.
Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:
The main character is up for discussion. Some would say Agnes and others Griselda. I think it’s Griselda. It’s really her story of how she cared for Agnes through thick and thin (no pun intended—LOL) There isn’t much thin. Griselda was just as fat emotionally as Agnes was physically. She just didn’t know it until the end. And even then, she still has a long way to go. Secret: She will get there in another book.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?
I love to dream and think about characters and let them take over corners of my mind. Characters, and setting—that’s the best part for me. I don’t know what I enjoyed the least. Maybe it’s the household juggling that goes on to find time. I usually write for fifteen minutes, throw in a load of whites, write for fifteen more minutes, clean up the mess in the kitchen left by my son doing science experiments, write for fifteen more minutes—you get the idea.
What made you start writing?
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. It seems I was always reading and writing stories.
What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Video Games. I like to play RPGs. But seriously, if I wasn’t a writer I’d probably have been a teacher. But I guess I am doing that, so maybe a speech pathologist or, I don’t know, I always wanted to drive one of those giant earth-movers you see at construction sites.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?
Settling down to a plot. I’m what they call an SOP writer—seat of pants. So yes, plotting a story is really hard for me. I tend to let the characters lead and sometimes that can get messy.
Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Oh, I suppose so. By that I mean when I read my work I see where that has happened but I don’t consciously set out to do it.
What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?
Well, I don’t really want to give anyone who might not have read it yet a preconceived notion of what to glean from it. But I do hope that folks have a good time reading it, enjoy the story and all that.
Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.
It generally starts with a character, a name, and then a line. I set down a first line and then try to keep some kind of momentum while I’m discovering the story, researching things that need researching, sometimes brainstorming with friends. I call this my exploratory draft. And then once I know the story I start to write it. About half way through I make my version of an outline, really just a few notes of what I think needs to happen and then I keep going. Once this draft is finished I do the rewrite and that for me is where the real fun begins. I can change things up, perfect (read: agonize over) sentences, change or delete scenes. But I can do all that with the security of knowing the story is complete.
What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?
The Great Gatsby—it’s just a really good book, beautifully written.
The Princess Bride—A perfect story.
Anything written by Fannie Flagg—masterful storyteller.
Huckleberry Finn—Language, story, motion of words, depth
Peace Like a River—Again, beautiful writing.
Flannery O’Connor, Ray Bradbury, Mya Angelou, River Jordan
Too many to keep naming.
For kicks I like Mary Kay Andrews, Joshylin Jackson, Billie Letts, Garrison Keillor
What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?
I’d like to say, the exact date I would be offered a contract. But I suppose the best lesson I’ve learned is to be true to my story, tell the story I was put on planet earth to tell, don’t write what I think will sell. Be myself.
How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
Well, I have no money to spend on marketing so I do what I can on Facebook, staying faithful to my blog, website, book clubs, signings, events, whatever I can do to get out there. I pray a lot.
Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?
I’m just finishing up the second Bright’s Pond Book—Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise.
It will release next fall from Abingdon and then maybe a couple more Bright’s Pond books after that.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Gee, well if there are writers reading this I guess I’d say to be yourself, write YOUR story. And for everyone I’d say to do good, eat pie and give God the glory. Thank you Novel Journey for including me on your fabulous blog. Soli Deo Gloria.