Author Joan Wolf ~ Interviewed

Joan Wolf Bio

I have written forty-five books over a span of thirty years. They include regency romances, historical novels, historical romances and historical mysteries, and they all feature lots of horses. My publishers were NAL, Dutton, Warner, HarperCollins and Mira.

If you knew then, what you know now, what would you have done differently?

I stayed far too long with one agent and one house. If I could change things, I would have moved much faster. But – hindsight is 20-20, as we all know.

What’s one issue that makes you struggle as an author?
The middle of the book. I usually know how I want to start and how I want to end. It’s that darn middle that is always a problem.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Hilary Ross once told me not to rush my books. That it’s important to take time off to let the creative well refill. I have always found this very valuable advice and I certainly write better when I follow it.

What would you do with your life if I didn’t write?
Well, I started my career as a high school English teacher and that is probably what I would have stuck with. I liked teaching, but I like writing better.

Tell us about your current project.

I’m writing the love story of Rahab, who appears at the beginning of the book of Joshua. She is the one who helps the Israelite spies escape from Jericho, setting the scene for the well-known tumbling down of the city’s walls. I’m about 2/3 of the way through and I’m very pleased with how it’s going.

Do you struggle with self-doubt? 

I think most authors, when they have finished a book and go back to read it over, have this dreadful feeling that the work is a piece of junk. It’s very disheartening. You wonder if you have the nerve to send it in to your editor. Fortunately, my husband always reads my finished ms – he’s great at picking out typos and missing words – and he always tells me that it’s wonderful. This is a definite help.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?
I have been a very lucky person in my career. I had good agents and good editors and little problems with the books I submitted. Looking back, I see I probably should have done more personal publicity. It does make a difference and I think I could have broadened my readership if I had made more of an effort to get myself out there. On the other hand, I had two kids, three cats, a dog, a horse and a husband who worked. There wasn’t a lot of time to run around trying to push my books.

What’s your favorite source for finding story ideas?
Right now, it’s the Bible.

What advice would you offer new writers? 

This is a very difficult question. 

The market today is so different from what it was when I started out. If you’re interested in traditional publishing I would say that probably the most important thing you can do is to get an agent. 

 However, I understand that is not so easy any more. But for me, my agent was all important. I would never have made the money I did without him.

What piece of writing are you most proud of?
I did a trilogy of historical novels about the making of Anglo-Saxon Britain. They are The Road to Avalon, a story of King Arthur; Born of the Sun, which tells about how the Saxons took over Celtic-Romano Britain, and The Edge of Light, about King Alfred the Great. All of these books had enormous critical success and I am extremely proud of them.

Any pet-peeves in regards to the business?
The business has become so compartmentalized these days. If your book doesn’t fit into a neat little category, the editors are afraid to buy it. It’s too bad – it certainly does stifle creativity, I think.

Greatest writer buzz?
Hearing from people that my books meant something to them. For instance, a woman once told me that while she was undergoing chemo she was reading one of my books and she forgot where she was and what she was doing. That certainly gave me a glow.

What’s the most difficult aspect of writing you’ve had to overcome?
This will sound ridiculous to today’s generation, but I wrote my first 15 books in longhand. Changing to a computer was a huge jump – I resisted it for years, sure that it was necessary for the thoughts in my head would come only if I wrote them out. Needless to say, after the first few weeks of working at the computer and swearing I would never be able to use it, I fell in love with it and now can’t understand how I ever wrote any other way.

What’s the most difficult part of writing a book?
That darn middle!

Care to share a memorable response you’ve received from a reader? 

I have received quite a number of awards, but what pleases me most is when I get a letter from a reader who tells me that she re-reads my books all the time. I can think of no greater compliment.