Books Interviews

An Interview with Joan Livingston

“I love a good mystery, reading or watching one. Now I enjoy writing them.”

I’ve never met Joan Livingston, but I feel I know her well. We’ve been in contact a lot, because I edited all her Isabel Long mystery novels. I love working with her and feel honoured to have had that opportunity. The novels are great and I’m interested to read about a part of the world I would have known nothing about. Joan lives in Western Massachusetts, in an area currently under thick snow, while here in Jerusalem spring has almost become summer.

Despite knowing Joan, I managed to come up with questions for the interview. She answered some in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Hello Joan. First of all, please tell us about your published books.

Thanks, Miriam, for this opportunity to share the books I have written. So far, I have published 12 for adult and young readers.

The Isabel Long Mystery Series, published by darkstroke books, makes up half of that list. Isabel Long, is what the French would call une femme d’un certain âge. She’s sassy and savvy, and the series is told from her perspective. In the first book, Isabel is coming off a bad year. Her husband died and she lost her job as editor-in-chief after the newspaper went corporate. When Isabel decides to investigate cold cases in the rural New England town where she lives, she uses the skills she learned as journalist. Plus, she has her mystery-loving mother to help out. Isabel has been successful with six cases thus far and in my WIP, she is onto the seventh.

The Sacred Dog, released Dec. 27, is not part of the series but the setting is familiar. Frank Hooker is the owner of The Sacred Dog, a bar where the locals come to drink and gab. The only one not welcome is Al Kitchen, who Frank blames for the death of his brother. Frank’s life is about to change now that his ex-wife and daughter are moving back to town. But Verona might have to face a dark secret that involves both men. All is about to come to a reckoning.

Before I hooked up with darkstroke books, I self-published two adult books, The Sweet Spot, which I would call literary fiction, also set in rural New England, and Peace, Love, and You Know What, inspired by my college life. I also published The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Mágico, (Spanish and English), and The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries, first in a series featuring a family of genies, both for middle-grader readers. (The second and third Twin Jinn books will be out later this year.)

Here’s the link to find my books on Amazon: Joan Livingston books.

That’s an impressive list! What’s the allure of writing mysteries?

I love a good mystery, reading or watching one. Now I enjoy writing them. When I start, I have a basic idea of Isabel Long’s next case, but frankly, I solve it along with her. That’s true of the one I am writing now.

Why do you think readers like reading mysteries?

Probably, the same reason I like writing them. For the best ones, you forget you are reading and feel you are there alongside the characters in the book. I hope I create that experience for my readers.

I’m sure you do. As an American, how have you found working with an international publisher?

First, I am grateful to Laurence and Steph Patterson, of darkstroke books, based in France, for publishing my books. I began trying to get published around 2000 without success despite having two agents and submitting countless queries. I signed with darkstroke in November 2017 after we had moved from New Mexico to Massachusetts. Working with an international publisher makes me think more globally. We maintain easy communication via email and Zoom sessions, which I believe works well. It has made me be aware that there are potential readers in other parts of the world. I would have never imagined that the editor of my mystery series, which, of course, is you, Miriam, would be living in Israel. Likewise, my fellow authors at darkstroke are global. It has been an interesting and rewarding experience.

What have you learned from working with an international publisher?

The publishing industry has undergone so many changes since I started writing fiction. Digital wasn’t even an option then or audiobooks downloaded online. The amount of big publishers has shrunk, and indie publishers has grown tremendously. Anyone can self-publish, so the competition for readers’ attention is fierce. My publisher shares tools to help us succeed. Paid promotion rests on our shoulders, but I have figured out what works and what doesn’t. I also use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but am careful not to keep hitting people over the head with “buy my book, buy my book.” I try to get people interested in me as well although I am careful about what I share and who I share it with.

Yes, we authors tread a fine line. How do people you meet react when you tell them you have an international publisher?

They are glad I have a publisher period.

What are your plans for the future?

I will continue to write. It’s my form of creative expression. I am past the half-way point for Missing the Deadline, no. 7 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Next, I will tackle a sequel to The Sacred Dog. I will self-publish The Twin Jinn and the Alchemy Machine — right now the cover design and proofreading are under way — and The Twin Jinn in the Land of Enchantment. I also have two completed adult novels that are important to me that I will try to find a publisher to take on. I am in the querying phase with those books. Wish me luck.

Good luck, Joan, with everything you do. And thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Here’s a bit about Joan:

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, Checking the Traps, Killing the Story, Working the Beat, and Following the Lead, published by Darkstroke Books, are the first six books in her Isabel Long Mystery Series, featuring a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. solving cold cases in rural New England. The Sacred Dog, a thriller that is not a part of the series, was released Dec. 27.

She draws upon her own experience as a longtime journalist in Massachusetts and New Mexico to create Isabel Long, a sassy, savvy widow who uses the skills she acquired in the business to solve what appears to be impossible cases. She also relies on her deep knowledge of rural Western Massachusetts, where she lives, to create realistic characters and settings — from country bars (where Isabel works part-time) to a general store’s backroom where gossipy old men meet.

Joan relied on those insights while writing The Sacred Dog, a story about bad blood between two men. Frank Hooker owns The Sacred Dog, the only bar in a small, rural town. The only one not welcome is Al Kitchen, who he blames for his brother’s death.

For more, visit her websites: Joan Livingston, author and editor and The Twin Jinn.

Follow her on Twitter @joanlivingston and Instagram @JoanLivingston_Author. Her author page on Facebook is here.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

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