A little history . . . Joan Wolf grew up in the Bronx, New York and took her Master's Degree in English and Comparative Literature from Hunter College. She taught high school English for nine years in New York City, including Creative Writing. Valuable for her future writing no doubt.
So hello, Joan. Pull up a chair and let me ask you some questions about your books. For instance,
You've written books set in a number of time periods — Regency, Biblical, Dark Ages, Medieval, Prehistoric, Contemporary.Can you tell us a little of how you build that 'sense of the past' into your stories?
Research, research, research. Of course, some periods are easier to research than others. The regency is easy. Even medieval times are fairly easy. The Dark Ages? Well, they weren’t called the dark ages for nothing. Very little is written about the centuries (5th – 9th) where I set my trilogy: The Road to Avalon, Born of the Sun, and The Edge of Light. I read the literature we have from that time – Beowulf and those wonderful Anglo-Saxon poems. And The Anglo Saxon Chronicle has a list of dates that were useful, but that’s about it. There was even less for the pre-history series, Daughter of the Red Deer, The Horsemasters and The Reindeer Hunters. I spent a lot of time in the Yale library reading about primitive people and how they lived, plus there was some good information about the tools used by Cro-Magnon man. The rest came from my imagination.
That all-important writer's imagination. Sometimes it sees further than the facts.
Okay – I know you're a horse person and horses appear in many of your books. Do you have a favorite horse you've known and loved?
They’re all my favorites: Elsa, my beautiful Thoroughbred mare. She was the first horse I ever owned and for that she does hold a special place in my heart.
Then there was Pendleton, my sane and sensible quarter horse. I could take him anywhere – he was unflappable. His two favorite activities were eating and napping. When his arthritis became too bad I retired him to a huge farm in Virginia where he spent the next ten years eating grass and napping with his pals. We should all have such a great retirement – at someone else’s expense.
I am now riding Romeo, a thoroughbred-quarter horse cross. He’s so funny. When I stick my head into the barn in the morning and say, “Is there a Romeo here?” he nickers and sticks his nose out and rolls his eyes. Let me hasten to say this is not because he loves me so much, it’s because he knows I have sugar in my pocket. He’s great fun to ride and I’m actually progressing up the line in my dressage.
I have to answer with three books here – my dark ages trilogy: The Road to Avalon, Born of the Sun and The Edge of Light. I am very very proud of those books.
Just off the top of your head — what are the essential qualities of a hero? Of a heroine?
For me, they have to be moral people. They may make mistakes, but they must have a basic morality that ultimately governs what they do. Along with the morality I always throw in good looks. I always figure, if you’re going to identify with a character, why not make that character gorgeous? So much more fun.
I so much agree with you about that inner sense of integrity. It's one of the things I admire about your heroes and heroines. Romance genre keeps changing. What's the most important difference between Romance in the 80s and 90s and Romance now?
I think the biggest change from the 80’s until now in romance is the sexual content. When I first began to write, the door was always discreetly closed before anything too biological took place. Not so today!
Actually, very little has changed in the way I write a book. I am slower, I think. My prose has become more Hemingway-like with the years and I’m always going back over scenes and taking out unnecessary words.
Who are your own favorite authors?
Some of my favorite contemporary authors: Donna Leon, Anna Quindlen, Daniel Silva, Louise Penny, C.S. Harris, Tana French, Lois McMasters Bujold.
That hits several of my own favorite authors … and a few I haven't read yet. I'll have to correct that omission. I see many of your books are available as e-books. Will the rest of your backlist follow?
I am in the process of putting all the books to which I have the rights up as e-books. If you go to my website, you will see what’s available right now. Most of the books to which I do not have the rights are up as e-books already.
I have actually written a new regency. It’s called The American Earl and I am releasing it as an e-book only. My agent asked if I wanted her to send it around to the traditional publishers, but I truly don’t want to work for anyone else. I don’t need those deadlines hanging over my head. I so enjoyed writing this book because I wrote when I wanted to write. If my husband and I decided to take a few days to go visit family, or go on vacation, I didn’t have to worry about ‘missing time with the book.’ It was perfectly delightful, and that’s how I want to work in the future. The American Earl should be up fairly soon, but I don’t have a date. I don’t do dates any more!
Can you tell us what you're planning next?
Plans for the future? I think I might write another regency. I hadn’t written one in so long that it was rather like coming home. I’m sure an idea will pop up somewhere along the line.
So. Joan Wolf will be by to answer any questions you may have. One lucky commenter in the thread will get a brand-new-not-yet-released copy of my book Rogue Spy