Author Spotlight Interview: Joanna Evans
Today’s author interview is with Joanna Evans. Joanna’s debut novel is a thriller rooted in science and has been named one of the “Best New Thriller Books to Read in 2021” by Book Authority. We were honored to have the opportunity to interview Joanna and to learn more about her writing process and what inspires her.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
JE: I’d describe myself as someone who never thought they’d be doing anything other than psychotherapy for the rest of their life. I had achieved my dream job then, suddenly, I couldn’t see myself as “only” a therapist. I knew I had something else in store. I’d describe my writing, or at least how I hope my writing conveys, as an attention-grabbing style that holds your interest and keeps you wanting to turn the page.
HG: That’s great. When and/or why did you start writing books?
JE: When I was inspired to write my first and only novel, Sinai Unhinged, I hadn’t written anything creative since grade school and, even then, it certainly was not a novel. Working full-time while learning about what goes into a novel—and learning how to do it well—was a steep and long learning experience. To answer the why part, it’s because I feel I have certain stories and messages to share. I’m sure all writers think that to some extent, but I hope all my works, regardless of the storyline, end up reflecting a theme of unity and compassion and the importance of caring for one another.
HG: Unity and compassion, love that. Where does the inspiration come from?
JE: The crux of Sinai Unhinged rests upon the idea that we are all interconnected. People, in general, do not keep that in mind nearly enough. Where does the inspiration come from? Look around you. I was feeling pretty drained by the hostility and aggression and violence and negativity in the world a decade ago. It certainly has not gotten any better. My wish is that Sinai Unhinged sheds some light upon the deeply destructive and, ultimately, futile way humanity currently approaches conflict, illustrated through thriller style entertainment. Perhaps, one day, we can choose a different path.
HG: Bravo! So, tell us more about Sinai Unhinged. What types of readers would enjoy this book?
JE: In Sinai Unhinged, lethal mistakes during a secret experiment drive scientists insane and plunge their therapist into a frightening search for the truth—and a dangerous fight for her life.
The audience would be anyone who enjoys thrillers, particularly dark thrillers, and anyone who enjoys a stimulating, thought provoking read. Because part of this novel takes place in a particle physics complex, it includes a good chunk of particle physics. I hope too many people don’t roll their eyes at that. I think it’s fascinating and I tried my best to make it reader-friendly. And if science bores you, gloss over it because I think the story is, otherwise, a crazy-good ride.
HG: Sounds awesome. What feeling do you want to leave people with when they finish one of your novels?
JE: Oh, that depends on which story! With Sinai Unhinged, I definitely hope it’s a work that leaves them thinking about how precious the connections we have with one another are, and how important it is to coat every interaction with, minimally, good energy, if not love.
HG: Sinai Unhinged is named as one of BookAuthority’s “Best New Thriller Books to Read in 2021” and “Best New Crime Books to Read in 2021.” Congrats! What do those awards mean to you?
JE: My reaction can only be described as an incredible surprise and disbelief! In 2020, I was initially ranked #2 and #1 on those lists respectively, above authors like Brad Thor, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell. So, quite naturally, I was convinced the placement of my obscure, debut novel from a small, independent publisher most certainly must be due to some gigantic clerical error! As new books make the lists, my ranking has dropped some but Sinai Unhinged is still there and I’m incredibly honored and grateful!
HG: Incredible! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Has it changed since the pandemic? Where and when you write?
JE: In the beginning of the pandemic, I was getting a lot of writing done. I thought, as many did, this is a temporary lull so I’m going to take advantage of all of this downtime and write. Now that we’ve had chronic downtime, I haven’t figured out if carving out the opportunity to write is easier or harder. I try to set aside time four days a week as my other job keeps my days pretty full the other three, and it’s a completely different headspace. Otherwise, I think I can pretty much write anywhere that has my brain, my hands, my laptop and some semblance of quiet. And a chair.
HG: Seems like a good system. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
JE: I don’t know if it’s interesting but sometimes I think I’m wildly unorganized. I’ve stuffed paper story notes everywhere! I find scraps of paper, sticky notes, napkins, random notebooks. I probably have at least five half-used notebooks with plot ideas, character descriptions, etc. Then there are the electronic notes, emails to myself, texts to myself, notes in my phone, notes on my laptop. I feel like I have to write it down right away wherever I am or it’ll be forgotten. Apparently, it’s impossible for me to simply keep one master notepad with me at all times. That would be too easy. However, at least I do manage to eventually compile these ideas into whatever manuscript I’m working on.
HG: I totally get it! What do you like to do when not writing?
JE: I love to be outdoors, in the sunshine, warmth and fresh air, preferably at the coast. I’d really love to live in a glass house in a nature preserve, or at the beach. I think being “one with nature” is really important, especially during stressful times. Also, reading and traveling are big on the list of things to do.
HG: A favorite question of mine, if you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
JE: Okay, first, there’s a backstory to my question. In the very early 1990’s, I was in a state park in Ohio with pretty much no one around. On the far side of the nature area comes this family; a man, a woman and a couple other people. The woman and the others go off to the lake and the man, who strongly resembled Stephen King, settles in at a picnic table and pulls out his word processor! Now, who does that?! At a park, by a lake, on a beautiful day? A prolific writer, that’s who. I was pretty much in a state of disbelief and dismissed what I thought I saw until, come to find out, Shawshank Redemption was being filmed in Ohio during that time period, not very far away from this particular state park … So, that’s the question that’s been burning in my head all these years; Stephen King, was that you?
HG: Oh wow! That’s wild. I wonder! So Joanna, what’s next for you? Any projects in the works? What can you tell us about those?
JE: I’ve caught the screenwriting bug! I have a romantic Hallmark-style screenplay optioned by Citizen Skull Productions. It’s called A Crystal Christmas and it is absolutely nothing like Sinai Unhinged. I would love to write the screenplay for Sinai one day. It was like a movie in my head as I wrote it so it should really be a movie on-screen!
HG: How exciting! Keep us posted and thanks so much for allowing us to get to know you better! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and future projects, where should they go to connect or learn more?
JE: Thank you so much for having me and for the services you provide! And I hope people check out Sinai Unhinged and I hope they enjoy it!
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