I watched as Joan labored over her novel from the beginning, and I can honestly tell you, her efforts were worth it.
Joan Hall’s Unseen Motives is a great book. I couldn’t put it down, and if you like suspense, I know you’ll love it.
Now, if you’re ready, the Fast Fifteen with Joan Hall.
Hi, Joan. I’m going to ask you 15 questions about writing and your work. If you’re ready, I’m just going to jump right in.
- How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Years ago, when I was still a “want-to-be writer,” an idea for a book title came to me. I wrote a scene about a woman seeing something inexplicable on the opposite side of the lake where she lived. This idea came from a personal experience when I was seventeen years old, and to this day, I still can’t explain what I saw. Later, I developed the idea of a woman going back to her hometown twenty years after her father’s death. In 2011, when Texas experienced a statewide drought, people discovered objects hidden beneath the once deep waters of lakes—including a part of the space shuttle Discovery. I found it intriguing, decided to incorporate the idea of finding something long hidden beneath water, and therefore set the book in 2011.
- How did you come up with the title of your book?
I played around with titles such as Hidden Intentions and Ulterior Motives, but a search revealed there were several books using both those titles, so I looked for alternatives. When I finished the first draft, I had ideas for two more books in the series, and I wanted the titles to have a flow or cadence. If something’s hidden, it’s unseen. That’s when I came up with Unseen Motives for book one as well as the titles for books two and three.
- What are you working on now?
I’m outlining the second novel of the Driscoll Lake Series, Unknown Reasons. I plan to begin writing the first draft later this month or early January with plans to publish it next summer.
- Do you put yourself in your books/characters at all?
Yes. My main character, Stephanie, shared some of my traits—a love of nature and the outdoors, guacamole, and classic rock music. She’s strong-willed and determined, as am I. And both of us lost our fathers when we were young. I was a few years older than Stephanie (twenty-one) was and my father died of natural causes.
- If someone is brand new to your work, what story should they start with?
I would hope they would start with this one, but I also have a novella, The Stranger. It’s more mainstream fiction, but has an element of suspense. I also have a short story that I’m particularly fond of—a murder mystery called The Blue Moon Murders. It’s included in Unshod, a western anthology with eight other authors.
- Are you traditionally published or self-published? What do you like about that path? What do you dislike about it?
Self-published. I didn’t intend to seek traditional publishing, but it does have advantages, so I’m not totally opposed to the idea. With self-publishing, you do it all yourself or hire someone to do book cover design, editing, etc. I have a great writer’s group that has been very helpful as well as beta readers who have given me valuable feedback and I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful editor.
- Why do you write? What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?
I know it sounds like a cliché, but I write because I must write. It’s in my blood. Fortunately, the slumps are becoming fewer in between now that I’m writing fiction exclusively. There are times when I know it’s time to walk away. I like to spend time outdoors and enjoy wildlife and nature photography. When I take these short breaks (sometimes as little as an hour or two, other times it’s two or three days), I feel refreshed and am able to better concentrate on writing.
- Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
I didn’t outline Unseen Motives. I knew where I wanted to the story to go, how it would end, etc. However, it took too long to write it. When I was near the end of the first draft, I purchased a book by Libby Hawker, Take Off Your Pants.
- What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?
As mentioned earlier, I like to be outdoors and take photos. I also love history and folklore. My husband and I enjoy road trips. If we visit a place where there is a ghost walk, I enjoy doing those. I’ve yet to see a ghost, but I enjoy hearing the folklore and stories behind the sightings. It’s a great way to get new story ideas.
- Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?
Just write. Write the kind of stories you love and don’t be influenced by what other people “think” you should write. Study the craft of writing, get involved in a writer’s group, either online or one where you live. Don’t be afraid to receive constructive feedback. Also, read, read, read, especially books in the same genre you write.
- Who are some of your favorite authors?
John Grisham, Mary-Higgins Clark, and Agatha Christie.
- What are some great books you’ve read recently?
I enjoyed Mae Clair’s A Thousand Yesteryears, and your book, Out and About. I’m also reading a true story called Born Survivors. It’s about three pregnant mothers and their children who survived the holocaust.
- What types of books do you enjoy in your downtime?
Suspense and mystery is my favorite genre, although I’ll throw in an occasional romance and some historical fiction.
- What are your top three favorite books of all time?
It’s hard to name only three! The first one would have to be The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. I read this children’s story when I was in fourth or fifth grade. The author’s description of the Canadian wilderness was so vivid, I felt like I was along for the journey. Even then, I knew I wanted to write books that took readers on their own journey. Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are The Children is an all-time favorite that inspired me to write suspense novels. John Grisham’s The Testament is another favorite.
- Can you recommend any new or upcoming authors to us?
I’ve been so focused on writing this year that I’ve hardly had time to read. I plan to manage my time next year in order read more—especially new and upcoming authors.
Thank you, Joan, for this Fast Fifteen. I loved having a chance to let my readers learn more about you and your work. (I also appreciate the shout-out for Out and About.)
If you’d like to learn even more about Joan, please read her bio, visit her online, or follow her on social media.
Joan Hall likes to create character-driven fiction with strong, determined female leads and male characters that are sometimes a bit mysterious. Her favorite genre is mystery and suspense—often with a touch of romance.
When she’s not writing, Joan likes to take nature walks, explore old cemeteries, and visit America’s National Parks and historical sites. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats and a dog.