Friday, February 12, 2010

Joan Hall Hovey: Nowhere To Hide

My guest today is Joan Hall Hovey. As well as penning suspense novels like Nowhere To Hide, Joan Hall Hovey's articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Reader, Atlantic Advocate, The Toronto Star, Mystery Scene, True Confessions, Home Life magazine, Seek and various other magazines and newspapers. Her short story, “Dark Reunion” was selected for the Anthology, Investigating Women, published by Simon & Pierre, edited by David Skene-Melvin.
Joan also tutors with Winghill Writing School and is a Voice Over pro, narrating books and scripts. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada.

Welcome, Joan.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
In early childhood. Of course, like most writers, I started out as a story listener. Both my mom and dad were great storytellers, and I needed only to hear the words: 'I remember the time when ...' to feel that rare and exquisite pleasure in the anticipation of a new story.
The dark, scary ones were best -- my father told of a man with the cloven foot who showed up at a card game...a young girl's body found in the woods behind the school... (murder was not so common then) the town drunk found dead in the cemetery, his face as granite-white with frost as the tombstones surrounding him. Word was that something had scared him to death.

My mother had a ouija board she and her friends took quite seriously. And we had a neighbor who visited us¾a fortune teller name Mrs. Fortune. It's true. Everyone was poor in money, but not in the abundance of inner life. Not so surprising then that my background should influence the kind of stuff I find delicious to write about.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
I don't think I had any goal in mind except to write a publishable novel, and the drive to do that was all-powerful. And I achieved it, three times, twice with a New York major publishing company once with another press, less prestigious. The truth is, I'm not all that ambitious in terms of career. But I do love to write and I love my readers and my goal is to entertain, while at the same time having my words make some comment on the human condition. A truth to resonate when the last page is turned.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?
My books are stand-alones.

What’s the hook for your latest book?
I don't think in terms of hooks but of course you do need one. The Plan, my suspense novel-in-progress is an entry at Here is the blurb, which will give a better sense of the novel:

After nine years in Bayshore Mental Institution, once called The Lunatic Asylum, Caroline Hill is finally being released. There will be no one to meet her. Her parents, who brought her here, are dead.
They have found her a room in a rooming house, a job washing dishes in a restaurant. She will do fine, they said.
But no one told her that women in St. Simeon are already dying at the hands of a vicious predator. One, an actress who previouly lived in her building. Others.
And now, as Caroline struggles to survive on the outside, she realizes she is being stalked. But who will believe her. She's a crazy woman, after all.
Then one cold winter’s night on her way home from her job, a man follows her and is about to assault her when a stranger intercedes?
A stranger who hides his face. And whispers her name.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
I think about my characters, especially my main character, for a long time before I put words to page. I try to imagine her in various settings, depending on the story I want to tell. In The Plan I saw Caroline Hill standing at the window of Bayshore Mental Institution, looking out the barred window. I also listen to what she is telling me until she is so real to me I would recognize her voice on the phone, and I hope my readers feel the same.

I set my novels in a similar place to where I live, in New Brunswick, Canada as this is the place I'm most familiar with: the mind set, the flora and the fauna. But I might call it Maine or New Hampshire. I was an extra in Children of a Lesser God, filmed a couple of miles from my home, and pretending to be in the U.S. I do that, too. -J On the other hand, in my novel ,Nowhere To Hide, part of the story was set in New York, so I did a good bit of researching to get it right. In Listen to the Shadows one of the characters had flashbacks to his time in Vietnam, and that required some research, which I always do on a need to know basis. But be wary; you can really side sidetracked on the web, so many things to take your attention.

How do you determine voice in your writing?
I don't really do it consciously. The voice emerges in the process of writing, of getting to know my character. It comes out of my subconscious. That which Stephen King calls 'The boys in the basement' in his wonderful book for writers titled On Writing. It's one of the best books around, in my opinion. Voice comes out of character.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I don't outline as many authors do, but I do make copious notes, and I do a lot of rewriting. Novel-writing is a process of trial and error, and I do at least two drafts before I let anyone see it. However, I do often read passages to my husband as I progress. He's really my first reader, and is quick to point out if I've got the doorknob on the wrong side of the door, that sort of thing. It's very helpful and I'm sure keeps me from making a fool of myself.

My advice to new writers is to boldly barrel through that first draft and then you have something to work with. You're also a better writer now then you were when you began.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
We writers are never sure exactly what part our environment and background color our writing, but of course they do. We perceive the world as we have experienced it. It's a part of who you are and you can't escape it. For example, a blue porcelain pot, a cracked medicine cabinet mirror or buckled sidewalks from my childhood will inevitably show up in my stories. They are there for the picking. To paraphrase Stephen King, (you can see I'm a fan) it's like having a whole circus inside your head. And I'm always eager for the next ride.

What are your current projects?
Aside from The Plan , my entry at I have completed another suspense novel titled The Abduction of Mary Rose and it's doing the rounds now right. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And check out my website for a release date.

Fingers crossed.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My website: can read more about my books, including excerpts and reviews. My book are all available as ebooks on in most formats, including for your Kindle, Sony and more.
Love to hear from readers and writers both, so don't hesitate to drop me a line at jhhovey@nb.sympatico.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. I've enjoyed it.
 So have I. Continued success, Joan.


Pauline B Jones said...

Hi, Joan and Susan!
Another outstanding interview!

Susan Whitfield said...

Hey, Pauline. Thanks. I'm also looking forward to interviewing you later this year. BTW, Joan, I love this cover. Who designed it?

Pauline B Jones said...

I'm looking forward to it, too. :-)

that is a great cover, Joan.

Trying to think of a question, but my brain hasn't kicked into gear yet this morning.

Joan Hall Hovey said...

Thank you, Susan, Pauline. This cover for Nowhere To Hide was designed by the art department of Zebra Publishing, NY. It's my own favorite.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Susan, this is an awesome interview. Thanks for posting it so we could learn more about Joan.

Joan, I really enjoyed getting to know you here. And I love that book cover--just a right mix of suspense and creepiness. I'm off to order one of your books now. :-)


Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks, Cheryl.

Joan Hall Hovey said...

Thank you, Cheryl and all. What lovely support from my fellow authors.

Susan Whitfield said...

Cheryl, I'm watching the Olympics opening ceremony. How beautiful!