A native of Chicago, Joni Parker joined the U.S. Navy during college, going on to earn a Master of Military Arts and Sciences Degree. Now retired, she devotes her time to writing. Her books include the fantasy/adventure trilogy, The Seaward Isle Saga: The Black Elf of Seaward Isle, Tangled Omens, and her latest, Blood Mission, where the fate of kings and the safety of the inhabitants of Seaward island are in the hands of a teenaged half-elf warrior princess. She currently resides in Texas.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Blood Mission. When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy?
About six years ago, I had a story growing in my head that wouldn’t stop and had to write it down before it drove me nuts. It took me three months and it was awful, but it was done. Then, I decided to publish it. The original manuscript gave me the basis for the first two books and it led me into the third. It required a lot of rewriting, research, and more writing before I felt good about it. It was in the fantasy genre and my inspiration was the book and movie, Lord of the Rings. My main character is part Elf, Titan, and mortal, a complex combination to show the mixing of races on Seaward Isle.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
The main struggle I had was trying to juggle work and my new passion of writing. My work was demanding and took a lot out of me. I had production quotas with a lot of structured writing, using templates, and form letters. In order to alleviate stress, I exercised—walking and swimming as much as I could. When I began writing, any free time I had was eliminated and my stress level soared. Something had to give, so as soon as I could, I retired from work.
Did your book require a lot of research?
I did quite a bit of research for the series. My first problem was the setting. It couldn’t be in Middle Earth, so I created Seaward Isle, an island inhabited by survivors of shipwrecks that no one could locate. My first thought was of Atlantis, so my research began there. I knew my main character was the grandchild of a Titan, so the idea of the island being a place where a Titan might escape to during the War of the Titans emerged. This tidbit led to research into Titans and the Greek Gods, which led to the Scythians, the Amazon warriors. In addition, I had to determine the appearance of the island and researched island shapes until I came up with one to fit my concept. My sources have included the Internet, books, magazines, newspapers, and TV as well as several trips including one to England and another to New Zealand. It’s been a blast.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
If I don’t have any idea what I’m going to write about, like this interview, I’m anxious, so I try to make sure I have a plan before I start. A lot of times, I have to go to my think tank (my bed) and close my eyes for a while. I imagine the scenario and usually come up with a solution. This process has also led me to solve other scenes I didn’t know were problems at the time. In addition, walking has also helped me come up with scene solutions, so I walk daily. I think staring at a blank piece of paper without any idea of what to say is intimidating and leads me directly into writer’s block.
What was your publishing process like?
I self-published my first book, The Black Elf of Seaward Isle, and quickly realized it was a mistake. At the time, I didn’t know any writers’ groups in the area and had no idea where to turn for help. I found the Writers’ League of Texas and found my first editor through them. She edited my second book, Tangled Omens and then did my first. I was in the process of making corrections on the first when I found a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. I posted a blog about it and started editing my book once more. A few days later, I received a message from one of the authors letting me know about her website. I tried it out, sending in my first 10 pages for editing. The results impressed me and I sent in entire manuscript a few days later. Several weeks later, I was informed that my assigned editor, Teresa Kennedy, was leaving the company but would take my book with her if I wanted. She’d already started the process so I said yes. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was starting her own indie press, Village Green Press LLC. She edited my books, published them, and even made me a book trailer (all for a fee). I’ve been working with her ever since.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
My website is at www.theblackelf.com. This site combines my blog with information about the Seaward Isle Saga and the next series. My first blogs were about writing, my advice based on what I learned, but I ran out of topics, rather quickly. I found some essays on writing and commented on those until I ran out. Now, I offer some reviews on books and movies as well as some original pieces. I’ve posted some short stories and background information about Seaward Isle and my books on the site.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
If your spouse doesn’t support your dream of becoming an author, you’re in for a bumpy ride. You’ll have to figure out how to write without taking time away from your spouse or partner (or your kids). I had a friend who had a clever scheme—she would attach her writing to an email and send it to herself. On the other hand, if your spouse supports your dream, you may also have a problem. I tried to write on several occasions, but my dear husband wanted to know what I was doing. I wasn’t ready to let him read it–I wasn’t sure if he would be upset by anything I wrote or make fun of it. Although he encouraged me to write, he wanted to screen everything and gave his opinions freely. I froze and didn’t write anymore.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
Actually, I disagree. If writing a book was such a chore, people wouldn’t do it. I find it to be exhilarating, full of adventure, and a release of my imagination. There are times when I think I know the plot, but I love it when the character twists it around and surprises me. Thanks to the computer, writing is much easier than it was in George Orwell’s time. If I had to handwrite a manuscript or type it on a manual typewriter, I doubt I would finish it. However, I must admit that an author must be driven to write a book to the end. How many people do you know with half-finished novels? I wouldn’t call it a demon, but something drove me to finish it.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00DTA9DEC]