Today I’m conducting a session with…Joanne Guidoccio!
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Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Joanne: A few months short of my fiftieth birthday, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. My previously well-constructed life ground to a halt. I had to take an extended leave of absence (that turned out to be sixteen months) from my teaching career and focus on healing. During that challenging season, I had to reassess every aspect of my life. And I could no longer take anything for granted.
Me: What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Joanne: During my school years, I was a high achiever and delighted in seeing As on my report cards. As a teacher, I searched for new ways to inspire and motivate my students to succeed. That drive and determination (some would say dogged determination) has transferred to my writing career.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Joanne: While I’m determined to succeed, I do struggle with the “good enough” syndrome. That often stalls my progress on a manuscript. Participating in NaNoWriMo 2016 helped me speed up the writing process and complete the first draft of a manuscript in one month’s time.
Me: What was your high point as a writer?
Joanne: January 31, 2013. Senior Editor Debby Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract for my first novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged ex-mermaid. I didn’t even feel the cold that winter.
Me: What was your low point as a writer—a time when you questioned your path?
Joanne: Winter of 2013/2014. Two weeks after the release of Between Land and Sea, my mother passed away. I grieved her more grievously during one of the coldest winters on record. I also experienced a prolonged writer’s block that took almost eighteen months to lift.
Me: How do you deal with rejection or bad reviews? What advice can you give others about how to handle rejection and bad reviews?
Joanne: Thirty-one years of teaching adolescents thickened my skin considerably, but I faced different challenges when I embarked on a writing career. I had to learn how to deal effectively with critiques and rejection letters from agents and publishers and bad reviews. Most important of all, I had to acquire that coveted rhino skin.
Here are some of the strategies in my toolbox:
- Get the Back Story
Whenever I attend readings, I pay special attention to the author’s back story. I like hearing the details about his or her writing journey and the challenges encountered along the way. Occasionally, I pick up valuable nuggets of advice that help me along my own journey. For example, Guelph writer Nicholas Ruddock (The Parabolist) established his platform by entering and placing in short story contests. When New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny couldn’t find a Canadian or American agent, she crossed the pond and approached a British agent.
- Read Bad Reviews
If I have enjoyed reading a book, I look up the one-star reviews on Amazon. That’s right, I gravitate toward the negative. While shaking my head at the nitpicking and negative comments, I realize that no author is immune from criticism. Not even authors of best-selling novels can please everyone.
- Eliminate the Negative
Some writers file and keep all their rejection letters. I suspect they refer to these letters often and get discouraged all over again. It is important to keep accurate records, but it is not necessary to keep these negative reminders around for future reference. After reading a rejection letter, I update the information on a spreadsheet and delete the file.
- Throw More Irons Into the Fire
We’ve all heard the advice. Send out the manuscript and then immediately start on another one. Easier said than done. After writing 70K words and looking at multiple drafts of that manuscript, the thought of starting all over again can be daunting. Instead, I like to work on shorter pieces: book reviews, short stories, articles, and more blog posts. Entering contests and taking online writing courses also keep my skills sharp. It is important not to sit around waiting for a response. Some action—any action—is needed.
- Get Support
I belong to Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, Guppies, and Romance Writers of America. I also participate in discussion boards for The Wild Rose Press and Soul Mate Publishing Authors. I try to attend writing workshops, panels and readings offered within a fifty-mile radius. While interacting with these authors, I get valuable advice and feedback about my work.
Me: Tell me about your mystery, Too Many Women in the Room.
When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.
Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from your newest release, Too Many Women in the Room.
Xenia—the Greek word for hospitality. I had loved the name from the start and didn’t hesitate to write a check, covering all the costs of opening David Korba’s first restaurant in northern Ontario. One meal. That’s all it had taken to win my approval and my endorsement. But what a meal—hot lemony soup, succulent lamb, roasted potatoes, mouth-watering vegetables, and three tantalizing dessert choices. He had planned it well—maybe too well.
David could cook, and he could charm. While his age was still a mystery, he was younger than my fifty-two years. The eternal Peter Pan who seemed to never age, he could pass for late thirties, but I suspected he was closer to fifty. I enjoyed flirting with him and loved sitting at his table, but I didn’t envy his wife, Susan.
In Too Many Women in the Room, the protagonist (Gilda Greco) is a self-proclaimed non-foodie who has a great appreciation for Greek food. And she also happens to be a lottery winner who likes to help others achieve their potential. These paragraphs provide a rationale for writing that $100,000 check after only one meal. Gilda couldn’t resist the charismatic chef and his culinary talents.
You can find Joanne here:
Abbie Roads writes dark emotional novels featuring damaged characters, but always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending… after torturing them for three hundred pages. RACE THE DARKNESS and HUNT THE DAWN are available now! SAVING MERCY Book 1 in the Fatal Truth Series is now available for pre-order.