It is my pleasure to have a guest post from author Jo A. Hiestand, as she answers one of the questions I am always curious about.
ELF: What was the most difficult thing to overcome on your path to becoming a published author and how did you conquer it?
JAH: I think just the actual first publication was the hardest to achieve. It took me some years and many tries before my first book came into print.
I got a fair number of rejection slips, though not so many that I could wallpaper my room with them, and I kept wondering what was wrong with the book or my writing. Some editors scribbled a few words at the bottom of the slips, giving me an encouraging word, but I couldn’t break through the barrier. After all, I had done all the research and had all the tools for my writing, which are British mysteries, by the way. Since I’m an American, I had to overcome several obstacles right off the bat.
The first one was language. Britons and Americans almost speak the same language, and the vocabulary can trip up the Unsuspecting. Luckily, I’d lived in and vacationed in Britain for a number of years, so I had some word exchange down well – biscuit instead of cookie, registration plate instead of car license plate, knackered instead of worn out, full whack instead of retail price... I had a British dictionary and English friends I could email for translation help. I knew that the English bobby of the 1940s movies who strolled around quaint villages was now usually stationed in town police stations; some drove vans on a set schedule to villages to help residents that way. I felt confident that most of the hurdles to correct writing had been cleared. All but medical help.
I’d asked various people if they knew a doctor who’d be willing to answer on-going questions, but couldn’t find anyone. I was bemoaning my problem to a co-worker one day when she said, “Oh, maybe my sister could help you.”
Thinking her sister was a regular patient of an M.D., I asked, “Who’s your sister?” She replied, “A pathologist/coroner.” Bingo!
The medical question was solved, and I knew I had good writing credentials: I’d graduated from Webster University with departmental honors in English. So with all of this in place, why couldn’t I get a novel published?
At the time, mystery author Shirley Kennett was a member of our local Sisters in Crime chapter. She had five novels out, and I wanted her opinion on my writing but I was afraid to approach her since she wrote grittier, more hard-boiled stuff than I did. When I got up my nerve to ask and she did read the manuscript, she gave me a thorough critique and three major suggestions:
· Turn one of the two male protagonists into a female
· Tell the story 1st person from the female’s POV
· Give the major female a female friend in whom she can confide, so the reader can know the major female’s thoughts and feelings
I was hesitant to make these changes. After all, it was my book. I’d developed the characters I liked and I’d given them their personalities and relationships. But I wasn’t getting published with my approach, so why not try Shirley’s suggestions?
I went through the manuscript, made the changes, and picked a publisher from the list I still had. Amazingly enough, they offered me a book contract.
Getting that first book accepted had been a struggle, and at times I really felt like giving up. But I knew I’d never be published if I did that. I kept trying, seeking help from everyone I met. It finally paid off. With sixteen published novels now on the shelf, the rest, as they say…
by Jo A. Hiestand
One dark night, popular singer Kent Harrison goes missing after his performance at Tutbury Castle. When his body's found in a forest, the police investigation focuses on Kent's ex-wife, a local herbalist, a covetous colleague, and even the curator of another castle who tried to lure Kent into performing there. But his occasional singing partner, Dave Morley, seems to have the biggest motive. He's dying to make his name, money, and the big time, especially at the medieval Minstrels Court reenactment, where Kent's appearance guarantees SRO. Did Dave murder Kent to eliminate the competition...or had their partnership struck a wrong chord? To entice him into investigating, ex-cop McLaren's girlfriend plays detective. But Dena ends up in great danger. Now McLaren must not only solve Kent's murder but also rescue her, a hard task when a blast of jealousy, anger, and lies mutes the truth.
She seemed to be floating in a bizarre landscape where time had ceased to function and the sole inhabitant stared mutely at her. For, framed in the open doorway, silhouetted against the florescent light in the hallway, stood a tall figure dressed in dark coloring. A rubber mask of a smiling Margaret Thatcher covered his face. His hands were gloved, the left holding a coil of rope, the right holding something dark that glistened in the light. He stepped into the room, not speaking, yet making his desires known with the gesture of the gun.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jo A. Hiestand knew in grade school that she wanted to be a mystery writer. But life got in the way: singing in a semi-pro folk group, traveling to New Zealand, working as a camp counselor, co-inventing P.I.R.A.T.E.S. (a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game), becoming a tour agent for a Scottish folk singing group, attending a citizen police academy and riding along with police officers… But she needed to immerse herself in All Things British for her books. England beckoned and she responded.
She bee-lined to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of her books. Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed the St. Louisan into an Anglophile.
She’s returned nearly a dozen times to Derbyshire, researching and photographing for her McLaren cold case detective novels.
In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.
Her cat, Tennyson, shares her St. Louis home.
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