A Little About Joylene Butler:
Joylene was born in Manitoba, grew up in Haney (Maple Ridge), and raised their five sons in Pr. George, BC. She and her husband built a cottage on Cluculz Lake in 1992. The jury is out whether they'll retire there or not. Canada is a beautiful place and they could end up anywhere. Which is good because life should be an adventure. Joylene's second novel Broken But Not Dead will be released by Theytus Books in 2011
Wow, a cottage on a lake sounds wonderful!
Please tell us a little more about you and your writing journey.
When I was 8, my mother gave me a diary for my birthday. I didn’t have anything very interesting to write about, but I remember the joy I felt while filling it. As I grew older I looked for journal with more space because I wanted to prolong the experience. By the time I reached high school, I realized that writing made me feel alive. I entered the University at Simon Fraser with the goal of obtaining a teacher’s degree and passing along that joy to my students. It never occurred to me that I should write. It wasn’t until my dad died that I finally did. And that was only because I thought by writing a fictional story of his life I could make him live forever.
That first book Always Father’s Child, immediately shelved, took 7 years to write, and turned out to be a learning tool and catalyst. As soon as I typed “the end”, I started work on Dead Witness.
It’s so interesting how and why writers decide to jump into writing, or are driven to do so.
Now for a little Q and A
Why this book? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?
One day, my brother (he’s a PI) was on the phone talking to one of his employees, when this question popped into my mind: If I disappeared and was presumed dead, would he investigate. Dead Witness grew from there. Honestly, I was such a new writer that I didn’t give much thought to my readers. It was only through years of rewrites that I finally hoped whoever they might be, they’d connect with Valerie and relate to how much love and pain is involved in loving a child.
Tell us a bit about your protagonists, Valerie McCormick and Mike Canaday, and how they came about.
Valerie showed up in my mind as a young Cheryl Ladd, completely in love with her children to the point that she had lost sight of who she was as a person. Not until she’s taken from her family in Canada and made to live as a single woman in the States is she forced to stand up and be accountable for her own life.
Mike Canaday is a VN vet, FBI, divorced and someone who grew up in the system. He’s alone because he doesn’t trust anyone. Because he has few friends and no family, taking Valerie from hers and faking her death is easy for him. All that matters is finding the killer. But it’s through Valerie that he learns what really matters in life.
Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.
Valerie lives in central BC, Canada with her husband and 3 girls. She wins a free trip to Seattle through a writing contest. While there she witnesses the execution of two FBI agents by a Canadian-born drug lord from Colombia. When the FBI uncovers the Mafia’s plot to kill her, they work with the Canadians to fake her death. Canaday flies her to the States, then later is in charge of her WPP; all this while hunting for the killer.
Meanwhile, Valerie’s brother doesn’t believe she’s dead and he starts his own investigation. This alerts the Colombian Mafia and they set up surveillance on him and Valerie’s family. Slowly, Valerie rebels, until finally she takes back control of her life and goes after the killer herself. Besides, Seattle, the story takes place in Nevada, Baja, Berkeley and Pr. George, BC.
Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.
Three months into writing Dead Witness we experienced a great loss. I couldn’t write for 6 months. I remember wondering if I ever could again. In the end, I returned to the manuscript and it became a therapeutic tool. I used Valerie’s situation as an outlet for my own range of emotions.
How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?
I was lucky because I didn’t know what I could or could not do when I first started writing Dead Witness. When I returned to the ms, I approached anyone who would listen. I talked to lawyers, police, and investigators, and asked question after question. I did a lot of research on line. I even called the FBI in Seattle; they were a big help. I also bugged the heck out of my brother. In total I probably did three months of research.
What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?
Good question. I wish I could say there is nothing difficult about writing any more. I mean, remember those early days? The fear in the pit of your stomach that you knew there was something you were missing, but you just weren’t sure what it was? Who would want to go back there? I see it in the faces of new writers, and I’m so relieved that I have confidence now. I can say without hesitation: I am a writer. But writing is still work. I struggle to get the sentences just right. When that’s harder than normal, I walk away from my computer and sit somewhere quiet. Then I run the story through my mind like a video. I close my eyes and get as close to the scene as I can … until I’m there. Then I return to the computer and start writing.
How do you balance your time to make time for writing?
I treat it like a job. I’m up at 6 AM and on the computer by 6:25. I work until breakfast. Yes, My DH makes breakfast every morning. I’m back at it by 7:30, then I work all day until lunch. I stop periodically, see to grandma, throw in a load of wash, or vacuum. Moving around like that helps my back. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I do, other than to share my time between editing, revising, blogging, reading, commenting, critiquing and taking care of my family. I turn the computer off by 6:30 PM, then spend the rest of the evening with my DH and grandma.
What impact would you say completing Dead Witness has had on you personally and on your writing?
It changed my life. I finally understood why I was here and what I was supposed to do. In the early years before I was published, I thought being published would answer all my prayers and make sense of my life. Now that I am published, I realize that nothing but me can do that. Being published or not being published isn’t what it’s about. The secret is in the writing. The simple joy of it.
Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?
Besides, my family, my best friend Judith Geib and my dear online buddy Keith Pyeatt have been encouraging and believing in me for many years. I can’t imagine pushing myself as hard as I had to without them cheering me on. Writing is a lonely solitary experience and I’m very fortunate to have such forces of nature.
With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?
My protagonist comes to me. I know they have a problem, but it’s sometimes weeks before it made clear what that is. . It can begin with just the protagonist wandering about, doing every day things, but quickly her or his goal is made clear. The only reoccurring characteristic right up front is they’re all sad.
What are you working on now? What's next?
My current WIP is called Dead Wrong. It’s the story of Jason Sinclair and his estranged daughter Ava. Before Jason can have any peace, he believes he must find out why his wife, Bridget was deliberately run over. Ava blames her dad for not saving her mother. Together they’re on a journey of self-discovery, one in the past and one of them in the present.
Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?
Although the Internet is an addictive and habit-forming place, concentrate on your writing. Leave the networking for after you find your publisher. Write, write, write. And when you’re not writing read. Learn everything you can possibly learn about the art of writing effectively. Think of it like driving a vehicle: if you’re not absolutely capable, if you don’t practice every minute you can before you head out on the road, you’re in for a possibly serious altercation.
Thanks for sharing with us, Joylene. I completely agree that it’s important to make time for writing. The internet, emails, groups, social networking, and research can be so time consuming; every writer needs to be sure to pay attention to the amount of time being spent on it.
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Joylene Nowell
ISBN - 10:0981030505
ISBN - 13:9780981030500
ISBN - 13:9780981030500
Other Books by Joylene Butler:
Broken But Not Dead set to be released by Theytus Books 2011
"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard." Standing Bear
To learn more about Joylene go to:
Joylene, it has been a pleasure featuring you on VBT - Writers on the Move. Your books sound great and I wish you much success.
Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter