Interview with Author Joyce A. Brown
This week marked the launch of My Soul Cries Out, a stunning mystery that addresses domestic violence and the power of the spirit to demand justice. I met the author, Joyce A. Brown in college, and we have stayed connected over the years, sharing family stories and our highs and lows of writing. I chose her latest novel as one of my book picks of the week, and I thought you'd like to get to know this amazing woman as well. We're still in quarantine and we live miles apart, so I'm sharing this interview as a question/answer essay.
Who is the real Joyce Brown?
I am a retired business owner (community researcher, grant writer, evaluator), mother of two and grandmother of two. I attended Bradley University (where I met Ernestine Rose), earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling. I earned a PhD in Research, Measurement, and Evaluation from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
I have written several novels. Twist’d Dreams and My Moment My Turn were published by a small company. I learned a valuable lesson about publishing during that experience. Since then, I’ve self-published What You Can Get Away With, Getting Away With Everything, Winter’s Lament, and my latest, My Soul Cries Out, was released November 15, 2021.
I have authored short stories for four anthologies: Baring It All: The Ins and Outs of Publishing; Signed, Sealed and Delivered: I’m Yours; Love, Hope, Faith: Stories that Uplift, Inspire, and Enlighten; and All I Want for Christmas, a short story collection with a Christmas theme.
In 2011, I ended up in a hospital emergency room with complete heart failure as a result of overwork and a doctor’s misdiagnosis. My doctor said I had asthma; the emergency team diagnosed congestive heart failure. Six months later, I had a cardio defibrillator placed in my heart. The stipulation was that I could not return to my highly stressful life or to work. You can read my journey to restored health in an anthology produced by Vanessa Miller: Love. Hope. Faith. Stories that Uplift, Inspire, and Enlighten.
I am currently “in between” assignments. I was caregiver for my mother from 2013 until her death in July 2021. During that time, I focused on improving my writing skills. Currently, I have seven or eight manuscripts that I need to dust off, review and get ready for publication.
What inspires you to write?
For the past forty years, I have authored short stories for myself, newspaper editorials as part of my advocacy for the Battle Creek Urban League, and youth development articles when I worked for the Kellogg Foundation. Completing a novel was on my bucket list. Those early unfinished projects are still lying around. If Covid lingers around for another year, they might get published. Writing is therapeutic.
The tipping point came when my sister, Cheryl, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in 2004. I cut back on work to become her caregiver. As her illness progressed, our first project was finishing her dissertation. She had already completed the research and had written the first chapters of the document prior to her first surgery. From her hospital bed or sitting up on the couch at home, Cheryl dictated, and I wrote down her words. She received her EdD in Education from the University of Illinois in 2005. After that she encouraged me to write, to tell my stories. I started novel writing during the last year of her life as we moved between doctors’ visits, chemotherapy, and radiation. Cheryl ‘s death is what finally pushed me out of my wanna-be writer to writer. She is my muse.
Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Absolutely. My stories begin with a fictional character either asking a question or demanding I write about an issue I care about. In the case of My Soul Cries Out, the lack of a realistic plan to investigate and solve murders in Battle Creek, Michigan, the small-town where I resided from 1987 to 2013, felt like a betrayal to the citizens. Domestic partner abuse was one common cause for murder. The other was the proliferation of drugs.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write every day, even if the output is not up to your writing expectations or standards. It takes time and effort to become a competent writer. When I look back at my first published projects, they are okay. Now that my writing muscles have strengthened, I know better and do better. My goal is to improve my writing skills with each book I publish.
Pay attention! In additional to the words, how do the characters talk/sound/move/think? Are they young, old, educated, and any other characteristic that enhances the story progression? Check out the emotions of your characters,
Read other writers’ works, not to imitate them, but to glean tidbits that help you improve in certain areas such as setting, timing or pacing, climax, and resolution.
Study and talk about it. Several libraries in my community offered classes taught by local and regional authors. I also joined in on telecasts and podcasts offered by established authors. Take writing classes or participate in writing workshops. Treat writing like a favorite subject from your educational pursuits. With more reading and practice, you become a better author.
How did you publish your books?
I decided on self-publishing after trial and error and a couple of disheartening experiences with companies that were either vanity presses or too expensive. Almost anyone can get a book published, but it will cost you.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Newer publishers have to compete with well-established publishing houses who were the traditional gatekeepers. The advent of self-publishing software and the ability to by-pass traditional publishers has resulted in a proliferation of voices and viewpoints. For people like me who have been unable to connect with a publishing house, I can write what I want and get my work out in the public square.
In what genres and formats do you write?
How can we find out more about you and your books? Joyce Brown on Facebook; @PublishersLive on Instagram: @livethedreampublishers onTwitter Joyce A. Brown Author Page on Amazon or my website, https://www.livethedreampublishers.com/