Ask the Dead, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Ask the Dead?
JOYCE YARROW: Ask the Dead is the first book in the Jo Epstein mystery series. Jo is a private investigator and performance poet, who untangles a web of money-laundering, kidnapping and murder extending from New York City to a hurricane-torn island in the Caribbean. This is a challenging case, but she somehow finds time to compete in the poetry slam too!
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
JOYCE YARROW: Jo Epstein takes some of her characteristics from my brother Rick, who is a licensed private investigator, blended with my own experience as a poet growing up in New York. Of course she became her “own person” as the book progressed. I develop my characters by learning about their core needs and how they react to conflict. I ask, is this person street-wise and aggressive, or from an upper class family where the abuse was verbal rather than physical? Does he need to be right all the time? Is he capable of empathy or hardened? I think that when events in fiction spring from character traits they are believable, no matter how surprising.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
JOYCE YARROW: My ideal reader loves a good story, no matter what the genre.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
JOYCE YARROW: Like many writers, I started out using words to try to make sense of a crazy environment—in my case, the SE Bronx. My first published poems were written while riding the bus through Manhattan late at night. I worked as a documentary screenwriter and wrote short stories before attempting my first novel, Ask the Dead, which explores the streets of New York to the point where the city itself becomes a character in the book.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
JOYCE YARROW: My process as a writer continues to evolve. Lately I have taken to outlining in more detail before I begin a book. By creating a strong story structure, I’m able to free my imagination to work within it. I also enjoy traveling, so all if Jo Epstein’s cases take her out of the country. In the latest book, The Last Matryoshka, she goes to Russia for the first time (as did I).
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
JOYCE YARROW: I’m inspired by authors like Michael Chabon, who crosses genre lines (and gets away with it!). Dostoyevsky leaves me in awe, Ruth Rendell’s psychological thrillers set the bar and writers like Amy Tan and Walter Moseley have definitely influenced me.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
JOYCE YARROW: The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. His voice is funny and unflinchingly honest and the personal dramas of the family members portrayed in this book also evoke a larger picture of the dysfunction of our society and the possibility of redemption. No small achievement!
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
JOYCE YARROW: My publisher created the covers for both the paperback and ebook editions of Ask the Dead. I think they did a great job!
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
JOYCE YARROW: Lately I’ve enjoyed blogging as a way of communicating with readers and other writers. My blog is called Travels with the Muse—http://joyceyarrow.blogspot.com/ in addition to my own posts, I feature guest writers once a month and they frequently return the favor.
I also read at bookstores when invited and give online interviews like this one. I love the international reach of social media—recently a book reviewer from India contacted me through Facebook and people from all around the world visit my blog.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
JOYCE YARROW: I was very happy when the ebook division of my publisher—Ampichellis Books—told me they were releasing Ask the Dead for the Kindle, since this makes the book accessible to readers everywhere, at a price the can afford. I love books in all forms and see electronic publishing as a big plus, especially for small publishers or writers who self-publish.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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