Today it's my pleasure to introduce Joyce Elson Moore, author of historical fiction. I "met" Joyce through the Five Star authors' online group. I've always been curious about the research process as well as why writers choose the periods that interest them most. Joyce has been kind enough to provide some answers.
An Interview With Joyce Elson Moore
Joyce, how long have you been writing, and what led you to historical fiction as your genre of choice?
Like almost everyone, I wrote teenage poems about love (or what I thought it was then) and hid the poems in my dresser drawer, away from my three sisters’ prying eyes. I took early retirement from a teaching career and began writing as a second career. I’ve always loved history, and read historical fiction, devouring Sharon Kay Penman and Carolly Erickson and others. I knew what I wanted to write.
Were your first manuscripts published, or do you, like many of us, have various drafts sitting on a shelf or stashed in a box in a closet?
Strangely enough, my first book was published. It’s a non-fiction about places in Florida that are haunted. It’s titled Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida, but yes, I do have some unpubbed historicals on my hard drive. Some of them I’ve reworked, after looking back and seeing how horrid they were. We all have “practice novels”, I think.
Do you have an agent? If so, what was your agent search experience like?
I did have an agent for The Tapestry Shop, but we parted ways, amicably. She remains my friend, but the professional partnership didn’t work out. Right now, another agent and I are talking, but nothing is set in stone. I think agents are valuable partners for an author. The only way to get an agent is to send out queries with your very best writing, or meet them at a conference. I think, in order to snag a good agent, professionalism is right up there after a good story. With the rapid changes we’re seeing in the industry, an agent may be more needed now than ever. A good agent earns his/her commission.
According to your website bio, you enjoy “taking classes in almost anything you have not tried.” Tell us a little about that, including the most unusual class you’ve taken so far.
Well, I’m a Gemini, so my interests change with the tide. Besides the classes I took for my music degrees, I’ve taken courses in Building Construction, Real Estate Brokerage, apple tree grafting, photography, rescuing injured wildlife, ballroom dancing, medical terminology, acrylic painting, and French.
You bio also says you’re an unabashed Francophile (as am I). What part of France do you enjoy visiting most?
I do love anything about France. To research for The Tapestry Shop, I went to northern France, to Arras specifically, and went into underground tunnels beneath the city. That’s a story in itself. Also, they grow masses of tulips, like those pictures of Holland. Then I went to other towns, to see places like Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which figures in my novel. I stayed with a Jewish woman in Paris whose family fled from the Germans during WWII, and she told me some awesome stories. Then I rented a car and drove into southern France. It was spring, and just thinking about it makes me want to return.
Your historical novel from Five Star/Gage, The Tapestry Shop, was released in October. The setting is Arras, France in 1265. How difficult is it to research a time period so far in the past?
The research is more difficult, but I had the help of reference librarians and also some experts in the field of medieval music. I used material that chroniclers, like Jean de Joinville, left behind. He went on a crusade with Louis IX. Original sources are always good. You have to dig a little deeper for 13th century research, but it’s there.
Your main character was a real person, Adam de la Halle, “the wandering minstrel who first penned the story of Robin Hood.” Did you find much documentation about his life?
There is some documentation, although there is conflicting information, such as dates. One of his plays is believed to be autobiographical. A lot is speculative, but there were records pertaining to his life, and he belonged to the Puy, a guild of artists. I just had to piece together what was there. It’s almost certain he was patronized by Count Robert (the king’s nephew) and hope I did right by Adam. I always felt like he was depending on me to tell his story. So far, it’s gotten great reviews, so I hope he approves.
Your blog, Joyce Moore’s Historical Books Blog, has a wealth of information for writers and readers of historical fiction. You’re also a contributor to two other blogs, Author Expressions and Historical Hussies. What are your thoughts on social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as a promotional tool for writers?
There’s no real way of knowing what translates to sales, but I blog about things that interest me, and in the doing, I always learn something. Blogs push me out of my comfort zone, and that’s good. I love the interaction on Goodreads, where there’s a group for historical fiction lovers. I’m on Facebook, and have an author’s page. I also am a member of Backspace for Writers. Days go by where I just don’t get to Facebook or Goodreads or Backspace. I have no idea how some authors manage to be all over the place and still write. I think I need to take a course in time management.
Thanks so much, Patricia, for inviting me to post on your lovely blog. I’d love to hear comments from readers, and one lucky commenter will receive a $15 gift certificate toward their choice of gifts made by a glass artisan. Here are a few of her designs.
The letter openers, purse hangers, bookmarks, etc. are each $15. The jewelry runs a little more, but is beautiful and one-of-a-kind.
Joyce, thank you so much for sharing this information with us today. For those of you who have book launches coming up, Joyce's post about her Book Launch at a Winery demonstrates how we can think outside the box for new ways to attract readers to our book events. Joyce and I have exchanged blog interviews. She will publish her interview with me on November 30th at Joyce Moore's Historical Books Blog.