Interview with Joanne Pence

joannepenceWith both of us on tight summer schedules, my meeting with local author, Joanne Pence had to be done via email. Here are the answers to the questions her readers are interested in learning about her:

1.      Why did you write this book after such a long break?

In 1993, HarperCollins published my stand-alone novel, SOMETHING’S COOKING, which featured a gourmet cook, a handsome homicide inspector, and a murder. When my editor called and asked for more books with the same characters, the Angie Amalfi mystery series was born. I wrote fourteen books in the series over the next 14 years, stopping in 2007 with THE DA VINCI COOK. I was, frankly, tired of the series and wanted to write something different.

For the first time since high school, I had no job to go to, and no deadline to meet. It was heavenly…for a while. But I’ve always enjoyed writing, and soon began to work on a big, complex paranormal thriller/horror story set in my newly adopted state of Idaho. Four years later, it became ANCIENT ECHOES. At the same time, I pulled out some older stories I’d always loved, but had languished because of the demands of writing a series, and published them.

During all this time, every week I would receive several emails from Angie fans asking if there would ever be another book. People wrote lovely, sometimes moving emails, about how much they enjoyed reading her zany adventures and about her large, loving but eccentric Italian family. And all of them wanted to know what happened between Angie and her homicide inspector boyfriend, Paavo Smith. I realized that a character who still had people writing and asking about her six years later deserved to “come to life” again. The old spark that caused me to enjoy writing the books for many years had returned. COOKING SPIRITS was the result. It is my 21st published novel.

2.      Do you have any other projects you’re working on right now?

Both COOKING SPIRITS and ANCIENT ECHOES were April, 2013 releases. I’m already working on book 2 in what I hope will be the “Ancient Powers” trilogy. I plan to begin another Angie story before much longer, and many readers have written an asked for a sequel to my e-book, THE GHOST OF SQUIRE HOUSE. That’s a complete surprise to me because it’s a very simple little story, but seems to have touched a nerve of some sort.

3.      When and how did you become interested in writing?

I’ve always loved writing, starting with a gossip column in the high school newspaper—not exactly the way to make oneself popular in high school, I learned. I thought I’d become a journalist (I have a Masters in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley), but marriage and kids got in the way of that career choice, so I turned to fiction. At least with fiction, the stories end the way I want them to!

4.      When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing?

In the short term, you’ll find me promoting my books—such as at Rediscovered Books on 8th Street during the Saturday Morning Market on June 8th. Long term, when my husband retired and we moved to Boise, we bought a house in the foothills on 5-1/2 acres. Being basically a city girl (I was born in San Francisco), I had no idea how much work goes into maintaining acreage, even when most of it is “natural.” It seems there’s always something to do, but we love the land and the beauty surrounding us. Also, I’m a founding member of the Idaho Writers Guild (, which has grown into a dynamic organization for professional writers of all types (fiction, non-fiction, screenwriters, journalists, bloggers, etc.). The organization and its yearly writers’ conference, the Idaho Rendezvous ( ), take many enjoyable hours.

5.      Last book you read?

For years I’d wanted to read Tolstoy’s ANNA KARENINA, and after seeing the latest movie version, I decided to so so…all 817 pages (Paavo Smith mentions the book in COOKING SPIRITS). It took a while to finish!

6.      What does your writing process look like? Do you sit down and spill it all out at once in a zombie-esque fashion-umbilical chorded to your computer? Or is it in bits?

I never know where I’m going until I put words on a page. After spending a while coming up with a basic idea for a story and where it should go, I write the beginning twenty or so pages, and rewrite it a few times until I’m somewhat satisfied. Once have what “might” be the beginning, I write any scenes that come to mind, in no particular order. At some point, I get stuck, with no idea of where to go next. I then write the end of the book. Once I know where the book “must” go, I fill in the space from where I stopped up to my newly written ending. Then it’s a matter of revising, revising, and revising again to make the whole conglomeration fall together into the semblance of a story that makes sense. Often, during this process, the beginning changes as well. I don’t believe you know how your book truly begins until you know the ending. I think a story should form a natural arch, so that the beginning harkens its ending, and the ending harkens back to the way the book began.

7.      What kind of environment do you work best in?

I have a den that becomes increasing chaotic and paper-filled as a book progresses—but I know where everything is (or should be) in it. I work best at home, where all the reference books and everything else I might need are close at hand.

8.      Editing: on paper or on a screen?

I always edit on paper. I find things look much more ‘perfect’ to me on screen than they do on paper. I do lots of revising and lots of editing, so I have piles of “working” manuscripts surrounding me.

9.      Favorite current TV show?

Current favorites change rapidly, but over the past few years, Castle has been a consistent favorite along with Person of Interest…and Psych still makes me laugh.

10.  If you could co-write a book with any author (alive or dead) who would it be with and what would the title be?

I would love to write a book with Daphne du Maurier. The combination of suspense, a hint of romance, and the atmospheric, isolated, overpowering settings she used in Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman’s Creek, and so on, make them the type of story I love. I’d set one in a remote, atmospheric spot in Idaho, and entitle it wherever the book is set.  

11.  Favorite song on the radio right now?

I never listen to current music—I like classical, old time country (“Waylon, Willie and the boys”), old rock ‘n’ roll, Motown, Creedence Clearwater Revival—but ask me about Justin Bieber and I’m lost

12.  Where do you call home? If you could call anywhere else home, where would that be?

Home is Idaho. I love this state, love the Treasure Valley. It’s breath-takingly beautiful and people here are genuine and nice. The other place I would enjoy calling home is Rome. I practically give a walking tour of Rome in THE DA VINCI COO

13.  E-reader or a good old fashioned book?

Both! I enjoy my books and always will, but it’s a treat to be able to take many books on my Kindle with me when I travel.


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