Joanne Salemink is a recovering journalist and former high school English teacher. She currently divides her time between caring for her family, part-time jobs, and training to become a superhero. Joanne lives in West Branch, Iowa with her husband, their two children, and one cat. She blogs all about that and more at Sandwichmomonwry.blogspot.com. Scout’s Honor is her first novel, and she is threatening to write more. She recently had an essay selected for inclusion in an anthology edited by Allia Zobel Nolan and a team from the University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget was published in April, 2018.
Like the protagonist in Scout's honor, Salemink did, in fact, once have a candy apple red Honda Rebel motorcycle. She may have cried a bit when she sold it, and may still be on the lookout for another.
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
Scout's Honor is my first novel. It came out in January of this year (2018). It's the story of a middle-aged, Midwestern housewife who's life has fallen apart. Rather than continue to slog along and accept the status quo, she decides to kick-start a new life. Guided by a 90-year-old woman with a penchant for pole-dancing and a vintage Indian Scout motorcycle (hence the title), Julie sorts through the wreckage, buffs out the bumps, and rediscovers romance. It's filled with humor, drama, romance... and a motorcycle!
I also had an essay included in Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now... Before We Forget, which was published in April, 2018 in cooperation with the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. Oy, with the laughs already!
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
Finding time to write! There's always something else that needs to be done. I haven't turned that corner yet where I can believe that writing is my vocation, so I let other things take priority. (Dealing with word processing programs is another problem, but that's a “me” thing.)
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Writing the “rough” draft. I like to have each chapter pretty well shaped up before I move on. I still go back later and hack and chop, but I need to feel like I have a good, solid foundation before I can continue. This slows down the writing process, but I tell myself it speeds up the editing.
4. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Housework! But that's probably not an option :) I'm not sure if it's a matter of “giving up,” but I think I would be a better (more efficient) writer if I could overcome my need for perfection (or somewhere close to perfection), and my Olympic-grade ability to procrastinate.
5. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
In some ways it boosted my confidence – I had never done anything of that length or magnitude. On the other hand, it made me more self-conscious about my writing – I tend to get sucked into wondering how people will react to a situation or word choice instead of just telling the story the way I “hear” it. I'm learning to trust my gut. (Then there's the specter of impending doom when I think about formatting the finished product for publication. Technology. GAH!)
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
Oh my goodness! I have piles of notebooks and folders filled with notes about story ideas. I'd like to write about a small town newspaper editor and juxtapose what actually gets printed in the paper with what she would like to print, or the stories behind the stories. I have an idea for a murder mystery … involving a small town newspaper editor and an Isabel Bloom sculpture. Then there's the one about the farming community that finds producing illegal drugs to be more profitable than farming.
7. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I get really nervous when people tell me (in person) “I read your book...”, so I don't actively seek out reviews (although I should). That said, so far (almost) everyone has been very kind and has managed to find at least one thing to comment positively on!
8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
YES! There are a lot of Iowa-based references, particularly in places and names. Some people have picked up on them. There are also a few inside jokes that might be there just to entertain me.
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I can't believe how fortunate I have been to meet so many wonderful authors at workshops and book fairs! They have all been generous with their time and gracious in answering questions. On top of that, I've learned so much from reading their works, whether it’s a novel, short story or blog. When I read something that is well written – something that gives me goosebumps or creates a strong mental image or just rings true – I try to reverse engineer it and try to figure out how I can apply that to my writing. A little name dropping: Katrina Kittle (The Blessings of the Animals) has an infectious energy and enthusiasm, Karen Musser Nortman (Time Travel Trailer and Franny Shoemaker series) practically held my hand and guided me through publication, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Erik Therme, Kimberly Dalferes, Gianetta Palmer, I could go on and on (and gladly would!).
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Believe in yourself. Take a chance. Tell the story you want to hear. Study your spelling words!
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
For me personally, one trap is thinking my writing has to be perfect, and perfect the first time! I also think writing becomes more difficult when you try to please a certain crowd or follow a trend. Billy Joel (my hero) said he doesn't/didn't try to write hit songs or try to guess what the listeners wanted, that he writes to please himself. I think when you write about what moves you, that comes across – there's a joy, an honesty that comes from just being yourself.
12. What’s the best way to market your books?
I wish I knew! I'm still learning. I figure try everything, something's bound to work! Book fairs are exhausting for an introvert, but also a great way to meet other authors, so it's a win even if you don't sell. As a reader, I'm more likely to pick up a book a friend has recommended to me, so word of mouth is important, too (as are good friends).
13. What is your favorite childhood book?
Just Only John by Jack Kent, and the Little House on the Prairie series (of course) stand out. When I was in high school I discovered C D B! by William Steig, which may or may not be a childhood book (and I may or may not have been a child), but I think it's a good example of how to think outside the box and make reading FUN!
And on that note, I want to say N-Q for letting me ramble on and on!
Social media links: