Today, we have the pleasure of entertaining the first of our wonderful Pocono Retreat faculty members, agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, children’s author, and all-around nice lady, Joan Paquette! She’ll be leading a workshop entitled “Choose Your Super Power,” so if you haven’t signed up yet, just click here! And while surfing your internets, be sure to check out Joan’s web site for more information on her many books, from picture books to young adult! Here she comes!
Lindsay: Hi there, Joan, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our comfy booth, what will you have to drink?
Joan: Well, it’s a little blustery out there still, isn’t it? A cup of cocoa with steamed milk sounds just about perfect right now.
Lindsay: Anything to munch on?
Joan: I wouldn’t turn down a chocolate-raspberry tart – thank you kindly!
Lindsay: I hope you’ll pardon the dark circles under my eyes, but I happened to be up til 1 a.m. last night reading your recent novel, PARADOX! What a great sci-fi thriller! It was so good, and left me breathlessly turning the pages when I should have been, you know, sleeping. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to write it?
Joan: This was a mash-up of a lot of ideas: Ana was the one who started off the whole thing, and I had a lot of questions about identity and destiny and who you are when you don’t know who you are. I have always loved unexpected plot turns and story twists, and I wanted to write a book that would combine all those elements together. It turned out to be a bit more of a puzzle to assemble than I’d expected when starting out, but it sure was a lot of fun to write.
Lindsay: And fun to read! (Check it out, Penn Pointers!)
Your work is so varied, and you say on your web site that you have “something to suit every mood,” whether scary, silly, or serious, for very young through young adult readers. Is there a common thread that you feel ties together the stories you tell?
Joan: One commonality I’ve noticed recently—very unintentionally, I might add!—that goes through my novels is the thread of identity and how a person’s past impacts their future. I guess my subconscious must have been chewing over that in the last few years! On a broader scale, I think there is always a certain wonder to the stories that I choose to tell—a touch of magic or destiny, something grander which is outside the everyday humdrum life.
Lindsay: As a literary agent, you also represent a variety of work. Is there something in particular that always catches your attention?
Joan: I’m a huge fan of a sharp, distinctive character voice, and more than anything I love to be surprised. Expect the unexpected!
Lindsay: Do you represent yourself?
Joan: I do not! I am represented by my illustrious colleague, Erin Murphy.
Lindsay: Now, book-lover to book-lover, what was the last book you read that made you…..
Laugh out loud? My newest client’s manuscript! (Shhhh…)
Cry? THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY, by Jessie Ann Foley
Stay up waaay too late? QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, by Erika Johansen
Wish you had written it yourself? GENUINE SWEET, by Faith Harkey
Lindsay: When receiving queries, what is one thing that ALWAYS turns you off?
Joan: I guess I would say a flat, dry, uninteresting character voice is pretty much a deal-breaker for me. (I am referring to the sample pages – that’s far more important to me than the actual query, and often a completely different skill set in the writing. A terrific query is a strength, of course, and a help. But the sample pages are the true gauge the rest is measured by.)
Lindsay: You would jump up from your desk, dance and sing a James Brown song if you received a manuscript that….
Joan:…was literary and richly voiced and timely and warm and tightly plotted—all at once!
Lindsay: Well, I’m already signed up for your “Choose Your Super Power” workshop at the Poconos. For those who are still contemplating signing up, can you give us a little teaser about what to expect? (Okay, okay, I’m dying to know more, too!)
Joan: It’s my way of helping to analyze the main hooks or strengths of a manuscript, to assess which are the most important ones to you and which can and should be drawn out more. I’m going to share the secrets of how to maximize the potential of your work-in-progress—or that’s my goal, anyway!
Lindsay: Sounds awesome! And now, for rapid-fire favorites! Name your favorite…
Midnight snack – peanut butter
Shade of nail polish – turquoise
Movie – Shawshank Redemption
Animal – Not an animal person? 🙂
Mode of transportation – Teleporter!
Lindsay: Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us, Joan! We can’t wait to meet you at the Pocono Retreat in May!
Joan: I’m looking forward to it!