Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Glutton For Punishment

A chance to win a copy of Skating Around The Law.

My guest is comedic mystery author, Joelle Charbonneau. Joelle has worn several hats in her career; performer in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals, teaching acting classes and private voice lessons, wife, mom, and now author. Joelle is still teaching voice lessons and sings for the occasional professional event.

Performing made her very familiar with rejections and how to handle them as well as learn lessons from them. She talks a bit about that with us.



I must be a glutton for punishment. That’s the only explanation for my career choices. I’m a professional singer and actress. I might even dance for you if you pay me enough. All are fields filled with rejection. So, of course, I decide to pursue the next obvious choice - an author.

What was I thinking? Well, to be honest I’m not sure I was thinking at all. Becoming an author was never one of my childhood dreams. I was a reader not a writer. Then one day, I sat down one day with an idea for an opening line for a novel in my head and I started writing for my own pleasure. To see if I could. To see what would happen next.

What happened next was that I learned I liked the challenge of filling a blank page. (Yep, there’s that ‘glutton for punishment’ theme again.) So, I decided to try to write a real book. Once that book was done I decided to start submitting it to editors and agents. That’s when the rejection started. I wrote another book. More rejections.

Funny, but my other professions made me ideally suited to the rejection that inevitably comes along with writing. Sure, there are some writers who get their first manuscripts published. (This was so not me. It took me five attempts to finally get the call.) But even those published-out-of-the-gate writers get rejections on later manuscripts or in the form of bad reviews. Rejection is something that comes with the territory. And I traveled lots of that not so happy territory.

I am not one to count or keep all my rejection letters, although the idea of creating a bonfire with them and roasting marshmallows to soothe my wounds was more than a little tempting. It is hard being told that your work isn’t what someone is looking for. In fact, it hurts. A lot.

Funny, but I’m really grateful for those rejections. (Go ahead and throw tomatoes. I’m good at ducking.) They made me a better writer. They also gave me time to figure out what kind of stories I really wanted to write. See, when I started writing, I decided I was going to write emotionally driven women’s fiction. Perhaps because some of my favorite books are ones that tug at my heart strings and make me cry. Well, I tried. I really did. I wanted to make people sigh and weep and feel as if the author was a close friend who understood their problems. Some of my best author friends are fabulous at making me read with a box of tissues close at hand. I wanted to be them when I grew up.

Instead, I wrote about a dead body in a roller rink toilet, an ex-circus camel that wears hats and a grandfather that is looking for love in all the wrong places. Yeah – so much for growing up into a hard-hitting women’s fiction writer. Trying to become one was like putting a triangular peg into a round hole. A miracle girdle hasn’t been invented yet that could squash me enough into the right shape and size. The agents and editors who read those attempts probably understood that.

Today, I sit behind my computer screen and write whatever off-the-wall thing pops into my head and I enjoy every minute of it. I am also proud of every rejection that I got along the way. They created the writer I am today.

  • What's the best advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Write an entire book. That seems simplistic, but it isn't. It is the very first step in the process. If you have an idea for a story, write it. Get to the end. Then you can figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Many writers get so caught up in making their writing perfect that they never get to the end of a novel. They are too busy revising the beginning. Often, once the novel is written, the beginning changes or gets cut. You won't know if this is true for you until the book is written and you know where the story is going. Once you have the book finished, I recommend joining a professional writing group like RWA to help improve your writing and help you learn the business.

20 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joelle, welcome to Over Coffee. I have to tell you, I love the skull and crossbones on the skater on your cover! What a cool addition.

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, thanks again for introducing me to a 'new to me' author. You have the best interviews.

Joelle, I always enjoy finding a mystery that will make me laugh while I'm reading. It makes for a nice escape from the real world. Thanks for pushing on despite the rejection letters.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hi Sia - thank you so much for having me for coffee and I, too, love the skull and crossbones on the cover. My husband thought the skates were so fabulous, he actually decorated my real skates to match.

Mason - thank you so much for dropping by. I hope you get some laughs from Rebecca Robbins and company.

Peg said...

Writing (and rejections) is not for the faint of heart! My husband was amazed at how I became able to blow off rejections and get another query out there! It's a great skill that translates into all areas of life! Thank goodness for books like Skating Around the Law--for when we need a good laugh to lift our spirits!

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hi Peg -

I'm glad I'm not the only one with rejection skills. It is useful, if not a little odd a skill to claim. Hopefully, Skating will give people a few laughs.

~Sia McKye~ said...

What a sweet husband. Perfect advertising too. lol!

When is your next book due out and can you tell us a bit about it?

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, thanks for having Joelle here.

Hi Joelle, *waves* ~ Unlike you I saved all my rejections. I use them to look for trends over time. And now, I use them as a visual aid when giving my perserverance talk-because nothing is more visual than a 5"high stack of papers. LOL
Great post. Cheers~

Debra St. John said...

Hi Joelle,

You really are a glutton for punishment, aren't you? (Just kidding!)

"Skating Around the Law" is on my shopping list for books this week. I can't wait to dive in...I'm especially looking forward to the camel!

Congrats again on your release. I wish you many sales!

VA said...

Advice: I guess I'd go with the parable of Babe Ruth, in 1923 Babe Ruth held the record for the most homeruns, highest batting average, AND...the most strikeouts.

I find life can be a lot like any sport, there is the safe shot, the one you know will work and the risk, the one that might go...might not. What kind of life do you want?

The merry-go-round or the rollercoaster?

Babe Ruth said it beautifully himself and lord knows he was imperfect in his humanity:

"I swing big, with everything I've got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can." - Babe Ruth

Writing is taking a risk, it's not the sure play. Off to read the excerpt. Thanks, Sia.

Rhea said...

Hi Joelle,

Looking forward to reading SKATING AROUND THE LAW.

Congrats.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Goodness, I took my son out to the park and everyone came by for a cup of coffee:)

Yes, Sia...my husband is fabulous. He's also taking a lot of time off of work this month for me to travel for the book - although I don't think the time off is a hardship for him:)

Thanks for asking about the next book. Skating Over the Line will be out next year around this time. Rebecca Robbins continues her journey to sell the roller rink and finally she gets an offer from a buyer. Only, cars are being stolen and then exploded around town and her grandfather's senior center friends are looking to her to solve the car theft caper. And in book two we see the first appearance of the roller rink's roller derby team - Estro-Genocide:)

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hi Nancy and Debra! I'm sending you virtual hugs. I am lucky to have such fabulous writers and friends in my corner!! You guys are fabulous.

VA - you are right. Writers can take a great lesson from sports. No matter how many time you strike out - you have to get back into the batter's box and take another whack. The next swing might be a home run.

Rhea - thanks for stopping by. I really hope you like the book!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Good one, Vivian. Babe didn't play or live safe.

Joelle, so this is going to be a series? Stolen cars and explosions, hmmm. Sounds like she's gonna be hell on wheels. Thanks for sharing that with us. :-)

Helen Ginger said...

A fun post. Thanks Sia and Joelle. I like that the genre you thought you'd write turned out to not be your genre. Great advice at the end, too.

Another author I'll be looking for.

Meg said...

I'm glad you shared your journey, Joelle - I'm revising my fifth, a mystery, and you're so right about rejection! AUUUGH! Being an artist, I get lots of "oh, that's gorgeous, oh, that's amazing" but no sales. Sigh. It's been great to follow your first book promo story and cheer you on! Hooooray!!

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Thanks, Meg. I guess we are both gluttons for punishment! I love your writing (I got to peek at your historical mystery that you entered into the Daphnes) and can't wait to follow your sale and publiciation adventure.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hi Helen! Yeah - I'm still not sure how I tried to write one genre and ended up writing in a different one. Thanks for stopping by to chat!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joelle, you followed your heart, that's how. It excited you and it shows in your writing.

I do agree with the thought of finishing books and then analyzing where your strengths and weaknesses are. Many of us start out one place and end up in an entirely different one. Each book MS we finish--whether published or not--helps us develope our writing chops, makes us reach and stretch and we grow as a writer. It also allows us to play a bit to see what does get our juices going. Unless that happens we don't write something that rezzes someone else.

I don't know of a career that DOESN'T require practicing, do you? I used to play spanish and classical guitar for my pleasure. I played minimum 4 hours a day. Yes I also sang in a band and again, practice, even though I knew the songs by heart I needed to know them in such a way I could connect with an audience. Takes practice. Lots of practice.

But then, most creative endeavors do, don't they?

Keith Davis said...

Hi Joelle
Notice you mention " the challenge of filling a blank page"
That's a challenge that all bloggers face - looking at a blank screen - where to start?
Thing is, we all start and most of us finish so something gives us inspiration.

Once we publish a post we are wide open to rejection, negative comments or even worse... no comments at all.

Actor, writer - you are so right, you really must be a "Glutton for punishment." LOL

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