Writing superheroes: Joana Starnes

   Who’s that superhero hiding behind Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?  Read on and find out more…

superhero copy


 If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

 Yes, early efforts are still around, waiting to be taken out and used as blackmail by disgruntled children – especially if I’m foolish enough to show baby-photos to future girlfriends! The ‘origins episode’ dates far back, thirteen years or more when, having devoured every Regency book I could lay hands on and every Jane Austen fan-fiction available at the time, I started to put together my ‘take’ on the Darcys’ marriage.Author photo_s300  


 All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

 Not so sure about mild-mannered but, at the time of my early writing efforts, by day I was a sensible clinical data analyst, juggling deadlines for a pharmaceutical company. But then I swapped the day-job for the different kind of juggling involved in bringing up young children, by which point having a Regency happy-place really came in handy!


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

 I’ll have to start with my husband, for everything – not least for putting up with lots of things not getting done while I go time-travelling!

 And then there are so many people I can never presume to consider partners, but I’m no less grateful for everything they’ve done. Sorry, this is going to sound a bit like some awards show now, but there it goes:

 Top of the list must be Jane Austen – for creating a fabulous dream-world. Sandra – for patiently holding my hand for months, and guiding me into the weird and wonderful world of self-publishing. Abigail – for extremely generous advice. Meredith, Regina, Pat, Janet, Jakki, Ceri – for their wonderful encouragement and support. Dave – for keen eyes, great tips and lots of really good giggles. Sophie – for lovely long chats and an excellent choice of coffee shop! Elizabeth – for helping me understand Jane Austen’s world better. Lots of fabulous people who were kind enough to give great advice and help me write better stories. Last but not least, Amazon, for the platform, and the insight to understand that although – sadly! – we are not all J.K.Rowling, that doesn’t necessarily mean we haven’t got a story to tell, or that there wouldn’t be people interested to hear it.


 Where do you get your superpowers from?

 Jane Austen’s great stories and some fabulous adaptations!


 Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

 Garden_thb_300A much-neglected garden and a corner in the living-room, with a messy desk and a PC – and the distant dream of commandeering the spare room one day, and hanging up the old painting of some gents chatting over their beer and clay-pipes, and the watercolour that might as well have been painted in the garden at Pemberley and signed ‘Elizabeth Bennet’, and all the stacks of books that risk bringing the floor down, and all my other Regency paraphernalia.


 What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?

 Rummaging through lending libraries and second-hand bookshops, squirreling things off the internet – everything goes! And then of course there’s the joy of National Trust houses, with all the glimpses of Pemberley, and the hints of a world gone by. I go to train there as often as I can, scaling bookshelves, jogging through the gallery, kickboxing in the kitchen garden, press-ups in the pantry, the lot – but no idea if this is for good! My kids might disagree for instance, they’ve grown a bit tired of being dragged to all these places – but I’ll never be! Thankfully, sometimes there’s something for everyone: Sudbury Hall (interiors of Pemberley 1995) luckily also has the ‘Childhood Museum’ with toys of course, and the Victorian Classroom, and huge Lego blocks and enough to keep little ones (and daddy) fairly well entertained while mummy is absorbing the atmosphere in the drawing room and the library.


Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

 Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak! Wouldn’t it be just grand, sometimes, to become invisible for a few hours!


 What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

 The trickiest challenge, I think, is to find something that hasn’t been done before, or at least a new angle – rather difficult, when so many of us have been mining in the same Jane Austen mine for years! The other difficult challenge is marketing and promotion – there’s so much I have to learn in that respect!


 What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

 Time – or rather lack of it – the greatest villain! With lots of coffee and very little sleep.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

 Nothing is as difficult as it looks. No matter how tricky the question, someone, somewhere on the worldwide web has the answer. Awkward as they might be at first, self-promo posts just have to happen. A bad review that is not deliberately malicious is a very good friend. And a few minutes of ‘good flow’ are worth hours of trying to fight my way through the evil writer’s block.


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

 Having my first book published and discovering that other people like it, then having my second published and being told they like it even better than the first.


 If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

 I would have taken the plunge at least two years earlier. It can be scary sometimes, but it’s so much fun! The rest, I think, would be pretty much the same.


 What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

 ‘Don’t let your fears win’ – because you’ll always wonder whether you missed out on something great!


 Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

 My latest book, ‘The Second Chance’ is a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ ~ ‘Sense & Sensibility’ variation.

 What is it all about? Soon after the Netherfield ball, a troubled Mr. Darcy decides to walk away from a most unsuitable fascination. But heartache is in store for them all, and his misguided attempts to ensure the comfort of the woman he loves backfire in ways he had not expected…The_Second_Chance_Cover_for_Kindle

 What makes it readable? It’s a new angle; from what I understand, there are not many stories in the JAFF world that combine Jane Austen’s novels. Secondly – it tortures Darcy for a fair while, and for some strange reason we seem to enjoy doing that [wicked grin], before we give him the ‘happy-ever-after’. And thirdly, it would appeal to both angst-lovers and angst-haters because, after many trials and tribulations, several chapters are devoted to the sweet time of courtship, when our favourite couple get to know and understand each other better.


 What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

 Yes, another ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variation. ‘The Falmouth Connection’ is a different kind of ‘what-if’ story – a more daring one that takes Elizabeth and Darcy out of their comfort zones of tame, reasonably peaceful lives in England and brings them into a world of secrets, on the windswept coasts of Cornwall.


    You can find Joana at:




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    • Anji on May 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm
    • Reply

    Lovely interview. Thanks to Joana and Maria. I’m lucky enough to be able to read The Second Chance soon, as I’ve won an e-copy in a giveaway. Can’t wait!

      • Joana Starnes on May 12, 2014 at 5:02 am
      • Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Anji and I’m so glad you won a copy! Fingers crossed, it should be on its way to you by now, and I hope you’ll like it 🙂 All the best, Joana

        • Anji on May 12, 2014 at 9:18 am
        • Reply

        Hi Joana, the e-book has arrived, thanks. I’ve sent you an email to confirm it as well. Looking forward to reading it.

  1. Loved the interview and your answers, Joana. I found your answers very interesting and I feel I learned some new things about you! Good job, ladies.

    I’m also very honored to be included in your ‘partners in crime’ list! Thank you!

    I wish you the best with this release!

      • Joana Starnes on May 12, 2014 at 5:07 am
      • Reply

      Thanks so much for popping by, Janet, and for your very kind words!
      It’s a great joy and a privilege to be ‘partners in crime’ with you 😀 and many thanks once again, Maria, for having me here and for organising such a fun interview!

  2. Great answers, Joana!

    Looking forward to receiving my copy of the book, having only so far read the online version, and I know this is much enhanced and extended! Also can’t wait for Darcy and Elizabeth in one of my favourite places, Cornwall!

    Hope the time-consuming Kryptonite is good enough to give you a wide berth in coming months to enable you to write!

    Grace, loving this series of interviews – the questions are great and result in some fun answers!

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