Writing superheroes: Joana Starnes, the sequel

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

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  All good superhero stories have a sequel – something else happens after the first foe is vanquished. How does your sequel begin, after the publication of your first/most recent book?

My most recent book was published in October, so the sequel has only just begun. Not sure where it’s going yet, but I’m looking forward to find out!


All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity. How has yours grown and changed since you started life as a superhero?

I don’t think it has changed very much. The fact that people still like to read my books, even the older ones, has given me more confidence than I had this time last year. It also feels quite good to see that family and friends have started to treat my hobby far more seriously and have stopped complaining when I monopolise the PC or dart off to scribble something in the middle of dinner.

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Do you have any sidekicks or a new superhero team member? What are their superpowers?

I have been very lucky to meet two amazing people who have helped tremendously – and I can’t thank them enough! One of them is my wonderful editor Pat Kellar and the other is the lovely Sophie Andrews from ‘Laughing with Lizzie’.

Pat’s superpowers are, to list but a few, an eagle eye, a big red pen, absolutely angelic patience and the willingness to do battle with long clunky phrases. I dread to think what my books would have looked like without her! And then there are the daily ping-pong messages and the laughter, the moral support and the words of wisdom, the ‘kindred spirits’ feeling and the warm friendship, the many things we have in common that go far beyond Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy. I’m so lucky to have met you, Pat!

I think that Sophie’s superpowers are making people happy, seeing the best in life and being prepared to share her sunny personality with the rest of us. The fact that she seems to be as mad about Jane Austen as I am is delicious icing on the cake! It has been wonderful to visit places together, talk about everything that comes to mind and have lots of giggles. And to top that, she kindly listened to my thoughts about ongoing projects, gave me fantastic insights and continuous encouragement. Sophie, having you as a friend has brightened many hours!


Have your superpowers grown and changed since your last adventure?

Hopefully I have become a little more attuned to what readers would like to find in a story. I used to focus far too much on history and not enough on the ‘roller-coaster’ factor. While I think it’s extremely important to anchor the narrative in the adequate period and avoid jarring modernisms, it’s equally essential to remember that I’m writing for a modern audience and not Jane Austen’s contemporaries. The most exciting happenings in their day-to-day lives might have been the pigs getting into the garden or the beer turning sour, but modern readers are looking for a little more excitement than that! I hope my latest novel shows the change.


What new supervillain have you faced on your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

Oddly enough, it was the little exclamation mark!!! This was the first time that I had written ‘cloak-and-dagger’ and somehow it felt that almost everything happened and should be delivered breathlessly. Added to that there were Mr. Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam’s sarcastic retorts, Mr. Bingley’s excitable temper, Mrs. Bennet throwing a hissy fit and being… well, Mrs. Bennet, so long story short I ended up with pages upon pages where almost every sentence ended in an exclamation mark. An absolute infestation! I didn’t even notice until my amazing editor pointed them out and suggested that I either cut down on the pesky things or give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy plenty of paperbags to breathe into!


What new lessons have you learned during this new adventure?

That writing ‘cloak-and-dagger’ is enormous fun – with or without an exclamation-mark infestation.


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

In my most recent adventure? Sitting on the cliffs above Porthpean Beach in Cornwall and jotting down the final ideas that tied the plot together and made everything fall into place.


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

I think I would have started to focus sooner on the human element in preference to historical detail, but I wouldn’t change the belief that although our beloved characters are fictional and belong in a different time, modern-day people can still relate to them and maybe even behave like them now and again.


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

My newest book The Falmouth Connection’ is a rather more daring variation that takes Elizabeth and Mr. 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. No swash-buckling pirates through – this was done so beautifully by Kara-Louise – but plenty of mysteries, some smugglers and a troublesome ‘French Connection’ thrown in for good measure!

In a nutshell, just as Mr. Darcy decides to follow his heart and propose to the enticing Miss Elizabeth Bennet, she is summoned to Falmouth to meet a great-aunt she never knew she had. Thus, the ill-starred Hunsford proposal is avoided but, before he could even begin to understand his luck, adverse circumstances hasten to conspire against him and Fitzwilliam Darcy is compelled to follow the woman he loves to the far reaches of Cornwall, into a world of deceit and peril, where few – if any – are what they seem to be…


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

I have ideas for three very different stories that have only one thing in common – they are all ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variations. Not sure yet which one will take control and demand that it’s written first. So far two have battled and are now at a stalemate. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading and many thanks for having me here again, Maria Grace, it’s been a great pleasure!


    You can find Joana at:





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    • Deborah on November 2, 2014 at 5:44 am
    • Reply

    Wonderful interview. I was chuckling when it was stated that D &E would news plenty of paper bags to breath into.

  1. So glad you liked it, Debbie 🙂
    Thanks again for hosting me, Maria Grace!

    • Anji on November 2, 2014 at 6:52 am
    • Reply

    Hi Maria and Joana! (Aghh, an exclamation mark! And another – they do seem to breed don’t they?)

    What a lovely, fun interview between the two of you. I had a little chuckle to myself several times during it. It also cheered me up quite a bit as I’m a bit under the weather today. Something I ate last night has disagreed with me somewhat and I’m still in bed (it’s nearly 1pm) feeling sorry for myself.

    I’m really looking forward to reading The Falmouth Connection, Joana. The “cloak and dagger” aspect sounds most intriguing

    I’m going to allow myself one more exclamation mark and say “Good luck with the launch!”

    • Sheila L. M. on November 2, 2014 at 7:57 am
    • Reply

    Yes, read about this latest book on Austenesque Reviews and as I was putting it on my Wish List Joy Dawn King lent it to me. Finished it in less than 2 days, posted a 5 star review. Loved it. Loved reading the thought process Darcy was going through as he was told, hinted to or realized that things were not as he thought. Garden scene – sigh, sigh, sigh! (There’s an exclamation point for you.) Great book.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, the amazing review and all your support, Sheila! I’m absolutely thrilled you loved the book, and especially the garden scene 😉

    • Joy Dawn King on November 2, 2014 at 7:47 pm
    • Reply

    Oh, this is good. What does your superpower costume look like, Joana? Svelte like Cat Woman? Skimpy like Wonder Woman? or, do you have something Regency (a day dress with a giant “S” carefully stitched on the front that you hide under your pelisse? Just curious!

    I LOVED this book. In fact, I not only loaned it to Sheila, I gifted a copy to Monica because I knew she would LOVE it too!!!!! Yes, I’m an exclamation point junkie! I think it’s genetic.

    Grace, this portion of your blog just tickles me. The questions are great and the answers the writers come up with are priceless!!!!!

    Thanks for the entertainment, girls!!!!!!!

    1. Sadly, the ‘Svelte and Skimpy’ ship has sailed into the sunset, Joy 🙂 The ‘Harry Potter’ reference was from the first time Maria Grace had kindly hosted me here, when I said it would be so useful to become invisible once in a while, and get on with things without interruptions. I love your idea though. Nice Regency dress, ‘S’-shaped embroidery – that would work a treat! Thanks again for your wonderful comments, here and on all the other sites, and for talking ‘Falmouth’ up, you’re SO kind. As always, your support is HUGELY appreciated!
      So glad you enjoyed this post and thanks again, Maria Grace, for having me as your guest.

  2. Sorry to hear you were poorly, Anji! Hope you’re much better now.
    Yes, exclamation marks seem to love company 🙂
    So glad you found ‘The Falmouth Connection’ intriguing and thanks so much for the lovely comments you left on all my posts about it! Hugs and get well!

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