Writing Superheroes: Joann Spears

Mild-mannered as a spinster cat lady who reads Barbara Pym and watches old black and white movies masquerades this superhero. Read on and find out more…

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According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.


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?

Louisa May Alcott started me on the road to writing.  My own inclinations kept me moving along the road.

When I was a child, my dad had a general-type store.  When I was in the third grade he got in some children’s books, and Little Women was one of them–in fact, it was the subject of my very first book report.  The teacher liked it so well that she read it out the class as an example of how a book report  should be done.  In the manner of eight year olds back then and probably now, I was both proud and embarrassed.  The experience gave me the idea, though, that like my heroine, Jo March, I could write. I dreamed about writing a novel from then on. 

My work life as a nurse administrator meant that I wrote a lot of work reports over the years, but nothing in the way of fiction until I was in my fifties.  A Vermont friend, Kathy Huskisson, shared with me about her writing adventures, and challenged me to bring my own idea for a novel to life.  That idea was for a book about Henry VIII’s wives. 

Once I started writing Six of One, it was really just me, sitting in my New Jersey townhouse backyard, typing away and compulsively saving every day’s work on two flash drives (lest one of them fall into enemy hands). My biggest fear then was somehow losing my work.  My second biggest fear was that I would never come up with a Katharine of Aragon story line for Six of One; there were several failed attempts before the plot line I finally went with.  Yes, those flash drives are still around for blackmail purposes.

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

Spinster cat lady who reads Barbara Pym and watches old black and white movies. It doesn’t get more mild-mannered than that, does it?


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

I have two writing friends, one a man and one a woman, who, unlike me, participate in writing classes and groups.  They generously share with me what they learn.  I consider their knowledge a superpower.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

I attribute my super powers to prayer and pinot noir.


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

My secret lair is a blue Adirondack chair set under a tree, with a pretty view of the East Tennessee hills.


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?

Staying healthy in mind and body is how I keep my super powers in shape.  Whether or not I have used them for good, I leave my readers to decide.


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

My superhero costume would include boots and a scarf.  I admire people who have the panache to wear these items, as I do not, at least, in my mild mannered identity.   I’d probably have some cameo jewelry, hairsticks, and cat hair in the mix as well.


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

Time and its constraints has been my biggest challenge.  I work four days a week, teach a yoga class, run a weekly support group, go to church, cook from scratch, work out several days a week, garden, keep house, etc.  Making time for writing is not always easy.  The four year gap between Six of One and Seven Will Out is a testament to this struggle.


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

The supervillains of last my project were the demons of cover design.  Working out a satisfactory cover, and getting my ideas across to Amazon, nearly did me in.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Be shameless about selling your book, but not overbearing or dishonest.  Reach out to others in your subject community.  Learn social media.  Ask bloggers for reviews, many of them are amazingly gracious about it.


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

Memorable experiences:  The first good reviews of my book; the time it hit the Amazon Top Ten during a Kindle giveaway; hearing people introduce me as an author; adding ‘author’ to my resume, which is otherwise about my nursing career; and of course, the Julie Andrews episode.  She is mentioned in Six of One in the Katherine Parr section.  When a friend of mine went to hear Julie speak, I gave her a copy of my book to give to Julie.  I live in anticipation of hearing back from her about it someday.  Of course, it has been quite a while, but hope dies hard.


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

If I were to write my books again, I would be more confident in myself when it came to social media and publicizing the books.  The thing that I would keep the same would be self-publishing.  Other than the original Seven Will Out cover fiasco, it has been a great experience.


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

The best advice I have ever gotten is to avoid the ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ trap.  It burns time and energy unnecessarily.  Learn from the past, let it to, and keep moving forward.


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

My new book, Seven Will Out, and my first book, Six of One, bring a humorous slant to the stories of the Tudors.  Since Tudor humor is in pretty short supply, I like to think they are worth a read for the Tudorphile looking for something different.  Six of One also makes a point of bringing Henry VIII’s six wives from the status of victims to the status of victors, at least over Henry.  Heady stuff if you are looking for something out of the ordinary in the Tudor history realm.  Seven Will Out offers some comedic corrective recapitulation for the damaged relationships among the various latter-generation Tudor women.  Sisters from another mother, cousins, and frenemies get to hash out their issues in the context of Elizabethan and Shakespearian era history.   Ever wonder what it would have been like if Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots had actually met?   Read Seven Will Out and find out!


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

I thought, with Six of One, that I would be a one book author.  Then, along came Seven Will Out.  I am not sure now what will happen next.  I would like to do another in the current series, focusing on Mary Queen of Scots, but I cannot figure out the angle to approach it from.  I am also thinking about a cookbook, and about a book involving Florence Nightingale, to pay tribute to my nursing roots.



 You can find this superhero online at:

Website~Amazon~Facebook~Pinterest ~Twitter @JoAnnSpearsRn  


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1 comment

    • JoAnn Spears on September 27, 2016 at 11:38 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for my opportunity to be a superhero!

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