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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Published in Mystery Scene

Joan Hall Hovey

According to author Willa Cather, “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”  I believe that’s true. Writers do tend to write again and again about certain subjects, regardless of the genre they’re working in.  My own books deal with betrayal and loss.  Although I didn’t realize this until I was in the middle of writing Chill Waters, my third suspense novel.   Emotional abandonment seems to be an issue I feel compelled to revisit in my writing.  I think all good books can’t help but tell you something about their author.
In Chill Waters, following the breakup of her marriage after learning of her husband’s infidelity, 45 year old Rachael Warren retreats to the old beachhouse in Jenny's Cove, where as a young girl she lived with her grandmother.  It is the one place where she had always felt safe and loved. But she is about to learn that ‘a safe place’ is mostly an illusion.  And that evil can find us no matter where we go.
When I sat down to write Chill Waters, I had already thought about my story for a long time.  Now I needed a title to hang it on.  Some writers can write an entire novel without a title; I’m not one of them.  I’d abandoned a dozen possibilities, before I came up with Chill Waters.   It felt right, on several levels, both literally and symbolically.
Jenny’s Cove is located in St. Clair, a fictional St. Andrews, a small town in New Brunswick, Canada, where I live. St. Andrews lies on the Passamoquoddy Bay, and is close to the American border.  A place of charm and beauty, St. Andrews/St. Clair is  a magnet for tourists and artists alike. 
But the beachhouse in Jenny’s cove is isolated.  Waves crashing against the rocks, and the sudden summer storms that visit Jenny’s Cove add to that sense of isolation.  As a child, Rachael had  found the violence of the storms and the sound of the sea comforting. As a woman stalked and terrorized, that will change.
I especially like writing about women who struggle against great odds and triumph, or at least change in some fundamental way.  But, as in life, it’s never easy.  In books, it must be even harder, damn near impossible.   And in the suspense novel, there are always unseen dangers. 
It is the unseen dangers that spark my imagination. 
Growing up, I lived a good deal inside my head and in the pages of wonderful  books.   From the time I could find my way to the Saint John Library, I was a constant visitor. For me, the library was a magical place - a hushed, warm haven where, through the pages of a book I could travel to far off exotic places in my imagination. I could experience vicariously all the joy, romance, terror, tragedy and triumph of the characters in the stories.  From the first, I was naturally drawn to the shelves of darker stories, mystery and horror novels. 
My favorite authors were Mark Twain (who’s scarier than Injun Joe?) Shirley Jackson, Phyllis Whitney, Charlotte Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Bronte.  So many more.  I loved the gothic novels with their secret passageways, creaking doors, cobwebby attics - stories that featured moors and spooky old houses.  I think that gothic influence is reflected in my own novels.
Influences go back even earlier.  Like many of you, I started out as a story listener.  Both my mom and dad were great storytellers, and I needed only to hear the words: ‘I remember the time when…’ to feel that rare and exquisite pleasure in the anticipation of a new story.
            The dark, scary ones were best.  My father told of a man with a cloven foot who showed up at a card game … a young girl’s body found in the woods behind the school… (murder was not so commonplace back then).  Then there was the town drunk who was found dead in the cemetery, his face as granite-white  with frost as the tombstones surrounding him.  It was whispered that something had scared him to death.
My mother had a ouija board that she and her friends took quite seriously.  And we had a neighbor who visited us – a fortune teller named Mrs. Fortune.  It’s true.  Everyone was poor in money, but not in the abundance of inner life, of imagination.   So my background also dictated the kind of stuff I would find delicious to write about.
Like Listen to the Shadows, Nowhere to Hide and now - Chill Waters. 
Jenny’s Cove has been anything but peaceful of late.  Unknown to Rachael, the week before school started, and before her arrival, vandals crawled through a basement window and trashed computers, kicked in walls and upturned desks.  A house was broken into, and a seventeen-year-old girl beaten nearly to death. 
Rachael wants only to be left alone, to heal, and try to find her way back to herself.  But even that is denied her as psychic and potter, Iris Brandt shows up on her doorstep.  Iris senses a malevolent energy that follows Rachael, and  feels compelled to warn her.
Rachael is, by turns, warned, threatened, charmed - and hunted. 
Whom can she trust?  Who is friend and who is foe?
            All these years later, there is no comfort to be had in Jenny's Cove.  For instead of the haven she so desperately seeks, Rachael becomes a target for a vicious predator whose own dark and twisted past forms a deadly bond between them.
And sets her on a collision course with a crazed killer.
And becomes, what I intended to be, a thrilling roller-coaster ride for the reader.

ISBN –978--4502-1271-7
Available at amazon.com and other online bookstores
Or download at smashwords.com

CHILL WATERS - Paperback ISBN  9781450212717

As well as penning suspense novels, Joan Hall Hovey's articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Reader, Atlantic Advocate, The Toronto Star, Mystery Scene, True Confessions, Home Life magazine, Seek and various other magazines and newspapers. Her short story, Dark Reunion was selected for the Anthology, Investigating Women, published by Simon & Pierre, edited by David Skene-Melvin.

Joan Hall Hovey’s second passion is acting, and she enjoys narrating books and scripts, her own and other people’s.
Visit Joan’s website at www.joanhallhovey.com

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