Monday, December 16, 2013

Aaron Lazar Interviews Joan H Young - Cozy Mystery Writer from the North Woods!

Hi, folks!

I recently discovered a wonderful author and read all three of her cozy mysteries in a row. Yes, they were that good! I hope you'll enjoy this interview with Joan Young - it was great fun getting to know her. 


Aaron Lazar
APL: I fell in love with Paddy, the Irish Setter in Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. What is your experience with dogs? Have you always had them, or recently acquired one? I've loved them since I was little, and always have one or two in the family. They sleep with us. ;o) If you have canines, who are they and how have they affected your life?

JHY: Yes, Paddy is an Irish Setter. I haven't owned that particular breed of dog, although I've known a couple. I've owned dogs all my life, although I don't have one at the moment.

My best childhood friend was a dog, since I grew up as an only child in the country. I'm a complete sucker for canines - they become an integral part of my life. Of course they sleep with me! However, at the moment, I'm trying to keep my options for traveling open, and am remaining dogless for now. The most recent was Maggie a Vizsla mix. Our adventures have been covered on my blog ( since I began blogging. However, as dogs will do, she became old and I had to say goodbye.

Before that, I had Chips, a mutt who looked like a miniature Golden Retriever. He may be the most special dog I ever owned (can't really compare him with that childhood dog). He hiked over 1200 miles of the North Country Trail with me, before I lost him to cancer. There's a lot about him in my book, North Country Cache.

APL: Your Anastasia Raven cozy mystery series are just wonderful. I've read them all. I am smitten by the locale, the swamp, the house that Ana is renovating. What kind of house do you live in now? Are you near a swamp? Near the woods? Tell us about it and how it differs from Ana's house.

JHY: They say you should write what you know. When I was grappling with a person and a place I could sustain for a series of books, I knew I had to focus on small towns and rural areas.

My current house is not like Ana's. However, a house we lived in for two years is the mirror image of Ana's, without the addition she put on. The name of the swamp is "stolen" from a local area known as Dead Horse Marsh, although the swamp in the book is much larger. There are many rivers where I currently live, and so that general type of terrain was easy to add into the story locale.

I do live in the country, but don't have nearly as much forest to call my own as I would like. However, I'm not far from a National Forest, so there is lots of room to get out and play in the trees. I studied wetlands for a number of years, and so making that type of landscape a key feature of my books was a no-brainer. Your appreciation of nature is so evident in your stories, from the descriptions of the bird songs to the flora/fauna in the woods. From your bio I know you've always enjoyed the outdoors. Do you have any special hiking/canoe/camping pals you prefer to do these outings with?

JHY: Yes, I spend as much time outdoors as I can. I'm pretty much willing to take anyone along who doesn't whine too much and thinks it's fun. That said, there are several people who've gone out with me more than others.

A friend who still lives in New York, Marie Altenau, is my best friend, and forever hiking partner. We met the summer we were 12, and have been close ever since. She hiked over 2600 miles of the North Country Trail with me, and we still try to hike about 100 miles each year.

Locally, there is a Chapter of the North Country Trail Association which maintains a section of that trail. We sponsor a public hike (or sometimes paddling, or skiing) every month. I always attend those when I'm home.

And, there are a couple of local friends I like to go out with for hiking, kayaking, skiing or snowshoeing. I also go out alone quite a bit. I'm totally comfortable with that.

APL: There are a few men in your series who seem like possible love interests for Ana. Although she's definitely "off men" for now, after her disappointing divorce/discovery with her husband, it seems by book three that she's finally coming to terms with her husband's relationship with Brian. Do you think there might be hope for her with the newspaper editor or local detective, both who seemed interested in her?

JHY: Interesting question. You will read part of the answer to that in the next book!

APL: You have a special talent for describing young people and their relationship with mentors. I loved the little boy in your second book, and Sunny and Star in the third book. Do you have experience mentoring young people? Do you have children from whom you've drawn these experiences?

JHY: My husband and I were in youth ministry for 22 years. I guess that gives me some experience! Also, we adopted three boys, now all grown. I'm actually quite relieved that you found those descriptions genuine, because sometimes I think I don't understand children at all. Have you ever based your literary characters on real people, dead or alive? Was Ana completely made-up, or does she possess qualities of folks you've admired? Any of these qualities similar to you, the author?

JHY: I am trying not to make a character exactly like someone in real life. Ana has some of my characteristics, but so does Cora. Ana is definitely more feminine than I am. Cora is neater. As a writer yourself, I'm sure you know that sometimes characters just grow into themselves no matter how we first wrote them.

The opening for "News," where Ana is tearing out the walls was real. I did that. So, scenes sometimes can be taken from real events. Corliss (Len) from "Paddy" is physically a man I saw at a gas station. However, his personality and needs are totally fabricated. I suppose it's dangerous to live near an author because you might end up in a book.

APL: Both book 1 and 3 are full-length novels, but book 2 is a novella. What's the story behind this? I wanted more of that book and was disappointed when it was over!

JHY: "Hollow Tree" is probably only a short story. Basically, I wanted something I was willing to give away for free that would entice people to try the other books. A prequel didn't seem to fit, so I stuck the free one between the other two. I realize it's short, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but I still think it's worth having a free offering.

The idea came to me in a brainstorm and I wrote it in one weekend of insane typing.

I do find it strange that one of the reasons given in the reviews for a lower rating is that it's too short, since it clearly is advertised as a short story! I suppose that's something of a convoluted compliment.

APL: What are you working on now? I hope it's a fourth book in the series.

JHY: Yes, it is! I'm about 2/3 finished with another full-length book called Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp. This plot is much more complex than any of the others, and I hope to keep readers guessing until very near the end. It should be ready to release in early 2014. It's filled with interactions between familiar characters, and a few new people.

You can find all my books and published stories, with links for how to purchase them, at

Author Bio:

Joan Young has enjoyed the out-of-doors her entire life. Highlights of her outdoor adventures include Girl Scouting, which provided yearly training in camp skills, the opportunity to engage in a 10-day canoe trip, and numerous short backpacking excursions. She was selected to attend the 1965 Senior Scout Roundup in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, an international event to which 10,000 girls were invited. She has ridden a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1986, and on August 3, 2010 became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot. Her mileage totaled 4395 miles.

In 2005, North Country Cache made its debut for the 25th Anniversary of the North Country Trail, telling stories about the first half of her NCT hike. Since then, more and more of her time has been spent writing, including a monthly column in the local newspaper about outdoor recreation. If only more and more money came from that endeavor, it could be called a career!
She has recently begun writing more fiction, including a number of short stories, some of which await publication through Twin Trinity Media, and the Anastasia Raven mysteries.


Unknown said...

A writer and a hiker. This is going to be great. I'm curious, Joan. Do you write in your mind when you hike?

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Dora- Thanks for asking a question! Sometimes I do, but unless the recorder is very handy, I don't remember much of it! That's why I started recording instead of journaling. I was losing too many of the little jokes and anecdotes that make books about hiking something better than a record of times, temperatures and meals.

Ann Summerville said...

Any book with a picture of a dog on the cover is always intriguing to me. Great interview.