Interview with Joelle Steele

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not the first, but the first that mattered. It was "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. I read it the summer before 5th grade. It took me to another time and place and it felt so very real. I have always been heavily influenced by authors like Dickens, who create such complex, struggling characters.
What do you read for pleasure?
In fiction I mostly prefer mystery, suspense, historic fiction, and sci-fi. I especially like old novels that are really well-written, and fortunately many of those are now in the public domain and are available as free ebooks, so I'm never at a loss for something to read. In non-fiction I've read all kinds of books, but my main preferences are for art/design/photography, art history, and artist bios; science/technology/medicine/computers; and marketing/business management.
Who are your favorite authors?
Thomas Hardy, Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, and almost any author who knows how to create an interesting character and create a sense of place. I also love Winston Graham and Diana Gabaldon -- great authors, well-researched stories. And I like Paula McLain, Sarah Smith, and Charles Palliser, among many, many others.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I have a very long and ever-growing list of books that I want to read, and so I am always looking to see if any of them are available in ebook versions, either online or via my local library. When they are, I download them. I also spend a lot of time at the library looking at what librarians recommend as their favorite reads. I find librarians are great judges of the quality of the books they lend. Occasionally, someone will recommend a book to me that they have read and I usually add that book to my list. I'm very patient, so if a book isn't in ebook form yet, I can wait until it is. I also like Goodreads because you can find almost every book in the world on that site, and most have reader ratings and multiple reviews.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I mainly grew up in Monterey, California, near Carmel, which was a much greater artists' community at the time. I think the quiet environment probably inspired me to be creative, since I need absolute silence for my writing and my art. But I was born in San Francisco, lived in the Bay Area for many years, then lived in Venice Beach for several years, then back to Monterey, and now I've been in Lacey, Washington since 2005. I live in a very quiet, forested neighborhood, and I have never been more creative in my life than I am here in the Pacific Northwest.
When did you first start writing?
I learned to read very early, so that led me to writing early as well. I was always writing something, but the landmarks were: my first poem at age 6 (about Candy, my cat), my first short story at age 8 (very short, about a fairy named Daisy), my first and only adaptation of a play from a book at age 10 ("Little Witch"), my first and only play at age 13 (about the daughter of a migrant farm worker), and my first novel at age 16 (sci-fi about an alien living on earth). Mind you, these were all just part of the learning experience and were not worthy of any serious consideration!
What is your writing process?
With anything I write, fiction or non-fiction, the very first step is always research, research, and more research. In my mind, you just can't research enough. It's a fantastic way to make an interesting story even more interesting and authentic. With fiction, I then start by developing a very strong, fully fleshed-out character. If I can't make my character real, they will not fit well into any story I write because they'll be shallow and superficial, and that means they won't be believable. I find far too many books these days rely on the same stereotypical characters, and that's just plain boring to me. So I write a detailed character summary, and I don't work on much of anything else until that summary is as thorough as it can be. I often include a family tree and a list of friends and acquaintances to go with the summary. I probably have at least 50 or more of these summaries for different characters that I'd like to write for (I should live that long ...). Next, I do a plot chart so that I can see where characters should be introduced and how the plot and subplots should be revealed, always looking for whe re the climax should occur and how the denouement should unfold. Once the plot chart is done, I then write an outline based on it. My outlines are sometimes extremely detailed, sometimes just brief notes, and others are a combination of both. Once all of this pre-planning is done, I write the first draft. I generally write it right into the outline. I don't go for a lot of details at this point. I'm mainly just trying to get the story told and to make it flow out in a spontaneous way. However, that said, I sometimes write out of sequence and not starting with Chapter 1. I may feel more motivated to write Chapter 6, then Chapter 3, then Chapter 11, etc. Just depends on the story. After I finish the first draft, I begin the process of fleshing it out by adding description, constructing dialogue, etc. From then on, it's just a lot of rewriting and editing. I have generally rewritten and edited a manuscript at least five times before I send it to my content editor. When it comes back from her, there's usually at least a little more editing to do -- so far only one manuscript required reconstruction, and that was truly agony and all due to working with a shaky outline. My bad, as they say. After that, I proof it myself at least twice, and then I have a proofer go through it before I make it into an ebook and then typeset it for print.
What kind of people do you write books for?
I write my novels for readers who enjoy complex characters, interwoven plots, and an abundance of detailed trivia. My non-fiction books are written for people who have an interest in science-based material, such as astrology, biometrics, and horticulture.
Do you find it difficult to switch between writing fiction and non-fiction?
Actually, not at all. I have been writing for my entire life, and I have written just about everything imaginable, so I'm used to changing gears on a moment's notice.
What's the story behind your novels?
I have always had an interest in the psychological make-up of people, and I've also always had an interest in mysteries and ghosts and the supernatural. But most ghost stories are too much of the same thing for me -- same old story told again and again. I'm a lot more interested in the psychology of my characters, their development, their beliefs, their struggles, etc. So they are the dominant part of my books, and I just set them into a ghost/supernatural/mystery storyline.
Are your characters related to each other from one novel to the next?
Yes, they are, but my novels are not a series. I love genealogy, and I like to show my readers how a character's ancestry affects who they are. When I was writing "Devil's Garden" (1980, out of print), I decided that I would create a big family tree from which I would draw my characters. My main character in "Devil's Garden" was Mariah King, and she was a descendant of the Ardens, the main family in that family tree. In "Shades" (2014), Michael Grainger is a ghost hunter investigating the Arden estate, Redthorn Hall, and but he doesn't know he is a distant descendant. In "Delusions" (2015), Rhoda is a member of the Arden family, and "Reflections" (2016) is full of Arden characters. Every novel I write has a character or two that are somehow related to or descended from the Ardens, and the characters from one novel are mentioned in others. I've been occasionally working at "Spider in the Attic," which features Irene Arden and also mentions Mariah King from "Devil's Garden."
What are you working on next?
I am always working on a new book or two while finishing up the previous one. This year -- 2018 -- has been a very busy year for me for non-fiction. I published "The External Ear" (biometrics), "Souvenirs of Europe" (art), "The Garbageman's Daughter" (my memoirs), and I'm currently typesetting "What Did They Really Look Like?" (biometrics and art). I'm still working on other novels. But, since non-fiction always pays so much better than fiction, it's been my priority while one of my novels, "Spider in the Attic," has been languishing on the back burner!
How do you approach cover design?
I am the writer and the cover designer, so I know what the imagery is that goes with the story. From there it is about painting or in some way creating the art, and then finding an appropriate typeface to go with it. Because books are now sold mostly online instead of in bookstores, I'm not as attentive to the cover, as long as the title is readable. I can't even tell you what the covers look like on the books and ebooks I buy. I'm only interested in the plot summary that goes with them. If it's too vague, I don't buy.
Describe your desk
L-shaped, heavy-duty, neat, clean, organized, with desktop computer, dictionary, manuals, a plant, a swing lamp, cell phone, scanner, printer, and a cup with writing utensils in it. Usually a cat sitting in the middle of it. Also a lovely, peaceful view out the window.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Mostly painting. I've been an artist as long as I've been a writer. I also collect antique etchings, rocks/fossils, and pottery. Of course, I love to read, usually about two books a week, fiction and non-fiction. I also like crossword puzzles, hiking, gardening, listening to music, singing -- and so much more. I have a lot of hobbies and interests.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I think I've always been moving in that direction, and the progression of technology has spurred me along over the years. I've been in the publishing industry since the early 1970s when I worked first as a copywriter and then as a creative director for a book publisher. In the 1980s, I had two novels published along with several non-fiction books. After that, I started my own publishing business and edited and published books and periodicals through the 1990s. In the early 2000s, I began updating, revising, and publishing some of my previously-published non-fiction books. Then, in early 2014, I decided to again update and revise some of those books and publish them as ebooks. At the same time, I decided to start publishing some of my own fiction in ebook format as well, although I also publish print versions.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer the Nook GlowLight, but I also wanted to be able to read ebooks that were only available in Kindle's mobi format. So, after five years, I broke down and bought a Nook Tablet and downloaded the Kindle app so that I can now read ebooks in both formats on one device.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I'm still breathing.
How many books have you written so far?
I have written 42 books, and 38 of those have been published. The ones that weren't published were the first two novels I wrote, which I knew were pretty bad. Then there was one that was good but conflicted with something that happened in the real world at the time, and one that was semi-autobiographical and turned out to be more of a cathartic experience.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I think it's a combination of techniques. For ebook versions I put a few plugs for each new book in my feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Goodreads. I sell directly from my own website and also via smashwords, amazon, and a variety of other online booksellers. For print versions, I have them for sale on my website and also on I send sample copies to libraries throughout the United States; I pass out copies to friends, relatives, and people I know in stores, etc.; and I also leave copies in coffee shops and in the post office.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
This is probably obvious to anyone who has used smashwords. It's the incredible ease of creating the ebook and then having it distributed to so many online sellers.
Published 2018-07-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 51,590. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Georgina Castle is an antiques dealer with a fear of ghosts and the supernatural. It has altered her life and ruined her marriage. She purchases a matching pair of 18th century mirrors and researches their origins by reading a history of their maker. But she soon realizes that something is not quite right with one of the mirrors. A woman's image appears from within the glass and begs for her help.
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 53,040. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Amanda Woods is a schizophrenic, long neglected by social services, and plagued by delusions and hallucinations, including one of her late mother, Rhoda. New case worker Donna knows Rhoda is no delusion. She digs into Amanda's and Rhoda's past. Shocked by what she finds, Donna calls Father Elias Antonelli, and when he meets Rhoda, he learns something that threatens everything he believes in.
Face to Face: Analysis and Comparison of Facial Features to Authenticate Identities of People in Photographs
Price: $15.99 USD. Words: 45,580. Language: English. Published: August 21, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Social Science » Anthropology / Physical
"Face to Face" is for those who rely on the accurate identification of people in photographs. It covers the anatomy, analysis, measurement, and comparison of the face and ears, as well as idosyncratic traits and other identifying factors. It contains several sample face analyses and addresses post-mortem photos, surveillance photos, and more. Includes extensive glossary and bibliography.
Guía Para Plantscapers: El Mantenimiento de Plantas Interiores
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 29,250. Language: Spanish. Published: June 10, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Home and Garden » Gardening
La Guía contiene información técnica de la fisiología básica de plantas de interior, pero está diseñado para "en el puesto de trabajo" uso por técnicos, incluyendo a los aprendices. El énfasis es agua y regando, pero el también incluye plagas, enfermedades, luz, la nutrición, y más. Contiene 83 fotos, preguntas y contestas, y un glosario español-inglés.
The Interior Landscape Dictionary
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 20,990. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Home and Garden » Gardening
Written for interior landscapers, this is the only dictionary of its kind. It is English-Spanish/Spanish-English with 1,411 entries and 124 B&W illustrations. Includes a brief introduction to scientific plant name classification, Latin pronunciation, and the translation and usage of Spanish terms. Continuously in print since 1992, this ebook is the 2014 expanded and amended 4th edition.
Plantscaper's Guide to Interior Landscape Maintenance
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 31,760. Language: English. Published: May 19, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Home and Garden » Gardening
An on-the-job ebook for interior landscapers. Explains watering techniques and water quality, pH, and temperature. Also addresses soils and soil mixes, pests, light, temperature, plant nutrition, fertilization, and how to read and interpret a fertilizer label. Includes 83 illustrated plant profiles, frequently asked questions about plant care, and a Spanish-English/English-Spanish glossary.
The Astrological Prediction of Earthquakes and Seismic Data Collection
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 55,590. Language: English. Published: May 8, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » New Age » Astrology
For astrologers who want to study the prediction of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, this ebook includes a brief history of earthquakes and predictive techniques; an overview of working with historic data; listings for 3,500+ seismic events through 2012; a glossary of place names; selected chart data for cities and countries; and a short bibliography.
Researching and Writing Your Family History and Memoirs
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 15,360. Language: English. Published: May 2, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Genealogy, Nonfiction » History » Family history
This brief genealogical guide covers basic information a family genealogist needs to research and write their family history, including obtaining and interpreting documents, understanding kinship, and telling stories. Also includes questions for conducting interviews, use of images in written histories, overall story structure, and publishing options.
Cooking For Fluffy: Healthy Home-Made Feline Diets
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 5,560. Language: English. Published: April 28, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Home and Garden » Pets & livestock
Home-made cat food is easy to make and it has quality ingredients and no preservatives or artificial ingredients. That's good news for the healthiest cat. And if your cat has food sensitivities or allergies, a home-made diet may be the answer. This short ebooklet explains everything you need to cook healthy meals for your cat.
Get The Job and Make A Profit: Sales, Marketing, and Estimating Techniques for Landscapers and Interiorscapers
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 41,750. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Marketing
This book is a guide to marketing, sales, and estimation for interiorscapers and landscapers. It is designed to help them avoid sales slumps and the inevitable attrition of clientele in order to become successful and financially viable businesses.
How To Start Your Own Interior Landscape Business
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 12,560. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Small business and entrepreneurship
This short introductory guide includes an overview of the interior landscape industry and answers many of the most frequently asked questions about what's involved in starting this popular horticultural service business.
Living and Breathing: How to Make Your Characters Come Alive
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 18,640. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Reference » Writing skills
Create and develop fictional characters who are multi-dimensional and believable, whether based on real people or larger-than-life creations from your very own vivid imagination. Make your characters come alive. Included are tips for creating family backgrounds and family histories for a character, examples of many character traits, use of dialect and dialogue, and sample character sketches.
Grandma Helny's Old-Fashioned Swede-Finn Recipes
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,820. Language: English. Published: April 11, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Afghani
In 1906, Helny Andersdotter Furu Forstrom Steele came from a small town in Finland to an American rural community in Rochester, Washington. She brought with her a collection of old recipes, which have been translated and assembled into this ebook.
Perceptions, Passions, and Paradoxes: A Poetry Collection
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 17,960. Language: English. Published: April 10, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Female authors
This collection of 150 poems and song lyrics was compiled by the author as most representative of the times and events in her life. The poems were previously published, either individually or in chapbook form, and the lyrics are unpublished but have all been performed in song format. The subject matter is both broad and personal.
Unblocked: How to Expand Your Creativity by Overcoming and Preventing Creative Blocks
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 20,820. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Inspiration » General self-help, Nonfiction » Inspiration » General self-help
All creative people can become blocked at one time or another. They may be unable to come up with fresh ideas, get a project off the ground, or finish their projects. "Unblocked" is a guide to identifying several types of creative blocks, removing and handling those blocks, and developing work habits and other practices that prevent those blocks from reoccuring.
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 67,130. Language: English. Published: March 10, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Shades is part mystery, part ghost story. It's a complex account of an intellectual psychic-ghost hunter, his interactions with ghosts, and his difficulty connecting with the living. As he investigates a haunting, he reflects on his relationships, past ghost-hunts, and paranormal studies, and solves a 150-year-old mystery and a haunting that could well be his downfall – or a much-needed salvation.