Writer Interviews: Joelle Charbonneau

Posted by on April 25, 2012

Joelle Charbonneau is tied with Donnell Bell for being the most generous, encouraging writer out there. I met her after she judged my novel in a contest and invited me to contact her on the judging form. Since that day, she’s been in my corner, going way out of her way to help me succeed and offering unending encouragement and support. She is a true gem. Joelle is an incredibly hardworking, terrific writer who always weaves a great tale with unforgettable characters. She is also a classically trained singer, an actress and a voice teacher. She does it all! Here is the lovely Joelle in her own words.

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

Since I have a toddler at home, my schedule has to be more flexible than I’d like. However, the typical routine is answering e-mails in the morning in between dodging the toddler as he races around and running errands. The tot still naps, which means the minute his head hits the pillow in the afternoons, I start typing. I typically get about 2 hours of writing time in during the afternoon before I have to be “mom” again. Once the tot goes to sleep for the evening, I then start writing again. Often you’ll find me at my laptop well past midnight.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

Writer’s block? What’s that? Ha! I am only half kidding. I write every day no matter what. Some days I write less than others, but I am always moving the story forward. I think writer’s block happens most when writers give into the fear of telling the wrong story or worry about how far they still have to travel until they finish the manuscript. I try to focus on what happens next…the next hook…the next line…the next moment. Small steps. If I keep my focus on the path in front of me, I am less scared about the miles that stretch ahead.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

I have never been one to read books on how to write. Instead, I read books by authors I love. If I find one that I think is exceptionally well done, I read it over again with an eye on the craft I think has been done well. I believe the best way to really learn is to understand why something works and figure out how to apply that to your own writing.

4. Who do you read for fun?

The one problem with being a published author is that I have less time to read that I once did. I admit that I used to be a 200 book a year kind of girl. Now I’m lucky if I read 30-40 books in a year. Sigh…. However, when I do read, I am a sucker for thrillers (adult or YA), science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and anything that makes me laugh.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

Um….I never actually wanted to be a writer. True story! My love of reading started when I was in first grade and continued through adulthood. I admired writers who could craft such amazing stories, but I never considered joining the ranks. As a professional stage performer, I enjoyed acting out other people’s stories on the stage. About ten years ago, I was in a production of Evita. On the way home from a show, I had an idea for an opening line of a book. It startled me since I had never considered writing. Heck, I’d never even taken an English class in college. (Yes, this is another true story…one for another time!) But, the opening line was stuck in my head so I wrote it down. Since my performance schedule gave me Mondays and Tuesdays off, and most everyone else works on those days, I decided to see if I could add to that opening line. Once I did, I wanted to see if I could actually finish writing the story. When I did, I realized I’d enjoyed the process of figuring out what came next and decided to try my hand at writing something that might be publishable. It took a lot of practice (trust me, no one should ever see those first manuscripts) but finally, I managed to write a manuscript that landed me my fabulous agent and sold to an editor!

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write. Ha! This sounds totally lame, but true. Sit down and write. Get to THE END and revise the book and then write another one. In this day and age of self-publishing, it is easy to get swept up in the idea of hitting a button and being published. I think a lot of young writers don’t give themselves time to develop their own unique voice and style. They’re so busy trying to get to the finish line that they don’t really take time to learn what makes their writing special. The only way to develop your writing voice and learn the craft of writing is to write, revise, edit and write some more. For some people this learning process takes years. For others it takes months. Don’t listen to other people’s journeys to being published and assume yours will be the same. Take the time you require to be the best writer you can be.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Self-motivation. Being a writer is a strange job. Unlike a lot of jobs, there is no one looking over your shoulder making sure you get your daily word counts in. There is no one telling you to sit down and write instead of cleaning house or taking a nap or any number of other myriad things that need your attention. Self-motivation is something writers need to learn before ever getting that first contract.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Popcorn (with real butter and salt) and Diet Pepsi.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Hmmm….my favorite movies are The Fugitive, Die Hard, Hoosiers and The Rookie. Give me stuff blowing up or great sports films any day of the week. With books, I love to read just about every genre. Some of the books that really made an impression on me growing up were Stephen King’s The Stand and The Tailsman, and David Eddings Belgarion and Malloreon series and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (now retitled And Then There Were None).

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Nah! Redheads need to keep a few secrets, right?

Joelle Charbonneau has performed in a variety of opera and musical theatre productions across Chicagoland. She now teaches private voice lessons and uses her stage experience to create compelling characters in her books. She is the author of two mystery series: The Rebecca Robbins mysteries (Minotaur Books) and the soon to debut Glee Club mystery series (MURDER FOR CHOIR, Berkley , July 3). Joelle is also the author of the Graduation Day young adult trilogy that will debut with THE TESTING (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s) in Spring 2013. Learn more at www.joellecharbonneau.com

Here’s some info on Joelle’s next book, Murder for Choir:

Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the uber-competitive egos of Prospect Glen High School show choir. As their new coach, she’s getting an icy reception from championship-hungry students who doubt she can take them to a first-place trophy. Toughing this gig out may prove harder than scoring her big break…

Especially now that her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen’s fiercest rival choir. For Paige to clear his name, she’ll have to sort through a chorus of suspects—and go note-for-note with a killer who’ll do anything to knock her out of the spotlight for good…

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3 Responses to Writer Interviews: Joelle Charbonneau

  1. Kathryn Craft

    Great interview! As for #6, which I agree with whole-heartedly, I think NaNoWriMo is partly to blame. Yes, the time pressure element has urged people to acquire the word count habits that allow them to get to “The End”—in 30 days, you too could have a novel! And you can e-publish it! But of course it isn’t yet a novel. What they end up with is usually just a bunch of black marks on a white page. Now, whether by studying mentors as you did, Joelle, or through formal or self-acquired education, they need to go learn the craft so they know what to do with it! As a developmental editor I’ve worked with many an abandoned NaNoWriMo project to help the author build those skills.

  2. Kristi

    Awesome! I’m thrilled with the caliber of the authors who have agreed to be on my blog! Thanks for reading David! xoxo

  3. David Pennington

    You ask great questions, Kristi. I always read your writer friends’ advice, and sometimes I even follow it!