Welcome to author Joy Ann Ribar as we drag her away from her detective fun.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
I love to write outside when nature allows me to do it. In Wisconsin, that limits me to spring, summer and part of fall. I write at my picnic table where I can watch my backyard birds gather seeds and get into squabbles.
Describe your current writing spot or space?
I write in a shared office converted from an upstairs bedroom at my house. Since Covid-19, my husband has been working from home — hence, the shared space. My desk faces the front of our house and a busy highway where the local police often pull vehicles over. I joke with my neighbor that the locals must think we’re part of some crime ring with all the police activity going on.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about three months to write the first draft of a book, then another three months to work through edits and rewrites. That may seem like a short time, but before I even begin drafting, I write down ideas in a notebook, make notecards for characters, setting and plot points, and work on research for weeks.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
The storyline comes first, and then I have a blast entertaining different kinds of characters I can fit into the story.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I look through phone books and online directories for last names. Most of my characters’ first names come from people I know or from news stories and other reading I do. When I stumble upon a name I like, I jot it down for possible use later.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I want to write authentically, so I need to hear the characters’ voices in my head. Writing other genders requires me to draw on the people I already know, so I can use their speech and mannerisms to make believable characters.
Can you hear your characters talking?
Yep. I purposely talk out conversations between characters when I’m driving, taking a walk, or trying to sleep!
Were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? For how long?
In another life, I was the assistant editor for a small newspaper and stringer for a large one. My writing career began in journalism for a few years, then I taught English Literature and Creative Writing for almost 20 years before becoming an almost-full time writer.
What kind of research do you do for a book?
I love doing research, even though it sometimes takes me down a rabbit hole where I just keep finding more interesting information that has nothing to do with my book! So far, I’ve done a lot of research about Wisconsin vineyards and grape cultivation since my main character produces her own wines. I always have to research specific crimes, police procedures,and autopsy procedures, but I’ve also done research on poisons and gunshot wounds, Wisconsin trees and herbs, quarrying, gemstones, cats and dogs.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wear writing gloves. They are red and have words to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol printed on them. They make me feel powerful and energized. I like to have a scented candle by my computer when I write. I don’t burn it, but I breathe in its aroma when I need a pick-me-up.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Baking and hiking. These feed my need to create and experience the natural world. I also love to travel and am willing to go just about anywhere (even if I have to travel through book or film).
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
Oh, where to begin? I enjoyed the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, the Little House series and Anne of Green Gables. By the time I was in middle school, I developed an appetite for American history and devoured John Jakes’ Kent Family Chronicles and North and South.
Joy Ann Ribar is a Wisconsin native with Scandinavian roots. A semi-retired English instructor, Joy teaches writing classes at Madison College, after teaching high school for 16 years in Pardeeville. Joy holds a Journalism BA from UW-Madison and an MS in Education from UW-Oshkosh. She enjoys traveling, birding, baking, wineries and friendships!