Joanna Vander Vlugt is an author and illustrator. Her motorcycle illustrations have been purchased world-wide and her Woman Empowered motorcycle art series has been featured in on-line art and motorcycle magazines. In 2006 her short mysteries Egyptian Queen and The Parrot and Wild Mushroom Stuffing were published in the Crime Writers of Canada mystery anthologies. Her personal essay, No Beatles Reunion was published in the Dropped Threads 3: Beyond the Small Circle anthology.
The Unravelling, her debut novel, featuring the sister duo, Jade and Sage, was a Canadian Book Club Awards finalist as well as its sequel, Dealer’s Child. She is currently working on book three in the series. Joanna is proud of her podcast JCV Art Studio and the many artists and authors she’s interviewed. Joanna’s novels, art and podcast can be found at jcvartstudio.net.
today on Discovered word Smiths. I wanna welcome Joanna. Joanna. How are you doing today? I’m doing
Joanna: pretty good. We’re getting some snow, so I may be out shoveling a little
Stephen: later, right? Hopefully not in the middle of the podcast. That’d be an interesting . We were talking a little bit before we got started.
Why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself, where you live and some of the things you like to do besides writing. Okay.
Joanna: I live on Vancouver Island. So for the Your American audience, if you think of Seattle and I, we’ve actually, we’ve , I’m thinking of snow. We have been to Disneyland and I just remember now when we were, it was around Christmas time.
I am totally going off on a tangent here, but go for it. Okay, love it. So I remember we were driving back. Going through Oregon and there was this snowstorm and we made it through. We have a little Honda element, but anyways, back on track. So if you go north to Seattle, to Vancouver, there is a ferry you can hop on and that takes you to Vancouver Island.
And it’s the. Biggest island on the west coast. Okay. Okay. So that’s where I’m coming from.
Stephen: You, you keep saying Vancouver Island and all I can picture right now is Christmas Island. I just, it’s like somebody needs to make the whole island Christmas Island. That’s where everybody’s destination for December.
It sounds like a tourist thing to make .
Joanna: After. The pandemic. Everyone was coming to our island and I thought this island’s gonna sink. Like all of you guys go home, , right? There’s other parts of Canada to, to visit. But anyways, I was born and raised on Vancouver Island. I’m called a an island girl.
Okay. And yeah, I’ve worked in the prosecutor’s office and actually the office of the police complaint commission. Which deals with complaints. We have municipal police force, so we do have the R C M P, which everyone identifies with the red surge and all of that. But we also have, yeah. But we also have municipal police departments too.
And so if anyone had a complaint with regards to the municipal police departments, that would come to the office of the police complaint commissioner. Okay. And I’ve. Drawn upon my experience working in the prosecutor’s office as a legal assistant and police complaint commissioner’s office and writing my novels in my thriller novels.
So that’s what I like to do. And if I’m not writing, I like jogging. And I seriously, like this time of year, I am binging baking channels, baking shows.
Stephen: Yeah so you should write Cozy Mystery based on like chefs and baking, that, that type of thing. It sounds ,
Joanna: I tell you, I live in a small town now, and there have been a number of storylines that have popped into my head.
Yeah, there you
Stephen: go. . Yeah. So why did you wanna start writing? What made you wanna get down to it and write?
Joanna: Believe it or not, as a kid, I did despise reading. I found it very difficult. I was not the child that was like in group A, I was in group B and the thought of reading out loud, just, I stumbled a lot over my words and we used to have these books, they’re called.
Rupert and I believe they’re a UK book, and you had the choice cuz there were illustrations and just little one line sentences underneath each picture. Or there were the big two paragraphs at the bottom of the page and my mom would like literally say I had to read 30 minutes before I went to. . So I would try to always read the little one line sentences and then she caught on what I was doing.
Cuz parents, they do that , right? And she was like no. The two paragraphs. So it was my sister who got me hooked on the biopsy Twins, which is, it’s another UK publication. With,
Stephen: we’re dating ourselves talking about these things. Cause the 20 year olds are going, what are you guys talking about?
I’m sure .
Joanna: And it was all action. It was all action. And the Hardy Boys, I read the Hardy Boys. It was all that type of action and adventure. And once I got hooked, literally it was like that one story. Once I got hooked that you could read about action at adventure. Then I wanted to read and then I wanted to write my own stories.
So I was writing stories, I’d say from grade seven to about grade 12. Yeah. Nice. So I always like creating stories.
Stephen: So you’ve kept writing throughout your life or you put it off, or, have, are you, have you been publishing all this time or how’s that, what’s that journey been like? I
Joanna: became an adult
Stephen: That’s a horrible thing to say. Yeah.
Joanna: So I it was when I graduated from high school and I went to college to become a legal assistant. I swear that it was the economics 1 0 1 that killed every creative idea in my brain, I was working, I met my husband and we had a family and I just, I stopped writing.
Okay. I stopped writing. I used to create art as well. I just, at that time it didn’t fit into the lifestyle. I had a young family, I stopped, gosh. I stopped for a little bit, but actually I did. Now that I think about it, I started writing again when I was about 25, 20, 28, and I wrote for about 10 years, and then I was just honestly getting tired.
I remember being tired of the rejections I was getting, and I just, I stopped. and I focused on other activities I was interested in. And I got to a point where I was even telling my friends when they’d ask me, oh, Joanna, are you going to get back to your writing? And I’d be like no, I’m not. I don’t, I can’t see myself doing anymore writing, or creating any anymore art.
And it’s true. You never say never, and it was, gosh, about 20 years later, 20 years. . When my mom passed that, I dug out the book I had written in 1999 and I thought, okay, if there’s something that I think is salvageable in this manuscript, I will rewrite it and I will self-publish it. And um, it’s been a great ride.
It’s been a great journey and I am just received back from my editor the edits on book three. and this morning I had a critique session with my critique partner with regards to the first draft PGE of book four. It’s good to be back.
Stephen: Yeah. Nice. Great. Let’s talk about your books a bit. The current book is Dealer’s Child.
Yes. So give us a little bit about what that book’s about and the series overall. Don’t give things away, but tell us a little bit about it.
Joanna: So it involves two sisters. There’s one sister. It’s written in the first person point of view from Jade’s point of view, and she is a lawyer. Defense lawyer, sometimes prosecutor.
Okay. Because in Canada you can be both. It’s, you can be an ad hoc prosecutor. You need to be a criminal lawyer though. So you need to know criminal law. Alright, so when she’s not prosecuting, she is investigating. Criminal matters, usually murders. And in the first book, the unraveling, it was, she had defended her ex-husband on a murder charge, and then later she finds some that finds out that he’s been murdered.
Okay. So she’s just also trying to clear her own name, okay. To prove, and uncover his murder. And the second book Dealer’s Child, the, just the thought came to me of. , what if my heroin Jade has grown up with this idea of what her ide, you she grew up with this kind of ideal background family life and what would happen if she was to find out that during the sixties her mother was quite the.
And she finds out uncovers some family secrets, some family lies, and that ties into the murder of her father, of her father. Okay. That was fun because I remember at the time, every scene in the mother’s point of view in the sixties, I just, I wrote all the scenes in the sixties, all at.
because I wanna make sure I stayed in that point of view with the mob, and it’s listening to Jimmy Hendrix, it’s listening to some of those like stones, some great songs from that era, right? Yeah, she, Jade has to uncover some secrets about her past and it’s , it’s a bit of an emo, it’s an emotional journey, and she’s trying to uncover her father’s murder as well.
Okay. Wow. Yeah.
Stephen: Yeah. She needs to move out of the small town, it sounds . Are there any books out there that you would say are similar to your books that, so that people listening and say, oh, I like that. I’m gonna go check out Joanna’s books.
Joanna: Okay. Yeah. So when I started writing the unraveling, like I said, it was during the.
Late. I just felt, oh my God, I just felt the late 19 hundreds . It was during .
Stephen: It does seem kinda like the Wild West there, .
Joanna: It was during 1999. Okay. And at that time, John Grisham was coming up with his legal thrillers and I just thought, and David Bald Baldi. Like they were coming out with legal thrillers and I thought, hey, you.
I work in a prosecutor’s office. This is th this is what I know. Okay. It may be Canadian law, but it’s still law. People are still breaking the laws. I still have a lawyer, that’s where I see the connection. Okay. It’s with David Baldacci John Grisham, that sort of thing. And even my editor said to me when she sent back the edits, like in book three, she was saying, I like seeing Jade in the courtroom.
She goes, so that’s one thing I’m going to have as like my thumbprint with each book. There will be a few courtroom scenes, and. the puzzle and the fun for me is weaving in, let’s say a clue. She may pick up from a case she’s working on and seeing how it could, it can connect to, let’s say, whatever she’s investigating.
Stephen: Yeah. So kinda like Perry Mason or Matt Locke. Yeah. Yeah,
Joanna: that’s right.
Stephen: Okay. And these are self-published? Yes. Yes, they are. Do you have like a publishing house you go through or anything? Or is it all just you?
Joanna: It’s me. I use, I’ve just hired a book designer. I didn’t think of this at the time and I wish I had I was, when I self-published the unraveling, I was just thinking about, like I said, my mom had passed and I thought, okay, let’s publish this book and.
A month after I published it, I thought, okay, I got an idea for book two, and then I started writing book two. And then it’s okay I’m in I’m on this ride, I’m doing this. And so then with book three that I’m working on now with the edits, it’s called Spy Girls, and that’s. , it’s a series, right?
But they’re individual stories. You don’t have to read book one to pick up book three or book two, right? They’re,
Stephen: it’s all connected by location and character, more so than our overarching plot.
Joanna: Yeah. Yeah. So with book three coming out, I thought, okay, you gotta brand these. They have to look like they’re connected, but individual.
So I have a book designer. , who’s really good. And biggest lesson I learned is I kept telling her what I didn’t want as a book cover. I said I don’t want the female running away so we only see the back of her. I go, I’ve seen a lot of covers like that. But what she did is she found images were that were female.
that are facing the reader, and I loved them. So it’s it was, I was contradictory because I told her what I didn’t want, but, so she flipped it and I thought, yeah, so I have all, and she went to the lengths where the woman on the cover of book one, she managed to get. Another image of a woman for the cover of book two, and she photoshopped the image of the woman’s nose on book one.
So it is the woman’s nose on book two. Who does that detail? .
Stephen: Wow. That’s funny. That’s good. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. Keeper . So are these available print or just digital? Print
Joanna: eBooks they’re available. I, so they’re available on Amazon. They’re available through Cobo. I also have the eBooks listed through Drafted Digital, which is a great resource for authors.
I’ll get a draft, a digital report saying You’ve sold this book through Barnes and Noble, right? Or all these book outlets. , which I never even knew existed. So I think there’s, oh gosh there’s some, I can’t even remember the Plat, like Yeah, they’re out there , right? Yeah. Google
Stephen: Books even.
Yeah. I use drafted digital and Hoopin stuff and I like, yeah, a year and a half after I submitted a book, it said, oh, you’ve been accepted to I’m like, I forgot all about that. Yeah. And then suddenly I’m like getting these emails like, you sold this many books or rented, checked out books in hoopla and I.
Really. That’s pretty awesome. I love that. Yeah.
Joanna: Hoop loves one. Yeah. Thank you .
Stephen: Yeah. Cause it’s through your library, so I always tell people, support your libraries. Check ’em out. Yeah. If more people will go to the library, listen to an episode and say, wow, Joanna’s book sounds great, I’ll go ask for it at my library.
That’s just helping everybody helps us, helps them, helps the library, yeah. It’s a win-win for everyone. Yeah. I love that.
Joanna: Yep. Hoopla, BLO tech.
Stephen: Yeah, all of those. Scribed, I get it. Quite a few uns actually. It’s weird. I never thought that would happen, but Yeah. ,
Joanna: yeah. Yeah.
Stephen: Joanna, what type of, you’ve got a couple books out, you’ve got more coming.
What’s the feedback you’ve been getting on the ones that are out?
Joanna: The best feedback I received was a reader Facebook messaged. and I enter contests and I’ll get like dealers, child and unraveling were finalists in the Great Canadian Book Club Awards. And so I’ve been another author who I interviewed has said, I’ve always been the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
So sometimes I feel like that Okay. The best response I received was a reader messaged me on Facebook and she was, she said, Joanna, I just can’t put this book. I can’t put this book down. And she goes, I just can’t. And she goes, wait, go. This was with respect to dealer’s child. And I went, thank you.
And then I messaged her again. Can I use your comments as promotional material, right? She goes, yeah, fine. Now leave me alone. I want to read, and I thought, oh,
Stephen: That’s awesome. That’s good feedback. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. So if you had a choice, if someone asked you, Hey, we’d like your books.
We wanna make them into a movie or a TV show, which one would you pick?
Joanna: Either I would just be happy with either. And I know I just had this discussion with one of my sisters where a Canadian author, her book. Was sold for a prime, miniseries. And readers, diehard readers were commenting how I only watched the first 10 minutes and it’s not like the book it’s not going to be like the book, you’re handing your rights over to a total different medium, TV or a movie, and they are going to take this book and adapt it.
To make, a product that will be appealing on the tv, on the screen. So it’s two different mediums. Yeah.
Stephen: Yep. Okay. And you mentioned all these services where you can get your book Cobo yes. Is one of them. So do you have a website that people can go to?
Joanna: Yes. Yes. So if you really wanna support local, it is J for chiana, C for Cat, V for Victor.
Art studio. Dot net n et and I have some of my podcasts listed there. And I have like a little shop where you can buy my books. Yeah. And in the price, I include the shipping and yeah that’s where you can get the books directly from me. And I would include an art card because I do motorcycle illustration.
So you’d get, I try to give more of a personal touch when someone buys directly through
Stephen: me. Okay. Back up one sec. First of all, what’s a motorcycle illustration? What’s that mean? And does your main character ride a motorcycle or something? Yes. Oh, okay. You did not mention that. That sounds really cool. Go ahead a little bit more
Joanna: about that.
Geez, I need more coffee , less Christmas cookies and more coffee. But yeah, so like I said, as a teenager I created art. So I don’t know if you can see it behind me. Okay. Yeah. One of my motorcycle illustrations and what I use, they’re called topic markers. Okay. Yep. And I will get a photo of a motorcycle on my.
I will make enlarge that photo and I will draw that motorcycle on a 11 and a half by 14 and a half piece of paper. And I use the markers which are very vibrant color. There are approximately 300 and something markers. Yeah, I have a, I have 160 and. . It is. It is just so much fun. And my, when I was doing the rewrites for the unraveling and I was thinking about my characters, I remember I just, I looked up and I saw one of my illustrations and I thought, why don’t they ride bikes?
Because there’s a whole group mass, like just big group of. all walks of life, who enjoy riding bikes. And I thought, yeah that’s what the, my characters, Jade and Sage, they ride their mo their motorcycles when they go around the town. And I’m trying to take a little bit from. James Bond.
He may have a different car. Every movie, every book. I think Jade is working on her fourth bike right now. , right? It’s a Honda . Yeah,
Stephen: so So you gotta have a murder at a poker rally or something sometime, right? Fun. Yeah. Oh my. There you go. I do that one. I’d love to see that one.
Joanna: Yeah. A illustrated Harley’s, that’s for
great. That would be awesome. Yeah. But I you’re on an island so you just like going circles,
Oh, okay. A couple other questions. Find out some more info about you. What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Joanna: Oh gosh. I always liked John Grisham cuz I liked the le the legal. , working in the legal field, I liked the legal background. I like thrillers. So I’d say John Grisham, Dan Brown.
Again it’s just, take me on that adventure and the, I remember being glued to reading the Da Vinci Code because it was to actually. Real images of the statues, the buildings he wrote about was really cool. And I love it when an author writes a book where you wonder, is this real or is this fiction?
And Dan Brown did that with Da Vinci Code. Okay. Yeah. Yeah those two are my main favorite. Gosh, I can’t think of any. Oh God, the name came and it went . Yeah.
Stephen: Yeah. Typically authors have a list longer than they can ever remember of books and authors that they love. So Yeah, we, you got a couple good ones, so anyone that likes those probably shares interests with you.
So should check out some of your stuff.
Joanna: Tara Moss and Sandra Brown. Those are the other, yes. .
Stephen: Okay. . Good. Now you can shovel without racking your brain. , . Do you have a favorite local bookstore you like to go to?
Joanna: See, I used to live in Victoria, which is an actual city. , you , can you?
It’s taken me a little while to adjust to the small town, but I’ve adjusted, so Victoria, you can take a, the coho ferry from Seattle. And we’ve been to Port Townsend. Victoria has Monroe Bookstore, which was started by, she was a famous Canadian author. I don’t know how much, let’s say the American audience knows of her.
It was Alice Monroe. Okay. Okay. It is a beautiful bookstore. It’s in one of those like old Like 18 hundreds type building with the beautiful moldings and the curved doorways. Okay. That is a favorite bookstore. We also had in Victoria Boland books. and again, it’s like the stained glass window.
The stained glass lamps, and it is big. Like you, you go in there and you smell books. Okay, , that’s a good spot, right? Yeah. So luckily Victoria’s only about an hour and 15 minute drive where I live now. So when I need my fix, for the city I just head down . Got it.
Stephen: Yeah. Good. Alright, so before we move on and talk author.
Yeah. If were just walking around town, somebody came up and said, Hey, I heard you wrote some books. Why should I get your books and read ’em? What would you tell them? My
Joanna: books are a thrill ride. That’s exactly what my books are. I write to thrill myself. Okay. And to surprise myself. And that’s exact.
Literally this morning with my critique, I was just working on book four. I had said to my critique partner, I go, I never thought I would write this type of an action adventure novel. And so when I initially write, I write to thrill me, to scare me, to also make myself laugh. Like I want to laugh, I want to giggle when I read as well.
And then I have to think about. . Once that first draft is done, then the polishing comes in thinking about the reader. So the reader gets the same experience. I love action scenes and those are hard to write. You give a lot. I give a lot of time to those action scenes so they’re not clunky. So the reader is just like, when my editor says to me, Geez, Joanna, I had to stop and start to reread from the beginning because yeah.
Pulled me in and I stopped editing, I was just like, okay like she got into it and I thought, yes, yeah. Nice. .
Stephen: Yeah. Okay, great. Joanna, I appreciate you sharing the book and talking to us about it today. Thank you.