Today we travel to Seattle to chat with Joyce Yarrow about how a nomadic lifestyle, Spain, the Staten Island Ferry, mass transit, Ireland, an invisible horse, and Russia come together as part of Joyce’s writing life.
Where do you live?
I live in Seattle and write suspense fiction that Library Journal says “appeal to readers who enjoy unusual stories with an international setting.”
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I wrote my first short story in my pre-teen years and although a copy did not survive the chaos of my nomadic lifestyle, one scene remains in my mind: A group of children riding on the Staten Island Ferry in a futile attempt to escape the gang-ridden Bronx. They were led by a little girl with a short haircut and the title of the story was The Children’s Friar. Since there were no religious overtones and I had recently read the original Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and his cohorts were the most obvious source of inspiration. It’s strange that I chose him over Maid Marian –perhaps I was precocious enough to choose healing powers over beauty and charm in my struggle to survive.
A year later I wrote The Subway Poems, an ode to my mass transit adventures that turned out to be my first published work. I learned I could play with words and not take them so seriously, that they had music inside them if only you listened.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
Ah, where to begin.
I’ll start with the imaginary stallion who followed me through the old neighborhood and gave me confidence I could survive. I didn’t need words to confide in him. He knew exactly how I felt when we approached a hazard and I can still feel his warm breath on my neck telling me to slow down and walk slow. I’d become as invisible as he was and that’s how I’d make it to the safe side of the street. I’ve occasionally wondered why this horse, so well-remembered, has no name (this was way before the song came out). Perhaps he was a projection of the stronger side of myself? Let’s go with that.
How many published books do you have?
So far I have written five novels, four of which are published by different small presses, with a fifth book being brought to market by my agent. Throughout the writing process, my invisible horse has trotted beside me, gradually changing from an untamed Pinto ridden only by me into a domesticated mare with a pen instead of a bit in her mouth. After settling down in Seattle, I created a savvy New York City detective named Jo Epstein and through her was able to safely relive and embellish on the seamier side of life containing my roots. I traveled all the way to Russia to find the solution to one of Jo’s cases and co-authored a thriller/family saga with an Indian journalist exploring the detrimental effects of the caste system.
What are you currently working on?
Most recently, I set a novel –Zahara and the Lost Books of Light—in medieval and modern-day Spain. The protagonist, Alienor Crespo, ventures into the fray to discover her roots while extracting the truth about neo-fascism. I am not nearly so brave as Alienor Crespo but as my new imaginary friend she tackles my demons and has saved my sanity during these perilous and contentious times.
I’m currently working on Book II of the Zahara Trilogy.
What are you currently reading?
I love Adrian McKinty’s novels set during the troubles in Ireland.
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Camilla!
It was great learning more about you Joyce, and a pleasure having you on MTA. Wishing you much success! – Camilla
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