NOTE: Every once in a while, we interview 'new to us' authors and talk about books we never read. Their inclusion into our blog interviews should not be taken as an endorsement from Charade Media. However, we believe strongly that your next great read might be written by someone you never heard of. That's why we work so hard at introducing you to a variety of new authors. We strive to spread the word about these indie writers while also giving you endless possibilities for your To-Be-Read pile!
All that being said, today's author, Joan Donaldson-Yarmey, takes mysteries (as well as romance and even a little sci-fi) into the Great White North and beyond! The rugged endurance of the Canadian people--particularly among the Yukon--is a central theme among her stories. And as a strong advocate for cozies that go beyond the typical knitting, gardening, bookclub tropes, I'm excited to give her books a try myself.
We'll start by taking a look at Joan's bio:
Joan Donaldson-Yarmey is the author of four mystery novels, three Canadian historical novels, two sci/fi novels, one holiday romance, and seven non-fiction travels books. She has put on writing courses in towns and cities in British Columbia and Alberta and was on mystery panels at Crime Writers of Canada’s Bloody Words Conference in Victoria and mystery and historical panels at When Words Collide in Calgary. She lives on a small acreage on Vancouver Island. Mystery Novels: Illegally Dead, The Only Shadow In The House, Whistler’s Murder, and Gold Fever. Canadian Historical Novels: West to the Bay, West to Grande Portage, and Romancing the Klondike. Sci/Fi Novels: The Criminal Streak and Betrayed. Non-Fiction Books: Backroads of Southern Alberta, Backroads of Northern Alberta, Backroads of Southwestern British Columbia, Backroads of Vancouver Island, Backroads of Southern Interior British Columbia, and Backroads of Central and Northern British Columbia, Backroads of the Yukon and Alaska.
Okay, so without further ado, let's have a chat with Joan!
For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself. Your background and the type books you write.
I was born in New Westminster, B.C. Canada, and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. I began my writing career with a short story and progressed to travel and historical articles. Since I like to travel I wrote seven travel books, the research for which took me camping throughout Alberta, B.C., the Yukon, and Alaska. These are my Backroads series.
After the last travel book, I switched to fiction and so far, I have had nine books published through Books We Love (BWL, Inc): five mystery novels, Illegally Dead, The Only Shadow in The House, and Whistler's Murder in my Travelling Detective Series, Gold Fever my stand-alone novel which combines mystery with a little romance, and Sleuthing the Klondike. West to the Bay and West to Grande Portage are two Canadian historical adventure books for young adults, and Twelve Dates of Christmas is a Christmas holiday romance/comedy which I wrote with my sister Gwen Donaldson. A Killer Match is the first of my Dating Coach Mystery Series (book two A Lethal Proposal will be out in the fall of 2024) and was published by Renaissance Press.
In 2017, BWL, Inc began publishing the twelve books of the Canadian Historical Brides Collection, with one novel being set in each province and territory (Northwest Territories and Nunuvut were combined in one). My novel, Romancing the Klondike, which takes place in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush, was book three in that collection. I wrote a sequel, Rushing the Klondike, which continues the story from the first one, and it was published in 2022. Now, BWL, Inc has begun publishing the Canadian Historical Mystery Collection, again with a book set in each province and territory. My novel, Sleuthing the Klondike came out this month, (April, 2023) and again takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush. There are new main characters, but the minor characters are from Romancing the Klondike and Rushing the Klondike.
In the rest of my life, I have worked as a bartender, hotel maid, cashier, bank teller, bookkeeper, printing press operator, meat wrapper, gold prospector, warehouse shipper, house renovator, and nursing attendant. During that time, I raised my two children and helped raise three step-children.
I love change and have moved over thirty times in my life, living on acreages and farms and in small towns and cities throughout Alberta and B.C. I am now back in Edmonton.
You have two mystery series. Tell us about them. How are they different from each other? What inspired them?
I began my writing career as non-fiction travel writer and when I decided to try fiction the first rule I learned was to write about that you know. I loved reading mystery novels and decided to try writing one. Since I knew travel writing I made my main character a travel writer. In the three novels of my Travelling Detective Series, Elizabeth Oliversomehow manages to get involved in a murder while researching places for articles for travel magazines.
For my second series, A Dating Coach Mystery Series, I had ideas for the mysteries but didn’t have a character or setting. I did some research and found out that there were no other sleuths who were dating coaches and that there was no special training needed to become a dating coach. I had my main character decided and I picked my setting to be Vancouver since I lived on Vancouver Island when I started writing A Killer Match. My sister lives in Vancouver so it was easy for me to go there for research.
You’re from Canada and I know a lot of your books, both fiction and nonfiction spend a great deal of time exploring the Yukon. Tell us a bit about your obvious interest and passion for this area of the Great White North and how it typically factors in to your stories.
I have been to the Yukon twice. On the second visit, in 1997, I was working on my non-fiction travel book, Backroads of the Yukon and Alaska. I decided that I wanted to hike the Chilkoot Trail, since it was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush. That was an excellent experience and so full of the history of that period. I spent three days in Dawson City afterwards and it is one of my favourite places.
To write Romancing the Klondike, Rushing the Klondike, and Sleuthing the Klondike, I used my knowledge of the area, the pictures I took, plus I read books about its history to make sure I had that right. I also read books about the late 1800s to describe hair dos and clothing and equipment.
As a mystery writer, who are some of your biggest influences? Who do you read simply to unwind?
As a child I read the Nancy Drew books (written by a collective of authors under the name Carolyn Keene) and Trixie Belden (the first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham; the rest were written by many of the publisher’s in-house writers under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny).
As I grew older, I read as many Agatha Christie books as I could since I liked her innovative plots. I can say the same for Mary Higgins Clark. Their endings were surprises and I like that. I just like to read mystery novels and I like to try different authors.
Along the same lines of the last question (but with a slightly different twist), what are a few of your favorite books (no matter the genre)?
I wasn’t a fan of most of Mordecai Richler’s books. However, I really enjoyed his novel, Barney’s Version, for the unique way it was written and for the surprise ending. I also liked Linwood Barclay’s novel Trust Your Eyes, and Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and the Handmaid’s Tale. I like reading the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.
How did you get involved in writing mysteries? What is it about mysteries that draw you to it? What do you think draws readers to them?
I don’t like reading a book where I know how it is going to end. Mysteries, at least most of them, have unexpected endings. Plus, I like to try and figure out who the guilty person is as I read.
Finally, for those aspiring writers out there who might be reading this blog post, what is the one piece of advice you’d give them concerning writing and publishing?
It does help to write about what you know but with the Internet and your library it is easy to do research into what you don’t know. Try to write a little every day, even if it’s just jotting down ideas on a piece of paper, it will keep your story fresh in your mind. Enjoy the process of creating.
There are many different ways to publish a book today: traditional publishers (they pay for everything but it could take two years to see your book in print after acceptance); vanity presses (they take your money and give you a book to sell); hybrid presses (you and they share the work and costs); and self-publishing (you do all the work.) Do your research into each one and decide which one works best for you.
And be sure to check back next Wednesday for a brand new author introduction you won't want to miss!