Although I consider myself a romantic suspense author and fan, I also used to be an avid reader of cozy mysteries. For those of you who also share that interest, I will be featuring Cozy Chats with cozy mystery authors on this blog. If you are an author who writes a cozy series and would like to participate in a future Cozy Chat, please contact me.
This week’s Cozy Chat is with J.B. Hawker who I spoke with about her First Ladies Club series.
Hi, J.B. Thanks for joining us on Cozy Chat. Have a seat and help yourself to some tea while we talk.
Can you tell us a little bit about the First Ladies Club series. What gave you the idea for it?
Hi, Debbie. It’s very nice to be here, and you may call me Jonna during our chat if you’d like.
I was a pastor’s wife for twenty-five years in small towns all around the US. I met many interesting women who were also married to pastors, sometimes we formed support groups similar to the First Ladies Club, so the series was a natural. In the series I focus on the life and adventures of a different member of the club in each book. My lead character in the current book was married to a pastor, was widowed and is now a minister herself. My daughter-in-law is a clergywoman and I have good woman friends in the ministry, so I thought I’d like to share some of the joys and struggles women pastors encounter. I situated the stories in a fictional town on the Oregon Coast, similar to communities I’ve lived in. While none of my friends was ever involved in the sort of hair-raising experiences in the books, I do borrow bits of personality from people I’ve known and loved (some more than others).
That’s great, Jonna. Writing about what and who you know makes one’s writing more realistic. Do you have any advice to other authors about writing cozies or writing in general?
I’ve only been a published writer since 2012, so I hesitate to offer advice, but the two most important lessons I’ve learned, so far, are to be true to your passion in what you write and to know your audience. You can’t please everyone, so try to tailor your book’s cover and description to the readers who are most likely to appreciate your work. Readers’ unmet expectations can lead to poor reviews.
That sounds like excellent advice. What are you currently working on?
A Body in the Belfry came out recently, so I’m still in the throes of promotion (aargh! Why can’t readers just find my work by osmosis, anyway?), but I’ve begun outlining the next book in the series, with the working title of “A Corpse in the Chapel.” This book will highlight Judy Falls, one of the pastors’ wives introduced in the first book of the series. Judy is married to the Presbyterian pastor, Ken, who is twenty years her senior. They have twin teenage daughters. Judy is a loveable scatter-brain; bohemian, outspoken, vegan, and with a love for all creation. One day while gathering herbs in the woods, she stumbles across a derelict chapel. She goes inside looking for some old treasure to repurpose but finds a mummified corpse, instead.
Your second book of the First Ladies Club series sounds great. Do you write any other genres than cozies?
My first series of Bunny Elder Adventures are billed as “not-quite-cozies”. “Hollow” the first book is a mystery/thriller and has a bit too much graphic gore for some readers of cozies. It features a serial killer who dismembers his victims and hides or displays their body parts in the local Halloween decorating contest displays. It is the darkest of my books, although some of the others do include intense scenes. None of my work has foul language or gratuitous violence or graphic sex. All my books are written from a Christian perspective. I have published a volume of weekly inspiration for leaders in women’s ministry, Power for Women’s Ministry Leaders, under my full name, Jonna Hawker Turek, and am working on a daily devotional for women compiled from my weekly blog, Power Walking with Jonna.
You sure stay busy. I’ve encountered that same situation with my Cobble Cove books that you did with your first series. A STONE’S THROW came out at around the time A BODY IN THE BELFRY did in November. I considered it romantic suspense, but some people are calling it a cozy mystery because, although there’s a murder, there’s no gore or violence and very mild sex. I just finished writing a sequel to it that I hope to publish this spring, so I hope I can sort out its genre by then.
Can you also tell me how you got started in writing?
Like many writers, I’ve written since I was a child, but only began publishing when I was called upon to produce church newsletters, Sunday school curriculum and ministry/programming materials. I began writing “Hollow” in 2006, on a whim. When it was finally published and won the B.R.A.G. Medallion award I was encouraged to take my writing more seriously.
Very nice. I think you’re right about many writers writing since childhood and then publishing later when circumstances allow. I did the same. In college, I wrote on the student newspaper and published the library school graduate newsletter. I later wrote articles for magazines. I self-published CLOUDY RAINBOW in 2004 but it wasn’t until I published A STONE’S THROW this year by LIMITLESS PUBLISHING that I seriously got into writing and promoting my work. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all this effort pays off, but I love it.
Back to you. What are your hobbies besides writing?
I love to sew, cook, garden, sing and paint. Almost anything creative, I suppose.
Although I write about Christians, these characters have the same flaws as the rest of us. They stumble and fall and fail to live up to their own ideals, sometimes, but they cling to the hope of forgiveness and keep trying. I hope people reading my books will be encouraged and well as being entertained.
Thank you so much for joining us on Cozy Chat today Joanna. Good luck with both your series and any other projects you have planned for the future.