My name is Joan Hall Hovey. Pen name: Lillian Watts.
My suspense novel-in-progress THE PLAN is inspired by an aunt who lived much of her life in a mental institution. She was fostered out when the hospital shut down, leaving all that was familiar to her. Unlike the character in my novel, she died not long after. It is always something deeply personal that triggers the storyteller in me. What if? I ask myself. What if?
My first story sold to True Confessions, more than 25 years ago. The second story, after being rejected numerous times, sold to Home Life magazine. It was titled God's Special Gift, and was about my grandmother, who was an artist. Her death, as a result of a house fire, when I was 15, was an enormous loss for me. And I think the story was my way of dealing with it.
When my children grew less dependent on me, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel. Always an insatiable reader, with a vivid imagination and natural facility for writing, (so my teachers said) I immersed myself once more in the work of those writers who had instilled in me the desire to write -- Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Dickens, and contemporary authors like Ira Levin, Phyllis Whitney, Joy Fielding, Ruth Rendell, Stephen King, and so many more fine writers. At the same time I was making notes for my own novel. Listen to the Shadows sold first time out to Zebra Books. Not that they gave me a contract right away; they said it needed to be 100 pages longer. Back to the drawing board. At last, the book was published. Nowhere to Hide came shortly on its heels. Both have since been republished and are available in most bookstores. I was thrilled when Nowhere to Hide won a recent EPPIE AWARD in Las Vegas.
Chill Waters is my most recent novel. I'm delighted to say it won the Bloody Dagger Award.
Of course I started out as a story listener. Both my mom and dad were great storytellers, and I needed only to hear the words: 'I remember the time when ...' to feel that rare and exquisite pleasure in the anticipation of a new story.
The dark, scary ones were best -- my father told of a man with the cloven foot who showed up at a card game...a young girl's body found in the woods behind the school... (murder was not so common then) the town drunk found dead in the cemetery, his face as granite-white with frost as the tombstones surrounding him. Word was that something had scared him to death.
My mother had a ouija board she and her friends took quite seriously. And we had a neighbor who visited us -- a fortune teller name Mrs. Fortune. It's true. Everyone was poor in money, but not in the abundance of inner life. Not so surprising then that my background should influence the kind of stuff I find delicious to write about.
My other passion is acting in community theatre, (see photo below) with major roles in a number of plays, among them Same Time Next Year, Arsenic and Old Lace, Night must Fall and The Killing of Sister George. For my role of Agnes in The Shadow Box, I was nominated for best supporting actress at the Provincial Drama Festival. Great fun! One can learn much about the craft of writing from the well written play -- structure, economy of words, pacing...