A Writerly Blog
I am honored and thrilled to interview the author of The Love Note, Joanna Politano’s latest historical romance. She is originally from my ’neck of the woods’, so last year, I met her at a tea shop nearby. I couldn't wait to meet her in person. I had just read Lady Jane Disappears, and was mesmerized by all the nuances and mystery in that novel. So when she walked in with her two littles, I thought to myself That novel came from this slight young girl?? (Joanna admits she is older than she looks.)
Yes, indeed. It did — and she has published two others, since. I've read them all, each unique in plot and character, spun with a touch of mystery and spiritual insight. So, I was pleased Joanna was willing to do a Q&A so my readers could get to know this creatively insightful author!
How has the experience of writing your latest novel differed from all your other historical novels, Joanna?
Well, this time I had the brilliant idea of trying new methods—from plotting beforehand to longhand writing the first draft. Both failed miserably, because I’d already found my writing style and this wasn’t it! I struggled a lot to put this one together too and probably deleted about four times as much as I left in. I couldn’t imagine ever liking this novel and writing was not smooth. Until I finished the first draft, and a mentor told me what my actual theme was—then the pieces fit together and it ended up being one of my absolute favorite books!
Now you've intrigued me! I know lots of research goes into writing a book. Did you unearth a particularly interesting tidbit you just knew had to be included in the story?
There was a lot of controversy in this period about medicine, and so many fascinating pieces of information came to light. Our understanding of contamination, heart conditions, and even females in the field is so entirely different now, and I loved having a forward-thinking heroine. She argued with another physician about the cleanliness of hospitals and even used Scripture to make her point. It was a cool disagreement, actually.
The Gift of a Listening Heart
I'd love to know, Joanna: how has God prepared you to be a writer?
I’ve been a passionate storyteller since I could talk, but more than that I’ve always been quiet. I listen a lot, and find people’s stories fascinating. It can be a gift just to listen, and I love that God created me to be able to do that, but I often leave with a gift myself—insight into a person I might not know otherwise, and greater understanding of humanity and the heart. People think of storytellers as talkers, and we are when we sit down at a computer, I suppose. But more than that, we have to be listeners first to really glimpse the human heart and be able to tell the stories concerning it.
So, when did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
I don’t know there was ever a time I didn’t realize it! I set it aside throughout my life and pursued other careers, but I always had story ideas to jot down, little scenes popping into my head, and running lists of character names.
And how did you come up with the idea for The Love Note?
It was a combination of desperation to fill a last minute request and a glimpse at my grandparents’ picture. I had to give my publisher a third idea rather quickly after they’d turned down one I’d sent, and I was tapped out. I happened to spot another book cover about an undelivered lost letter, and then I glanced at a framed picture of my grandparents when they were dating—almost exclusively, because of the war, through letters. I knew I had to write a lost letter story.
How Does a Writer Impact Her Readers?
What spiritual impact do you hope your readers experience after reading your novel?
Well, I discovered as I wrote that each character had a wide, gaping hole in the heart that he or she was desperate to fill. After a number of disappointments for each, everyone from the maid to the handsome heir had given up hope of finding an authentic, lasting connection with someone. That gap of loneliness was still there, though, and some tried to stuff other things into it. Others ignored its existence. I can’t tell you how many people have shared their hearts with me and expressed some variation of this painful lack—a quiet disappointment they think will always go unfilled. Everyone wants to be fully known and loved, and it took me two rewrites to realize that longing is there for a very important reason—and it has a beautiful solution.
Tell us - which character in The Love Note was the most difficult to develop?
The hero, Gabe! I always dive right into my hero’s heart and find him layered and colorful. This one, though, wasn’t talking to me—or anyone else. He hardly said a word, but when I quit poking him, I realized every little gesture and nuance, every “hm” and raised eyebrow, said a great deal. There was an awful lot of character piled under his silent exterior, and though he isn’t a “brooder” like those classic heroes, he was a dark horse that eventually showed his true colors. And they were glorious ones.
So, what sparks your creativity when you’re feeling drained?
Leaving my writing alone always helps! I take time to be silly with my kids, walk around, climba tree… those kinds of things. It clears my head and makes it fresh again. Music also helps, especially if I can find some that matches the story.
And what is your secret to getting your word count in with ‘littles’ in the house?
Nap time! That’s really all. We have a quiet/nap time at our house and it isn’t long, but I make it a rich writing time. I also get up early, well before kids, and spend my time with God and that flows right into writing. It takes me a year to write each book, but thankfully I’m not in a hurry! I’m not an author, but an adventure-having, homeschooling, play on the floor mom…who happens to have a writing hobby.
Where would be your ideal writing space? Why? Describe your present ‘office.’ What, if anything, would you change?
Definitely an open window with nice breeze and a beautiful view. Something quiet where nothing could drown out God’s voice. I suppose that’s what my mind paints as the idea, but you know, my current office—a rocking chair in the midst of the chaos in my family room--is pretty perfect.
Favorite books as a child? Adult?
As a kid, I loved Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis! As an adult, I’d say Dickens and Daphne du Maurier. There are many, many beautiful writing voices, but those are the ones who have most influenced me and have been most memorable.
Can you give us one tidbit of advice for aspiring writers?
Write a practice piece of any length, any genre—whatever grabs you by the heart and won’t leave you alone. Write it knowing that no one will ever see it, make it a fun project between you and God with no concern for pleasing anyone else—then go ahead and submit that piece and see what happens.
And any tips for writing a historical romance novel which has a touch of mystery? Do you planahead, or let the story take you where it will?
I’ve definitely done both planning and seeing where the story takes me. It depends on the plot and how developed it already is in my head. I’ve had the most success when I start with a very clear scene that’s in my head, then see what comes after that. I write whole scenes, several chapters sometimes, and delete to go a different direction when they’re not working, and that’s ok. To do this though, it only works if you have strong, well-fleshed-out characters willing to take the reins on the story.
So tell us one thing most people don’t know about you . . .
I really don’t like coffee! I know, I don’t deserve my author card anymore, but I just can’t stand it. I also am not in love with Jane Austen books!
Now those are two surprising details for a historical fiction author, Joanna - but that's what makes you unique! This has been delightful. Thanks for taking time from your busy writing schedule and family activities to share your author’s journey with us. May God bless your writing as you continue to use your gifts for His glory!
You can connect with Joanna Politano here:
Link to The Love Note
Facebook Author's Page
And for more of my author Q&As, click HERE.
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.