Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interview with Author Joanna A. McKethan

Today I have the delightful task of welcoming fellow Red Rose Publishing author, Joanna A. McKethan to my blog. Her book, Lady in White, is a mainstream gothic thriller and was released on March 10, 2011.

Nancy: Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.

Joanna: This book features a young heroine, a visual artist who studied art abroad in Estonia, a small country near St. Petersburg in Russia, married Estonian royalty and lives with him in a castle. Their love receives a challenge when his secrets and her inquisitive nature collide. Her love of things Estonian and Russian takes a scary turn and brings a legend of horror back to life.

Nancy: Describe the genre of this particular title, and is it the only genre you write in?

Joanna: This genre features a heroine separated from her normal support systems who is chased by unknown villain or villains in a dark and spooky large house on an isolated estate, often a castle setting. Her lover is a brooding man with secrets, and the place takes on an atmosphere and presence of a character. This is the only genre I have finished works in, but I have many ideas for mysteries, and hope to write in that genre as well. My first book, the abandoned one, was fantasy.

Nancy: When did you start writing toward publication?

Joanna: About 30 years ago. And I have published one fiction short story, feature stories, and many poems.

Nancy: Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

Joanna: Yes, I had one completely finished manuscript other than this, and one partly finished novel. I one two prizes on the 90,000-word manuscript, and have sent it out on my own, but my fear has interfered with this—I’ve got to send a sample out to several places, right away. The first one I began I simply abandoned.

Nancy: Why have you become a published author?

Joanna: Wow. Persistence, for sure. Help from professionals, for certain, as well. One of the best things that ever happened to me was joining Heart of Carolinas Romance Writers (HCRW) and then RWA, joining a couple of critique groups and hearing how my story resonated with my writing partners. But this book took off based on a lead from an RWA special interest group, Gothic Writers, to which I belong. Jane Toombs had an anthology in the works with Wendi Felter-Gabbidon, publisher of Red Rose Publishing. I volunteered to write what we then thought would be a short story in a book, but it turned out to be a separate book in a series. I wrote like crazy so I wouldn’t hold up the published writers in the group.

Nancy: Do you have any rejection stories to share?

Joanna: Well, all of my rejections have been nice ones, so not really. My first finished book earned me PRO status with RWA and fell under the editor’s category of “I didn’t love it enough to champion it.” Mostly the rejections revolve around the gothic genre, because the reasons all have to do with some aspect of a gothic, even the slower, atmospheric beginnings.

Nancy: What is your writing routine like?

Joanna: I actually have one now, so I can answer that question. My best time for “from scratch” writing is first thing in the morning, so I write three new pages in longhand. However, I run a full scale art and teaching business, so sometimes my paintings pre-empt my writing. However Mondays and Tuesdays are set aside for creative work, so I get to spend two whole days writing and organizing my writing and doing the research which I love. While my books are contemporaries, they are based on something historical. So I’m publicizing this book, marketing the other book, and writing the new one. It’s a nice rhythm.

Nancy: What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?

Joanna: I am a total novice to promo—and my friend, Nancy Badger, is helping me with this. However, I have started by making a list of contacts, like at local libraries, and am getting some good response and will be working out an “itinerary” shortly, even if that means walking/talking from web site to web site. I already had a web site, but I am behind in that, and have to update that immediately.

Nancy: Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?

Joanna: When I look at that beautiful cover designed by Dawné Dominique and say, “Yep, that’s it. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and there it is!”

Nancy: Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?

Joanna: Yes. I’ve been a member of North Carolina Writers Network the longest and have done their conferences and critique groups. As I said, RWA, Romance Writers of America, HCRW, Gothic Writers, NC Poetry Society, and Writer’s Ink, and I was briefly a member of Mystery Writers in Raleigh and Smithfield Writers before that. I’ve done the writers’ conference sponsored by Judith Hill in the mountains, and I started and ran the Harnett County Writers groups for close to ten years before that folded.

Nancy: Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?

Joanna: Write as many words and as much as you can in any way that works for you; learn as much craft as you can, mix with successfully published writers that will let you tag along. Find your writing niche. That’s the business success model and it works for artists and writers, as well.

Nancy: What’s next for you?

Joanna: I’m hoping to get my longer manuscript, a 90-000 worder, to an editor who will love it or to an agent who will take on placing it so I can finish the new one I am working on, set in Scotland, that I am very excited about. That of course might mean a trip to Scotland!


Michaela paints a new life for herself when she eagerly accepts an offer of art exchange student in what was a Communist country only a few years before. An artist by craft and by nature, she wants to prove her talent in foreign waters. Her love of truth requires her to question everything and dig for answers. In Estonia she meets and falls in love with Peeter, an art professor, government contractor, and a royal.

He loves her desperately, admiring her staunch separations of black and white. She loves Peeter wholly, not realizing a secret shame drives him. How he deals with life is challenged by his new wife and her unwitting exposing of the past so that he must finally confront his and his father’s unpardonable sin. Michaela plows through danger, even her own. Any single move might redeem her—or kill her.

A little bit about the author 
Joanna McKethan is a Southerner with advantages from the Old South and the New, a wife, mother, and grandmother who lived and returned from abroad to her country home in the south. She is an artist, a poet, a teacher, as well as an arts business owner. She has always wanted to paint and write, and has hidden her love for novels behind her paintings until now. She has worked as an assistant editor, written feature stories, and published her poetry. Now her lifelong dream of publishing novels has begun. Her grown children visit her and her grandchildren blow bubbles with her on the lawn. Her "grand-cat," Buddy Number Two has just returned from a long absence, much to her joy. You can sample her creativity at


I do love castles. Loving them does not mean living in them, necessarily. For the most part, castles are cold, clammy places where shadows move about at will. Lately I had seen more than my share. However, loving Peeter, the owner and lord of Haapsalu Castle and marrying Peeter required my residency within its walls.

Castle princess—me and Grace Kelly—I accepted the role eagerly, if not literally. Who wouldn’t? One look at my gorgeous man—black curly hair, strong Roman nose, those high cheek bones, sunken cheeks, and grey-blue eyes dancing with mischief—what more would it take to convince me I had married a royal?

Shared convictions of faith and love of art didn’t hurt our relationship, either.

“You have laughing eyes,” I told him before we married.

He confessed he thought I flirted with him.

“Moi?” I pretended innocence.

I will not bore anyone regaling our wedding. Every girl thinks hers the best, and a wedding in a castle? Well, that was a show stopper. My dress was custom-designed St. Petersburg “Svetlana” lace—exquisite, a white wedding dress dipping to the floor, edged at my neck by a ribbon of fuchsia and contrary to Southern customs, given by the groom. Peeter dressed in a shiny black tux. His appearance took another direction from his usual slack elegance, fitted for lords and professors. Yes, the castle wedding was picturesque; I have an album to show for it, but today I must travel to the Tallinn Art Museum where I work. Peeter still teaches art at the University of Tallinn, where I first met him. He leaves later in the morning for his classes.

Peeter also works with the Estonian government on matters concerning aqueducts.

This morning I donned a linen skirt and layered a shall, a square knitted shawl, an Estonian craft of distinction, over it. Draping beautifully, the corners fell like a cloth diamond over the blouse. I lifted my curls, added earrings, and checked the mirror to make sure the front showed instead of the backside, like I sometimes managed.

Peeter stirred. “You look beautiful, Michaela.” His voice was early morning raspy.

“Why, I’m thrilled you say so,” I said, dipping to peck him on the forehead.

He pulled me down to him.

“Peeter, stop.” But my voice was playful as I straightened up and hand-ironed my skirt. “Linen wrinkles easily. They’ll ask what I did to cause such wrinkles.”

“And you will tell them.” He gave a satisfied smirk, lifting bushy brows repeatedly. He jumped out of bed, grabbed his robe from the chair and threw it around his shoulders without closing it. “I’ll eat with you before you leave or, maybe I’ll eat you before you leave.” He grabbed me.

How can my readers buy your book?

Readers can go to the publisher’s home page at or click on the book's buy link:

Check out my book trailer at:

You can find more information about Joanna A. McKethan and my book, Lady in White by

visiting my website,

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