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Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s engaging novel, Lady Jayne Disappears, will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance. When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her with just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family, who want very little to do with her. As Aurelie struggles to adjust to her father’s family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift—the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear about her mother’s mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for clues from her relatives and one enigmatic houseguest. Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets. Can the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt reveal them all?
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I love Jesus and I love my family, and I fit writing in between when I can. We live way back in the woods, which is a huge change from the city/suburbs where I grew up, but I love it so much. I’m learning how to be a country girl! I’d rather listen than talk and my favorite part of any day is hearing stories.
Do you have a day job as well? If so, what is it?
I have a day-and-night job as a mom, and I love it even on the hardest days. My littles are one and three, and my job currently consists of climbing trees, playing in mud, running through the woods, and generally having great adventures. Before this job, I worked in a small nonfiction publishing house and as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry.
When did you start writing your first book?
I started working on my debut novel as a fun project when my first baby was taking long naps in the afternoon. I had no intention of publishing this one, but it worked out that way! The first novel I ever wrote came about from a family story that just grabbed me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I put it on the page. After hearing rumors about my great-grandparents and hints of one man having two families at the same time, I pulled marriage, death, and birth certificates to verify this hidden story and record it. Of course, that pulled me into storytelling and fiction, starting me on the path to writing novels.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did the genre choose you?
I write historical fiction because I’ve consumed so much literature in this area that it feels natural to me. I tried to be a history major for a little while in college (but switched to writing soon after) because I love stories from the past so much. Research is fun for me, as is untangling a story with a vintage backdrop.
Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
BOTH! You know how a good run or exercise session totally exhausts you… but it makes you stronger? Tht’s how writing is for me. I pour so much into it, stand up from my chair feeling drained, but then go on to live more deeply, thoughtfully, and full of freshness and creativity that would simply be dormant without writing.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Oh sure, but just like in a maze, where a block in front of you means it’s time to turn and walk a different direction. Writer’s block can be super discouraging until you realize it’s an opportunity for something fresh and unexpected on your journey. It’s also the point in which God has the best opportunity to completely redirect my story as we work together toward the finished product.
Do you create an outline before you begin? Do you have the end in mind, or do you just wait and see where the story takes you?
No outline, really. But I do have about 50,000 words of notes! God tends to give me pieces of the story in random order, so I’m constantly jotting notes into a tabbed system—I have pages on each character, research, lines I want to use somewhere, and lots and lots of plot points I might or might not use. I sometimes know the end, but sometimes what I know about the ending turns out to be wrong, too. I very much love when I have the ending wrong because it makes the entire story less guessable for the reader since the author didn’t have it figured out from page one!
What kind of research do you do? How long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I aim for a combination of types of research. My favorite is personal conversations. I talk to people who explain, in their own words, the history of a place or people, how something works, the stories behind a setting, or just their personal experiences that then filter into my characters. I’m also a huge fan of Google books, which provides public domain material for free. Rather than learning about the Victorian era from modern scholars and their observations on a past culture, I dearly enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction that was written in that time. I’ve read farming guides, family histories, and serial novels written by the people who lived and worked where my characters’ lives would have played out.
Are you part of a community of authors? If so, how has it helped you?
Oh yes, and I’m extremely grateful for it. I’m part of ACFW, and within that huge organization I’ve joined several groups of like-minded writers and bookish people where I have found some of my best friends. They’ve helped me hone my writing and make connections, but more than that they’ve given me a great example of integrating their walk with God and their art. I’ve found many kindred spirits there, and we write together as well as simply “doing life” together.
Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. Her manuscript for Lady Jayne Disappears was a finalist for several contests, including the 2016 Genesis Award from ACFW, and won the OCW Cascade Award and the Maggie Award for Excellence. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.