I love chatting with other writers!
Joyce Reynolds-Ward and I met in the pre-pandemic days when I regularly traveled to conventions in the Pacific Northwest. She’s warm, funny, endlessly curious, and a fantastic writer. And a knowledgeable and enthusiastic horse person. So when I heard she’d just put out a new book, I couldn’t wait to find out about it.
Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Joyce Reynolds-Ward: I’ve been making up stories to entertain myself since I was little. At first, they were about books I’d read or TV shows I watched. Then I started writing stories off and on, starting with my junior high literary magazine continuing through the present day. I’ve gotten somewhat serious about writing since the late ’00s, however, and have been writing regularly since 2008 or so.
DJR: What inspired your book?
JRW: My most recently published book, A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. was an attempt to write something light. Um. Well. Maybe. It’s set in what I call the Martiniere Multiverse, a spinoff from my main series, The Martiniere Legacy and the People of the Martiniere Legacy.
When writing A Different Life: What If?, I half-toyed with the idea of writing about my main characters, Ruby and Gabe, from the perspective of Ruby’s best friend in college, Linda Coates, who Ruby hires to be her executive assistant. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, and I figured that it would make a nice, light little story, which was what I needed to think about after several years of Covid and my worries about the 2022 election.
Things kinda happened from there. The book took a more political tone after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, with Linda’s brother-in-law becoming a rising reactionary political leader who has nefarious designs involving Linda. But there are still light moments, and we have a bit of biobot action where Ruby and Linda release the latest version of Ruby’s bots that are intended to counter climate change by helping plants absorb and retain moisture better. Plus–Linda’s reaction to living in an Art Nouveau palace in Paris, France. That was fun to visualize.
DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing? What about them do you find inspiring?
JRW: My influences come from several very odd and unusual places, especially for a writer in the speculative fiction genre. One of my earliest influences was Mary O’Hara, of My Friend Flicka fame. If you have only read the first book, especially in an abridged edition considered suitable for children, you miss a LOT of the deeper undercurrents of O’Hara’s writing. The other two books in the trilogy, Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming, delve into spirituality (O’Hara had become involved with early versions of Eastern mysticism) and conflicted, difficult marital relationships. Writing this, I suddenly realize that my character Gabriel Martiniere owes a little bit to O’Hara’s Rob McLaughlin. Not a lot–but there’s a little bit of Rob in Gabe.
One thing to consider, though, about O’Hara, is that she was one of the original script doctors in Hollywood during the silent film era. While she only cites a few instances where she got called in to work on scripts gone wrong, it’s enough to make me wish that she had written a memoir about that Hollywood experience. Nonetheless, her life story (as related in Flicka’s Friend) is quite fascinating.
John Steinbeck is another literary influence that I frequently cite from my early days of writing. One of my high school English teachers used his Travels with Charley as a textbook for her advanced writing class. From Charley, I moved on to his Journal of a Novel, drafted while he was writing East of Eden. Then I went on to read all of his books. Steinbeck, along with O’Hara, taught me a lot about the use of settings in my work that I think really still shows up.
Otherwise, there are many writers who have influenced my work and made me think more about the process of writing and what I was doing while writing. Obviously, I read widely and well beyond the genre. Recent influences include C.J. Cherryh, Beverly Jenkins, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott (especially her so-underestimated Jaran books), Craig Johnson, N. K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, and many, many more. I am always eager to discover a new writer and new works. My ebook library card gets a LOT of use these days.
DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
JRW: Originally, I started writing what I do because I wasn’t finding the books I wanted to read. I wanted to read about more strong women, but I also wanted to read fantasy in settings that weren’t quasi-medieval Europe, as well as science fiction that wasn’t set in Southern California or New York. I wanted to see more work that included the things I was interested in, including realistic horses, the inland West as a setting, examination of political power that didn’t make me want to throw the book across the room, and other things.
I write politics from my training in political science and the nearly two decades I spent as a political organizer. Some writers in genre have that knowledge and understanding, but many don’t. While my understanding is more on the state and local level, it’s enough to extrapolate for larger settings. Additionally, because I spent many years as a corporate wife at the middle management level in sales, I know somewhat more about some of the stuff that goes on in that realm than most people. The ins and outs of management fads, the degree to which certain things get done, the internal politics…all of that. I focus on multigenerational privately-held corporate entities rather than larger publicly-held companies because that’s easier to control in a story.
The inland West as a setting as opposed to the Southwest is also a way that I’m different from many writers who might set stories in the North American West. I have always been drawn to the juxtaposition of mountains and prairies, such as you find around the foothills of the Rockies, both the east side and the west side. The western prairies get much less awareness than the eastern prairies, because they’re smaller. But the land of the Palouse, both in Oregon and Washington, is just chock-full of story potential. While I grew up in Western Oregon and have some work set in Willamette Valley-esque settings, including the Cascades, the Plateau country of eastern Oregon holds a fascination for me. The Blues and the Wallowas are considered to be the westernmost extensions of the Rockies in the Northwest.
DJR: How does your writing process work?
JRW: My writing process evolves on a regular basis. These days, I use both Word and Scrivener to create my first drafts. All of my worldbuilding notes go into files under the Research tab in Scrivener. That includes outlines, timelines, names, relationships, character arcs, etc., etc.–you name it, I’ve probably got it under the Research tab. It’s a lot easier to organize my work that way.
Scrivener is always open when I’m drafting in Word. I write chapters in Word. Once the chapter is finished, I copy and paste it into Scrivener. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to draft a chapter at a time in its own document. But if I need to change something, or look something up from earlier in the book for continuity purposes, it’s a lot easier to do it in Scrivener. I can remember chapters a lot easier than page numbers. Additionally, it is a lot easier for me to visualize where I am in the book by looking at the Scrivener chapter list.
One big process change for me recently has been serialized writing. I started doing serials on Kindle Vella. Then I added Substack serialization. This allows me to play in my Martiniere world–which is somewhat fanfiction of my own work–while drafting other work. Furthermore, even when I’m serializing non-Martiniere work, I can draft ahead until I have several weeks of episodes ready to go, then turn my attention elsewhere. It’s been an interesting change in my workflow, especially since most of my Kindle Vella work consists of half-drafted stories that I never have been able to develop because they were challenging in one form or another. The serialization process really helps with that. As a result of serialization, I’ve turned out one book and several novellas from my old files, and my current work-in-progress is one of those older ideas that is really starting to blossom because of the serialization process.
Essentially, with a serial, I write until I hit a place where the brain hits the wall with that story. If it were the only thing I was working on, that would be a problem. Instead, I upload the rough drafts, then turn my attention to short stories, another serial, or a non-serial book project. That lures the brain into cooking up new things for that otherwise-difficult story.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far. Will I continue doing this serialization setup? I don’t know. I plan to shift to drafting a three-volume fantasy series once I complete the current Kindle Vella serial. Will I serialize it? I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided. I could end up with multiple serial stories–or not.
DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?
JRW: I’ve talked about it above, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it again. My most recent publication is A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. But I am also working on a Martiniere Multiverse serial, The Cost of Power, which is running once a week on my Martiniere Stories Substack. Because it’s a multiverse version of my original Martiniere Legacy series, it’s a lower priority for other work. However, I’m also using my established characters to experiment and play with a couple of different things. This time, I’m examining the notions of mind control technology that I introduced in the main Martiniere Legacy books, along with the notion of digital thought clones that can move from one universe to another, and have influences across the multiverse.
I’m developing a Weird West multiverse serial, as well, Into the Vortex. It, along with a novella that I intend to republish and list widely, Bearing Witness, examines how well-intentioned time travelers from the future totally muck things up, triggering a multiversal war stemming from around the time of the Civil War in our universe, that involves sorcerers and magic users.
The current Kindle Vella project is Federation Cowboy, a far-future space opera where rodeo is elevated to duels between sentients and non-sentients of varied species, and the ultimate duel is between two sentients. So what happens when two duelists, one human, the other horse, are both elected as Planetary Representatives to the Federation Congress, and face the threat from Plasmoid entities who have nefarious plans to take over the Galaxy using psychoactive substances. This becomes a greater threat because ancient Plasmoid scientists apparently were heavily involved in the development of a process called Conversion, by which assorted species become sentient, what we would call “higher” intelligences. But–is that all? And can sentience be rolled back–even in humans? Federation Cowboy starts digging into some of those notions, and it’s become so much more than what I originally envisioned.
I am also planning to republish a cozy apocalypse standalone book, Beating the Apocalypse, which is currently only available through Amazon. I was planning to publish it wide, but then I developed cataracts. If further interest is shown in it, then I’ll probably write more in that world.
And then there’s the fantasy series that I wrote nine other books to avoid digging into. The Goddess’s Vision series is an extension of my Goddess’s Honor books. It delves into “what happens after you overthrow the Evil Emperor?” How do the pieces get put back together–or do they? And there’s a lingering threat that wasn’t completely eliminated in the Goddess’s Honor books.
So yes, I have plenty to work on yet!
DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
JRW: Simply this–read widely. Read new work and old, in balance. Read for fun and for edification.
Along with reading–write. Write snippets. Observations. Keep a journal. Even if you aren’t actively drafting a story, keep that writing muscle going by working on something, even if it’s only an exercise to improve some aspect of your writing.
Keep learning and growing.
Joyce Reynolds-Ward has been called “the best writer I’ve never heard” by one reviewer. Her work includes themes of high-stakes family and political conflict, digital sentience, personal agency and control, realistic strong women, and (whenever possible) horses, frequently in Pacific Northwest settings.
She is the author of The Netwalk Sequence series, the Goddess’s Honor series, The Martiniere Legacy series, The People of the Martiniere Legacy series, and The Martiniere Multiverse series, as well as standalones, Beating the Apocalypse, Klone’s Stronghold, and Alien Savvy.
Samples of her Martiniere short stories/novel in progress and her nonfiction can be found on Substack at either Speculations from the Wide Open Spaces (writing), Speculations on Politics and Political History (politics), or Martiniere Stories (fiction).
Joyce is a Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off Semifinalist, a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist, and an Anthology Builder Finalist. She is the Secretary of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and a member of Soroptimists International.
Find out more about Joyce at her website, http://www.joycereynoldsward.com.
Joyce is @JoyceReynoldsW1 on Twitter, jreynoldsward on Tumblr, joycereynoldsward on
Counter.Social, and jreynoldsward on Dreamwidth.
Here’s where to find her new book!
Barnes and Noble (Nook): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-different-life-joyce-reynolds-ward/1142967311