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JOAN LIVINGSTON

Q: Tell us about yourself. What got you into writing?
JL: I grew up near the ocean in Massachusetts, where my grandparents arrived from the Azores and Madeira islands. My childhood was steeped in all things Portuguese — from saintly aspirations to festas down the street. My mother taught me to love reading with twice-weekly trips to the public library. My teachers inspired me to write. I longed for straight hair and popularity but settled for being smart instead. I was the first of my entire family to graduate from college.
 
For a very long time, I was too busy raising six kids to write much. I started with poetry but found my way to prose when I began reporting on the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts for a daily newspaper covering meetings, disasters, and small town scandals.
 
I worked as a journalist for 35 years, including editor-in-chief of newspapers in New Mexico and Western Massachusetts. But I have left journalism to concentrate on my own writing. I live in Shelburne Falls, a village in Western Massachusetts.
 
As a journalist I listened to the way people talked and observed how they behaved. It’s an experience that I believe has paid off with realistic dialogue and true-to-life characters in my novels, which I write for adult and young readers. I am into the sixth book of my Isabel Long Mystery Series, published by darkstroke books. I have self-published other novels.


Q: Tell us about the premise of Working the Beat.
JL: Isabel Long is a private investigator solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts — when she’s not pouring beer at the Rooster Bar. She uses the skills she learned as a long-time journalist, plus she has the assist of her 93-year-old mystery-loving mother.


Isabel finds her fifth case at a country fair when she is approached by a woman whose grandson's body was found in a ravine behind the demolition derby four years earlier. Once again, Isabel discovers herself drawn to help a desperate person.


Q: What inspired you to write it?
JL: Working the Beat is the fifth book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I love the characters and setting too much to let them go just yet. I will keep writing the series as long as I feel it’s
worthwhile.


Q: Did you do any research for your book? If you did, what did it consist of?
JL: I know the setting of this series well having lived there and as a journalist covered it. But sometimes I need to do a little research. For instance, the fifth book has a demolition derby. While I went to a derby once, I did some online research for a few details so what I write will be authentic.

Q: Do you agree with the statement write what you know? Why or why not?
JL: My motto is that I take what I know and have my way with it. So in a way that’s true for me, but not for other writers.


Q: Do you think creative writing classes are beneficial? Why or why not?
JL: The only one I ever took were in fourth grade. It was an inspiring class that made me want to be a writer early in my life.


Q: Do you enjoy editing?
JL: Yes, I do. I did it for others during my career in journalism. In fiction, I want my copy to be as clean as possible before it goes to an editor. I have my methods for that, including using the read aloud function on my computer and also reading it aloud myself. I liken it to having a
daydream and making it better.


Q: How do you juggle your writing and life?
JL: Before I left journalism for good in February, I would get up at 5 a.m. to write for an hour or so. Now I get up at 6 a.m. Writing 500 words is the sweet spot for the day. Anything more is
golden. I also write a blog and have other book projects. I am happy now to have the time.


Q: Do you write in other genres? Have you ever written in different mediums? (Poetry,
screenwriting, playwrighting, song writing, journalism etc.)

JL: I started writing poetry in college because frankly, I couldn’t sustain a thought in prose. (That experience came in handy for the series’ third book in which I had to create poetry written by two characters.) My inability to write prose changed when I became a reporter, which led to a 35-year-plus career in journalism. During that time, I wrote news and feature stories, columns, and op-eds. (I was also the editor-in-chief of newspapers in New Mexico and Massachusetts.)


Q: If you could invite a fictional character for lunch (from your own book(s) or another writer’s), who would you invite and why?
JL: I would gladly have lunch with Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I believe I would be charmed by his good will, intelligence and good humor.


Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
JL: There’s the business of writing, which is a lot tougher.


Q: What are your future plans as an author? Are you working on another project?
JL: Currently, I am working on the sixth in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, on the last 10,000 words or so as I write this. I have other novels for adults (literary) and children that I haven’t
published. I would like to make that happen. And I am hoping to be inspired to write something completely different.

 
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Isabel Long stumbles onto her next case at a country fair when she is approached by a woman whose grandson's body was found there four years earlier.

Shirley Dawes took in Lucas Page after his mother had abandoned him, doing her best after failing to protect her own children from her late husband, a no-good abuser Shirley's clearly had a hard life although by what people say, she did a good job raising him.

But on a Saturday night, Lucas Page dies in a ravine behind the fair's demolition derby, and nobody saw what happened. The official ruling was that he slipped and fell.

Once again, Isabel discovers herself drawn to help a desperate person.

When she's not pouring beer at the Rooster Bar, Isabel is working the beat, a term from her many years as a journalist. That means following a story to the end - talking with the reliable sources she met in her other cases, uncovering secrets, and meeting people of interest, including a few unsavory characters who quickly become suspects. Plus, she can always count on the sage advice of Maria, her 93 year old mother, 'her Watson.'

Along the way Isabel finds compelling evidence that Lucas might have a connection to a string of break-ins in the hilltowns - yet another unsolved mystery. Was Lucas part of a ring of thieves? Or was lie trying to do the right thing but died as a result of it?


Isabel soon has her hands full with case number five.

 

NO.6 IN THE SERIES - Following the Lead

An old mystery deserves a new approach…

Isabel Long moves quickly onto the next case when a former boss entrusts her with a mystery that has haunted him since his childhood. Lin Pierce, then only eleven, was supposed to be minding his little sister while their mother gave a piano lesson inside their home. But the sleeping baby was stolen from her carriage after he’d been lured away in a well-executed kidnapping that devastated the family. Forty-nine years later, Lin is convinced he met his long-lost sister by chance. After all, the woman not only resembled his mother but she had a distinctive family trait—different colored eyes.

As Isabel works her sixth case, she believes the student who took the piano lesson that day, later a well-known musician, is key to solving it. But meeting him in person proves to be nearly impossible.

As she did when she was a journalist, Isabel uses her resources — including her mother, Maria — to follow that lead until the end.

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