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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview With JoAnna Senger

Interview With JoAnna Senger

I first became aware of JoAnna Senger through her short stories for Barbara Custer’s Night To Dawn magazine. Her writing style easily pulled me into the stories. A few years ago, I read her first published novel, “Betrothal, Betrayal, And Blood”, and was blown away by her writing technique and storytelling ability. JoAnna’s more recent novel, “Reservation Ravaged” just released by NTD also seems to be taking the mystery world by storm. I figured it was time we conducted an interview with this talented lady.

Tom: JoAnna, thank you for sitting down with me for this interview. First, how about telling your fans a little about yourself, your family, and where you live?

JoAnna: I still consider myself a Midwestern girl despite decades in California and now Arizona, still root for the Kansas City Chiefs even though I can’t remember the last time I saw them play live in a stadium.  My family consisted of a mom, dad, little brother and a half-sister.  Only my brother and I are left. Although I still own my home in California, I have to say that I much prefer living in Arizona in the City of Surprise, a small city around 130,000 in the Phoenix metropolitan area. 

I went to Stephens College, a girls’ college in Columbia, Missouri, where I received a Bachelor’s degree with a double major, French and Economics.  Graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley during the 60’s provided me with enough current events to last a lifetime and a Master’s degree in economics.

I am equally comfortable in the world of words and the world of number. 

Tom: From reading your short stories, and now your novels, it is easy to tell you are an experienced writer, how did you get your start, and what is your background?

JoAnna:  You’re really taking me back.  When I was in the fourth grade, we had a choice about a project, and writing a story was one of the choices.  I wrote and illustrated (Lord help us) my first story:  Roo-lah and the Elephant Herd, no doubt influenced by my thorough attention to Tarzan comics.  I have worked as a financial analyst, a computer programmer and systems analyst, a compensation specialist, a Human Resources consultant, and recently as a paralegal.  SO…I’ve written just about everything from technical documentation through legal briefs into fantasy.

Or, maybe it’s all a fantasy.

Tom: What writers influenced you, if any, and whom would you say your writing style most resembles? And are your stories more plot driven or character driven, do you think?

JoAnna:  When I was seven, my parents gave me a wonderful Christmas present: “The Tin Woodsman of Oz,” the first book that I could read myself.  Smitten with the Land of Oz, I went on to buy all the books in the series, and I still have them.  L. Frank Baum was followed by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling), William Faulkner, Ann Rice, Agatha Christie, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King and many others. 

I strive for a style similar to Faulkner’s with respect to abrupt pace change and like Christie’s for subtlety.  With respect to mysteries, I particularly like those mysteries where “who-dun-it” becomes secondary to the extraordinary discoveries made along the way. 

As for plot versus character, I suppose I would put character first.  It seems to me that the characters act according to their nature, and their actions become the plot.  Yet, I usually think of a broad plot outline before I refine the characters.  Once refined, the characters become real to me and, often, I can’t give them up.

Tom: Tell us about your short stories, and a bit about your most recent novel, and which do you prefer writing, novels or short stories? Or do you have a preference either way?

JoAnna:  The novel is most natural to me.  A few of my short stories are stand-alones, and in the future, I will submit only stand-alones to magazines such as Night To Dawn and save the continuous stories for a novel.  I think of writing a novel as similar to making a quilt, which I also do.  Sometimes you need to take a break, and the short story or a table runner does the trick.

Tom: You point out that the human monster is worse than any imaginary creature, and I agree. There is a touch of horror in your first mystery novel, “Betrothal, Betrayal, And Blood”, involving a human monster. But besides horror and mystery, do you consider writing other genres down the road, and if so, what would they be?

JoAnna:  I have written a few children’s stories, as yet unpublished, and sometimes wonder what it would be like to write a column for a newspaper.  So many challenges ahead!

Tom: In your first novel, “Betrothal, Betrayal, And Blood”, you had some very interesting characters, in particular the police investigators and a certain female P.I., are these based on anyone you know (lol)? As you are aware, I’m already a fan of your lady P.I., and hope to see more of her!

JoAnna:  In truth, I see myself, family, friends, and acquaintances in every character I write.  I’ve heard it said that writers just write about themselves and use different disguises.  A former colleague read a very early version of Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood and saw me clearly in the lady P.I.  I was so flattered! 

When I have strong feelings about someone, that person will definitely wind up in my writing.

Tom: I haven’t read your latest novel, “Reservation Ravaged” yet, so tell us about the story, without giving anything important to the mystery away. Where is the story set, who are the main characters, what the plot is about, that sort of thing. Is this a sequel to “Betrothal, Betrayal, And Blood”?

JoAnna:  “Reservation Ravaged” is set in the fictional city of San Tobino on the Central California Coast, that least known region of the best known state.  The same characters appear as well as a few new players.  However, the book is standalone and does not require the reader to be familiar with the “Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood.”

Hermione Daggert, now a certified California Private Investigator with her apprenticeship and state exam behind her, is quite confident about her ability to handle an assignment on her own.  A local Indian tribe, the Kanache, asks her to find the man who camped out on their reservation over a year before.  Filled with confidence, she sees only a find-the-man assignment.

How hard can it be?

However, over the past year, that section of the reservation has gone from withered and uninhabitable to aggressively hostile.  When the land claims the life of a beautiful San Tobino socialite in a fiery car crash, Hermione gets a new client. Her job?

Find out why.

Tom: What do you find to be the most exciting part of the creating process to either novels or short stories?

JoAnna:  Ideas come over me and demand my attention, nag at me, give me no peace until I start writing.  The flow of words and the images in my mind invite me into another world, the world I am putting down on paper and yes, I often do write my very first drafts in long hand, a chapter at a time.  This first act of writing, the very beginning of a novel, transports me to another world where I am all-powerful and everything will be as I have said.  Then, I discover myself writing something completely different than what I was thinking, and we’re off to the races.  If I’m using my laptop, I don’t even look at the screen and just write what I see in my mind’s eye.

Weird?  You bet.

Tom: Along the same subject as above, what do you find to be the most difficult area in the creating process?

JoAnna:  Making sure that what I see so clearly in my mind’s eye actually becomes words on the page. I have absorbed the characters and events so thoroughly that I sometimes forget that the reader has not. 

Tom: Besides family and writing, tell us about any hobbies or community services you may be involved in, and any other activity you would like to mention.

JoAnna:  I am volunteered in the Prosecutor’s Office in the City of Surprise as well as the Police Department and went on to an assignment with a criminal defense attorney.  I love to quilt and embroider, maintaining the traditions of the women in my family.  I am the first generation to be raised in suburbia rather than on a farm or ranch. 

Tom: What advice would you give other aspiring authors hoping to break into the writing field today?

JoAnna:  Remain open to all opportunities.  There are so many how-to’s, and each of them worked for somebody.  It’s all so easy once it happens, and so seemingly hopeless before it happens.  The activities I thought would lead somewhere usually didn’t, and then a casual note led me to a bit of success. Throughout it all was the writing, the world of the imagination, and that is an incomparable experience.  When you realize that you would rather fail at writing than be successful at anything else, you know you’re in the right place.

Tom: Where can fans find – and buy - your stories, and do you keep copies on hand for autographs? Please include website and Blogs.

JoAnna:  My novel and short stories can currently be found in Night To Dawn magazine at My novels are available in print and electronic format through Amazon and B&N.  I blog in

Tom:  And now a question from left field.  If you could, would you choose to live in a parallel universe as one of the people in the places you create?

JoAnna:  In a heartbeat.  I would go to San Tobino and live forever having safe adventures with Emma, Hermione, Karl and Vito.  Writing about them is the next best thing.

Tom: JoAnna, thank you very much for consenting to this interview.

JoAnna:  It’s been a real pleasure.  


  1. This book sounds fascinating! I so do love a good mystery: Christie, Sayers, Stout, Carr...and on and on.

    1. Thank you, Gail. If you should have a chance to look it over, I'd love to hear your opinion. Best wishes, JoAnna

  2. Hi Gail, yes JoAnna is a great new writer. Now, if we could just get her to write pulp (lol). I've got about a dozen of your stories on my Kindle yet to read, just need to find some free time (sigh). Ginger keeps me doing all these darn chores (gripe). LOL