Posted on 08/15/2018 at 01:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
When author Janice J. Richardson first dreamed of publishing her memoir, she expected there to be a magic “fairy-tale publisher” handling all the post-writing work.
The funny thing is, one almost did swoop in.
Back in the 1990s, Richardson submitted The Making of a Funeral Director — yep, about her career in the funeral industry — to a few major publishers.
An editor at one called her back to discuss publishing it, even, and the conversation was going well.
Here’s where the “almost” part comes in: That editor’s son had recently passed away. The subject matter was too much; she cried and told Richardson, “I can’t do it, I just can’t.”
So Richardson put her manuscript away, not wanting to ever elicit such sadness in someone again.
Over a decade later, though, her ex-husband shipped her the rediscovered manuscript, and some instinct led her to dust it off, literally and figuratively.
Since then, Richardson has also published four cozy mysteries, starring fictional funeral director Jennifer Spencer, in addition to her memoir.
She has graciously alerted us to several stellar Q&A subjects, and once we figured out her own career (past and present) was just as intriguing, we reached out with a few questions for her, too.
SADYE: You’ve known since you were eight that you wanted to be a funeral director. How did you realize that at such a young age?
JANICE: At my uncle’s funeral, I pressed my mother with question after question.
My mother was a pragmatic nurse who didn't sugarcoat life’s challenges. She took me up to the casket, let me touch my uncle's hand, and explained why he was cool and stiff.
I watched the service as if I were in a classroom. The solemnity and grief touched something deep within me.
It was at the graveside that day I made my decision.
SADYE: You kept journals on the experience for years; what prompted you to take the next step and convert those into a memoir?
JANICE: Education. It's a privilege. I waited many years to go to college.
It was the best of times. OK, sometimes it felt like the worst of times too. :)
Many weeks I worked full-time hours and went to school full time. It was over a year before I saw my family, who lived on the other side of the province.
But it passed so quickly, I knew I had to write it down so I could remember and reflect when I was older.
A friend convinced me to convert the notes into a memoir.
SADYE: How did your time as a funeral director help your future writing?
JANICE: Knowledge is power; so is transparency and truth.
Grief eventually sharpens your sensitivity, and I, like all of us, am no stranger to grief. Exposure to death for the first time can be overwhelming and paralyzing.
The Spencer Funeral Home Niagara series was my attempt to educate and help people understand that death is a part of life; that the funeral director chooses to be there to support and walk alongside them for the first few days.
I grieved with some of my families; many funeral directors do. I wanted readers to know what to expect.
I used the series as an opportunity to entertain and, through entertainment, educate.
SADYE: What challenges and/or rewards did you wish you’d known about before you became an author?
JANICE: Everything? Seriously. I knew nothing starting out. ...
You learn as you go, making mistakes occasionally wandering down paths that waste time. An author needs to find out what works for them.
There is no right or wrong choosing to publish traditionally or to go with hybrid publishing or self-publishing. It’s your call.
I had a fabulous editor; I owe my success to her. She formatted, cajoled, chastised, and hung in there. Editing is not optional. Put your money where it matters. Editing matters.
The rewards? The lessons I've learned and am learning as a self-published author. The freedom one has as an indie.
Casket Cache is an Amazon bestseller because it is free. The joy of giving a book away and keeping the costs down on the others is exciting.
When starting out, I had no idea that one of the best parts would be the friends I have made along the way, the readers and other authors input and support, the give-and-take, and how fun it is to encourage new authors, to read and review their books.
While I have questionable tech skills, I bumble through with the help of my fellow authors, and I am grateful for their support.
SADYE: Did any particular writers inspire your style or genre choice?
JANICE: Absolutely. When I was young, it was Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Anne felt like a real person. She was an orphan, just like me. I now know that it was Lucy herself writing about her life; we write what we know.
As I grew older, I read Taylor Caldwell and James Michener. As my kids matured into their teens, I savoured I.J. Parker's Sugawara Akidata historical fiction series and Khaled Hosseini.
The Spencer Funeral Home Niagara series fits the cozy genre, not because I chose to deliberately make it a cozy. It just fell into that genre, meeting most of the criteria. ...
I respect writers who create fantastic places and lives. Fantasy, sci-fi and romance just aren't part of who I am as a person.
SADYE: Beyond your work as a funeral director, where do you find inspiration for your mysteries?
JANICE: Good question. Who doesn't enjoy a good puzzle? Mysteries are puzzles.
It has been said that a good writer is also an avid reader. Reading a good book that teaches me something new and leaves me, the reader wanting more, can be inspiring.
I enjoy a good cliffhanger too. In my humble opinion, the reader should be left with questions to ponder over.
When I started the mystery series, I had no idea how to “make” a mystery. All the years of reading instinctively paid off as the manuscripts unfolded.
Sometimes, I write the last chapter first, then “make” a mystery.
Niagara Falls is rich in history, a beautiful place to set the scene for any book. My inspiration also comes from the people and events around me, popping out as plot bunnies in the middle of the night.
My Google Home Mini captures them, it is beside my bed. I roll over, give it a few key words and ask it to remind me in the morning. How fun is that?
Most authors turn on the light and write it down. I was often too sleepy to turn on the light, even, and the plot bunnies escaped. Problem solved.
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Categories: Author Interview