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JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food ration books, Victory Gardens, and black-out sirens as a child in WWII. These memories create vivid descriptions of time and place and have enabled JoAnn to write a WWII suspense series that combine fast-paced mystery and paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it?

Why do you write historical fiction? 

To write a contemporary novel would take entirely too much research for me. I am 78 years old. I grew up with grandparents born in the 1880’s, and I have lived a lot of the experiences in my novels. Historical settings are an easy fit for me.

What do you think attracts readers to your books?

Readers tell me they are attracted by my skill in crafting a novel which invokes nail biting suspense.

Do you have a particular approach to research and writing?

I am a plotter, not a pantzer. A story does not flow out of me. I craft it bit by bit, starting with the story question set in an historical time and place. This decides the kinds of characters I will create and the problem/crises these characters will face.

How do you select new stories to tell?

I’m writing a series set in WWII wherein the U.S. govt. recruits psychics to find Nazi spies. Expect Trouble, Book 1 of the series, needed a lot of thinking to create a storyline and characters that would logically change and transform over time. Once that work was done, the new stories evolve out of the ones told.

For example, in Book 2 of the series, Expect Deception, the psychics are beginning to work as a team. The Nazi spy is a magician skilled in the black arts so they do need all their skills combined to fight this villain on a paranormal realm. In Expect Betrayal, which I’m writing now, the action moves to war torn England and a British psychic joins the spy search.

What advantages do you think come from concentrating on a period of time or creating a series like you have done?  Any disadvantages?

The advantage of concentrating on WWII is that I was six years old and starting first grade at that time. I remember the feel of the fear when air raid sirens sounded. We turned out all electric lights, covered the windows in the dining room with blankets, sat around the dining room table with a dimmed kerosene lantern for light, and listened to the radio to learn what was going on and when the sirens would sound the all clear.

I remember the food rationing and how the town was drained of young and middle-aged men. Three of my uncles went to war and one didn’t return. All these experiences give historical accuracy of time and place that reviewers notice in my novels.

On the paranormal side, I attended the Berkeley Psychic Institute from 1974-1978. This experience gave me a foundation for creating a variety of characters with psychic talents.

What techniques do you employ to write productively?

I wake each morning without aches and pains, thank God. I exercise over an hour, which includes breathing and meditation exercises, as well as various physical exercises. I then start to write. Because of how focused and intense writing is, I can only write for 3-4 hours. The rest of the day is for admin, marketing, and chores.

Do you think of yourself as having a brand?

I branded myself before I ever submitted a manuscript to a publisher – by colors, fonts, photo, and tag lines (http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com). Although I experimented with genres/sub-genres, my author Voice – how I choose my words, the novel’s pacing and tension – remains the same over all six published novels and that is also my brand. 

What do you do to connect to readers?

For a personal meet-and-greet with readers, I try to get out a couple of times each month to be at book fairs, or do panels and booksignings, or give talks to reader groups and community organizations. I also tweet daily. These tweets feed into Facebook, my website, and a number of social media pages. I put a blog post up on Goodreads each month and do a Goodreads giveaway each quarter.

What do you know about your readers?

My readers enjoy nail-biting suspense wrapped in other worldly experiences at the pace of a thriller, but with the feel of a cozy.

Many thanks for visiting A Writer of History, JoAnn. And best wishes for your WWII series. JoAnn will return with a guest post on combining historical fiction with paranormal elements.

EXPECT DECEPTION – Just when U.S. WAVE Live Delacourt things she and her team of psychic Nazi hunters are ready for whatever the Reich can throw at them, Hitler adds to the mix a spy who also happens to be a wizard. Now, dark magic is being used to attach U.S. facilities and Livvy must match wits with an evil wizard, whose objective is to destroy operation Delphi and all her team. If she fails to ramp up her psychic powers, she may perish–and perhaps cause the U.S. to lose the war with Germany while she’s at it.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.