Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Joyce Reynolds-Ward has been called “the best writer I’ve never heard of” 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.
Thanks so much, Joyce, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
Joyce Reynolds-Ward: Ideas and characters happen somewhat simultaneously. I might get an idea, but it doesn’t really spring to life until I can visualize at least one of the main characters.
For example, the Martiniere books started out with the idea that I was going to write a science fiction story based in agricultural technology, involving a woman who was trying to save her ranch. Things grew from there, as I researched agtech and began to fill out Ruby’s character. I know a couple of rodeo queens, so she became an ex-rodeo queen with a degree in agtech. Then it became an issue of not only saving the ranch, but funding her ideas for world-changing biobots. Then I heard an ad on the radio for an online game show that donates something like $500,000 to a small town based on how many clicks the town gets on its presentation. Voila. Gamification of agtech funding came to me—and the story took off from there. But I couldn’t have written the story without having that character. Nor could I have developed that character without the idea.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.?
JRW: A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. is the second book of the A Different Life subseries in the Martiniere Multiverse. For some reason, after the first book, I kept thinking about a secondary character in A Different Life: What If?, Ruby Barkley’s best friend Linda Coates. It seemed to me that Linda had a story to tell—and did she ever.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
JRW: I thought Now. Always. Forever. was going to be a light story. It was intended to be a somewhat relaxing book and a bit fun. Then…well…Dobbs happened, along with a bunch of other hijinks during the 2022 election. Now. Always. Forever. has a huge undercurrent reflecting my anxiety about the US political scene in the near future, especially the role that fundamentalist men who want to roll back the rights of women are playing in our current discourse.
I suppose this is a cautionary tale of sorts, though I should be careful about writing them when it comes to politics. Far too often—as I discovered after the Netwalk Sequence books were published—they just end up becoming uncomfortably close to how things really happen.
On the other hand, Linda and Armand truly love each other. And Armand is a somewhat idealized version of what I find attractive about a man—competent, confident without being arrogant, unafraid to show emotion or demonstrate that he cares.
JSC: What was the weirdest thing you had to Google for your story?
JRW: Looking up Art Nouveau décor for the Residence in France.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
JRW—Yes. I was misplaced in the low reading class in first grade, and ended up transferring classes three times. I moved to chapter books before my classmates, and ended up spending a lot of my school time in the library. The librarians got to know me VERY well. Interestingly, in my senior year of high school, I got to know the lady who is now Patricia Briggs’s assistant. The high school librarian allowed me and Ann to go to one of the local bookstores—and select mass market paperbacks for the school collection. That year there was a LOT of science fiction and fantasy added to our library’s paperback collection!
JSC: What’s your writing process?
JRW: My writing process seems to evolve and change on a regular basis. Right now, I’m working on two serial novels, which involves a different sort of pacing from just plowing through a book. I’ll write ahead on one until I’ve built up a backlog of posts and have hit a wall, then I’ll shift to the other. Or a different project.
Serial work seems to be semi-plotted, in the sense that I’ll roughly outline several chapters ahead, then change as the story changes. So there are elements of both plotting and pantsing in my serial work.
My non-serial work is plotted, for the most part. Short stories, not so much. I’ll work for a while, then stop and do something else, then go back to the story.
For long form work, I like having both Scrivener and Word open. Word is where the rough drafts happen, along with edits once the whole book is done. Each chapter has its own document in Word, then is pasted into Scrivener. Scrivener keeps all of my working notes for the book as well—outlines, plot arcs, character notes, everything I need to know. For one of the current works in progress that has a different time structure, I have a list of the different time settings and how they translate to our usage. If I can’t remember something continuity-wise, being able to click over to Scrivener and look at the chapter really helps. Visually, it’s easier for me to do than scroll through the whole document in Word.
Once I’m done, I export the whole thing back to Word, let it sit for a few weeks, then do the first revision, frequently on paper then in Word. After that, it goes to beta readers. I’ll do a final revision after getting feedback, then put the book into Vellum for a close copyedit and proofread. I’ve found that moving between Word, Scrivener, and Vellum helps me catch a LOT more problems. It’s far from perfect, but I have noticed a significant improvement in the process. I think it helps that all three programs look somewhat different on the screen, so that it’s easier to see problems.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
JRW: I read a LOT, and what I read varies widely. My taste in fiction varies by my mood, but there are some favorite rereads. My omnibus version of the books of Earthsea. Terry Pratchett. Craig Johnson. Jane Austen. Beverly Jenkins. Nalini Singh. I’m spending time right now skimming through the new ebook additions to my library’s catalog, including some of the hot new genre writers.
That said, I am not as huge a mystery and thriller fan as I used to be when I was younger. Craig Johnson is one exception, but besides his Western settings, the fact that Native American themes dominate a lot of his work is appealing.
When it comes to nonfiction, I’m all over the place. I recently read a lovely book about the Compton Cowboys, and am always a sucker for reading about marginalized populations and horses. I frequently prefer to read Western history, especially from a Native American perspective. My focus tends to be in my region, the Pacific Northwest. I also like history, and some social science reading (with a degree in Political Science plus actual organizing experience, though, I do not have a lot of patience with theoretical politics).
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
JRW: I have a huge crush on Gabriel Martiniere. Don’t ask me why, but when he sauntered into Inheritance as Gabe Ramirez, fixed me with those deep brown eyes, and kept saying things didn’t happen the way you’re trying to write them happening, and this is why…well, he had me intrigued with his complicated backstory and motivations. And the more I got to know him, I realized that he was rapidly becoming his own person, with a depth I hadn’t devised in any character before. His wife Ruby is much the same as well. But she keeps a sharp eye on me because Gabe is hers and I took him away from her once. She’s not gonna let it happen again. Especially in the multiverse I ended up creating.
JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
JRW: Star Trek. I used to be fairly balanced between the two, but some of the stuff that has happened in the main line history of Star Wars, especially with The Rise of Skywalker—I didn’t buy into midichlorians, I don’t like the governmental structures, and the Force just annoys the heck out of me. It’s sad, because I loved the very first Star Wars. I was a snack bar attendant at a decrepit fine art theater that Star Wars got booked into, because it was by the University of Oregon, and the bookers didn’t think it would do that well. Ha! Three showings a day later, with lines around the block…it was amazing when it first came out, but overall, I don’t think that Star Wars has held up as well as Star Trek.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
JRW: I have multiple projects happening at the moment. Two serials—one is on Kindle Vella, Federation Cowboy, and is a far future space opera with lots of sentient species, including Plasmoids of various types. The Plasmoids may have been responsible for a lot of sentient species developing in the Galaxy—and in order to gain control over a particular plant-based psychotropic drug, they may be willing to remove said sentience from their opponents—including human beings.
The other serial, The Cost of Power, is set in my Martiniere Multiverse series, and is posting on my Martiniere StoriesSubstack (first episode link: https://joycef1d.substack.com/p/no-good-choices-part-one). This story has two drastic changes from my main line Martiniere Legacy series. Gabe tells Ruby who he is before they marry, and he reconciles with the biofather he despises, Philip, in order to face the greater threat of a toxic digital version of Philip from another universe who seeks to destroy all versions of himself.
I am also reissuing a book I released first on Kindle Vella, then Kindle Unlimited—Beating the Apocalypse. I was going to take it wide and put it out in paperback as well, but when a cataract interfered with my ability to work, that went on the back burner. Along with that, I’m putting out the 2022 Author Preferred Netwalk Sequence books out in paperback. That’s a slow project because I’m needing to check the interiors and redo the covers. I hope to get the first book, Life in the Shadows, out this month.
Finally, besides writing a new short story every month, I’m worldbuilding for the fantasy trilogy that follows my Goddess’s Honor series. The Goddess’s Vision books look at the deconstruction of Empire—what it takes and what it will cost, not just financially but personally, to the Empress who chooses to reconstitute the Empire by tearing it down. It’s a very ambitious project, and I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle it yet. We’ll see how the worldbuilding goes.
And now for Joyce Reynolds-Ward’s new book: A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.:
WHEN NOTHING TURNS OUT TO BE AS EXPECTED….
After Linda Coates gets a job offer from friend Ruby Barkley Martiniere, she sees a means to escape the growing issues created by her ambitious brother-in-law Clyde Newsome, who seemingly wants to control every aspect of Linda’s life.
Ruby’s offer means Linda gets the chance to work closely with her friend in developing high-end agricultural robotics and manage the Martiniere Group’s high-end labs around the world.
What Linda didn’t expect was Armand Martiniere—her counterpart who works for Ruby’s husband Gabriel. Or what Armand comes to mean to her. Or the degree to which her brother-in-law Clyde wants to pursue her as part of his political ambitions. Linda needs to find a way to protect her family and remain safe…hopefully, with Armand. Can she make it happen—either alone, or with the help of the Martinieres?
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Chapter Four, Disclosures at the Double R, pages 56-59
Linda checked the time. Six in the evening on a late April Saturday meant that her dad had finished his rounds of the golf course and was settling into his library at home. Her mother was cocooning in her room with the appropriate spring cocktail while streaming whatever series she was following at the moment. Clyde and Sara would be nowhere near the house, since Saturday evenings involved pre-church Bible studies.
A good time to talk to her dad.
She pressed his call link.
“Hey, darling.” No slurring in her father’s voice, so this hadn’t been a heavy drinking day on the course. “How’s the new job going?”
“Just fine, for what little I’ve done so far. Which has mostly been visa paperwork, orientation, and packing up my apartment, with Ruby’s help.”
“You didn’t need to pay me back for the deposits.”
“Eh, I wanted to. Getting onto my own feet and all that.” Linda hesitated. “There is an issue. Clyde raised a fuss while we were packing today. Security wouldn’t let him in the building. I hope he hasn’t been bothering you and Mom.”
Her father sighed. “He called me full of all sorts of fury because you’re working for the Martinieres.”
“What is his problem?” She hesitated. “By the way, this is a secure phone, at least on my end.”
“Not so secure for me. Clyde’s been in here recently.” Another sigh. “You know about the assassination contracts put out on Frank and Walter Braun by Gabriel Martiniere?”
“Yes, Ruby told me about them. And that she had signed off as well.”
“Clyde is concerned that your working for the Martinieres will negatively impact his political career because of those contracts.” A third sigh. “Don’t let his rhetoric stop you. Yes, he’s trying to control you like he does Sara. I told him that where you worked was not his business, and that he should leave you alone.”
“I just don’t get why he thinks my working for Ruby will impact his politics. Neither Ruby nor Gabe are planning to run for office, and they’re working through the legalities around those contracts.”
“It’s how that Electric Born cult he’s part of works. They’re focused on men being in power. Plus, the Martinieres are politically Catholic. Maybe not so much in the practice of their faith, but Gabriel Martiniere has been meeting with Church leadership in the past two months. Political connections.”
Hmm. That should be interesting. Ruby wasn’t practicing any faith when I knew her.
“I don’t see how that would be an issue,” she said, keeping her voice low. “I haven’t seen any evidence of any sort of Church involvement around the Martinieres so far. No talk of going to services—Mass, I guess. No one’s wearing crosses or talking religious like Clyde and Sara do all the time.”
“Honey, Catholic and Jewish political conspiracy theories are something that Clyde and the Electric Born hook into hard.” Yet another sigh from her father. “It’s an old trope that goes back for years in American political history. There are reasons why we’ve only had two Catholic and no Jewish Presidents.” A pause. “You understand? Remember our trips with your grandmother?”
“Got it, Dad.”
He didn’t respond, but remained silent.
He didn’t have to say anything.
Her father had been proud of Grandma Jenni’s political achievements. Grandma Jenni took Linda to her office in the State Legislature while Sara and their mother went to church camp with Grandmother Norma. Jenni Coates had been outspoken in her advocacy for equal rights and voting access.
But Grandma Jenni had died under mysterious and violent circumstances. Linda’s skin crawled at the memory.
The calls to the house before Grandma Jenni’s death, promising increasingly explicit details about how they would kill her. Emails. Texts. Increased security presence, including on-site patrols for the first time. How her father had turned secretive, and her mother suddenly started drinking more.
The, out of the blue, right after Grandma Jenni’s death, Sara married Clyde, when they hadn’t dated at all. If anything, Sara complained about Clyde before their engagement. When she slipped out of church camp to gossip with Linda some nights—Grandma Jenni’s old place was next to the camp—she had grumbled about Clyde Newsome’s overbearing attention to her.
He’s a creep had been her most frequent objection.
And yet—Sara had married Clyde, right after Grandma Jenni’s death.
That drama had ruptured Linda’s family. For her father to refer to trips with your grandmother in connection with Presidential religious affiliations—oh, she was being warned that this was a dangerous Electric Born religious issue, big time. A previously arranged code.
“I understand, Dad,” she repeated, after the silence between them grew too long to bear. “I’ll call you when I’m settled in Paris.”
“That sounds good.” The relief in his voice was obvious.
They chatted further, before Linda hung up. She stared out the window, fretting.
But what could she do, besides stay safe?