Interview with Joy Metzer – Author of Happy Tails
Margaret: Joy, your book ‘Happy Tails’ is a lovely children’s story with some very important life lessons. I would like to congratulate you on writing it and I am delighted that we have the opportunity to conduct this interview. Many thanks for making the time available.
Margaret: What was the inspiration that drove you to write your first children’s book ‘Happy Tails’?
Joy: It all began when I met my husband, Bill. While we were still dating, he introduced me to his cabin in the Ozarks. During our 4 hour drives up from the central part of the state, we would share funny stories about how we’d each grown up. I began assigning creature personas to a wonderful cast of supporting characters from our lives and then began lacing those stories together in a manner intended to capture “teaching moments” for today’s children.
Margaret: Your book feels very personal, how much of your own life and experiences did you draw on for the story?
Joy: While Jitterbug’s adventure is completely her own, many of the characters who supported her on her journey came directly from people who had once played roles in our own lives.
Margaret: There were a lot of life lessons addressed in the novel. Was this always your intention to cover so many emotive issues or did this grow organically as the story developed?
Joy: I guess you could say both. It was always my intention to use our life’s lessons to build the story, but as life imitates art, so too does art imitate life in that it evolves organically.
Margaret: With all the characters, who was the most difficult to write? What was the most important aspect of their personality to convey and which trait was the most challenging?
Joy: I would have to say Willis was the most difficult to write. His character is actually based upon a real one-eyed grey fox that came each evening to eat the scraps of food I put out for him each time we visited the cabin. Over time he became incredibly tame.
When it came to Willis, I wanted young readers to understand we all have handicaps. While some are physical and others emotional, everyone is constantly working to overcome something. I wanted to convey that Willis was a survivor who did not let a perceived weakness define him.
His most challenging trait to communicate was his initial fearfulness and his reluctance to trust. The Willis we came to know had been very trusting, so this was a totally different mind-set.
Margaret: What do you hope readers take away from this book? How would you like it to be remembered?
Joy: I would like readers to take away the simple truth that the choices we make as individuals have consequences. While growing up is hard and no one always makes good decisions, what we think, say and do has an impact on others.
On its surface, Happy Tails is about the pursuit of a dream and the sacrifices necessary to achieve a goal, but ultimately it is also about discovering what is most important in life as the story centres around both the families we’re born with and the families we find. I would like Happy Tails to be remembered as a book that taught the reader about the importance of family.
Margaret: What influenced you to become an author and move from being an interior designer?
Joy: Ever since I was in the seventh grade, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but somehow along the way I lost the confidence that I was “good enough” to become one. However, even throughout my design career, contemporaries and colleagues alike often commented on my ability to convey my feelings. Therefore, when I was 38 years old, I decided to start writing, stories, a blog, and articles I posted online. Over time, I developed a readership who told me time and again how my writing had touched their heart, and that was the motivation that kept me going.
Margaret: Do you use story boarding or mapping processes to develop your plots and interactions, or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct and gut feeling? Would you therefore describe yourself as a plotter, pantser or plantser?
Joy: While my design career often focused on accessing all the tools of the trade, when it comes to my writing I’m strictly instinctual. I typically come up with a few chapter headings to give me a starting point, and then I play out the story visually within my mind as I write. I suppose I’m like most and a little bit of both, but as a writer, I lean more heavily toward being a pantser.
Margaret: Do you use particular software applications or utilities to support your writing activity? For example, Scrivener or Grammarly.
Joy: No I don’t. I do use Track Changes during the editing process, but I’m afraid that’s as technical as I get.
Margaret: What are the greatest benefits and restrictions to being a published Author? Do you get involved in finalising other aspects of the book, for example the cover design, narration and the promotion of the book?
Joy: The obvious benefit to being a published author is being taken seriously as a writer. Nothing compares to professional peers saying, “I like what you’ve done.” It is instant validation for all the hard work. I don’t know that I’d say I’ve experienced restrictions so much as higher expectations or the need to up my game as a professional.
I am involved in every aspect of the book from start to completion. I suppose that’s due in part to my background in interior design and project management in particular. For instance, I chose the illustrator out of several who were pitched to me and then chose the particular narrative I wanted to be illustrated, provided pictures, sketches, etc. It was more or less the same process for the back cover and website. I’m also directly involved in every promotional aspect.
Margaret: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Joy: Believe in yourself. If everyone has a story, then discover yours so you can share it with the world.
Margaret: How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?
Joy: Ugh! This one is the tough one for me. If I could do as I like, then I would write five days a week and then turn it over for someone else to figure out the promotional aspect; however, that is unrealistic. I usually devote about six months to writing, three months to editing, design and polish and then the next six to nine months devoted primarily to promotion. It’s challenging for me to blend the processes though I’m currently doing so.
Margaret: What authors have you most admired and have had an influence on your writing?
Joy: From my childhood, I loved E. B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and Margery William’s “The Velveteen Rabbit” whose rich characters evoked emotion and imagery that’s lasted throughout my lifetime.
As an adult, I’ve most enjoyed historical fiction whose plotlines take me places I’ve never been but want to visit in my dreams. Two that first come to mind are Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series and Kathleen McGowan’s books chronicling the lineage of Jesus Christ. These women place me in awe.
Margaret: What is your favourite book you’ve read over the last 12 months?
Joy: My favourite book I’ve read in the last 12 months is one I’ve actually re-read from a fresh, more grown-up perspective, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. In the past few years, I fear our world has changed in many ways that have taken us back to that time when the colour of a man’s skin dictates his station in life. We must learn from our past in order to not make the same mistakes again. Atticus Finch is a good example of what it means to live honourably, and I cherish his memory each time I think about that narrative.
Margaret: If you had a dinner party and could invite 3 personalities from any period in history who would they be and why?
Joy: The three personalities I’d invite to a dinner party are in my estimation exemplary women, Mary, the Virgin Mother, Mary Magdalene, and Anne Boleyn. As God’s chosen to give birth to Jesus, I’d like to know what it feels like to experience her grace and understand her incomparable strength. History has portrayed Mary Magdalene as everything from a prostitute who found salvation through Christ to a disciple and possible wife who with Jesus has given birth to a royal bloodline that thrives even today. I think it would be fascinating to learn the truth behind such legends. Anne Boleyn was a smart and savvy woman who charmed her way into King Henry’s heart and then became the brains behind England’s break from the Vatican only to suffer the ultimate betrayal when she failed to produce a male heir to the throne. I don’t believe history’s treated her fairly, and I would like to pay my respects.
Margaret: Can you give us any insights into any future books or projects that you’re working on?
Joy: My next project I’ve begun is a follow up to “Happy Tails: Jitterbug Makes a Name for Herself” and is tentatively titled “Happy Tails 2: The Next Generation”. The story will resume with offsprings, Jasmine and Scout, whose parents are Jitterbug and Jasper and Willis and Grace respectively. Very different from their parents, Jasmine is shy, even fearful of what lies beyond the woods while Scout is bold and fearless. The two will develop a relationship that will call into question the friendship between their fathers, Jasper and Willis.
Margaret: How can readers learn more about you and your work?
Joy: https://www.joymetzerbooks.com/ for my children’s work.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/joy-metzer-69a76916/ for my blog posts.
Margaret: Joy, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. If there are other snippets of information you wish to provide, please feel free. I would like to congratulate you on this wonderful book and I wish you massive success for the future.
Book Review Link Below: