GREENVILLE – Jan (J. E.) Irvin, of Springboro, Ohio is the 2015 Jeremiah Healy Mystery Winner for her debut novel “The Dark End of the Rainbow”.
Irvin was the featured writer, Friday, Jan. 14, of the first of four 2017 Author’s Nights, sponsored by the Friends of the Greenville Public Library (GPL). The events take place at Montage Cafe, in Greenville. The evening’s activities include live music from J.R. Price and Bill Westfall, and time with the author, including a question and answer session.
Assistant Director of GPL and member of Friends of the Library Susi Halley, of Greenville, said the free events are usually a big success. The Friends sponsor the event with usually between 30-50 people attending, depending on the weather, she said.
“It’s an opportunity to hear literature and poetry from local authors,” Halley said. “Usually the authors read from their books and we also talk about how they got started. It’s always fun, relaxed and very informal. The library purchases their books, for community check-out.”
Irvin’s stories have appeared in both print and on-line journals and magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Spark. A career educator, Irvin retired in 2008, after teaching Spanish and English at Springboro High School, Centerville City Schools and Alter High School. Until recently, she taught Spanish at Wright State University, but upon her success as a published author, she is now a full-time writer.
“Above all I love kids and the potential they represent,” Irvin said. “I would still be in the classroom if someone else graded my papers and attended meetings, so I have would time to write.”
Irvin started writing when she was young. She wrote plays and made all of her siblings act in them and or attend them, she said. She also likes improvisation.
“But you have to be funny, and I need to work on that,” Irvin said.
While exploring her possibilities in writing, Irvin discovered how life gets in the way. A career, marriage and children kept her writing at a distance, but it never went away. Attending writers’ workshops, such as the Antioch Writer’s Workshop, helped hone her skills and sharpen her voice.
“Through that process, I realized that my dream had not died,” she said.
Irvin continued writing her way into a novel. She entered a free contest and won the “Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award Competition”, through the Mystery Writers Key West Fest based on the first three pages of her novel, “The Dark End of the Rainbow”. That novel was published in 2015, by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Following this publication, “The Rules of the Game” was published in 2016, by Absolutely Amazing Ebooks. She continues writing more novels.
Irvin’s top four suggestions for story readability are: mystery, suspense, surprise and romance. She explained for every author those factors may be different.
“What makes a story readable for you?” she asked the audience.
She thoroughly researches her characters and their cultures. Exploring character motivation requires great dedication and often help from local librarians, who Irvin describes as kind and calm.
“For me to investigate why people do the things they do makes me read as widely as I can,” she said. “I try to understand. Do people sit around a table and say, ‘How about we rob a bank tomorrow?’ Do they do that? Is it something that just happens on the spur of the moment?”
Her new novel is set in another country, requiring her to learn Turkish.
“There is so much you can’t know,” she explained. “You do what you have to do to get it right, and hope the readers forgive you if you make a small error. “
She also spoke about her relationship with and development of her characters and staying open to possibilities.
“They speak to you, in fact I’ve had them change their names,” she said. “I have been typing and somewhere in the third paragraph or the third page, the person is no longer ‘Perry’ he is now ‘Gary.’ Where did Gary come from? That’s who that character wants to be.”
When an audience member asked if she started her novels with an outline, she said she knows the beginning and the ending. Again, she remains open to the process and the discovery.
“I am not sure about all of the things that are going to happen,” she said. “When I was doing the draft of my new novel, when I wrote those pages, I said, ‘Oh my gosh! I don’t know how that happened and I hope the reader likes this as much as I do’.”
Irvin explained that she has many more books to write, so when she is finished with a novel she is ready to let it go.
“At some point, you have to let the arrows fly and hope that they soar in some way,” she said.
The next Author’s Night featuring the Greenville Poets, is Friday, Feb. 17, 6 p.m. at Montage Cafe, 527 S. Broadway Street, Greenville. For more information, visit www.greenville-publiclibrary.org.