Interviewing author and speaker Joanna Penn is a lot like reading one of her thrillers — a rollicking ride through uncharted territories where surprises burst from dark corridors and human quirks shape the narrative in unexpected ways.
In the span of less than an hour, I learned that she and I are taphophiles (people who are fascinated by graveyards), her “overnight” success self-publishing ebooks took more than five years of hard work, and she envisions a vagabond existence in the future, traveling internationally to inspire her writing, painting verbal pictures of her favorite places (Jerusalem being one), and sparking her imagination by seeking strange and unfamiliar locales.
Joanna is the producer of hundreds of podcasts and video interviews (many available through her site, The Creative Penn), so I was surprised to learn that she considers herself an introvert. It turns out, however, that I didn’t quite understand the meaning of the term.
“I’m not shy,” Joanna explained. “There is a scale of introvert/extrovert and a scale of shy and not shy. And, I am a not-shy introvert. Introversion, according to the definition by the psychologists, is pretty much somebody who gets their energy from being alone, whereas extroverts get their energy from other people.”
As anyone who has followed the blogs and guidance from BookBaby knows, an indie author needs to do more than write books. She also has to promote them, which often means getting up in front of audiences, sharing your expertise, and describing your work in an engaging way. Joanna’s latest book, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts, offers proven advice on how to do all these things—despite butterflies in the stomach and twitchy nerves.
“I think that idea behind my public-speaking book,” she said, “was to counter the notion I hear from so many people these days, ‘Oh, you’re an extrovert and you can do all this speaking stuff.’ Even though I speak to a lot of authors and I am a professional speaker, everything I do online — the podcasts and interviews — as well as going on stage, my heart is pounding before I start. We all have nerves, but nerves actually give you a bit of an edge, an adrenaline rush. Everything else I do, blogging, podcasting, video, and Twitter, I’m on my own. The kind of Internet marketing that I do it is incredibly good for introverts, because you get to engage when you want to, on your own terms. And, you do things according to your own energy flows (which is brilliant).”
Joanna currently resides in London, and her travels around the metropolis get ideas going that often end up in her writing projects. “I’m a very visual person,” Joanna said, “and I get a lot of my ideas from the environment and places I go and things I see. So, my novel Desecration was based on the Hunterian Museum in London, which has lots of medical specimens, and the Bodies Exhibition in New York, which has all the plastinated corpses.”
“I went to see the new Viking exhibition at the British Museum. I’ve been wanting to blow up the British Museum (in a novel) for ages and I have got a story I’m going to write, which is going to include Morgan Sierra from ARKANE and also Blake Daniel who is a psychic character from Desecration in the same book. It is a kind of crossover novella. It is just kind of exciting and fun.”
Joanna confessed that the settings in her novels are almost invariably based on places she has been and things she has seen. May she travel widely so that we can relive her impressions and experiences in future novels.
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