maskI’m a huge Billy Joel fan. (Yes, I’m showing my age. I don’t care. He’s awesome.) I could give you a list of my favorite songs of his, but that list would be way too long. Instead, I want to focus on just one. Briefly. “The Stranger.” In a moment…

I’m not much of a French literature fan. I had to read many French works when I was getting my degrees, but most of them bored me. One stuck with me, though. Albert Camus’ The Stranger.

What do Joel’s and Camus’ works have in common? Other than the title, that is. In their own ways, they deal with people hiding their true selves from the world, with trying to make order out of chaos.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to read my friend Joan Hall’s debut novella. What do Joel and Camus have to do with that? Joan’s work touches on similar themes. And her story is also called The Stranger.

Please join me in welcoming Joan today. I’m so excited she’s here, and she has a wonderful story to share with us.

The Story Behind Joan Hall’s The Stranger

the stranger

I’m excited for the opportunity to be a guest on Staci’s blog today and announce my debut novella, The Stranger.

Staci and I “met” through Tribe Writers and have since bonded through an offshoot private group of other fiction writers. We often tease that we share a brain or that we’re twins separated by birth. (Although I’m the much older twin!) Thank you, Staci, for allowing me to be your guest today.

Now, without further ado, here’s a little about my background and the story behind The Stranger.

Novelist Orson Scott Card once said, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

As far back as I can remember I loved to hear a good story. It didn’t matter if it came from the pages of Grimm’s Fairy Tales or a Little Golden Book. Once I learned to read, I had a book in my hand most of the time. I had an over-active imagination and would often act out the stories I read.

However, my favorite stories were true ones told to me by my mom. Most people would think she lived an ordinary life, but I found her stories fascinating. Whether it was an event from her childhood or something that occurred later in her life, I enjoyed listening to them time and again.

When I was ten years old, I knew I wanted to become a writer. A lot of insecurity and self-doubt kept me from fulfilling my dream until a few years ago. In the years between, I continued to read—especially books in the suspense or mystery genre. I’m not much of a TV person, but I enjoyed shows such as Unsolved Mysteries.

I became a people watcher and listened to their stories. My new novella, The Stranger, is loosely based on a true story I once heard. I’m unable to give you any details of the real event—doing so would reveal the stranger’s real identity. However, I’ll share an overview of the book.

The Stranger CollageJulie Williams is happily married to a retired army officer and has two grown children. She is also the owner of Uncommon Grounds, a coffee shop set in the fictitious town of Morgantown.

The story begins at her mother’s funeral. Margie Smith was a self-centered and domineering woman who raised Julie as a single parent. Shortly after the funeral, Julie enlists the help of a local genealogist to assist her in searching for information on her father.

We soon learn that Margie’s life was filled with lies and deceit. Then, a mysterious stranger arrives in town. He begins to watch Julie, question other people about her, and hang around the coffee shop. Who is this stranger? What is his connection to Julie?

Morgantown is based on two small towns not far from where I live. From the original concept of the story, I imagined Julie owning a coffee shop. I envisioned the stranger arriving by train and staying in a nearby old-fashioned hotel. I looked around me not only for the story idea, but for the setting also.

My original plan was to write the story as a series for my First Friday Fiction Feature titled ‘A Stranger in Town.’ But after two installments, the characters begged me to tell more of their story.

Currently, The Stranger is available exclusively to email subscribers. If you would like a free copy, click here to sign up.

I’m so glad you joined us today, Joan. And thank you for sharing your process and your overview with us. I hope you guys take this opportunity to request a copy. The story really touched my heart, and it will stay with me. Just like Joel’s and Camus’ strangers did.

And what about you? Do you wear a metaphorical mask? Have you ever presented yourself as someone else? Do you like Billy Joel or French literature? Let’s talk about it.

And if you want to know a little more about Joan, here you go:

Joan Hall

Joan Hall knew she wanted to be a writer at age ten. She began to scribble stories on notebook paper and wrote a novel when she was seventeen. However, she put aside her desire to become a published author for several years. Then, with encouragement from a friend, she began writing short non-fiction stories and devotionals. But becoming a fiction writer was always her desire. The Stranger is her first novella. She has plans to publish more books in 2016, including the first book of the Driscoll Lake series.

Joan and her husband live in Texas and share their home with their two cats, Tucker and Little Bit, and their dog, Maggie. They like to travel, especially when a road trip is involved. Joan also enjoys photography, wildlife, and nature walks.

To connect with Joan, visit her website and be sure to check out her Friday Fiction section. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

24 Responses

  1. Hey Joan I enjoyed learning a little bit more about you. The story does sound intriguing. True life stories can be just as interesting as fiction. Look forward in reading it.

    • Kath – I tend to weave a little of myself in my stories. In this case, the protagonist Julie detests Black Friday shopping (so do I). That, along with basing the story loosely on one I heard as well as the small town elements. Thanks for visiting here and I hope you enjoy the book.

  2. I like Billy Joel’s music too Staci – my teenagers and I often sit down at the piano and sing some of his songs 🙂 Joan – loved your debut novella. You’re a great writer! And I love it that you’re a ‘people watcher’ too – I do that all the time… maybe that’s the writer in us? It’s fascinating to watch people and notice the little details. Looking forward to your next book Joan 🙂

    • Now you have me thinking of “The Piano Man.” 🙂 Lorna, I’ve been a people watcher for some time. Never tied it to writing until a few years ago. Shopping malls and airports are great places to watch others. So glad you liked the book. I look forward to publishing my next one. Finally getting excited about the edits.

  3. Joan, thanks for sharing a bit about The Stranger. I remember reading those first two installments on your blog, and without letting a second pass, I downloaded the novella the other day. Looking forward to a good read.

    Staci, thanks to you for hosting Joan and encouraging other writers to persevere and strive for their dreams.

  4. Thanks for sharing the story behind your novella, Joan! I’m so excited for you! “The Stranger” sounds intriguing and I love both the name of the coffee shop and the town (maybe that has something to do with the fact that I’m a Morgan!) Congratulations on realizing your dream. I wish you the best with your Driscoll Lake series. God bless ~

    • Maria, I’m so excited for her, too. She’s been working so hard on her fiction lately, and the results are noticeable. I hope you get a chance to read The Stranger; I think you’ll really like it. Thanks for visiting!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Maria. If it hadn’t been for Tribe Writers, I don’t know if I’d ever attempted this. And I was able to “meet” such wonderful people such as you. I can imagine you like the town’s name. 🙂

  5. Hi, ladies! I’m a Billy Joel fan, too, from waaaay back. I especially loved his early stuff like Say Goodbye to Hollywood and Miami 2017 (eesh! can you believe 2017 is not that far away)?

    Joan, The Stranger sounds like a compelling read. I signed up for my email copy and will add it to my reading queue. I’ve got two other reads promised to authors first, but will add yours next. I’m looking forward to the story. And I love the cover!

    I’m now following you all over social media, too. Wonderful to meet you! 🙂
    Staci, thanks for introducing Joan on your blog. I love meeting new authors through friends! 🙂

    • Mae, every time we “talk” I learn more about you… and more that you and I have in common. Joel’s work in the 70s is my favorite, but I am an across-the-board fan. And you’ll love Joan. She and I are a lot alike. She’s great. I’m glad you followed her, and I hope you enjoy her story.

    • Hi Mae – glad we were able to link up. I read your bio and we have a lot in common – cat lovers, exploring old cemeteries, etc. Thanks for the social media follow (following you back). Hope you enjoy the book!

  6. Staci:

    Thank you for the opportunity to guest post here today and to share with your readers. And guess what? I also like Billy Joel! But somehow it doesn’t surprise me that we would share similar tastes in music. 🙂

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