I’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
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 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 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.