Jo-Anne has been a welcomed guest twice before on the Scribbler. On her first visit way back in 2015, we were treated to an excerpt from Book four in The Gift Legacy series. See it HERE. At that time, it was titled Penance.
The Gift Legacy series continued, BUT… changes were made to new and exciting titles and bold covers. The stories remain the same. In 2018, she returned to explain why. See it HERE.
This week she is back and has kindly agreed to a Branching Out Interview. There is a new book on the horizon, changes in her marketing strategy and lots of good news. She is also sharing an excerpt from just released novel—Blood Mark.
Let’s chat with Jo-Anne.
Allan: We are overjoyed to have you return, Jo-Anne. Thanks for taking the time to be with us this week. Before we talk about writing and your stories, please tell us about Denman Island, your homelife, and perhaps something we didn’t know about you before.
|Sunset from Denman Island.|
Jo-Anne: Thanks so much for having me back! I’d love to tell you about the island I call home. Denman is one of the northern Gulf islands. It’s situated about halfway up the eastern coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia. The island is 50 square kilometers (20 square miles) with a population of 1,100. It’s rural, comprised largely of farms, but there’s a thriving artist community as well. We’re ferry-bound, so living here isn’t for everyone, but it’s a popular summer destination for tourists.
Though the crossing from Buckley Bay to Denman is just 1900 metres (1.9 kms/1.2 miles) and takes a mere ten minutes, our ferry, the Baynes Sound Connector, is the longest salt-water cable ferry in the world (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC1d_VA_hDk).
Denman has a 113-yr-old general store (https://visitdenmanisland.ca/listings/denman-island-general-store/), which is also the post office, the gas station, and the liquor/beer outlet for the island. We also have a bookstore (!) Abraxas bookstore and café (https://visitdenmanisland.ca/listings/abraxas-books-gifts/), and an artisan-run craft shop (https://visitdenmanisland.ca/listings/denman-craft-shop/). Denman has a medical clinic, a dental bus (yes, a converted bus), a fitness centre, two community halls, and much more. But I’m beginning to sound like the tourist bureau. You can read more about what else Denman has to offer through the website https://visitdenmanisland.ca/.
Islanders have ready access to freshly baked bread and pastries, organic vegetables, eggs, poultry, beef, lamb, and pork. Given the abundance of food available, we don’t need to make the trip off island often, but every two weeks or so, we’ll head into Courtenay and Comox. They are the closest cities to us at about a twenty-minute drive north on Vancouver Island. Most of the big-box stores are there, as well as banking, insurance, and anything else we can’t get locally.
What people may not know is that my husband and I have lived on Denman for twenty+ years (where does the time go?). The house was our cottage for ten years prior to moving over full time. When we first moved here, we thought we’d miss the bustle of the city; I’d been a city girl most of my life, first in Toronto, where I was raised, and then in Vancouver, where I attended university and lived for ten years. But as it turned out, we didn’t miss the city at all. When we have an occasion to be back in Vancouver, the few days of city life are wonderful. We get our fill of restaurants and shopping, and then can’t wait to get home to the quiet countryside again.
Allan: Exciting times, Jo-Anne. A new novel recently released – Blood Mark. Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy. Is there a dramatic change from your earlier series?
Jo-Anne: Exciting indeed! Although Blood Mark is my eighth book, it’s the first book outside of The Gift Legacy series. For that reason, it feels very much like my second book. I know readers will compare the books and I hope Blood Mark holds up to their scrutiny and they love it as much as the legacy series. What readers can expect is a wild ride with fresh and unpredictable plot twists.
This is the teaser: What if your lifelong curse is the only thing keeping you alive? Jane Walker survives the back alleys of Vancouver, marked by a chain of blood-red birthmarks that snake around her body. During her tortured nights, she is gripped by agonizing nightmares when she sees into the past. It isn’t until, one-by-one, the marks begin to disappear that she learns the deadly truth: Her marks are the only things keeping her alive.
E.E. Holmes, award-winning and best-selling author of The Gateway Trilogy has read it and says: “Featuring a fearless, badass heroine and plot twists that will leave readers breathless, J.P. McLean's Blood Mark is a gritty, sexy, fast-paced thrill ride from start to finish.”
Eileen Cook, award-winning author of You Owe Me a Murder calls Blood Mark “An explosive new series that combines mystery and magic into a can’t-put-down thriller.
What hasn’t changed with the new book is the contemporary Vancouver setting, and the inclusion of supernatural elements. But Jane Walker, the protagonist in Blood Mark, is very different from the protagonist in the Gift Legacy. Jane walker is a scrappy orphan who’s been raised in group homes. She’s had to cope with the stigma that comes with looking different and struggles to make ends meet. Likewise, the best friends in the two books are quite different. Sadie is Jane’s best friend and roommate in Blood Mark. Sadie is a beautiful woman who works as a waitress by day, and a hooker by night.
Allan: I’ve had the pleasure of reading Secret Sky, Book One in the Gift Legacy series and I’m anxious to get into the series again. You have published seven other novels. I won’t ask you to pick a favorite because it’s a tough question but I’m curious of which was the most difficult to write? The most emotional?
Jo-Anne: You’re right about how hard it is to pick a favourite. As for the most difficult book to write, I’d have to say it was the first, Secret Sky. Not only was it difficult from a writing perspective, because I was learning the craft, but it was the first time I’d exposed my creative work to public scrutiny. It felt a lot like stripping naked in public.
The most emotional book to write was Burning Lies because in it, the protagonist loses something very dear to her heart. I left my own tears on the keyboard writing that one!
Allan: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.
Jo-Anne: When I was very young, perhaps six or seven years old, I loved windy days. I remember racing with the wind at my back and my arms held wide and jumping into the air, hoping against hope that the wind would lift me off the ground and I would fly. I’ve long been captivated by the notion of flying. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had recurring dreams of flying—dreams I have to this day. I can’t wait for personal flying aircraft to become a reality. It’s no wonder my first series centers around a secret society of people who can fly!
Allan: Is there a bit of Jo-Anne McLean in any of your characters? Do you find inspiration from real people or is every character a total figment of your imagination?
Jo-Anne: The protagonist in the first series, Emelynn, had two of my foibles: zero sense of direction and unruly hair. I didn’t plan it that way, it just evolved. Using something I was so familiar with made it easier to bring the character to life. For example, I was able to describe what it felt like to get lost, or the frustration of map reading. Likewise, I knew Emelynn would need hair elastics and a big-toothed comb.
Most of my characters have bits and pieces of real people in them. Sometimes it’s just a physical trait, like the way a character flips their hair away from their face, or an unsteady gait. Other times, it’s a personality characteristic I’ve observed, like genuine empathy, or callous indifference.
It’s a challenge to keep the characters fresh and different from one another. That’s why people-watching is so fascinating to me. My observations often end up as character details in my stories.
Allan: What draws you to the supernatural or paranormal genre?
Jo-Anne: It’s the possibility that these phenomena might exist. Like that little girl inside me that was convinced I could fly if only I could run fast enough. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could move objects with your mind or communicate with your thoughts? It may seem far-fetched, but scientists are actively working on these possibilities.
The supernatural or paranormal genre is also the genre that I most enjoy reading. For me, its pure escapism, an indulgence. I readily suspend my disbelief, get lost in the story, and lose all track of time when I’m reading.
Allan: You have recently signed on with the publicity firm, Creative Edge with Mickey Mikkelson. Can you tell us about this new direction?
Jo-Anne: Publicity is a necessity if you want to find and grow your readership. It’s one of the building blocks of a writer’s career. But I always felt out of my depth with publicity, not knowing who to reach out to, or how. So I was very excited to learn about Mickey and Creative Edge (https://www.creative-edge.services/). He’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I’ve been working with him since January. Not only has he gotten me interviews with influencers and put me in front of people who are interested in my genre, but he’s organized reviews for my books. He’s helped me up my game and I’m tremendously grateful.
Allan: Favorite book? Author? Movie? Dessert?
Jo-Anne: Haha! Favourite book? I’ve got dozens—I read a lot—so if you ask me tomorrow, it will change. Today’s favourite is Spirit Legacy by E.E. Holmes. It’s an interesting take on ghosts. The intrigue just kept building with unanswered questions, dubious motives, and strange phenomena. Is it the ghosts who have deadly intentions? Or the protagonist’s friends, her family? Holmes kept me guessing right to the end.
One of my favourite authors is Charlaine Harris. She wrote the Sookie Stackhouse books which became the True Blood TV series.
She also wrote the Midnight Texas books, which became a TV series, and the Aurora Teagarden books, many of which have been made into TV movies. Harris writes with a keen sense of humour, which I love, and her characters are people I’d like to know and hang out with.
As for movies, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’m not a movie buff. My husband and I have different tastes, so what we watch are movies where our interests intersect, which are thrillers and action flicks. My favourite of those is probably the Bourne Identity based on the Robert Ludlum book and starring Matt Damon.
My favourite dessert? SO many to choose from. In winter, I’d say butter tarts or butter-tart bars. In summer, it would be ice cream (mint chocolate chip, or chocolate-peanut-butter ripple).
Allan: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Jo-Anne: Just my thanks, Allan. I really appreciate the care you take to elevate the profile of authors and champion their work. I feel very lucky and grateful to be included.
***Thank you for saying that, Jo-Anne. It’s great guests such as yourself which makes this all worthwhile and so enjoyable for me.
An Excerpt from Blood Mark.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
Blood Mark came out on October 19th. It’s the first book in a brand-new supernatural thriller series that I’m excited to share with your readers.
Following is an excerpt (you can also download the excerpt here: https://jpmcleanauthor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Blood-Mark-Sneak-Peek-for-website-preview-2021-06-02.pdf)
1 | Jane
Jane Walker might have been the only person in Vancouver not afraid to be in a downtown alley at half-past midnight. Shadows clung to fissures and corners, morphing into nightmare shapes as she passed. A warm breeze stirred the scent of rotting garbage along with her gag reflex. Rescuing Sadie was getting old. One of these nights, Sadie’s unique way of punishing herself would be the death of them both. And maybe Jane’s bike.
She parked next to Ethan’s Fat Boy in the hopes his reputation would spill over and protect her cherished Honda 500. But the caged bulb above the back door worried her. It bled a weak circle of light that pooled near the bikes. It was a toss-up whether it would draw attention or act as a deterrent. She said a prayer for the latter and removed her helmet. A slamming door punctuated a heated argument drifting down from a nearby apartment. She raked her long hair forward to hide the worst of the birthmark on her face then walked around the corner, bypassing the dregs of Riptide’s nightly queue.
A bouncer she knew manned the door. His steady gaze slid sideways at her approach. Boos from the lineup he held at bay prompted him to inhale, emphasizing the girth of his chest. He flexed biceps larger than her thighs, tipped his chin, and let her pass.
She nodded her thanks and stepped inside. A cocktail of perfume and stale sweat assaulted her. Thumping music reverberated in her chest as she scanned the bar for Ethan Bryce and found him pouring shots. A seasoned bartender, he worked the room like a ringside bookie at an illegal fight, smiling with one eye and watching for trouble with the other.
“Thanks for calling,” Jane said, pressing into the bar. “Where is she?”
Ethan held her gaze a moment longer than necessary then swiped his head to the left. Jane followed his line of sight to the dance floor, where her roommate swayed out of step with the music. Sadie had gone with tasteful tonight, wearing her LBD, as she called her little black dress. Her client must have been a high roller—unlike the ’roided-up jockstrap now keeping Sadie upright with a hand on her ass and a sure-bet smile on his face.
Jane strode through the dancers and stopped short of her. “Sadie?” she shouted over the music.
Sadie lifted her head from Jockstrap’s shoulder and struggled to focus. “Narc?” She blew at a stray blonde curl. Jane winced at the nickname Sadie rarely used in public.
“You know her?” Jockstrap asked.
“Shurr. Tim, meet Narc. Dance with us.” Sadie reached for Jane. Her mascara had smudged, leaving charcoal shadows under her eyes. It’s what two lines of coke and a few too many vodka chasers looked like.
Jane took her hand. “Let’s go home.”
“She’s with me tonight, honey,” Jockstrap said, tugging Sadie’s arm away from Jane. He looked down to Sadie with a smarmy smile. “Aren’t you, baby?”
Sadie squinted up at him. When she looked back at Jane, sparks of awareness surfaced. She pushed against his chest. “I gotta go.”
“You don’t gotta go,” he said, dragging her back. “Stay with me, baby. We’re having fun, aren’t we?”
“How about I bring her back tomorrow?” Jane said. “When she’s not wasted.”
Sadie stumbled as Jockstrap twisted to put himself between the two women. “I’ve made an investment here.”
Charming, Jane thought, recoiling from his stale-beer spittle. She was quick in a fight and had the advantage of being sober, but Jockstrap had a hundred pounds on her and a hard-on with a destination.
She knew Ethan wouldn’t tolerate her pulling a knife in Riptide, so she’d have to dissuade Jockstrap some other way. She looked to the floor. For Sadie, she’d expose her marks. Only for Sadie. An eyeful of ugly often gave her a split-second advantage. He was already wobbling—shouldn’t be too hard to knock him on his ass.
She shifted the grip on her helmet, widened her stance, and drew in a calming breath. Then, in one swift motion, she swung the curtain of hair away from her face. “She’s going home,” she said, pressing upward into Jockstrap’s personal space to ensure he got a good look at the thick blood-red birthmark that slashed an angle from her forehead to her temple. It looked like the work of a medieval battle-axe.
He shrunk back with a familiar snarl of revulsion. Already primed, Jane was ready to launch when a firm hand landed on her shoulder, halting her.
“Everything all right here?” Ethan asked, squeezing harder than he needed to. Jane felt a pinch of resentment at his interference.
Jockstrap’s gaze darted to the figure standing behind Jane. Ethan wasn’t big, but his reputation was. You didn’t cross him unless you had generous sick-leave benefits.
Jockstrap’s nostrils flared. He pinched his lips. Neither man moved. Long seconds later, Jockstrap faltered and blew out a deflating breath. His bravado and sure-bet attitude faded along with his hopes of getting laid. He released Sadie with a little shove. “Go on then,” he said. “Take out the trash.” He stalked away and called over his shoulder, “And it’s Tom, not fuckin’ Tim.”
“Yeah,” Jane mumbled, “not fuckin’ Tom, either.” With a shake of her head, Jane settled her hair back into place. She wrapped a steadying arm around Sadie’s shoulder and turned her around, bumping into Ethan, who stood in their path.
“You okay?” he said, but his expression was a warning. She’d forced his hand and he didn’t like that.
“Yeah. Watch my ride? I’ll come by in the morning to pick her up.”
“Jimmy’ll keep an eye on her,” Ethan said, before he swaggered back to the bar.
Ethan’s faith in the stubble-faced panhandler who hung around the bar was a mystery to Jane.
She opened Sadie’s purse and fished out her keys.
2 | Rick
Rick Atkins kept his back to the dance floor and gazed at Sadie’s reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Not that Sadie would recognize him in glasses and a full beard, but vigilance had served him well to this point. He wouldn’t tempt fate when he was so close to his endgame.
He watched the woman who called herself Jane flash her markings like a blowfish in the face of the predator shark who groped at Sadie. Jane had no inkling of the damage she was capable of inflicting. But not for long. Rick downed his beer and slinked out the door.
Thank you for being our guest this week, Jo-Anne. Wishing you continued success with your writing.
For all you cool readers and visitors wanting to discover more about Jo-Anne and her writing, please follow these links:
Twitter: @jpmcleanauthor https://twitter.com/jpmcleanauthor