Feb 13, 2014

In the Spotlight with Joanne Guidoccio!

In high school, I dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until I had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, I gave in to my practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While I experienced many satisfying moments during my teaching career, I never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, I took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and my articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.
My debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, was released by Soul Mate Publishing in September 2013.

I live and write in Guelph, Ontario.

Between Land and Sea

 After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.


Isabella stumbled as she got out of bed and tried to balance herself on the stumps that now served as permanent legs. She willed herself not to cry as she recalled the magnificent tail that had been the envy of the Mediterranean kingdom. Her mother and grandmother had also been blessed with the same tail. Now only Annabella held this birthright.

She heard her stomach growl and thought longingly of her favorite kelp dish. She closed her eyes and visualized the steaming goodness that would satisfy her hunger. And then she remembered that she could no longer manifest her desires.

No more powers. No more comfort and ease.

Her lips trembled as she looked about the small, neat room filled with large wooden pieces and smaller metallic ones. She tried to move one of the larger pieces and then gave up in frustration. Andrew had promised her a beautiful home with servants, and now she must live this life of ordinary humans.

The flickering of a green light caught her attention. She approached and noticed the tablet lying on one of the wooden surfaces. It was blinking at her. Tentatively, she touched the green light. The blinking stopped and a smiling face materialized.

“Greetings, Isabella. I am Lisa738. Annabella has asked me to guide you through your orientation.”

Isabella frowned and tried to recall her connection to this lowly mermaid from the Numbers class.

Behind the Scenes

Are you a Swooper (write first, edit later,) a Basher (edit each sentence as you go,) or both?

I consider myself a hybrid, a cross between Swooper and Basher. BTW…Love those monikers! While writing my daily quota (1000 words), I pay no attention to grammar, spelling or sentence structure. The next day, however, I spend about fifteen minutes scanning the previous day’s work. I correct major flaws only and leave the rest of the editing for later.

What is the one thing you must have to be able to write?

I cannot write amid clutter, chaos and confusion. I must have complete silence and perfect order. Thankfully, I live alone and my condo walls are noise-proof. On the days the superintendent decides to test all fifty-six smoke alarms, I leave the building.

Did you have any bad habits when you began writing? How did you correct these habits?

When I first started writing, I assumed that inspiration would not be a problem. While I didn’t expect a daily visit from one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, I was certain the words would flow beautifully once I had large unstructured blocks of time.

That was the retirement fantasy.

The reality was very different.

For an entire month, I faced the tyranny of the blank page.

Thankfully, inspiration came when I started attending workshops and taking online writing courses. Grateful for the structure, I eagerly responded to the daily prompts and completed all assignments. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and I built up a substantial portfolio of articles and book reviews.

Do you have any rituals, habits, or superstitions about your writing?

I am controlled by a bird clock. Each hour, one of my feathered friends, among them the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, and Great Horned Owl, chirp and remind me to stretch, switch gears, take a break or stop writing for the day.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

While having a leisurely breakfast is one of my retirement perks, I do not linger over that second cup of coffee. If I choose to have more than one cup, I do so while checking email and social media. At 9:00, I start writing. My goal is 1000 words a day. At first, I used the oven timer to keep me on task, but that annoying sound reminded me of incessant school bells, so I invested in a bird clock.

Are you always in the driver’s seat? Or do your characters drag you along for the ride?

Halfway through writing Between Land and Sea, I started dreaming about Isabella and the other characters. Interestingly enough, the characters behaved very differently in my dreams. In particular, a minor character—Kendra Adams—kept popping up. Originally, I had intended to limit her involvement to a few chapters, but the psychic ex-mermaid had other ideas and started disrupting my dreams. This inspired me to introduce a sub-plot involving Kendra and sprinkle New Age elements throughout the novel. 

Lightning Round

Die Hard or Terminator:      Terminator
Dirt Road or City Skyline:   City Skyline
Steak or Chicken:                  Chicken
Rock or Country Music:        Rock

In Depth

How do you feel about being the center of attention?

Growing up, I considered myself an introvert, but did not gravitate toward solitary professions such as accounting and actuarial science. Instead, I chose to teach mathematics to adolescents for thirty-one years. As a writer, I treasure my “alone” time, but select outside activities such as Toastmasters that force me into center stage. Conclusion—I’m an ambivert or extraverted introvert.

What is your worst habit?

In yoga class, my instructor talks about calming our monkey minds. I have a gorilla mind and often obsess about details, and sometimes that obsession stalls my writing. I am slowly realizing I don’t have to get it right the first time. It’s okay to have a vomit draft (my preferred label for crappy first draft).

How deeply does your job/social role define you as a person?

During my teaching years, I was defined by my role and conscious of my behavior both in and out of the classroom. In retirement, I no longer have to worry about how I am perceived, but I don’t believe my behavior has changed dramatically. I like to sprinkle my writing with inspirational bits and enjoy giving advice to younger writers, both online and offline.

Contest: Enter to win an ecopy of Between Land and Sea. Leave a comment with a valid email address. Contest ends February 17th at Midnight.


  1. Thanks for hosting me today. :)

  2. A great interview! One question -- what is a "bird clock?" A cuckoo clock? :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by.

      Regarding bird clocks...

      At a distance, a bird clock looks like any other clock. Instead of the numerals, there are twelve birds at each hour slot. Examples--Northern Cardinal and Baltimore Oriole. At the top of the hour, one bird calls out. At night, the birds are quiet. Grateful for light sensors!

    2. Oh, OK... cool! :) Yea, it would be a bit irritating to hear birds chirping all night long... except maybe for the owls. From the age of around 8 to 18, we lived out in the country. During the warm nights, I would leave my windows open and listen to the owls calling to each other -- very relaxing. :)

    3. Hi LadyDi77, I would like to send you a free ebook of Between Land and Sea. What is your email address?

    4. My email is dihuffer@gmail.com -- Thanks! :)