Friday, September 19, 2014

An Introduction to Fabulous Idaho Writer - Joan Opyr

I just “discovered” a writer whose writing is funny and irreverent; thoughtful, provoking, and unique beyond belief … and she lives in Idaho. Joan Opyr is the author of three award-winning books, Idaho Code, From Hell to Breakfast, and Shaken and Stirred. In addition to her Idaho series, she is working on a “Southern family chicklit gothic,” completing nursing school, and raising a family.

Idaho Code Amazon Book Description
Idaho Code is a funny book about love, family, and the freedom you can find in a state that values individuality more than common sense.

Small-town Idaho, where everyone knows your business, is no place for a baby dyke to go looking for love. Especially when murder and homophobia are stalking the streets. For Wilhelmina “Bil” Hardy, trapped in the coils of her eccentric family and off-the-wall friends, neither the course of true love nor amateur sleuthing runs smooth. Mistaken identity, misunderstandings, and mysteries galore take Bil to places she’s never dreamed of visiting.

Quote from Shaken and Stirred
Sometimes, I think my story is about addiction and adultery. Other times, I think it’s about bad luck with the Avon lady. And not just one – one I could chalk up to chance. Two rotten Avon ladies feel more like a curse.
Interview with Australian author and writer, Jesse Blackadder
Q. If you were a book, what would it be and why? 
I wish I were Beowulf, but in fact I am Thud! By Terry Pratchett. Why? Because at the heart of that book is an abiding sense of the painful unfairness of the world combined with an obligation to make that world better. And it’s really, really funny. Plus, trolls, dwarves, a Nelson Mandela made out of diamonds, and a bitter, recovering alcoholic cop who keeps on trying.

Joan Opyr Biography– Bywater Books
Joan Opry was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a professional ballerina and a damn Yankee. She has a BA and MA from North Carolina State, finished the course work for a PhD at Ohio State, and is finishing a BS in Nursing at Lewis-Clark State College. Her goal is to be a middle-aged woman who can’t seem to settle. She is the author of three novels, each of which won a Golden Crown Literary Society Award. Two were Lambda finalists. Her most recent novel, Shaken and Stirred, won an Independent Publishing Award.

Her books, published by Bywater Books, are available on Amazon.
Maybe I’m more like an anthropologist — a funny anthropologist. It’s like Margaret Mead and E. F. Benson had a baby and then dropped her on her head. - Joan Opyr

Opyr Blog
Opyr also writes on her blog, The Hell You Say: Musings – okay, ranting – from the author of Idaho Code and From Hell to Breakfast. Her unique writer’s voice comes through loud and clear in her posts, which are crammed full of humor and wit and that ever-elusive item for most of those who write – quotable text. This is one author you need to check out ... she's fabulous ... and I'm not just prejudiced by the fact that she rides a motorcycle, although I hope to meet her some day on the road less traveled.    

The Writing Process or We Want the Funk
Post by Joan Opyr
June 9, 2014

I’ve been tagged by the fab and groovy Andi Marquette in a writing process blog hop. There are four questions. Here are my four (or more) answers.

Q. What are you working on?

Right now? The NCLEX. I just graduated from nursing school, and I sit for the boards later this month. I’m one of those writers who needs a day job, not only because writing has not thus far made me rich but because I need a lot of human interaction and excitement to feed my imagination. I can’t just shut myself up in a room and write. Some writers are like cerastium — they grow like mad in stony ground. I’m more like a rose bush. I require constant feeding, pruning, and spraying for aphids.

That said, I am working on a couple of projects. One is a third and final book in my Idaho series, a sequel to Idaho Code and From Hell to Breakfast, called, tentatively, Wish in One Hand. I feel that there’s more to be said about Bil and Sylvie and about the evolution of lesbian life in Idaho. I started work on Idaho Code in 1994. Twenty years have passed since then, and it’s been eight years since the book was published. We will soon have marriage equality here. Times have changed both in the state and in the nation since my characters were fighting anti-gay propositions like Proposition One. I’m not sure we even dreamt of same-sex marriage back then. It seemed amazing enough that we had Ellen or Ross’ ex-wife and her girlfriend on Friends.

My other project is Southern family chicklit Gothic. It’s about five sisters growing up in the Great Depression. There’s a major character in the novel who’s lesbian, but the book isn’t lesbian-focused. I’m not consciously trying for a crossover. I no longer care if my books are pigeonholed as lesfic; I write what I want to read. But this is a bigger story, I think, and I’m trying to get into the heads of characters with whom I don’t have a lot in common, apart from being Southern and a woman. I don’t have a title for this one yet. Perhaps Look Homeward, Hell’s Angel.

That was a joke, y’all.

Q. How does your work differ from others in its genre?

That’s a tricky one. My books are funny, but so are a lot of other books. I write funny mysteries, but that’s nothing new. I write funny dysfunctional families, but Amy and David Sedaris have raised the bar so high on that front that I hesitate to mention it. What’s more, the Sedaris siblings are, like me, from North Carolina. I think I hate them. They’re sucking up all of my oxygen.

Perhaps what distinguishes my writing is that my humor is broad but also weirdly erudite. Or maybe I mean dilettantish. I have a mind full of trivia. I began my educational career as a medievalist. My role model as a writer is Chaucer. I think my goal has always been to write a Canterbury Tales featuring gay people. As Chaucer may already have done that with The Pardoner, there might be nothing unique in this, either. Damn it.

Q. Why do you write what you do?

Because I want to read it. I write books for me, for my friends, for my family. I write books about people who interest me or make me laugh.

Q. How does your writing process work?

At the moment, it works like a 1968 Volkswagen with no heat, a broken gas gauge, and windows that won’t roll down. When I’m in the groove, it purrs along like that Maserati in Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good. I’m either feast or famine. When I write, I write. I sit down and type until the story is out. I wrote my third novel, Shaken and Stirred, in two weeks — meaning the first draft, that is. I spent another year editing it. I’ve heard many times that the art of writing is in the editing, but unless you’ve got a draft to work with, art is not possible. If I can just get it out, I know I can get it right. Well, nearly right. I’m never entirely happy with the finished product. I think if I were, I’d stop. No more books. Time to lie down and die.

Need more specifics? I do write to music. In fact, I make up a soundtrack that I think will suit the mood of the story. Once I have my main characters, I put together five or six hours of music that I think they’d enjoy. Sometimes, certain songs or pieces of music appear multiple times. Back in 1994, when I was working on Idaho Code, I made mix tapes using CDs and a dual cassette deck. And so now you know that I am 105.

What else? I eavesdrop. I go to the mall, to Jiffy Lube, to my doctor’s waiting room, and I listen. I don't record, even though my iPhone would let me do that. I take notes. I listen for patterns of speech, figures of speech, idiosyncrasies of expression and, always, funny stories. People are so interesting, especially when they have no idea they’re being observed. I want to say that I feel like Jane Goodall, but someone might get the idea that I think of other people as chimps, and that’s not right. That is deeply wrong. Most of the time. Maybe I’m more like an anthropologist — a funny anthropologist. It’s like Margaret Mead and E. F. Benson had a baby and then dropped her on her head.

One final confession: Moleskines and fountain pens. I compose on a computer, but I take my notes in Moleskines and I write with a Parker Vector fountain pen in blue-black ink. It’s a habit, it’s a superstition, it helps get me in the mood. Some writers drink. Others sleep around.  I like beautiful notebooks and smooth pens. I’m a writer with a happy liver and a happy marriage.

"Hilarious Spoof" doesn't begin to cover it
From Hell to Breakfast Amazon Book Review
by Jill Kuraitis

This masterpiece in the genre of Small-town Lesbian Ranch Vietnamese Pawnshop Murder Mysteries is even funnier than Opyr's first book, Idaho Code.

Hang onto a notebook to keep track of the wonderful characters and their various nicknames, be ready for coffee-spitting while you read, and consider reading it aloud to someone - it's even funnier that way, especially if you can do accents.

The descriptions and characters are so vivid you will being seeing it as a movie by the end of the first chapter.  Good book!

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