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Inspirational Indie Author Interview #76: Author Interview with Joanna Penn: Authorpreneur Found a Winding Path to Success

by Alliance of Independent Authors
November 29th 2020
00:18:24
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My ALLi author guest this week is Joanna Penn, who many of you already know as a successful indie author, businesswoman, and p... More

I'm Howard loving, and you're listening to inspirational indie authors every week, a feature a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors. My guest this week is Joanna Penn, who many of you already know is a successful indie author, businesswoman and podcaster for Ally. In fact, her name is almost synonymous with the term author Preneurs, so this podcast will not focus so much on Joanna's current work. But we'll hear more about her own backstory. What motivates her fictional characters and what motivates her as a writer, self publisher and role model for other indie authors? Hello, I'm Joanne a pen and I write nonfiction for authors. I also write thrillers and dark fantasy as J. F. Pen on I have to podcasts the creative pen podcast for writers on books and travel for everyone

who likes those things. The first thing you should know about Joanna is that her energy could rarely be contained into just one endeavor, and that includes tying her down to any single part of the world. I went to school in Bristol here in the UK, which is quite funny because I now actually live in Bath, which if people don't know, is not very far from Bristol. It's it's only just down the road, so but between sort of going to school there and coming back here, I've worked all over Europe, Andi also. Then I moved to New Zealand for seven years and Australia for four years and also worked over in the U. S. And a number of other places. So it's almost like I have finally in my forties come back around to where I sort of was primarily brought up. But I consider myself pretty international. Joanna was always a reader since childhood, but it took a great leap for her to think of herself as a writer. I've certainly always beena reader, so my mom would tell the story that when I was a little

kid, you know, like a 345 years old, I would come into the bedroom at night and instead of dragging a teddy along with me, I dragged my books with me. So I was always carrying books around and on, always being an avid reader. The early pictures of me as a sort of introvert, bookish child were always with a book in my hand, so I definitely bean a reader. I sort of used to. You devour my mom's bookshelf and I used to hang out the library, and that was where I had my most fun times. I don't think I ever thought I would be a writer at the cut. And partly that's because I put writers on such a pedestal in my mind. They were these magical creatures, Andi. I lived in these other worlds through their words on the thought that I could ever be someone like that. I don't think ever really crossed my mind. And that was really compounded by at school. I remember very vividly. I was about 15, and I had written an essay for my English class. I mean, I studied English literature at school, and I had written this essay and my teacher basically said, This is not the type

of thing you should be writing. And it was a ness, a about a nightmare I had, and so you could consider it dark fantasy slash horror, which is where I sort of ended up writing thes darker fiction on De. So it's so funny that back then my teacher said You shouldn't write this kind of thing on that definitely had an impact on me. Which is why I think I'm so passionate about empowering creators now. I went on to study theology at the university and as part of studying theology, I obviously did a lot of writing on Bond, wrote essays. I was at the University of Oxford, so it's pretty much all essay based. So then I went into consulting. Andi was writing again, sort of technical writing, doing presentations, business writing. So I definitely did not think that I would be a writer. I just used writing that whole time as part of my day job. But also I've always had journals have always written journals, so there was really a sort of realize ation in my early

thirties that I was miserable in my job. And how could I figure out a way? Thio have a life I wanted and still make money on? It was around the time when Tim Ferriss four hour workweek came out on bond. I sort of latched onto this digital world that was starting to emerge on thought. Well, maybe this is a way forward. So it was at that point I started Thio research writing nonfiction and wrote my first nonfiction book, which became career change. So that's kind of it was definitely a mindset shift from believing I would never be a writer to suddenly finding that it was a possibility. At university, Joanna studied theology, which gave her the grounding she needed to create well rounded characters to understand the religious or spiritual motivations behind their actions. Ah, well, interesting point. I actually got into Oxford to do Arabic because I always wanted to go. I did. I did actually work out in the Middle East, and I know you're Jewish and my husband's Jewish and a time

I was actually working in the West Bank with Palestinians trying to work for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. And that was even before I went to university. So I was very involved in that sort of Middle East, sort of wanting to bring peace to the Middle East on. But then I got to Oxford. Andi, my went into my Arabic class one day, one on pretty much everyone else already spoke Arabic. Eso Within a couple of weeks I was so behind that I actually went to my university and said, What else do you have on? Because I'd done classical Greek? I could read and understand classical Greek, which, of course, the New Testament of the Bible. You conduce in Greek. Andi. I was a Christian at the time when I went to university. I am no longer a Christian, but basically I wrote an essay on the nonstick gospels. It was at the time, and they let me stay at Oxford, and I switched courses to the theology. But as it turned out, it worked out incredibly well because it's a background in history. I'm very interested in religion

. This and I specialized in the psychology of religion, which has underpinned all of my arcane thrillers. My main character is a psychologist off religion at the University of Oxford. He joins arcane, and so I've really brought in my background since then. And in fact, my second novel, Crypt of Bone, was written about my thesis from Oxford, which was on the psychology of obedience in fundamentalist religion and was actually you'll be interested to know it was based on the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a fundamentalist Jew who said, God told me to do it, so I've really brought my sort of theological background into my writing since then. I certainly find that I want to write about the things I'm interested in, and I'm definitely interested in in the psychology behind belief. And the fact is that most people believe in something, you know, it might not be a particular religions God, but like I would say, I'm spiritual, not religious. I certainly think there's more than just a physical world as such, and

many people have these kind of feelings at different points in their life. Andi. It's such a fundamental part of the human experience what you believe about these things. So I definitely choose to bring that into my fiction. But I also tend to base it on the locations around the world that are associated with religion. So again, you know, in Israel I have had a number of my books said in Jerusalem, various locations in Israel on also religious sites around the world, you know, including sort of churches and, um, you know, places of religious interest on religious stories and history that bring just a cultural richness to what I consider interesting eso, you know, For example, I just walked this 60 pilgrimage following the read of Canterbury Tales from Southern in London to Canterbury to the site of the martyrdom of Thomas a Becket. And for me, that's just catnip to writers. You know, it's like these interesting places, so I definitely think I do it

from the perspective of understanding characters and character motivations. But it probably is mawr sort of rooted in my interest in places and people. So my latest novel, Tree of Life, is about Portuguese Jews after they left Portugal, when the Inquisition arrived on where they ended up. And of course, you know, being in America, you'll know that some of them ended up founding New Amsterdam, which became obviously in New York. But before she embarked on her writing career, Joanna had a few other things to do. She had a great job, is an I T consultant, but she always knew that her path to happiness lay elsewhere to find it took a Siris of stops and starts and experiments with different kinds of businesses. So I started at Andersen Consulting in 1997 after I left my job and I resigned in the year 2000. Thio basically go traveling and changed my life. So I lasted that first time 2.5 years on. That was essentially my pattern for the next decade between 2000

and 2011. When I finally left that career, I just left over and over again. I knew it was not what I wanted to do with my life. So what I would do. So I left. I started a scuba diving business in New Zealand. I started. We had property investment in Australia. I started a travel itinerary company. At one point I tried lots and lots of different things, and every time I would resign, my job starts something I would get so far into it. The money would run out and I would discover it's not what I wanted to do, and I would go back to the day job. So essentially it took me a decade to get out of that career. But what I would say is I every time I had a failure in inverted commerce because I don't really believe in failure eyes that I learned what I didn't want So, for example, with my scuba diving business, I learned that I did not want to have a scuba diving business. I didn't want the assets of, you know, the the price of fuel, working with other people, the

weather. I mean, there were so many things about that business that were just terrible business and lost me loads of money. And also, you know, my first marriage was tied up in that. So, you know, it was just It was something that changed my life for the better. In that I learned what I wanted Andi. Then with property investment, I learned that, Yeah, this is can be a good way to make an income. But I do not care on de. So at that point I start I really looked at This is the question for people to consider. I said to myself, What do I want my life to look like? It's that again coming back to Tim Ferriss, their lifestyle design on dso I was journaling about this and I sort of wrote down that the things I really love our books and travel. I love reading books and I enjoy writing and I also love traveling, So I started to think, Well, how can I live a life that is around these things on day? That's really when I started to write that first book and I I was always always miserable in that job. I always

thought it was a waste of my time. You know, it would pay the bills, but it was just pointless. Everything you do get over written a couple of years later, so I just could not see any point to it. And and now I measure my life by what I create on DSO every year. I have things that I can hold in my hand books, and I could say I made this, so I definitely always felt that I was looking for something else. It just took me a while to get them on. I'd also add that learning the things I didn't want helped me shape my author on my writing and publishing career. So, for example, I wrote down, I do not want employees. I do not want a physical location. I want to run a business from my laptop and run it from anywhere you know, essentially like a digital nomad. But really not necessarily a nomad, but just able to run my business digitally. And I was writing these things down, sort of back in 2000 and eight before the Kindle took off before E books took off before digital audio. All these things. So it was really I knew what I wanted. And

then the world, luckily for me, shifted Thio the world changing in my direction. So it was that which was pretty interesting. And I mean, of course now, as we record this in the pandemic year 2020 that business model has shown its benefit. My business has only gone up in the pandemic because it was entirely digital to start with. Joanna does many things now. She writes fiction and nonfiction. She is an author and a businesswoman. I asked her if she ever wishes she could just focus on one thing. As you could tell, though, that is simply not the way she thinks it works. Joanna is happiest when she has many projects going on at the same time. Well, this is something that I struggle with all the time, and I just keep coming back to the fact that we are allowed to do more than one thing I I call myself, You know, I count myself as one of these multi passionate creators on did some days. I'm happier being jf pen and writing my novels, and sometimes those days

, I think, Why do I do the other stuff on? Then I get an email that says, My podcast, change someone's life, you know, and that they learned from the creative pen the skills that they needed to leave their job on day. That fulfills the part of me that always wanted to be a sort of Tony Robbins self help guru. And yet, no, you know Tony Robbins in his ideal situation of how many people he's helped over the decades. I could obviously never be that personality type, but you know, eso having both satisfies the need to help other people. Andi, having my fiction side, satisfies my desire to go deep inside and also the tax deductible travel part which most of my novels are written from actual travel. So I do the research and, you know I love the research process. It's one of my favorite parts off being a writer, so I don't think that I could choose

at this point. I have thought many times Well, if I just concentrated on one of these things, I would be more successful in quotation marks, but I just not that type of person. That and I seem to go from one to another. So I just finished. Tree of Life Arcane Buck 11, this one about the Portuguese Jews. Andi the and I'm Right Now I'm in edits with your author business plan, which, of course, is a nonfiction book that people want in order to sort out their business stuff. And I am both. I am a non artist and I am a businesswoman. And so I feel that my two author brands actually help me manage that. And that's a good reason toe have to author names to audiences. And that's now I have to podcasts because I'm Joanna Pen on the creative pen podcast and I'm Joanna Pen here with you and with the Alliance of Independent Authors and then on books and travel. I'm Joe Francis pen jf pen and I can bring in the other side of my personality so

I don't have multiple personality disorder or anything, but I think that as creatives who want to create for the long term. You know we have to satisfy Aled these different parts of our muse as such as well as the business. Joanna says that although it may be difficult to write in this pandemic year, it is important not to lose sight to the fact that being a successful writer is within the grasp of a wider range of people. Thanks to the indie publishing revolution and despite this rough year, that opportunity continues to expand. I think what's interesting is I've been doing this now, really since 2006, when I first got involved in the sort of writing world and started to learn my craft and then learn about the business and I still every single year I feel like this is the best time to be a writer that has ever bean Andi in this pandemic year. Where there are there, have bean and will continue to be challenges in our personal lives and in the world. Uh, the truth is that note that

will never stop. When the coronavirus is over, there will be something else that's just life. But I feel that the direction that we're going in for authors who want to take control off their writing career. It is, It really is the best time to be an author on, especially if you're someone who is curious about technology, about publishing, about opportunities to reach readers. I think if if you are that type of person, this is just becoming Mawr and Mawr incredible. And every time I look at the publishing news, the tech news, I just feel MAWR positive and hopeful about our future. And as we enter the 20 twenties, this decade may well see a far bigger digital shift than we've seen during the last decade on. Yet I feel that we can surf that wave rather than drowning it and certainly being part of the alliance of independent authors, uh, we'll be sharing

our thoughts along the way. You've been listening to inspirational indie authors. I'm Howard Lovey. If you are a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and would like to be considered for the show, please write to me at Howard at Alliance Independent Authors dot or GTA and tell me what inspires you and how you can inspire other authors. If you enjoy this podcast please tap on your favorite podcast app and give us a review that will help others discover the family of ally podcasts. As always, find more author advice, tips and tools that are self publishing advice center, self publishing advice dot or GTA. And if you haven't already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self publishing ally. You could do that at Alliance Independent authors dot org's.

Inspirational Indie Author Interview #76: Author Interview with Joanna Penn: Authorpreneur Found a Winding Path to Success
Inspirational Indie Author Interview #76: Author Interview with Joanna Penn: Authorpreneur Found a Winding Path to Success
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