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How journalist Joanne Elves found herself happily ever after in eBooks

By Kobo • June 09, 2021Author Interviews

Travel writer Joanne Elves had something of a dream job: her mission was to inspire the rest of us to hop on a plane and take a fabulous vacation by going there first and writing about it.

And then, pandemic. Lockdowns, stay-home orders, all but essential travel curtailed – few jobs were rendered redundant as fast and utterly as that of “travel writer.”

But a writer’s gotta write, and in the spirit of needs-must as well as the sense of adventure that was essential in her now-in-hiatus career, Elves pivoted toward writing something completely new. The funny thing is, the pandemic also saw her begin to read differently, too.

The shift in writing came first.

“I’m a travel writer and that’s been pretty much on hold since COVID. My passport is pretty dusty,” says Elves. “But years ago a friend had challenged me to write a novel. I had young children at the time and other career paths got in the way but when COVID hit I challenged myself to really try it, to push it out. And so I did.”

“I have a journalist’s 'say it in 600 words or less' mentality and let me tell you, writing 100,000 words is a lot different."

It was a shift in thinking, though. In writing her novel, she found she was scrimping on fiction’s lifeblood, the all-important details that lift a story and allow readers to immerse themselves in an experience that becomes as real as life.

“I have a journalist’s 'say it in 600 words or less' mentality and let me tell you, writing 100,000 words is a lot different. I was like, “it’s a mountain, it’s got snow on it” but realized no, it has to be draped in snow, it has to be described. I had to learn to do more flourish,” Elves says.

Elves found good help for her emerging career by listening to the Kobo Writing Life podcast as she drove the seven hours back and forth between her home in Calgary and her engineer husband’s worksite near Assiniboia in Saskatchewan, the site of a new windfarm.

“So, I drive a lot and it's really you know, it's prairies. So I download the Kobo Writing Life podcasts and it’s great because every once in a while there’s something I can really use and there are always tidbits that help,” says Elves. It’s been so useful, in fact, that she can trace her route by insights she gained: “I've got certain spots in the highway that I go, “Oh, this is where I learned that”.”

"I download the Kobo Writing Life podcasts and it’s great because every once in a while there’s something I can really use and there are always tidbits that help."

The result of her effort is Ginger and Ice, something Elves thought of as a romance but turns out to be a mystery, about a female architect who bumps into a professional hockey player. (This is probably where the “romance” idea set in.) He’s interesting but she’s got a career to chase as does he; however, evil-doers are sabotaging them both for reasons unclear. “So, because she’s a strong female, she cracks both cases and stands on her own two feet,” says Elves. “I did that because I thought I wouldn’t want to read a book that lets a female be a wimp.”

She published it in digital format using the Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform, and sales are sufficiently encouraging such that she’s at work on a second book.

Writing a book and not an article was a big new adventure for Elves. That her book lives in the digital world was something of a new world in itself for a committed paper-lover. But visiting her book in its digital world nudged her toward it as a reader, too.

A friend gave her a Kobo Libra H2O as a congratulations-on-your-new-book gift and what did she do with this foreign technology?

“I downloaded Ginger and Ice first of course!” says Elves. “And then my world of reading exploded. I live for newspapers, I love paper, I love the tactile experience of the flipping of pages, the smell of a book, everything. But then you open this little device (hers has a sleepcover), you crawl into bed and you start reading you go oh, this is good. It’s simple, it’s lightweight, it has a light of its own and you close it and it saves the place where you left off. It’s delightful.”

Indeed, some of the big pluses for her include how easy it is to use; the light weight, the colour-filtering light, and access to a world of books instantly and easily. “Someone can mention a book and I can download it and start reading without even leaving the sofa.”

But there’s an obvious attraction for an inveterate traveller: “I can’t wait to fly again and I’ll be able to just pull this Kobo out and read whatever I want. Think how light my backpack will be! I used to pack just one novel and I’d have to hope it was a good one. Now I can bring all of my books with me, I don’t have that problem anymore.

“I want to get my 92-year old mother into this world. She’s a former librarian and loves to wander through libraries but she can do both, right? And get books without driving! If I can love it, I know she will, too.” ◼

Ginger and Ice by Joanne Elves

Tie up your laces and get ready to run. Ginger and Ice is a fast-paced adventure romance that takes place in the Canadian Rockies and The Bahamas. Follow Meagan on a trail of twists, slippery slopes, revenge, jealousy, dark and dangerous waters and hopefully a love that can withstand it all.

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