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Novel came to author while driving along I-8
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Thirty-five years ago, Joanne Taylor Moore was driving east on Interstate 8 when she looked at the mountains at the edge of Dome Valley and began to see moving scenes unfold in her imagination.
he propped a writing pad against her steering wheel and wrote down what she saw.
Driving and writing while under the influence of the muse "was probably illegal," she concedes, "but there was not much traffic on the road in those days." After writing for many miles, she missed her turn to Phoenix and ended up in a little cow town called Stanfield.
"I had to find my way back, and I’m directionally challenged to begin with. But I had the beginning of a novel."
That novel, "Blood Mountain," was published in November, just in time for her 70th birthday.
"Blood Mountain" is a murder mystery, whose setting is an abandoned hotel in a fictional town in east Yuma County. The protagonist is a Los Angeles playboy who inherits the once-fine hotel and convinces his contractor friend to move in and help him remodel it.
Conflicts emerge when the contractor’s wife and her dysfunctional sister join them in their project.
The group is systematically terrorized by someone who desperately wants them out and leaves a dead body in the parking lot to ensure they get the message. As the owner and contractor struggle to reopen the hotel, the dysfunctional woman defies the orders of authorities to conduct her own investigation of the strange events and nearly loses her life in the process. But "Blood Mountain" holds tight to its secrets to the very end.
Because "life happens," Moore had put the story away shortly after she wrote it, but three years ago, she found it tucked away in her things. While reading it, she realized how outdated it was and had to revise it to include cell phones, which had not yet been invented when the muse visited her that day on the freeway.
But then she had to figure out how one of her characters could be stranded if she had a cell phone. After working out that and a few other details, the rough draft of her novel was complete. Not confident that story was good enough for publication, she again set it aside.
Then she met mystery writer Don G. Porter at a book signing at Hastings, and he became her mentor. He read her draft and encouraged her to edit it and submit it for publication.
The first publisher she submitted it to rejected it but also provided a "beautiful, full-page" critique that touched on the novel’s good points as well as what the publisher thought could be improved. That publisher suggested that Moore make major changes the story and resubmit it for publication.
But she had worked so long and so hard on the story that she decided not to change it. Her instincts proved right. She contacted a second publisher, whom Porter was also working with at the time, and the second publisher immediately bought Moore’s novel in its unchanged form.
A lifelong avid reader of mysteries who always wanted to be an author, she says she was shocked at the turn of events.
"It took 10 months from the time I signed the contract until I got the book in my hand. It came in time for my 70th birthday, so that was the best birthday present I ever got — my own dream come true of having a novel published and in my hand before I die. I never thought it would happen! It’s been a terribly interesting, exciting time for me."
She is busy full time promoting "Blood Mountain" and writing its sequel. From winter visitors to former high school classmates in Massachusetts and her teenage neighbor, reader feedback has been positive.
"My neighbor’s 14-year-old daughter read it and left it on her mother’s pillow with a note that said, ‘It’s awesome! Read it.’"
Full-sized, soft-cover copies of "Blood Mountain" are available for $13.99 each and can be ordered directly from Moore or her publisher at www.joannetaylormoore.com or locally at Hastings and Barnes & Noble. And e-book versions are available through trebleheartbooks.com and Amazon.com.
Moore also provides autographed copies at local book signings, which are listed on her website and in this article’s breakout box.