How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
Writing was always an essential part of my professional careers, as a teacher of deaf children, television executive and interior designer, but it wasn’t until the mid-90s that I began to get formal writing assignments. I started interviewing and writing profiles about Hollywood directors, producers and athletes for a major film and television magazine, and that got me hooked.
I like to write about things I’m passionate about. I always had a fascination with Hollywood and interior design. In the late 90s, a few years after receiving my interior design degree, I conceived my first book, “Celebrity Bedroom Retreats” (Rockport Publishers, 2002), after a dream I had about what famous peoples’ inner sanctums look like. Do their bedrooms truly reflect their personalities and tastes? What did Einstein’s bedroom look like or Princess Diana’s? What books were they reading? What collections or art work did they have? My book took off from there, and although I didn’t design the celebrities’ bedrooms, I interviewed them and their designers and wrote all about it, and my book became a big hit.
A desire to write epic stories and my love of mysteries switched me from writing non-fiction to fiction.
I had a family of interesting characters dancing around in my head, and I started to write about them. About the same time my husband began to take me to car races, and I soon became enamored with stock car racing and monster truck shows. Thus, my book “Maximum Speed: Pushing The Limit” was born. It’s about an amazing stock car racing family caught up in a web of danger. I have become a stock car racing fanatic. I love the discipline, determination, endurance and focus that these racers have. It’s not just driving around blindly; it takes Herculean strength and extreme tenacity as I mentioned before. Those characteristics also helped me mold my hero racer, Sean Devlin, and show what these racers are made of. I’m working on the second “Maximum Speed” book now.
You mentioned earlier that you taught deaf students and worked with celebrities. Did they inspire your writing? In what ways?
I taught brain-damaged, multiply handicapped deaf children: schizophrenic, multiple sclerosis, autistic, learning-impaired deaf children. It was very difficult emotionally for me, being in my early 20s, dealing with 12 students who had such severe problems and were deprived in so many other ways. I was all by myself in the classroom all day. I had to learn to use my ingenuity. Helen Keller said her deafness was worse than her blindness. After all, when you are born deaf you don’t develop an inner language.
Yes, my experience did help me to create my young racing hero, Sean Devlin, who develops a debilitating stutter as a child and had to endure terrible things. He is truly a hero when he overcomes his stutter for the most part and matures in so many ways. The main theme of “Maximum Speed: Pushing The Limit” is people who overcome adversity are heroes in their own right, without winning any trophies.
What did the deaf students teach you about life in general?
They taught me that some people are born fighters while others are not. The schools I taught in were just for the deaf. They were segregated from the regular school staff.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?
The hardest thing was finding a traditional publisher to do a four-color book when I was shopping my first book “Celebrity Bedroom Retreats” around. I finally did get one, and they produced a gorgeous book, but it was a difficult journey. I had to get the top celebrities that the publisher approved of and wanted in order to ensure that my book would be a financial success.
Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?
I keep editing myself along the way instead of just writing to the end and then editing it. My advice is just let your story flow and then go back to edit. Rewrites are inevitable.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
The benefit of writing is that there are a lot of excellent writers, indies included of course, who have great stories to tell and who produce terrific books.
Jackie Onassis once said something like, “If you can be transported to another place and learn something new, then the book was a good one.” I was brought up in a household that had its own library. My father, a history professor, revered books and taught us to do the same.
Has writing made you a better person? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?
I believe any art form is cathartic and personal to each person. It’s mind boggling to me that there are so many wonderful authors out there who, despite all kinds of adversities, still manage to write good books.
About Joanna Lee Doster
Joanna Lee Doster is a writer and author of the recently published book “Maximum Speed: Pushing The Limit.” Her previously published work includes “Celebrity Bedroom Retreats” and a series of nationally syndicated celebrity profiles that also feature legendary sports figures. She has held executive positions in cable television, communications and the entertainment industry. She and her husband live in New York.
Keep up with Joanna