It’s my honor to bring this month’s Ozarks Maven’s Author Spotlight to you. She’s a genuinely nice person who dedicates the time and care to conduct copious research prior to putting pen to paper. Her diligence and talent couple to make her writing sparkle.
I hope you all enjoy reading this interview as much I as did. Meet my friend, Joyce Valdois Smith.
1. For those readers who are unfamiliar with you, please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Joyce Smith, though I write under the name, Joyce Valdois Smith. I live with my husband, Bob, and our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Katie, in the beautiful Ozarks. Bob and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary in June. We have four married children and twelve amazing grandchildren. Two of our daughters and their families live near us in Missouri and the other daughter and our son and their families live in South Carolina.
I grew up on a farm near Hutchinson, KS, the youngest of the family, with three big brothers. My parents loved the Lord, and I was raised in a Christian home. I learned to read from a Bible storybook, sitting on the basement steps while my mama washed clothes on an old wringer wash machine, and I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was five-years-old.
2. What kinds of writing do you enjoy?
I enjoy writing inspirational historical romance with an emphasis on the historical.
I have also written two children’s picture books, Grandpa Forgot My Name and A Christmas Treasure Hunt. I wrote “Grandpa Forgot my Name,” while I was caring for my father. We have had three family members with Alzheimer’s Disease. My desire is that it will be an easy to understand explanation of dementia and Alzheimer’s for children who have family members with the disease. There are coloring pages in the back.
I have two contemporary novels that are waiting to be finished.
3. What do you enjoy most about the writing process? I enjoy the research into our country’s history. The Harvey Houses and Harvey Girls have had an important role in our history and many people haven’t heard of them. Right now I’m researching WWI and the Influenza epidemic of 1918 for my next book. I’ve learned a lot.
I also enjoy writing dialogue. I can really get into a character’s feelings and emotions. It’s the best way to show and not tell.
4. When did you start writing?
As our children got older, I began to have the desire to write. I discovered the Institute of Children’s Literature and completed their course. I wrote several children’s stories, but couldn’t get them published. (I have since published them as children’s picture books.)
I read a magazine article about the Harvey Girls. I hadn’t heard of them so I researched them and became infatuated with their story. I began writing my first novel. Around that time, my parents moved in with us and I began taking care of them. My daddy had Alzheimer’s Disease.
I continued my writing and finished my novel, but was unable to find a publisher. Life happened, and I put my writing aside for several years. In the summer of 2015, my son, Kelly, encouraged me to begin writing again. I have been writing ever since.
5. To what or whom do your attribute your love of reading and writing stories? I’m not sure who to attribute it to. I discovered the joy of reading in my early teen years. I loved the fact that I could experience other times and places from the written words. I started with inspirational romance novels. One of my early favorites was Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly. I read all of her books as they were published. I began to make up stories in my mind but didn’t think to write them down.
6. How have your past experiences impacted your writing?
The family has always been important in my life, both as a child and now in my adult life. I adored my big brothers and had wonderful parents who were great examples of God’s love. We have awesome children and grandchildren. (I’m sure I’m not overstating that fact.)
The interaction between family members plays a huge role in my novels. I try to be as realistic as possible with their emotions and actions.
7. What are some jobs that you have held?
After high school, I attended Nurses Training and became an RN, but met my soulmate, Bob, and instead of working as a nurse I got married and became a stay-at-home mom. When our children were all in school, I went to work as a Public Health and School Nurse in the small county where we lived. After nine years, I quit work to take care of my parents who moved in with us. My daddy had Alzheimer’s Disease.
After my parents died, I needed something to do but didn’t want to go back to nursing. Some of our friends wanted to open a Pregnancy Care Center so I was instrumental in establishing the Open Door Pregnancy Care Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. I worked there for two and a half years as an administrative assistant.
When we moved to Missouri, I worked as a cook in the school cafeteria for four years. I enjoyed the interaction with the children and it helped me get involved in the community.
9. What inspires you?
I would say the two things that keep me motivated are (1) the fact that I feel the Lord wants me to do it and (2) my writing friends and co-workers. A good support system is essential to keep the creative juices flowing. Networking and being involved in writing groups are very important.
I know that the Lord Jesus Christ has given me the desire and ability to write. I couldn’t do it without His help. Years ago, the Lord gave me the verses in Habakkuk 2:2-3. “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end, it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Even during the years when I wasn’t writing, these verses were in my mind. I feel this is my mission.
10. What made you decide to write about the subjects or themes of your books?
As I said before, I developed a strong interest in the Harvey Girls and Harvey Houses very early in my writing career. The more I have learned and researched the more interested I have become. The Harvey Girls and Harvey Houses have played an important role in our history from 1876 to the 1960s when the last Harvey Houses were shut down. Fred Harvey set up the first interstate restaurant and hotel chain in America to feed the railroad passengers and workers along the AT&SF Railroad. In the early 1900s, they extended to the Frisco depots and many Union Stations in large cities from Chicago west to the Pacific Ocean and to the Gulf of Mexico.
Many young women, from the East, answered a newspaper ad, Women of good character, attractive and intelligent, ages 18 to 30, to work in Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe railroad in the West. Generous salary plus room and board. Contact Fred Harvey, Kansas City, Missouri. It was an amazing opportunity for them to find respectable work and a large number of them also found a husband out west.
Fred Harvey was also instrumental in developing Southwest Tourism in New Mexico and Arizona in the 1920s and providing meals for the servicemen who were traveling on the trains during WWI and WWII.
11. Have you met any interesting people while researching your books?
This past October Bob and I traveled to New Mexico to see the La Castenada, the newly renovated Harvey House in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the La Fonda in Santa Fe. While we were there we met Beverly Ireland and Bernette Jarvis. They are twins who were Harvey Girls at the La Fonda in the 1950s. They are delightful ladies. We got to tour the Castenada with them.
12. What is the most difficult part of writing?
I think the hardest part of writing is just getting the words down on paper. Since I’m not an extensive planner, except in my head, I know where the story is going in general, but it takes on a life of its own as I write. I do “interview” my main characters before I start so I know them and their backgrounds. I write down names, birth dates, and family history, etc., but the story flows as I write so it’s not always an easy process. Sometimes my characters change their minds and often new characters show up and I have to find out who they are. I also do research beforehand so I know the historic backdrop, people, and timeline of the book.
13. Who are some of your favorite authors, and why do you enjoy their work?
Some of my favorite authors are Rachel Hauck, Deborah Raney, Tamera Alexander. and Kristy Cambron. These ladies are all great authors who write Christian Fiction, some historical and some contemporary. They are good examples that I can learn from.
14. What writing advice did you find most useful when you were honing your craft?
Write, write write! Your book doesn’t do anyone any good as long as it is in your mind. You have to get it down on paper. Then you can perfect it so others can benefit from it.
15. Do you have any new work just released or coming out soon? If so, would you please tell us a little about it?
The second book in my Harvey Girl Legacy Series, Home for the Heart, was released in November 2019. The first book in the series is Romance Along the Rails (Released in January 2018). It takes place in 1885.
Home for the Heart is set in 1901. Back cover copy: By 1901, new elaborate Harvey House resort hotels have been built along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, and Fred Harvey’s legacy is carried on by his sons. Twenty-year-old Liz Gilbertson, orphaned as a child, yearns to find her real father’s family. After being jilted by her fiance, she decides to become a Harvey Girl to give her life direction. When Michael McKey, the youngest son of a prominent Boston Banker, moves to Topeka to work as an accountant for Liz’s adopted father at the AT&SF office, her life takes a definite positive shift. Liz and Michael are drawn to each other, but can she rival the women of his social status? Will Liz find a home for her heart.
16. Can you tell us a little about your current project? I actually have two projects in progress. I have a novella, Inconvenient Love, which takes place between the first and second novel of the series. Tessa Gillespie, the main character in Inconvenient Love is Elise’s friend and roommate in Romance Along the Rails. The novella is the story of Tessa and Cliff McNance’s relationship. It is in the beta-reader stage and will hopefully be released later this summer. The Covid19 pandemic has put it on hold.
My second project in progress is Beauty From Ashes, the third in the Harvey Girl Legacy Series. It will take place in 1917-1918 during WWI and the Influenza epidemic. The main character is Rachel Gilbertson, Liz’s younger sister in Home for the Heart. I have written the first chapter, but I’m also still doing research. It’s going pretty slow at this point.
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