Her prologue: Like Deborah Sharp, one of the writers profiled in our July-August issue, who turned away from journalism after Sept. 11, 2001, Joanna Campbell Slan’s career also shifted after 9-11, for different reasons.
She had many jobs before the Towers fell—newspaper reporter, ad salesperson, talk show host, college teacher and eventually public speaker. The latter profession became her passion, and she was named one of the top 25 speakers in the world by Sharing Ideas magazine.
“I fell into motivational speaking, because it, like writing, was a way to tell stories that move people,” says Slan, who lives on Jupiter Island. “But then 9-11 happened. I lived in England at the time. The last thing I wanted was to keep flying the unfriendly skies. Besides, I was gaining some traction as an author, so the timing was perfect for leaving the microphone and sticking to the keyboard.”
Her series: Slan is the most prolific of the authors interviewed for this feature—and in terms of the changes in genre, time period and heroine, the most restless. She’s penned 11 nonfiction books, many of them extensions of her motivational speeches, and at least 13 mysteries under four different series. There’s the Kiki Lowenstein books, about a spunky single mom from St. Louis with a passion for scrapbooking and a propensity to find herself surrounded by murder and intrigue; the Cara Mia Delgato series, about an entrepreneur living on Florida’s Treasure Coast who solves whodunits; and her Jane Eyre novels, which reimagine Charlotte Bronte’s iconic character as a sleuth in Regency-era England. Under a pseudonym, she even wrote one title in the “Southern Beauty Shop” series, about a divorced beautician working in a Georgia tourist town.
“I have a great capacity for work,” Slan says. “This is what I always wanted to do, and I’m at a point in my life that I can do it as my ‘day job.’ So the floodgates are wide open. I can’t wait to get up each morning and start writing. Last year I had five books come out. I wrote four between March and December. I’ve worn the letters off of three keyboards!” Slan’s books inevitably explore socially conscious themes, among them aging parents, addiction, mixed-race relationships, animal hoarding and domestic violence.
Her words: “I woke up with the dawn, after a night of bad dreams where Bill Ballard’s head exploded again and again, leaving me covered in sweat. My teeth ached from clenching my jaw. Overnight the bruise on my temple had turned shades of blue, black and green, a great look for a Mardi Gras party. Otherwise, not so much.” (From Picture Perfect Corpse, 2013).