Meet the Author: Joan Merriam
Local author and The Union Pet’s columnist Joan Merriam has released a new book called, “A Just Reckoning.” We shared a few minutes of time with Merriam to chat about her latest book and her life.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a third-generation native Californian, born in Auburn, and have a Master’s degree in Communications. I always say I’m one of those baby-boomers who couldn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. I’ve worked in sales, in real estate appraisal, in PR, I owned my own business, I ran a nonprofit … I think I’ve been just about everything except the bearded lady at the circus! In addition to my writing, I’m an instructor of Communication Studies at Sierra College’s Nevada County Campus.
What brought you to this area?
After my father passed away, I wanted to move to somewhere cooler, amidst the forest. I’d always loved the area around Nevada City, and was fortunate to find a piece of property here and build my house.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember … even when I wasn’t in the business of writing! But my foray into published writing came in 1993: I was working as a Master’s intern at Channel 10 when two very young teenage girls inexplicably slaughtered an elderly woman in her Auburn Greens condominium. Because I was a native of Auburn, the assignment editor asked if I could cover the trial for the station. From there, I became riveted by the story of these two girls, and it eventually turned into my nonfiction book, “Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Shattered Innocence and Murder,” published in 1993. Some years later I published an article in Sacramento Magazine that won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists, then went on to write articles for other national, regional, and local magazines and newspapers, and to win additional awards. I started writing my “Casey’s Corner” column for The Union in 2012, and it’s now syndicated in three other newspapers in California and Colorado.
What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author?
My favorite author(s) are Dean Koontz, John Grisham and Truman Capote. My favorite book is “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” by Harold Kushner.
What is your book about?
It’s the story of investigative journalist Tess Alexander’s plummet into the sordid world of the global sex trade. It begins after Tess meets Ekaterina Voitenko, who as a small child living along the Black Sea coast of Crimea was kidnapped and sold into decades of sex slavery. Hearing her appalling story, Tess embarks on a tumultuous journey from the safety of her home in Northern California to Crimea, Ukraine, and London in an effort to unmask the criminals behind the trafficking ring that enslaved the young woman. In the process, it also puts a target on her back.
This is the first book in the Tess Alexander mystery series; the second one, “A Fine Oblivion,” should be out before the end of the year.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was a whole lot of things: a lifelong fascination with mysteries … an incessant curiosity about the darker side of the human psyche, and what makes people do the things they do … and a trip I took to the former Soviet Union as a peace delegate, and my ensuing fascination with its culture and people.
What did you find most challenging about writing a book?
For “Little Girl Lost,” it was the unremitting darkness of the child abuse which underlay each of the two girls’ childhoods, and how it keyed into my own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse.
For “A Just Reckoning,” it was twofold: finding the time in the midst of my teaching and other responsibilities, and simply keeping going even when I felt stuck or hopeless or uninspired.
What is your key takeaway or message you hope readers find in your book?
That hope lives in even the darkest of corners, and that some measure of justice is possible. I always carry in my mind the saying that all it takes for evil to persist is for the good people to do nothing. It’s our responsibility as human beings to do something when there is injustice in the world.
Where can people find your book?
Locally, you can order it at The Book Seller in Grass Valley. It’s also available as an e-book and paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other internet sites. I plan to have the audiobook out this summer.
What does a perfect day look like for you?
My perfect day would be in the spring, outside working in my garden, with my dog Joey by my side.
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