Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Memoir Author Joan Heartwell Shares Insights About Tom Clancy and the Business of Writing

About the Author:
Joan Heartwell makes her living as a pen for hire, writing, editing and ghostwriting for a variety of private and corporate clients. She has had four novels published under another name and has a fifth one due out later in 2014.
Connect with her at:

Joan's Take on the Business of Writing:

I probably don’t take writing as seriously as some people do. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about how good my writing is. Since I write for a living (as well as for pleasure), working for private and corporate clients, I have to be sure my writing is as good as I can get it and that each assignment is completed by the deadline set for it.  Rather, I mean that I don’t think of writing as some incredible blessing bestowed only on the chosen few.

Tom Clancy died recently and the radio station I listen to did a little piece about him. I have to admit I never read any of his books, but I did see the film version of The Hunt for Red October and I do know that the initial manuscript for the book was published by Annapolis’ Naval Institute Press, which had never published a novel before, after all the major publishers turned it down. With a little help from President Ronald Reagan, who hosted Clancy in the White House, the book became a hit and thereafter Clancy was published by traditional publishers. The radio station played a clip of an interview in which Clancy, talking on the subject of writing, said, “You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired; it’s hard work.”

Clancy was an insurance agent before he was a full-time writer. He wrote The Hunt for Red October while he was still working at his nine-to-five. His rather pedestrian attitude about writing belies the fact that he was a great storyteller. He had the knack. He learned the craft. When all else failed and he couldn’t get attention from the big boys in the industry, he had the chutzpah to go to the naval academy and get them to publish his book. I don’t know how he got on Reagan’s guest list, but I bet there’s an impressive story behind that too.

The point is Clancy had talent, discipline, balls, and luck. Whether we’ve read him or not, we all know his name. If he had only had talent and discipline, we might not know who he was. He didn’t want to be put on a pedestal because, as he knew, no muse had found him on GoogleMaps and showed up to plant a kiss on his ear. No muse has been to my house either, or at least not that I know of. I have some talent, a lot of discipline, I’m working on chutzpah, and as for luck, I do everything I can to attract it. I’ve had some small successes to date, and I hope to have more in the future. And in the meantime, I keep on writing. Day after day. Without any regrets.

About Joan's Memoir:
Hamster Island is Heartwell's story of growing up ordinary in family that embodied dysfunction. Her childlike shame for her special needs siblings is balanced by a fierce love that, occasionally, enabled her to shed her diffidence and perform extraordinary feats of pluck and valor. 

Funny and heartbreaking, Hamster Island is a coming-of-age in the tradition of such darkly comic memoirs as Mary Karr's The Liars Club and Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors; it delights while exploring issues of identity, transformation, and responsibility.

What people are saying:
“Bittersweet, engagingly written, and populated by a household of strong-willed, idiosyncratic characters, Hamster Island has, at its core, a conflict familiar to us all: How can we be good to others while also being good to ourselves? ...This tale of caregiving and self-actualization is unique, but it abounds with insights for us all.”
—Rachel Simon, New York Times bestselling author of Riding The Bus With My Sister 
and The Story of Beautiful Girl  

Purchase links:

Please leave a comment to welcome Joan Heartwell to Book Beat Babes.


  1. Welcome to Book Beat Babes, Joan. Your memoir cover is darling!

  2. Thank you so much for hosting Joan, Morgan! I'm sharing this on twitter and facebook!


  3. Fantastic article, Joan, and Morgan thank you for the reference. Sometimes you just need to be knocked upside the head to remember Clancy had talent, discipline, balls, and luck.

  4. Hi Joan,

    It does my muse good to hear that even highly accomplished writers like Clancy view writing as hard work!

  5. Welcome, Joan! We need reminders that writing is hard work for everyone!! Best of luck with your novel. I'm going to share on Facebook to spread the word!

  6. Writing is hard work, not doubt about it, and yet it's the most fun I've ever had while working hard. Your post was right on the mark. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
    Marja McGraw

  7. Congratulations on your memoir, Joan. I love the cover. And after reading this post, I want to read your book!

  8. Joan Heartwell is unable to respond to your comments at this time but she has asked me to let you know that she has read and enjoyed all of them and is glad to be a part of your writing community.