Most people know Jackie Houchin as that lady who shows up with pen, paper and camera and churns out articles that make the rest of us look good, whether she’s covering an author event or a play. She has her own blog at Jackie Houchin’s News & Reviews and writes regularly for Sisters in Crime and local newspapers. Her book reviews can be see in magazines such as CrimeSpree and Mystery Scene.
You’re a photojournalist, a children’s book writer, a book reviewer and a theater critic. What’s your favorite type of writing and why?
I really, really enjoyed writing the serialized stories for my three granddaughters (a different one for each of them). It was fun making up the characters, plotting the story lines, and seeing the girls eagerly awaiting the next installments. Sometimes I drew simple illustrations to make them more fun. When I wrote the two “Kinko-published” children’s books for them, I also included simple line drawings in each chapter. However, my “Drawing Muse” isn’t always so cooperative!
The reviews and articles I write for my “News & Reviews” website and the various local newspapers and newsletters are ways to use my “teaching gift” if you want to call it that. (Yes, I’ve always been sort of bossy and “know it all.” Ha-ha) I enjoy meeting all the interesting people I interview. I use photography instead of drawing in this genre.
I also love seeing theatre plays (for free!) and reading books before they’re published. But lately this writing angle is becoming stressful for me. Call it writer’s block, but I seem to approach each new review with trepidation, even dread! Help!
How does someone with so much to do plan her writing time?
Funny you should ask! For one who enjoys everything organized and in order (some would call me OCD – ha-ha!), I don’t plan my writing time well. Usually it’s a looming deadline that gets me in the chair in front of the computer, frantically pounding the keys, while guzzling an entire pot of coffee.
Of course I have to be responsible about dates & times for the events I cover and the people I interview (these are faithfully marked on my calendar), but the actual writing is usually a last minute scramble. (Does it show?)
As a book reviewer, what mistakes do you find repeated, and what brings joy to your work?
Mistakes in the BOOKS, or MY mistakes? In books, I often see typos, of course. They are less evident with big-name authors and publishers. Occasionally I’ve seen name changes mid book, and even sex changes. (Yikes, I didn’t mean it THAT way!)
As for MY reviews, sometimes when they are printed – and I cringe here – I see a typo I’ve forgotten to correct, or two words remaining where I changed one and forgot to take out the other. Gulp!
The joy comes from seeing my work in print, and in the feedback I sometimes get from authors (or actors in the case of theatre reviews).
What’s your favorite type of book to read?
Absolutely my favorite reads are mysteries – strongly plotted ones without too much grit, grizzle or gore. I also enjoy “adult” women’s fiction (not chick lit) and historic novels. I will listen to audio books on history and biography, IF the author gives his information in “story” form. And, surprisingly, lately I’ve enjoyed a few Westerns. Go figure!
Christian fiction is a huge and growing market. Have you thought about writing either fiction or non-fiction for that market?
I’m a Christian, and ALL my writing is influence by that. My children’s stories always have a moral to them (be it vague or bold), and often use Bible passages, proverbs, or parables as a foundation. (Don’t worry! They aren’t “preachy.”)
I try to keep all my writing clean, and as positive as possible. (Even the newspaper events I cover.) I also won’t review books or plays that are offensive to me (sacrilegious, sexually explicit, or with overt violence or language). And, while I’m no academic, I did write curriculum for a 10-year Bible study I taught.
Are there any fiction projects in the works for you?
Fiction…. hmm. Do I dare share my secret?
I have a women’s fiction novel started and languishing in my files. It’s an ambitious work (or so I’ve been told) and tracks the stories of three sisters, each in a potentially life or lifestyle-threatening dilemma. I’ve been told I should tell each story separately, like Nora Lofts does in her trilogy books. But these women’s lives and problems are inexorably entwined, as are the eventual solutions, each dependent on what the other does.
So will “Sister Secrets” ever see the light of day and be at least “e” or self-published?
Your guess is as good as mine!
Thank you, Jackie.
Just a note: I’ve read Jackie’s books and they are some of the most entertaining, well-written children’s fiction I’ve ever read. Please get them published!!!