Dedicated Storytellers by Deb Joelle

RestoringHarmonyLR When I got the idea for Restoring Harmony, it hit me like a ton of bricks, which was pretty cool. The scariest thing about it though, was that it wasn’t like any story I’d ever written before (aspiring writers take note – novels I’d written before = unpublished, taking a chance with RH = published manuscript) and I honestly didn’t know if I could do it at times. The thing was, it reminded me of the storytelling of my two favourite writers  – Nevil Shute and John Rowe Townsend. I could almost envision how they would write this story…so I decided to try myself and keep their techniques in mind. Or maybe somehow I could channel them, which sounded easier, but proved harder.

As I wrote, I let myself think big while keeping the story as personal and human as possible. Neither Shute nor Townsend write “big” characters. They write about big things happening to an average person, and that person rising up to meet the challenge. That’s how I wanted Restoring Harmony to be told. Whenever I got stuck, I would ask myself, WWND or WWJD, and usually the answer was there for me – write the unexpected. And don’t forget love.

For those of you familiar with Nevil Shute, you know he passed away a long time ago. He left a legacy of novels that are probably some of my most favourite comfort-reading. No matter how many times I read Pastoral, Trustee From the Tool Room, or A Town Like Alice, I have to give over my time entirely until I’ve finished reading the whole book. Interestingly enough, Shute is possibly most famous for his apocalyptic novel, On the Beach – the one book of his I’ve never read! How’s that for irony, since many people are calling RH “apocalyptic”? RH is most like his book Pied Piper and I freely admit to keeping it in mind while I wrote. If you’re going to steal anything, steal from the best!

John Rowe Townsend is very much alive and well in Cambridge England. When I was a teen, I picked up his book The Summer People, at the library and loved it. I shared it with my mum, who loved it too, and immediately checked out the other four books he had in print in the US. When I was in England in 1991, I discovered all of his books were available! I came home lugging over twenty Nevil Shute books for Mum (which she eventually gave me), and over twenty JRT books for myself. Good thing they didn’t weigh carry-on luggage!

Once home, I wrote to John, and we’ve been corresponding ever since. His partner, the fantastic writer, Jill Paton Walsh, calls me “John’s biggest fan” and last time I was in England, they had me over to their lovely house and gave me a tour of Cambridge. Here we are.

The Three Js

On the same day my ARCs arrived, I took two to the post office and mailed one to my mum and dad, and air mailed the other to John. Of course, I wanted him to read my book, but most importantly, I wanted him to see what his support and his gift of writing has done – it’s helped to shape another writer.

Here is my dedication:

This book is dedicated to my two favorite storytellers, whose books have enriched my life and the lives of countless others.

Nevil Shute



John Rowe Townsend

1922 –

10 Replies to “Dedicated Storytellers by Deb Joelle”

  1. Yes, I also want to know how he reacted!

    I thanked my fifth grade teacher in my acknowledgments and I don’t think she’s stopped smiling yet. (She took me seriously as a writer, when I was nine!)

  2. I hadn’t read John’s books until I met you. You raved about him and so of course I had to check out his work. Writers never die as long as people still read their books.

  3. Oh, I love that thought, Eileen. Well said.

    Joelle, what a wonderful gift to give back to these writers you love so much. Thanks for letting me know about them. And now I’m curious: Did the idea for the second book also hit you like a ton of bricks?

  4. Thanks for your comments everyone. John wrote to me shortly after receiving my ARC, and it was a lovely email. He said he was “touched” and then he said some really nice things about my book. Of course, I did dedicate it to him, so what could he say, really? Haha!

    Emily, maybe if the lost ARC that I mailed you never shows up, you can track John down and borrow his. Just kidding! But if you ever have a chance to hear him or Jill speak in Cambridge, or meet them, I highly recommend you do it! That goes for all of you.

  5. I agree with everything you have said about Nevil Shute. I will read your book, and some by John Rowe Townsend. I’ve already read all of Shute’s. Everyone should read them!

  6. First of all…congratulations! I came across your website because I was attempting to find a copy of WRITTEN FOR CHILDREN (mine was left in storage.) I decided to look up JRT and JPW (a trip down memory lane for me) and found this lovely blog! I was lucky to have them as lecturers many moons ago when I was working on my M.A. They were superb! I had to chuckle though, because the summer was rife with “Are they? Aren’t they?” rumours amongst all of us as we speculated whether they were indeed, just “friends” or a couple. Your photo and your comment about them being “partners” finally solved the mystery. It only took three decades for me to find out. LOL! They make a great team! Two amazing writers with another one about to be launched… Thank you, Joelle! LOL

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