Joan Young begins a new adventure, writes first mystery novel

January 28, 2012

Joan Young holds up her new book.

By ROB ALWAY editor


SCOTTVILLE — Joan Young is well known in this area as an avid outdoorswoman. She writes several blogs, many about “getting off the couch” and being outside, exploring nature. She holds the record as being the first woman to hike the entire 4,600 mile North Country Trail, which spans seven states, including Michigan (and Mason County).


But, this article is about a very different adventure for Joan. Recently, while spanning Facebook, I noticed a posting from her about her newest book, a mystery. It’s not everyday that someone from Mason County publishes a book.


So, I asked Joan if we could talk about it. We met at the Scottville branch of the Mason County Library, a fitting location about a book.


This is Joan’s second book. Her first was “North Country Cache,” a chronicle about some of her adventures on the North Country Trail; she is currently working on the sequel.


Her newest book, however, is a fictional mystery called “News from Dead Mule Swamp.”


“I have been reading mysteries since grade school,” she said. “I always thought it would be fun to write one.


“The biggest problem for me was to come up with a hero who I thought I could sustain for more than one book or I thought I could make believable.”


Joan said she watches mysteries on television and has read numerous mystery books, but she wasn’t really familiar with police procedures or forensic science.


“If you’re going to write about it, you need to get it right.”


Then, a couple years ago, while hiking, the character finally came to her.


“Her name is Anastasia Raven. She is a single woman, recently divorced, who comes to a small town and stumbles upon these crimes. She ends up solving things by getting to know the people behind the scenes. On that same trip I came up with the plot of the first two books.


Joan said she was worried, at first, that a book like this would not be marketable.


Her inspiration for the book was Lilian Jackson Braun, who wrote the “The Cat Who…” mystery novels. “There is a whole genre of these types of books, they are called ‘cozy mystries,'” Joan said.


“The market is just huge. There’s a great number of people who don’t want to read about a lot of violence, bad language or sex.”


Basing the books in a small, generic Midwestern town made sense, as opposed to basing the stories in a larger city.


“I was raised in a small town, I live in a small town and I love being in a small town,” she said. “It would have been stupid for me to write about an urban setting.”


“News from Dead Mule Swamp” is not only Joan’s first mystery novel but it is also her first ebook.


“I self published ‘North Country Cache,'” she said. “That was a huge undertaking and I made a few mistakes. I learned that I liked the publishing part, a lot of writers don’t. I liked getting everything together, such as the permissions, obtaining the Library of Congress number and the ISBN (international standard book number).


“Self publishing is the best thing that’s happened to writers. Books and printed materials are out there that wouldn’t have been there before.


“Ebooks are really easy, because there’s no printing involved. Publishing is just on its head. Everything is changing. There are several authors who have gone to e-publishing and are making money.”


The other advantage of self publishing is speed.


“If I had gone the traditional route — of working with an actual publisher — I would have had to submit query letters to publishers or would have had to hired an agent. It probably would have taken two years before it would be out there. I also didn’t want to get my book bashed by editors who want to change things. I’m not saying my writing is perfect but I think it’s easily competitive wtihout those extra layers.


“Self-publishing means I have to do all the marketing.”


Taking the place of editors was “The West Side Gang,” a writers support group that meets at the Ludington Center for the Arts.


“They have been great,” Joan said. “There are some really writers in that group. They have been helpful by encouraging me. I had three beta writers, who read the book and then gave me feedback.”


Joan is hoping to have a printed edition of the book sometime in the near future.


The ebook is availabe at or


She has at least a couple more books planned in this series. Then, who knows what Joan will take on next.


“I’m living proof that you can bumble through life without ever figuring out what you are going to be when you grow up. Right now, I’m trying to define myself as an author.”


          You can read more about Joan’s writing ventures at her outdoor ventures at


Editor’s note: Beginning next week, Joan will be a regular contributor to


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