Author speaks about transition from opera to writing

Joelle Charbonneau knew that her opera performance degree would take her to stages, though she wasn’t expecting the editing and proofing sort.

The English Honors Society of DePaul, Sigma Tau Delta, hosted the local author’s visit Sept. 27 in Arts & Letters Hall.

Charbonneau talked about her interest in writing and how she never actually dreamed of entering the literary field. A graduate of Millikin University’s music and theater programs, she came to DePaul following her undergraduate work to study opera performance.

Charbonneau said the first time she thought of writing a book occurred to her was when she was acting in “Evita” at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace.

“I was on my way home from a show when I had the opening line of a book in my head,” Charbonneau said.

Charbonneau said she started writing “just for kicks” and that she never dreamt of being published – or even getting to the end of writing a book.

“I wanted to see if I could,” she said.

An unusually long book of 148,000 words came out of the challenge, which she described as “bad.”

“No one, no one should ever read that book,” Charbonneau said. “I was thinking I was going to be writing Jodi Picoult hard-hitting women’s fiction.

“Um, yeah, not so much,” she said.

She acknowledged the fact that her book was rough, but that going through the process of writing taught her how to finish a book.

Charbonneau joined the Romance Writers of America, and from there learned the business of publishing.

She then decided to try writing something that a large amount of people would want to read: a thriller. Her first book published became the first in a trilogy called the “Skating Series” – mysteries with comic edges.

She then published another mystery, “Murder for Choir,” and will be releasing the first book in her newest trilogy in a few months, “The Testing.”

Charbonneau said the advice she would give to young aspiring writers is to read. “Really, really read,” she said. “The more you read, the more you understand what you might want to write … the back of your brain starts to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Charbonneau also stressed the importance of re-reading books that speak to you. “Go back and you read it again and figure out why it worked. Don’t just say ‘wow, that was great.’ Ask yourself why it was great.”

“Yay for reading,” she said. “Go buy books.”

Charbonneau’s passion for telling storytelling is particularly evident even in her conversations. When she asked the audience to tell her a little about themselves, she came across one girl who explained her academic situation.

“Sophomore. Between second and third…it’s weird,” the audience member said laughing.

Charbonneau pointed at her with enthusiasm and said, “There’s a story there!”