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intro by Betty Dravis

Most of our readers are probably familiar with author/writer Joanna Lee Doster, but ever since I selected her exciting book Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit for a Betty Award for Book with Best Movie Potential, I wanted to share her story on Dames of Dialogue.

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Doster is a writer and author whose published books include Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Rockport Publishing) and the aforementioned Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit (MPI Publishing). The new edition of her family drama and motorsports racing thriller was released on May 4, 2014 on and Barnes &

She has also written a series of nationally syndicated celebrity profiles that featured legendary sports figures. Doster is a freelance journalist for syndicated newspapers (Gannett as one example), magazines and blogs. In addition, she has held executive positions in Cable Television (Arts & Entertainment, The Learning Channel and PBS communications) and the entertainment industry. She and her husband live in New York.

Now Doster has written the following, especially for our Dames of Dialogue readers.

by Joanna Lee Doster

Most people ask what inspired me to write a stock-car racing thriller. To keep it as simple as possible, I transitioned from my previous non-fiction book and publications to following the need to express myself with expansive, epic stories. I knew I needed powerful characters, with generational back stories; families with complex relationships from the past leading to the present. I satisfied my writing needs in Maximum Speed by writing about three generations of a stock-car-racing family.

joanna max speed cover
Since I love to explore the different kinds of interactions my characters have and how they maneuver throughout their lives, my book about car racing became a metaphor for life. People are racing to or away from something. It’s not so much their destination that determines the type of person they are. It’s their journey to the finish line that determines that. My main characters have flaws and handicaps that most of them bravely overcome. Everyone chooses the path they take in life and how they travel on that path defines them. Ergo, the racing metaphor…
I became intrigued with stock-car racing when I began to realize that it’s not just drivers going aimlessly around tracks. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline, endurance, precision and focus. Driving around tracks for at least four hours with the glaring sun in their eyes, breathing in some residues of carbon monoxide inside a two-ton car that has 2 g forces is difficult enough. The experience is grueling when coupled with when to let up on the gas, when to make a pit stop, knowing when to avoid hitting another car and avoiding track debris, other crashing cars, etc. The list is endless…
I developed complex multi-layered characters that are a composite of people I have known. What I always loved about reading great books was that the well delineated characters always hooked you right away whether they were the heroes or the villains. You wanted to know what happened to them even after you finished reading. In Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit I show their human frailties right from the start and they draw you in and you do want to know what happens to them at the end of the book. I also naively always believed in justice and so I try to balance out the imbalances in some of the character’s lives. But usually life has a way of meting out its own justice, so it’s not up to me, the author, to do that. I found that it’s best to let the characters take over and show that through their action and dialogue.
My protagonist Sean Devlin has been living on the edge his whole life, making speed and danger his constant companions in order to cover up a deep hole of loneliness and shame from the painful stigma of his childhood stutter. Reckless and testing the limits of life, he finally realizes that he doesn’t have to overcompensate for his speech handicap and conquer the world and his family to be number one. As Taylor, his mother, always told him, “You have no competition, as long as you believe you’re number one.”

The theme of “winning at all costs” philosophy is a thread that runs throughout my latest 2014 edition of Maximum Speed. People are always pushing the limit in their lives in order to achieve great success, whether they are celebrities like the ones in Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Cher and Versace to name a few) or like the race-car drivers in Maximum Speed. Some of my characters push the limit on and off the racetrack with reckless disregard for their fellow teammates and or loved ones. My protagonist, a young champion racer, has an inordinate amount of drive, determination and obsessiveness for victory lane, overcompensating for a bullied childhood.
Joanna Lee Doster links:
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joanna, ashley, me on marsha show...


Sharyn McCrumb & Adam EdwardsHow did you come to write your first  co-authored novel?

Co-author a novel with a NASCAR driver?

I wasn’t sure if it could be done, but it sounded like an adventure.

I met race car driver Adam Edwards, my Faster Pastor co-author,  at a Bristol event, when he bought a copy of St Dale, my NASCAR homage to The Canterbury Tales, and offered to give me technical advice on an future projects.

Adam became my crew chief for Once Around the Track; in it he is character Tony Lafon.  He gave me my first ride-along in a race car at Lowes Motor Speedway: 170 mph, with me in a fire suit and helmet watching the wall come up in front of us only inches away. Trusting him to that extent required only a little less faith than committing to co-author, which I had never done before.

Adam did some public appearances with me for Once Around the Track, and he had written impressive drafts of action scenes, so one day I suggested that we try to co-author a novel. I had an idea that involved his field of expertise– teaching middle-aged guys how to drive a race car.

“I’ll write the first thousand words, and e-mail it to you, and you write the next thousand.” I thought, “If he doesn’t do his thousand words, we’ll just forget the whole thing.” But he did it!

We wrote Faster Pastor in ten months, placed it with Ingalls Publishing Group, and now the real adventure begins

How did you come to return to continuing the Ballad series?

Truly creative people, those who practice their craft with artistic vision instead of to make a fast buck, occasionally leave the safe, well-worn path that made them famous to try some new endeavor, just to keep their talent fresh or to explore new possibilities. In 2002 I did that. Instead of the expected Ballad novel, I wrote St. Dale, a modern version of The Canterbury Tales set in NASCAR. It  won a Library of Virginia award; the Best Appalachian Novel Award; got me invited to the White House; and gave me wonderful adventures and the best friends I’ve ever had.

With The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, set at a trial in the Virginia Blue Ridge in 1935, I return to the Ballad novels, because I wanted to talk about what happens when the media stereotypes a culture in order to sensationalize a story and thus to sell newspapers. I write about what interests me, when I find I have something worth saying. I am pleased and gratefSharyn McCrumbul that there is so much interest in my Ballad novels. I hope that, besides telling a good story in those works, I can shed light upon some of the cultural issues that concern me. In The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, I found a story I wanted to tell.

Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels and for “St. Dale.” Forthcoming novels are “The Devil Amongst the Lawyers” (Thomas Dunne, 2010) and “Faster Pastor” (Ingalls Publishing Group, 2010),the latter co-authored by NASCAR driver Adam Edwards. In 2008 Sharyn McCrumb was named a “Virginia Woman of History” for Achievement in Literature.

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