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About the Author 

Born in Washington, D.C., Joy grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee outside Chattanooga. Much to her sweet mother's bafflement, Joy always preferred dogs, horses and the woods to dolls and playhouses. A shy kid who was sick a lot, she learned to love reading and creating her own stories--and avoiding wearing shoes at all costs. Living all over the country as an adult, including in New England for years, she still avoids footwear whenever possible.

After earning a masters from a theological seminary and then a masters and a Ph.D. in English lit., she loved getting to teach classes at a number of universities but longed to write full time. Two biological and one adopted child later, in addition to millions of diapers changed and gazillions of essays graded, she finally gets to do that--and never forgets to be grateful.

Joy's upcoming historical mystery, A Bend of Light, set in post-WW2 coastal Maine, releases in fall. Her recent books include the bestselling novel A Tangled Mercy, a dual timeline story set in Charleston, South Carolina, Under a Gilded Moon, a historical mystery set at the Biltmore Estate during the Gilded Age. Her eight earlier books include, Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the 2009 Christy Award for Best First Novel and the Common Book selection for several universities, as well as nonfiction and two children’s picture books, A Crazy-Much Love and Sir Drake the Brave.

In all her writing, Joy tends to be drawn to little-known historical events, to humor as well as tragedy, and to social issues and those big existential questions: the human capacity for brutality and bigotry, for example, as well as for remarkable courage and forgiveness. She and her husband (who also moonlights as her trusted Head Research Assistant) live just south of Nashville, where one teenager still lives at home full time and the other young adult kids pass through regularly. A ferocious 10-pound Maltipoo rules the house.


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"Stories of a past you never knew.
With characters you'll never forget."

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​Interested in conducting an interview with Joy? View our Interview page for previous interviews Joy has been a part of, which include television, audio, and written interviews.  


In these interviews, Joy answers questions about why she writes about race, the experiences from her life that have inspired her works, her advice to aspiring writers, and the themes behind her books.


If you want to schedule Joy for an interview, appearance, book club, or an event, virtual or live, please contact her HEREAdditional reviews can be found under Media.  


Contact Joy

Joy has led writer’s retreats, conferences, workshops, and book clubs. She has also appeared on Panhandle’s PBS station to discuss her novel Blue Hole Back Home, been interviewed for a variety of websites and blogs, and participated in a variety of book signings. If you are interested in contacting Joy about an opportunity, she would be honored to hear from you.​ Please contact her HERE.  To connect with Joy, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media.  

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Having taught at universities in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and, Tennessee, Joy now focuses primarily on writing—though the occasional class or workshop lures her out of her writing cave. 

Residing just south of Nashville, she and her husband relish getting to share life with their three magnificent young adult kids and their magnificent significant others. (Which means, yep, the picture above is outdated, but we continue to love the coast of Maine, and we remain fierce Red Sox fans.

With friends and fellow readers, Joy values the chances to think about stories—in great literature, in contemporary novels, in sacred texts, in creative writing workshops—and consider how stories challenge, disturb, inspire and change the way we see the world.

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