Exploring Histories, Crafting Narratives with Joan Fallon

A Journey Through Spanish History and Culture

Joan Fallon discusses her transition from teaching to writing, her fascination with Spanish history, research processes,
 thematic exploration, and growth as a versatile author.

Joan Fallon is a name synonymous with versatility and depth in the world of literature. A native of Scotland, Joan’s journey winds through England and settles gracefully in Spain, where she has spent the past quarter-century weaving tales that bridge continents and centuries. With a foundation in history and a career path that traversed teaching, management training, and business, Joan’s evolution into a celebrated author feels like destiny fulfilled.

The richness of Joan’s literary tapestry is evident in her expansive body of work, spanning nineteen books that traverse genres with effortless finesse. From historical fiction to crime thrillers, contemporary women’s narratives to insightful non-fiction, Joan’s pen knows no boundaries. Much like her own life’s journey, her stories take readers on a captivating exploration of human experiences set against the backdrop of Spanish history and culture.

In her historical fiction, Joan delves into pivotal epochs of Spain’s past, from the captivating allure of Moorish Spain to the tumultuous landscape of the Spanish Civil War. Her meticulous research breathes life into the forgotten corridors of time, bringing forth narratives that resonate with authenticity and emotion. Through her crime novels, set against the vibrant backdrop of present-day Málaga, Joan crafts intricate webs of mystery and intrigue, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with each twist and turn.

One of Joan’s pivotal works, “Daughters of Spain,” stands as a testament to her profound understanding of the human condition, particularly as experienced by women in Spain. Inspired by the lives she encountered, Joan’s exploration of themes such as resilience, identity, and the pursuit of freedom resonates deeply with readers, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

As Joan reflects on her evolution as a writer, she acknowledges the subtle shifts in style and theme that have marked her journey. From the early days of contemporary women’s fiction to her latest release, “The Winds of Change,” Joan’s growth as a storyteller is palpable. Yet, amidst the evolution, her commitment to crafting compelling narratives remains unwavering, her prose as poignant and evocative as ever.

In conversation with Joan Fallon, we uncover the essence of a writer whose passion for storytelling transcends borders and spans generations. Join us as we journey through the pages of her life and work, guided by the wisdom and insight of a true literary luminary.

What inspired you to transition from your previous careers in teaching, management training, and business to become a writer, particularly focusing on Spanish history and culture?

Like many things, major changes in the direction of our lives come partly by planning and partly by accident. In all my previous jobs, writing and creativity were major components of the work. As a school teacher I taught History and Creative English, so the transition to writing historical fiction was a natural progression. However my work as a management trainer in the business sector often meant creating and writing role-play situations as part of the training process and it gave me a wonderful opportunity to study human behaviour close up, something which I’m sure helped me to create strong, vibrant characters for my novels. But the real reason for making that transition went back to my childhood; it had always been my dream to become a story teller, a writer of fiction. Then one day the opportunity presented itself in the form of an offer of early retirement. My husband had already retired due to a work injury, our daughter had moved to Spain to live, so everything was pointing me in that direction.

As I have said, History and English Literature were the backbones of my education, so when I arrived in Spain, a country of which I knew very little, I became fascinated by its history, particularly the Moorish occupation.

Your novels cover diverse periods of Spanish history, from the Moorish conquest to the Spanish Civil War. What draws you to these specific historical periods, and how do you approach the research process for your novels?

It’s true that my novels include a varied range of historical fiction and that is because all periods of history interest me. I am drawn to a particular period because of something I come across, maybe an old building or an intriguing article in a magazine. A visit to the ruins of Madinat al Zahara, just outside Córdoba, inspired my research into the 10th century history of the Omayyad dynasty. The more I researched the period, the more I wanted to write, so what had started out as one novel about a family of artisans living in the new city of Madinat al Zahra, turned into the Al-Andalus trilogy which ended with the fall of the city of Córdoba, so I then wrote a second trilogy introducing the next generation of the same family in Málaga. My research for these particular novels was limited by a dearth of written evidence— later events had destroyed many libraries and thousands of books—but much of the culture of the Moors is still in evidence in the food, place names, museums, monuments and customs.

I found the Spanish Civil War much easier to research and discovered first hand accounts of Málaga in 1937 from the diaries of a British journalist and the memoirs of an American woman living there at the time. I also collected information from people whose parents and grandparents were alive then. 

Your novel Daughters of Spain explores the lives of women in Spain, and it seems to have been a pivotal work for you. Can you discuss how your experiences with the women you met in Spain influenced your writing and the themes you explore in your fiction?

Yes, you are right, Daughters of Spain was a pivotal work for me, it inspired me to write a novel about the Spanish Civil War and two books about Spanish life, one before its outbreak and one under the dictatorship. Some women hadn’t experienced the war, but they had all lived under the dictatorship, although not everyone had had the same experience. Some people had their villages destroyed and their men killed, others were hardly aware that a war was going on. Some women talked about lack of control over their lives while others had happier memories. This influenced the way I wrote my subsequent novels; I wanted to remain impartial and attempted to illustrate both viewpoints through my characters.

With your extensive bibliography spanning fiction, crime fiction, and non-fiction, could you share your thoughts on the differences in writing process and challenges between these genres? How do you navigate between them?

I don’t find it hard to move from one genre to another, because most of my books don’t fall neatly into a set genre. Historical fiction novels can contain crimes and romance in them. 

The challenge I have recently faced is in writing crime fiction. The plots are much more complicated and have many more twists and turns than my other novels which depend very much on the inner strength of their characters. In crime fiction, readers are really only interested in the detective and solving the crime.

The Winds of Change,” your latest novel, was published in 2023. How do you perceive your growth and evolution as a writer from your earlier works to this latest release, both stylistically and thematically?

I imagine my writing has developed over the last eighteen years. Thematically it has changed from contemporary women’s fiction to mostly historical fiction and crime. Stylistically it has not changed much, except that it is more concise 

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