Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk
What genre do you write and why?
Traditional mystery. I’ve loved that genre since I was a kid reading Nancy Drew and as a teenager reading Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Ed McBain and Ngaio Marsh. While my books are amateur sleuth, they are not “cozy”: There are no cats, crafts, or cookie recipes in my books (though my characters do like to eat cookies!)
Tell us about your latest book.
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn that she is the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate: she’s the only child of two only children, and she hasn’t seen her mother since she walked out on Valentines Day, 1980. What does surprise her is that she’s inheriting a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed—and the condition attached to the inheritance: move to Marketville, live in the house, and find out who murdered her mother.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a past likely better left buried, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to do the job.
Determined to thwart Misty and uncover the truth, Callie accepts the challenge. But when her first encounter in the house is a skeleton in the attic, she wonders just what she’s gotten herself into.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
The usual suspects: my website, other blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
What formats is the book available in?
Trade paperback and eBook.
Who are your favourite authors?
In no particular order: Sue Grafton, Giles Blunt, John Sandford, Tana French, Sara J. Henry, Kristina Stanley and Louise Penny.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Make time to write every day. The writing muscle is like every other muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
To quote Agatha Christie: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
What's the best thing about being a writer?
Making up stories and getting paid to do it.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My website, www.judypenzsheluk.com. I blog very honestly about my writing journey: the good, the bad, and the heart breaking.
Who is you favourite character in your book and why?
My protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. She’s placed in a difficult situation but she doesn’t give up or give in. She’s independent and intelligent.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I think it’s different than a lot of mysteries out there; it’s not a classic whodunit, it’s about Callie’s journey of discovering her past while trying to solve a decades old mystery.
How long did it take you to write your book?
About a year.
Who designed the cover?
Ryan Thomas Doan. Didn’t he do an amazing job? He incorporated all sorts of clues into the cover. Look for the locket: it plays a big part in the story.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
I learn something unexpected from any story I write! In Skeletons, I found myself looking into ancestry. I only touched the surface, but I enjoyed it enough that I’m going to use that as a premise in the sequel.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
You can find the links here: http://www.imajinbooks.com/skeletons-in-the-attic
What are you doing to market the book?
The usual suspects. My website, other blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as local interviews. I’m also going to be participating in a library event, and I welcome book club inquiries. Even if I’m not in the area, we can work something out.
Who inspires you?
I take my inspiration from everything that has happened in my life, but I don’t wait for inspiration to write. If I did that, I might never get anything written.
How do you research your books?
It depends. In the book I’m writing now, there is some legal stuff I was unsure about. One of my friends was a criminal lawyer, so I asked him. For Skeletons, I did most of my research online. There’s usually some sort of antiques angle in my books as well. Since I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, I have a fair bit of knowledge in that area. I try very hard to get my facts right, and will check a few sources.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I have two in progress. One is the sequel to my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, which was the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series. It’s written in the third person with alternating POVs between the protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, an antiques shop owner, and her sidekick, Emily Garland, her partner in the business. In book one, Emily was the protagonist, and Arabella was her sidekick. I thought it would be fun to switch roles.
The second book is the sequel to Skeletons, and is the second book in the Marketville Mystery series. It’s told in first person, one POV, and this time the protagonist is one of the characters in Skeletons, Chantelle Marchand.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I think one size does not fit all. I have self-published a couple of short story collections, but my novels are traditionally published by small press (Barking Rain Press for the Glass Dolphin Mystery Series and Imajin Books for the Marketville Mystery Series).
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and read Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables). It’s the story of Emily Starr of New Moon, PEI, who writes in her “Jimmy book” by candlelight and grows up to be a journalist. I named my first protagonist (in The Hanged Man’s Noose) Emily.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
My husband, Mike, is very supportive. He even bought me an LED pen that lights up, so if I get an idea in the middle of the night, I can jot it down without turning on the light! When I’ve finished writing a book, I have it printed and coil-bound and he reads it and makes notes. He can find the tiniest plot hole. I can remember in Skeletons, I have one character say, “Thank you for the tea,” and he wrote in the margin “She never poured the tea!” He was right.
What are you currently reading?
A Season for Killing Blondes by Joanne Guidoccio. She’s a Canadian writer, from Guelph, Ontario. The book is laced with humor, but it’s clever, not silly. I’m also reading 13 O’Clock a collection of short mysteries by the Mesdames of Mayhem.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Without question, Agatha Christie. I have read every one of her books. After her, Truman Capote. I was haunted by In Cold Blood when I read it; I remember thinking, “so that’s how you paint a picture with words.” I’ve watched the movie, Capote, about a dozen times. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman nailed Capote.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
In summer, I love to golf and belong to two nine-hole ladies leagues. I also golf outside of leagues with other friends. I enjoy running, and have completed four marathons and several half marathons, though these days, I prefer shorter distances. I’m an avid reader, mostly mystery, but I do read other genres. I like to walk my dog, Gibbs, a golden retriever. I’m happiest when I’m outside, even in the winter. And we do get winter an hour north of Toronto, Canada, where I live.