This week's guest interviewee is mystery writer Judy Penz Sheluk, showcasing her book, Skeletons in the Attic.
Good morning, Judy. What may I get you to drink?
JPS: I don’t drink anything with caffeine – but I’ve become addicted to Tetley’s Warmth herbal tea, a blend of rooibos and cinnamon. I think it may only be available in Canada, more’s the pity if you can’t find it.
Ally: But I have my magic pot, so anything is possible. While I prepare our drinks, please introduce yourself to readers.
An Amazon international bestselling author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE: A Glass Dolphin Mystery, was released in July 2015. SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC, the first book in her Marketville Mystery series, was first released in August 2016, and re-released in all formats in December 2017. Sequels for both series are scheduled for Spring 2018 and early 2019. Her short fiction appears in several collections.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she represents Toronto/Southern Ontario on its Board of Directors.
She lives in a small town northwest of Toronto with her husband, Mike, and two-year-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs.
Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "I can only write when I’m listening to talk radio. Music (mostly country), I can write blog posts, that sort of thing, but when I’m writing fiction… it has to be talk radio."
Facebook Author: https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk/?business_id=736294013145101
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04
Ally: What will readers discovered when they open the cover of your book?
JPS: An amateur sleuth with an edge: there’s the requisite small town, no overt sex, violence or bad language, but there are also no cats, crafts or cookie recipes.
Ally: Talk about your writing process. Schedule, goals, etc.
JPS: After I finish a book, it takes me a couple of months to get back to another one. I want to get right back at it, but I feel emotionally drained. I’ll dabble, play around with short stories, but a book just seems too daunting. And then, gradually, the voices come back to me, and I know it’s time to start again. Once I get going in earnest, I try to write every day, including Sundays and holidays, even if it’s only for a few stolen minutes, though my goal is always to write a chapter a day. I try to leave each chapter with a bit of a hook, so I’m keen to come back the next day (and hopefully, I’m creating something that makes readers want to keep turning the pages). My first draft takes three to four months. I do edit as I go along, so my first drafts are pretty clean, but they are by no means polished enough to submit to a publisher. The magic is in the revision… you can’t edit a blank page.
Ally: How do you choose and name your characters?
JPS: It depends. With Emily Garland (the protagonist in The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery), my favorite childhood book was Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame). Emily Starr of New Moon wanted to grow up to be a writer, and I wanted that, too. It seemed only fitting to name the protagonist in my first book Emily. And I was named after Judy Garland.
In Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery, the protagonist is Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. In my day job, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal and I’d just read about some old photographs of Calamity Jane, a Wild West frontierswoman, that had come to auction. And I thought… Calamity, that’s a great name, Callie for short. Initially, I thought Callie Barnes, but somewhere along the line I added the ‘table.’
Another character in Skeletons is Leith Hampton, the lawyer who tells Callie about her inheritance. He started life as Craig Leith (there is a town in Ontario, Canada, called Craigleith), but I couldn’t warm to it. Then I thought, Leith as a first name would work, and Hampton, like the Hamptons in New York, sounded like a good surname for a well-heeled lawyer.
I keep a notebook of possible name ideas – I watch end credits on TV shows and movies and might get a first or last name from those. Then I couple it with something that fits the character I’m writing about.
Ally: How did you select the title of the book you're featuring today?
JPS: Books seem to title themselves. I always start a project as “Book 2” or “Book 3” and I don’t force the title. The Hanged Man’s Noose is the name of a pub in Lount’s Landing, a town named after Samuel Lount, a real life Canadian politician who was hanged for treason. As soon as I named the pub, I knew I had my title.
With Skeletons in the Attic, Callie Barnstable is charged with finding out what happened to her mother when she disappeared thirty years before, when Callie was just six. When she goes into the attic, the first thing she sees among the old trunks and boxes is a skeleton in it. The minute I wrote that scene, I knew I had my title.
Ally: What is your next writing project? Anticipated release date?
JPS: I’m excited to say that A Hole in One, the second book in my Glass Dolphin mystery series, will be released in March 2018. The sequel to Skeletons is scheduled for early 2019. I’m currently working on sequels to both sequels.
Ally: None of us can write all the time. What is your favorite non-writing activity?
JPS: Golf. I’m passionate if not particularly good. I live in a golf course community and I play in two nine-hole ladies leagues. I don’t have the time or patience for 18 holes, though I will play in best ball charity scrambles. Where I live (north of Toronto), our season only goes from mid May to mid October, which is probably just as well. Fall and winter are my most productive writing times. I also enjoy running, though these days, I’m more of a 5k (three mile) sort of runner. I have completed several half marathons and four full marathons in the past. I sometimes think I’d like to do another full marathon. Then sanity sets back in.
Let's try a few short-answer, get-to-know-you questions.
- a. an author (living or dead) you'd love to take to lunch: John Sandford. Not only is he prolific, he paces a novel better than anyone living or dead. Then again, I’d probably be too nervous to eat anything. So maybe Sue Grafton. I’ve been reading her since G is for Gumshoe, backtracked to A, and have followed her to Y. Then again, maybe I’d be too nervous to eat anything… you see where this is going. I’m a writer, but I’m a fan first and foremost. My list of favorite authors just keeps growing!
- b. favorite tv show: Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen every episode a dozen times, and the Netflix four-part series twice. #TeamLogan.
- c. favorite movie: This is a tough one, but I’m going to say I have three oldies but goodies (sorry, I can’t just pick one). The Sting – it was made in 1973 but it holds up as if it were made last week. It’s just a great story, well cast and acted to perfection. Primal Fear – Edward Norton should have won for Best Supporting Actor, and Richard Gere is sublime as the lawyer. For pure silly fun, The First Wives Club. I just re-watched this with my husband, and found myself saying the lines with Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton. My hubby was like, “why are you watching this again? You know every line.” And I’m like…”that’s WHY I’m watching it again. It’s like visiting an old friend.”
- d. Your pets: I’ve owned four Golden Retrievers as an adult, and a Golden mix as a kid. In order, they were: Sandy, Einstein, Ranger, Copper, and my current two-year old, Gibbs, who was named after Mark Harmon’s character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, on NCIS. Semper Fi!
- e. typical breakfast: A cup of cinnamon rooibos tea and a banana blueberry smoothie made with one banana, one cup of frozen blueberries, one scoop of whey protein powder, and one cup of water. I can’t “eat” until about 10:30 or 11:00, so drinking a smoothie is my compromise.
Ally: Thanks so much for spending this morning with us, Judy. I hope you'll come back to see us again in the new year. Have a terrific holiday! But before you go, please show us your featured book, Skeletons in the Attic.
Skeletons in the Attic
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know he had. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who hopes to expose the Barnstable family secrets herself. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
“A smartly constructed mystery in the good old-fashioned and highly readable sense.” —Jack Batten, The Toronto Star
“Mystery readers will find Callie a compelling protagonist, the plot a fine, winding investigative piece that redefines the concept of ‘dirty laundry.’ A vivid production that translates to thoroughly engrossing reading right up to a completely unexpected, thought-provoking surprise conclusion.” —D. Donovan, Senior Book Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Amazon buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Skeletons-Attic-Marketville-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B078HD3WH2
Buy Links for all Judy's books:
Barking Rain Press: https://barkingrainpress.org/judy-penz-sheluk/
Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?query=Judy Penz Sheluk&fcsearchfield=Author
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/sheluk?_requestid=462623
Skeletons in the Attic
is also available in Audible.