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Friday, August 28, 2015


Mystery and suspense author Judy Penz Sheluk sits down with us for an interview today. Learn more about her and her writing at her website/blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
The first time I read Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery. I was six or seven at the time. It took me a very long time to actually sit down and try.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My short fiction has been published since 2005, and I’ve been a fulltime freelance writer since 2003 for magazines and newspapers. I started sending out The Hanged Man’s Noose, my novel, in February 2013. I had my fair share of rejections (which I blog about very honestly in my “My Publishing Journey” on my website) before I received a contract offer in July 2014, for publication July 2015.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally published with a small press.

Where do you write?
In my home office, on my iMac, where I am surrounded by familiar things and my beautiful Philipsburg Blue walls (thank you Benjamin Moore.) I can’t imagine writing in a coffee shop.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I know it’s unusual, but I generally listen to talk radio while I write: Talk 640 Toronto and Newstalk 1010 Toronto. I switch around depending on the host and the topic.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My characters are completely fictional, though my protagonist, Emily Garland, is a runner (as I am), a freelance writer (as I am), and thirty-two (as I used to be!) Her sidekick, Arabella Carpenter, owns an antiques shop. I don’t own a shop, but I’ve been the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal since 2007. The town, Lount’s Landing, is also fictional, named after a colorful Canadian traitor, Samuel Lount, who was hanged for treason in the nineteenth century. I used to live in a town called Holland Landing, where Lount used to live, so there is that historical connection, but Holland Landing is nothing like Lount’s Landing.

Describe your process for naming your character?
Emily Garland: Emily (from Emily Climbs.) Garland (I was named after Judy Garland.)

The others just sort of come to me. I loved the name Arabella when I first wrote a short story about her in 2012. I have a notepad by the TV, by my bed, in my purse . . . basically everywhere. So if I hear a name that interests me, I’ll write it down, and then try to come up with a first or last name, as the case might be.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Fictional, with the exception of mentioning a major city.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Emily is a bacon-eating vegetarian.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m addicted to The Body Shop’s cocoa butter lip balm. I have tubes of it in my purse, on my desk, in my bedside table; I buy six tubes at a time!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I have so many favorite books. I’m going to say The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It made me laugh, cry, get angry and stand up and clap with delight. I read it this past winter, just a few weeks after my beloved Golden Retriever, Copper, died at age twelve. The ending of that book really gave me comfort.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I don’t actually have one. Every mistake I’ve made has brought me to where I am today, and I’m in a very good place right now.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lineups. I read somewhere, once, that we spend one-third of our lives standing in line. That’s probably an exaggeration, but sometimes it feels that way.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Cocoa butter lip balm. The complete works of Agatha Christie. A notepad and pen to write about the experience.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I don’t think they sell them any longer, but there used to be these gold-and-white gift boxes that held a pair of socks and a matching tie. You’d find them in stores like Zellers, K-Mart or Woolworths. Anyway, I made the boxes. Someone down the assembly line would put in the socks and tie, and someone else would put the plastic over it. It was a summer job. I lasted about a week.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Again, I’ve read so many great books and have so many favorites. But I’m going to say In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, because it has stayed with me for so many years, and because Capote really did break the mold when it came to true crime.

Ocean or mountains?

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Small town, but have to get a city fix every now and again.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently finishing another mystery, Skeletons in the Attic; I’m almost ready to send it out into the world for publishing consideration. Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s sidekick in The Hanged Man’s Noose, makes a brief appearance, but other than that, all the characters and the main town are different. I’ve also started thinking about A Hole In One, which is a sequel to Noose. In that book, I plan to have Arabella as the protagonist and Emily as her sidekick. But that could change!

The Hanged Man’s Noose
Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful nineteenth century Canadian traitor. Emily quickly learns that many are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter of the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered. Although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

Read the first 4 chapters of The Hanged Man’s Noose free and receive a 35% off coupon to buy the book! http://barkbks.me/1bLqA9Q


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks for the opportunity to visit Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. It is one of my favorite blogs (I love Cooking with Cloris) so it's quite a thrill for me!

Art Taylor said...

Really enjoyed this interview--and have to say I'm fascinated by the fact that you listen to talk radio as you write! (Certainly opportunities for drama and conflict and characters to be brewing around you all the time, I guess.)

Oh! And I had a friend who was a vegetarian with one exception: Chicago Hot Dogs!

Thanks for the chat here.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Chicago hot dogs. I love that! I have to admit, I try to eat healthy but the occasional hot dog is a guilty pleasure.
The most interesting thing about Talk Radio are the callers. One topic, many POVs. Thanks for stopping by, Art.

Angela Adams said...

Judy, we share the same pet peeve!

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Ricky Bush said...

Nice interview. I now know Judy a bit more. Six or seven is certainly an early age to decide that a novel's in the future. I listen to t.v. news while I write just to add a little noise in the house. Tried listening to blues music, since it plays such a part in my books, but find myself grabbing my harmonica and playing along too often.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Angela: The worst is the people who have 20 items in the 8 items or less aisle :-) Thanks for stopping by!

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks for stopping by Ricky. TV news isn't much different than Talk Radio. Background noise!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Hi Judy, Great interview! The Hanged Man's Noose sounds delicious. Best of luck with sales :)

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Joanne! I loved the questions, so it was a lot of fun to be part of this.