Welcome to my 2019 Author Interview Series. This is the third year that I have featured authors on my blog. Each year, I’ve tried to provide them with unique questions that will tell you, fellow authors, bloggers and readers, a bit more about them.
This year will be interesting. I’m providing each author with a set of 20 questions and they will choose ten of them to respond to. This should provide some flexibility for them and some variety for those that read each interview.
I’m pleased to kick of the series with author Judy Penz Sheluk. I hope you enjoy hearing her story.
- What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I listen to talk radio when I write, either Newstalk 1010 or Talk 640 – both are Toronto-based stations. Maybe it comes from years of working in a corporate world where there was always background noise, but I can tune out (and tune in) talk radio easier than I can music, with the added bonus of being well informed on local issues, politics, and breaking news. As a writer, I also get a lot of ideas listening to talk radio. It’s fascinating how many differing points of view callers will express on a single topic.
- What is the first book that made you cry?
Believe it or not, it was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I was young, maybe grade four, and living in a pre-24/7 news cycle. I remember reading Capote’s description of seeing the corpses lying in the funeral home, “their heads encased in sparkling white cotton, and swollen to twice the size of blown-up balloons” and crying. That’s powerful writing, and it’s the first time I realized that words could paint a picture. I’ve never forgotten that book, and reread it as an adult.
Do you view fellow authors as competitors, allies or are there some combination of the two? Why?
I like to think we are allies. I’m a firm believer in authors helping authors, and have a New Release Mondays spot on my blog to showcase the works of other authors. http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/category/new-release-mondays/. I’m also on the Board of Directors for Crime Writers of Canada, representing Toronto/Southern Ontario. It’s a nominated, but volunteer position, and it can be a lot of work, but it’s proven to me that most authors are supportive of one another, at least in the mystery world. I’ve also volunteered to be the Left Coast Crime CWC Member liaison for LCC Vancouver, and I’m really looking forward to building more relationships when there. Together we are stronger.
- What writing advice have you found to be the most useful? (Book, blog, etc.)
I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this question: “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.” I think of that whenever I’m having one of those “don’t want to, don’t like it” kind of days.
- Describe your writing space.
When I’m at home, a bedroom converted into an office, with Benjamin Moore Phillipsburg Blue walls and my book covers as wall art. There’s also painting by an old friend, Vladymyr Ruzylo. The technique is called assemblage and it’s and abstract of water lilies. It’s very beautiful. My desk is covered in notebooks, three types of glasses (reading, computer, computer-reading if wearing contacts), and there’s a dish of dog cookies for Gibbs, who likes to sleep under my desk when I’m writing. And I always have a cup of herbal tea on the go (Tetley Warmth, cinnamon rooibos).
When I’m at our camp in Northern Ontario on Lake Superior (the U.S. side is the Upper Peninsula), at the kitchen table watching the water.
- What tools do you use to write? (Computer, notebook, software, etc.)
At home, on my iMac, but I have a paper notebook (always with a pretty cover) for each work in progress. I’m always scribbling down ideas. I even have a notebook on my bedside table, along with an LED pen so I can write ideas down in the middle of the night without turning on the bedroom lamp.
At the camp, on my iPad, which requires a lot of editing once I’m back home, but is quite freeing since internet there isn’t terrific so I’m not always checking some random fact in the guise of research. The notebooks are always with me.
- Do you outline? Are you a ‘pantser’? What techniques do you use to get started on a story?
I’m a complete pantser, though I’ve tried to outline, it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I start with a premise and then build from there. For example, in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the premise starts with a greedy developer who comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street, thereby threatening the livelihoods of all the local indie shops and businesses. We’ve all seen that happen, and I thought, what if someone was willing to murder to stop it?
- If you could interview a famous author, who would it be and what three questions would you ask him/her?
I’m a huge fan of John Sandford’s Prey and Virgil Flowers series and have read every single one of the books in those two series. His pacing and humor is second to none, and he allows his characters to age and mature. If I actually had the opportunity to sit down with him, I’m not sure if I’d be able to speak, let alone ask three questions. But I’d like to know how long it takes him to write a first draft, whether he loves fishing in the way Virgil does or clothes in the same way Lucas Davenport does, and of course, I’d have to ask what his writing process is in the hopes that some of that magic could wear off on me.
- What book(s) are you currently reading?
I tend to read multiple books at the same time, depending on where I’m doing the reading. Currently reading Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan on Kindle, The Collectors by David Baldacci in hardcover, and Still Water by Amy Stuart in paperback.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
In the summer, I belong to two ladies golf leagues (9 holes) and typically play 2 to 3 rounds of 9 each week. I’m not particularly good, but I’m also not particularly bad, which means that low handicappers will still play with me and not get too frustrated and high handicappers will play with me and not feel intimidated.
I have a 3 ½ year old golden retriever, Gibbs, named after Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. We don’t have a fenced yard, so Gibbs gets three good walks a day, sometimes in the local forest. I also run (or should I say plod) three or four days a week, three miles or so. I used to train for and run marathons and half marathons, and sometimes I think, “I’d like to run another marathon.” Then sanity sets back in.
Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic; Past & Present). Her short stories appear in several collections.
Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.
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