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Thursday, August 30, 2012
Gloria's Interview with Judy Hogan
Judy Hogan is our guest today on WWK. I first met Judy at Malice Domestic in 2009. Since that time we've become friends.
Judy's debut novel, Killer Frost, published by Mainly Murder Press is now available. It's an academic mystery taking place in a historically Black College called St. Francis in Raleigh, North Carolina. Penny Weaver agrees to fill in for a fired teacher and finish out the term teaching a remedial English class. She discovers the college has many problems including too many students not functioning well enough to be there. A few weeks into what seems like a hopeless teaching situation, there's a murder and her boss is the prime suspect.
I found Judy Hogan's characters well developed. Her writing and plot kept me intrigued and wanting to read just one more chapter before going to bed. She also kept me guessing to the end on who the murderer was.
GA Your setting made me think it was an actual college. Is St. Francis based on a real college or a composite of colleges
you've attended or taught at?
JH I used some details from a black college in Raleigh, where I taught remedial English from
2004-2007. It helps in setting a scene to have a real place in mind. The events are fiction, but
the situation in which I found myself is pretty much the way it was when I began. I started
six weeks into the semester, found the students hard to motivate, and many reading at grade
school level. I was shocked they had high school diplomas, much less allowed into college.
If they were reading and writing at middle school level, I could usually get them motivated
enough to pass college-readiness tests by the end of the semester, but grade school level? It
seemed cruel to give such young people the hope of a college degree when they were bound
GA I like your characters, especially Penny Weaver. How much of yourself is in her?
JH I use myself a lot for her, although I'm single, and Penny is happily married to a Welsh
policeman. Penny is probably both wiser and more foolish than I am. Perhaps she's how I
wish I were; always able to solve problems. However, she gets involved with murderers,
which I've avoided so far, though I tend to take emotional and financial risks. She's also
more comfortable having a roomful of people in her house. I like company sometimes, but I
thrive on time alone.
GA What plans do you have for the next book in the series?
JH I've written the next book, which takes place at a farmers' market, Farm Fresh and Fatal,
and sent it to Mainly Murder Press. Once I sell 300 copies of Killer Frost, it
will be considered for publication.
GA Many of your characters are close friends. Were there previous books with these
characters? If so, why start with this book?
JH I began my series in 1991 with The Sands of Gower. It takes place in Wales in a
bed and breakfast where Penny meets Kenneth Morgan, whom she'll marry in a
subsequent novel.Killer Frost is the sixth in the series. It was a finalist in the St.
Martin's Press Malice Domestic First Best Traditional Mystery in 2011. I'd tried the
previous ones in that contest without luck and decided to go with my strength once I was a
GA I'd love to read those early books because I'm intrigued by the characters. Do you have
plans to get them published?
JH I'm hoping to get them into print either through a small press or Create Space once I see if
people are interested in more books about Penny Weaver and friends.
GA I know you live in North Carolina on a small farm. Tell us about that.
JH In 1998 I bought three acres and the shell of a small brick home in the village of Moncure
not far from Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. My dream for my old age was to grow
vegetables, keep chickens and own a home. My farm is tiny. On a half-acre, I have an
orchard with figs, peaches, pears and apples, chickens, vegetables and flower gardens.
Farming is good exercise; preparing the soil with a shovel, stretching to pick figs, and using
a weed eater and mower. I'm 75 and because I can't live on Social Security alone, what I
grow helps stretch my income. In the summer, I make soups, stews and spaghetti sauce to
freeze. I also can pears, applesauce, fig and pear preserves, and freeze raspberries and
blueberries for the winter. It's easy to get behind, but I get some help from a few Duke
University students, who volunteer for odd jobs, and friends who help me split wood for the
woodstove in the winter. My neighbors feed my hens when I'm away. Farming is a good
balance to writing, reading and computer work. I'm in better health than I've ever been.
GA When is your book launch and other upcoming plans?
JH My book launch will be on my farm Sept. 22; an inexpensive launch with people bringing
pot-luck dishes and contributing drinks. I'll provide bread, tea, coffee, cheese, applesauce
and fig and pear preserves. I've scheduled readings in three local libraries, three local
independent bookstores and at two farmers' markets where I'll be signing and selling.
I'm grateful I received favorable blurbs for Killer Frost's back cover from Louise
Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Kaye Barley. It made a huge difference in getting
reviewers interested and bookstores and libararies wanting me to do an event.
Killer Frost is available through MainlyMurderPress.com and Amazon.com
E-books are available both at Amazon for Kindle and Barnes and Noble for Nook.