Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Interview with Dawn Eastman by E. B. Davis

Crystal Haven is the destination for tourists seeking psychics, séances, and the promise of contacting the spirit world. In this small western Michigan town, everyone knows the Fortune family. Rose is gifted with Tarot card readings. Her sister Vi is a self-proclaimed pet psychic. And her daughter Clyde is…

A cop.
When Clyde moved home for the summer to figure out her life, she did not foresee that she would end up with a couple of rescued dogs, a live-in nephew and a new romance. Her family is pushing her to join the family’s psychic business. Clyde would prefer never to have another premonition. If only her psychic insights applied to her own life…

Dawn Eastman writes A Family Fortune Mystery series. It’s a favorite of mine because it combines the best elements of cozy mystery with the paranormal, in this case, psychics. The series now has four books (in order), Pall In The Family, Be Careful What You Witch For, A Fright To The Death, and An Unhappy Medium.

The main character, Clyde Fortune, has taken a leave of absence from her job on the police force after a shooting incident. She has psychic abilities but hasn’t developed them, a factor in her job hiatus. Her family is glad she’s home, but in Clyde’s words, “Some people run away from home to join the circus; I had left home to escape one.” For a job in hometown Crystal Haven, Clyde walks dogs and pet sits when owners leave town, adding to the realness of the series and comic relief.

Because this is the type of series I’d be interested in writing, I wanted to ask Dawn about what factors are must-haves in a fun-read series.

Please welcome Dawn Eastman to WWK.        E. B. Davis                                                                                                         What’s the attraction to paranormal, supernatural, or however this series may be categorized?

I’ve always loved stories about witches, or psychics, and I also love mysteries. I thought it would be a fun twist to have a town full of psychics and a somewhat skeptical protagonist. There is always a bit of tension surrounding any psychic proclamations because even though Clyde has her own abilities, she is extremely reluctant to rely on that sort of insight. Also, the research was a lot of fun.

What do you think constitutes a fun read?

A light tone, quirky characters, and some mayhem.

Do you have pets, Dawn?

I have a Bichon-ShihTzu mix. His name is Rowdy, and he thinks he runs the universe.

I pulled into the long gravel driveway and thought yet again that if there were
any dead to wake, the rocks pinging my undercarriage would do the trick.
“I knew it! I knew you’d be home for lunch,” said Vi as she stepped forward.
I wondered how much the gravel driveway helped my aunt’s intuition.

In the above quote from your first book in the series, Pall In The Family, you balance the “woo-woo” factor with reality. So far, only three characters seem to have genuine sixth-sense abilities. The rest of the characters may be frauds. Is the skepticism of your readers via Clyde’s insights vital in hooking readers on accepting the abilities of those characters who possess a sixth-sense?

I try to write the books so that readers can decide for themselves whether the characters really have any abilities. The mystery is not solved using psychic insight and the messages from the sixth senses can be either helpful or (in the case of Aunt Vi) get them into more trouble.

Clyde’s family, the Fortunes, all participate in Crystal Haven’s paranormal tourist trade, reading tarot cards or serving as pet psychics, except for her father—a dentist. Why a dentist?

I wanted the Dad to be as normal as possible with no psychic abilities. He is tolerant of the psychic shenanigans, but tries to mostly stay out of it. Also, I wanted him to be able to make a good living without using any psychic talents.

Some of the problem with having psychic power is in not using it. Grace, Clyde’s sister “knows” the stock market, but lost her family’s and a shady client’s money when she failed to sell even though she “knew” she should have. What happened when Clyde failed to act on her abilities?

Clyde has some feelings of guilt from the past when she didn’t interpret her ability correctly and she feels she could have prevented the outcome of some poor choices. Also, she left her police job after a shooting incident that was a direct result of following her intuition.

In Be Careful What You Witch For, Clyde has a vision of a vine-covered house set in a wooded area, and she finds it. The owner, one of my favorite characters, has become Crystal Haven’s pariah due to her terrible psychic talent. What is that talent, and how does she help Clyde?

Neila helps Clyde take her talent seriously and helps her work on interpreting the dreams and messages she receives. Having a mentor who is not pressuring her to use her talent is very important to Clyde’s development. Neila’s talent involves predicting the future of a person’s children, with a sad twist.

Clyde solves mysteries in the traditional way, tracking clues and putting two and two together. But she also gets insights or intuits about clues, like many detectives do. In Clyde’s case it may be her sixth-sense abilities or it may not. Why the ambiguity?

I wanted each mystery to be solved by traditional means. It isn’t fair to the reader if he or she doesn’t have all the clues. However, Clyde does get hints occasionally, and it is her interpretation that leads her closer to – or further from – a solution.

When nephew, Seth, points out Clyde’s similarities with her mother, she freaks. Why do we all fear becoming our mothers?

I’m sure many books have been written on that topic! In Clyde’s case, she initially rejects the family business, which leads to a lot of tension with her mother. Also, due to Neila’s unusual talent, Clyde’s mom is very over-protective, which gets on Clyde’s nerves until she understands its source.

Seth extends his summer visit to permanent residence. Why does Crystal Haven feel like home to him?

He’s not really a city kid, preferring small town life. He also feels more accepted by his Crystal Haven family than by his parents.

Aunt Vi makes a bet with Clyde. If she wins, they will start a PI firm. What’s the bet and why does Clyde take it?

The bet is that if Clyde solves the murder first, Vi will stop trying to get Clyde to use her talents for business purposes. If Vi solves it first, Clyde will open a psychic detective service with Vi for one year. Clyde takes the bet because she thinks she can’t lose, and that it will keep Vi occupied.

How did your series find a home at Berkley Prime Crime?

My agent knew one of the editors at Penguin who wanted to do more work in the cozy mystery area. Fortunately, she loved the book and the premise.

Any advice for unpublished writers?

Read as much as you can, as diversely as you can. Write as often as possible. Find a good critique group of other writers and get feedback. Also, writer’s conferences are great for meeting other authors and agents.

What’s your dream vacation, Dawn?

I’ve been very fortunate and have taken several dream vacations! This summer we went to Scotland – it is stunningly beautiful there.  But a cabin in the woods with a stack of books and some knitting sounds pretty awesome.

Thank you for the interview. You asked some great questions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Book is on an Alaskan Cruise by Carla Damron

My book is on an Alaskan cruise. Without me, but that’s okay.

I found out when I heard from a reader, who said a plot point “spoke to a current thread in my life.” He read my book, The Stone Necklace, on the cruise ship, and decided to leave the novel in the ship library. “You never know who will pick it up next.”

This made me happy. While The Stone Necklace has done well in South Carolina, especially after the “One Book, One Community” gig, I want the momentum to spread. I want people everywhere to appreciate my literary offspring. Hey, I can be delusional if I want to.

I know it made it to Israel. A high school friend lives there and messaged me that he was reading the book while enjoying a shot of tequila (lime chaser, of course). I thought that an interesting pairing. How would it read with a nice cabernet?

During a business meeting for the pesky day job that I attended in DC, I learned that my book has been passed around the office there.  A few appearances this fall should give it more exposure. I’ll be in Nashville for the Southern Festival of the Book in October, and Charlotte in November.  A friend sent it to her nephew in California. So the book is trickling out of SC.

The hard thing is, what happens next is pretty much out of my control, something I HATE. Honestly, I’d like to be put in charge of my whole world, including the economy, the weather, and of course, national politics. Sadly, my power ends at the top of my driveway. Hell, who am I kidding? I have very little control over what happens in my own house (thanks to a self-assured husband and four independently-minded pets). 

And now, I have no control over the success of the book. I make myself available for appearances, respond to queries, and fill my calendar with book club appearances. I maintain a strong social media presence.  I’m not sure what else I can do. Burn incense? Attempt a voodoo chant? Pray to St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers?

No, I have to do the hardest thing. The almost impossible thing for this particular control- freak. I have to wait. I have to let things unfold as they are supposed to.  It may happen: The Stone Necklace may take flight. Or it may not. I live, and maybe I grow, in this excruciating truth: it’s out of my hands now.

You know, like the weather. And national politics.

How do you handle the waiting game?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Travel Lessons - Korean Style

by Shari Randall

Travel is a great teacher.

When you travel to a new place, it’s impossible not to pack a few expectations along with your passport.

Rome? One expects traffic, the Coliseum, and model-handsome men on Vespas.

Hawaii? Beaches. Pineapples. Volcanoes.

South Korea? The DMZ. The Korean War. Kias. 
Gangnam Style.
But when I visited my daughter and son-in-law last month in South Korea I learned a lot I didn’t expect. Here are a few of those lessons:

The most humbling lesson? I learned what it is like to be illiterate. Korea uses a complex character based alphabet called hangul. In general, South Korea does a great job of bilingual Korean/English signage in tourist spots, better than China or Japan according to my globe-trotting daughter. The airport and train stations were particularly English-friendly. But once outside these areas, I found myself groping for clues. Did that symbol mean coffee? Was it okay to enter this door? After awhile I just relaxed and relinquished control, relying on my child to guide me. Also, many Koreans, especially young people, speak English and were friendly and eager to help.

Pokemon Go? Try Tourist Go. You, as a Westerner, will be the star of many vacation photos. Those aforementioned helpful young people will want to take a selfie with you. I wondered if this was a homework assignment – ask an English speaker for a photo. My blue eyed, blond daughter took these requests in stride. I still laugh that somehow I landed in Cindy from China’s Instagram feed.

South Korea is more technologically advanced than we are. Modern Korean apartment doors open with keypads that not only spin a cool safe-cracker wheel but also play a little musical ditty I think of as “Don’t Worry! Be Happy! Your Door Is Locked.” Trains and buses are sleek and run on time. When the train approaches the station a “Rocky” fanfare plays. However, traditional courtesies remain: Conductors bow upon entering and leaving the train car.

Enjoying the Hello Kitty Cafe
As you might have guessed from the playful musical embellishments, South Korea has an inner child unafraid of self-expression. Young women who could grace the cover of any sophisticated fashion magazine sport sparkly pink headbands and Minnie Mouse bows.  Guys wear t-shirts with cartoon characters you’d see in American kindergartens. Speaking of cartoon characters, every town has a cartoon “ambassador” to brand their city. I think this is a reaction to being not many years distant from a devastating war and living so close to a country run by a madman. As my professors would say, “Discuss.”

Even so, my daughter reminds me that most Koreans are more concerned about finding a parking space in Seoul than they are about North Korea.

There are not only Hello Kitty cafes in Korea, but also sheep cafes, cat cafes, and raccoon cafes where you can enjoy your coffee while you visit with the animals.

The food was great. I ate a lot of things I couldn’t identify, but it was all good.

Except for lotus. Lotus tastes like wood.

There is one trashcan in all of gigantic Seoul train station and no paper towels anywhere. South Korea’s 50 million people share a mountainous country approximately the size of Indiana graced with ancient palaces, temples and natural beauty. Conservation and recycling are a way of life.

Chilburan in Gyeongju National Park
Because of those spectacular mountains, Koreans like to hike. Grandmas in house slippers zoomed by me on the trail up Namsan Mountain in Gyeongju National Park. In addition to the beautiful scenery there, one hikes past ancient Buddhist statues and a temple where you can stay and take part in the life of the nuns and monks. At a rest stop on the trail by a centuries old statue of the Buddha, a nun-in-training greeted us with hard candies and tea. Not only did she speak English, she was from the town where I live!

The most important thing I learned? The world is small.

What have you learned on your travels?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

After the crime: Fear and resilience

sliver of moon in night sky

by Julie Tollefson

In reading and writing, I am drawn to the dark side. Murder. Suspense. I get a thrill from peeking over the edge at the worst of human nature, knowing that at the end of the ride the payoff will be the triumph of good over evil. Nice and tidy and controlled.

Last spring, our community (population 5,000) experienced two incidents that caused me to reflect on the connections between the fiction I love and the reality I find reprehensible.

In the first, as winter gave way to spring, someone scrawled a note on the bathroom wall at my son’s school, threatening violence against the student body the next day. In light of school shootings in recent years, and the mass shooting at a business less than 200 miles away a few days earlier, the threat was seriously scary. 

Increased anxiety accompanied the increased police presence in all of our small district’s schools. Two hours after the district notified parents of the threat, I sat at my desk going through the motions of work, cleaning out drawers and organizing files and attempting other tasks that didn’t require my full attention. My thoughts were 20 miles away, with my son and my husband, a teacher in the same school. 

The next day, when I sent my child to school and my husband to work in a place that potentially could be the site of the next headline news, was even worse. My husband could have called in “sick.” We could have kept our son home. Many, many parents did. Only two students showed up for my husband’s first class of the day. His largest class size was six. District-wide, more than half of students stayed away. 

But as a family, after a lot of conversation, we agreed that we did not want to be held hostage to fear instilled by other people. It’s the kind of decision you never want to get wrong, but we thought it was important to show that we weren’t helpless.

A couple of months later, a local man allegedly shot a police detective in a nearby town, then fled through a series of carjackings. My husband and his students stayed at school under lockdown while tactical units surrounded a house a block or so away. 

Both of these incidents caused me to think about the implications for my writing. I enjoy reading a sweeping Jason Bourne-like tale of multinational intrigue, but big drama also happens on a smaller scale, locally, at the family or individual level. That’s the sort of fiction I gravitate toward in my writing, where I can explore the consequences for an individual or a community when someone breaks the social contract and commits a heinous act. 

When I started writing this post, I thought the message would be “In fiction, unlike in real life, you get to control the outcome. You get to celebrate when the good guys win.” But the real-life incidents I described above were scary, and the consequences rippled throughout the community, even when the outcomes were the best possible under the circumstances (no one attacked the school and police caught the suspect in the shooting of the detective without further harm to innocents). And that is a lesson I want to explore more deeply in my fiction. Crime at all levels leaves scars, and how people—real or fictional—heal and cope in the aftermath determines whether they and their communities let fear win or find the fortitude to be stronger and more resilient despite threats and violence.

How do real-life events influence your thinking about the fiction you read or write? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

You Can Tell a Book by its Cover By Kait Carson

Amazon released its first Kindle in November 2007. It sold out in something like a half hour, and from all accounts (and my memory) remained out of stock until April of 2008. My husband, much more tecnogeek that I am, thought it was a fabulous solution to my habit of carrying a tote bag of books everywhere. I was not sold. Reading was as much about the “hand” of the book as it was about the words on the page. Then there was the heady smell of ink and paper and the comforting weight of the book in your lap. Kindle, endless quantities of books on an electronic tablet. I really didn’t think so! Of course, the price of Kindle books did tempt and the selection was pretty good. Still….

Fast forward a few months. I was diagnosed with cancer on September 5, 2008. Not that I remember the day or anything. Ok, I frequently forget my wedding anniversary, but I never forget cancer diagnosis day. My life became round after round of doctor visits, waiting rooms, surgery, chemo, and radiation. My husband often did the book carting, but by the time I got to the chemo portion of the adventure, spending eight hours tethered to a drip line and selecting the proper variety of books for the duration, he said, “Enough.” He bought me a Kindle, had it loaded with my current TBR selections and a few others he thought I would like and gave it to me. I never did figure out where he hid my tote bag.

I was hooked. An entire library in my lap. YES! And the prices. Why, I could buy six books for the price of one. AMAZING.

I’ve been through three Kindles since and am on my fourth. So, why this testimonial to the Kindle? It’s really a memorial. Although I will continue to use my Kindle for some reading and for travel, it makes sense for home reads to return to the world of the hardcover book.

A recent blogger on another blog listed her favorite books by genre. Several piqued my interest, and when I trotted off to Amazon, the kind folks there told me I not only owned the books, I’d read and reviewed many of them. What was going on? Why hadn’t the pixels on the page and/or the titles of the books made more of an impression? Was this the onset of some other dread disease? It shook me to the core. I have a photographic memory (both a blessing and a curse and yes, I have learned how to find the off switch), yet I had little memory of these books until I read the synopsis.

That’s when it hit me. I have a photographic memory, particularly of covers. When you read a hardback (or paperback), every time you pick up the book you see the cover. It gets imprinted in your memory. The cover and the story become linked—at least in my feeble brain. That’s what I was missing. Pixels don’t seem to leave the same visual residue. That discovery caused me to take a hard look at my bookshelves. Every book on the shelf had an identifiable cover and the cover triggered the memory of the content. The cover was as much a part of the experience of reading as the story. I was not Kindle wired. Fine time to figure that out. Eight years down the road.

All of this has led me to the only bookstore in my area, Barnes and Noble. That’s where I made my second major discovery. I confess, it has been a while since I’d ventured into a bookstore. The closest to me is 35 miles away. Amazon a mere click from anyplace I happened to be. Going back to Barnes and Noble intoxicated me. All those books, the smell of paper and print. The bargain bookshelf.

Let me say that again. The bargain bookshelf. Hardback books costing far less than their Kindle counterparts. Books I had on my wish list waiting for the prices to come below double digits stared up at me from a table in the front of the store shouting, “Pick me, pick me, you know you want me.” My zeal knew no bounds. My husband went off to ask if the store had a grocery type trolley. I indulged myself with fifteen books. All on my Amazon wish list. Books with covers--covers that I would see every time I picked up the book. Books that had that indescribable “hand” and scent. Paper books.

I am in love, all over again.

Friday, August 26, 2016

More from the Detection Club by Warren Bull

More from the Detection Club by Warren Bull

Double Death published in 1939 was a product of Dorothy L. Sayers, Freeman Wills Croft, Valentine Williams, F. Tennyson Jesse, Anthony Armstrong and David Hume. John Chancellor supervised and wrote a preface and a prologue to the book.

The idea for the book came from a newspaper editor who thought it would be a good idea to create a mystery in which each chapter would be written by a different author. The authors above concurred and each independently produced a chapter. In addition, each writer wrote a note outlining his or her ideas to assist the authors who followed. Although the authors did not know the notes would be included, when John Chancellor asked to include them at the end of each chapter, the writers consented.

The mystery was interesting. I thought the characters changed considerably from chapter to chapter. As you might expect, a character seen as virtuous by one writer might embody evil in the eyes of another writer.

For me, the notes were the most interesting part of the book. They offer a view into what the authors planned in their writing. It will come as no surprise that Dorothy L. Sayers set the enterprise on a solid base in the first chapter. She left the options wide open for later writers. Interestingly authors identified different characters as set up by earlier authors to be the murderer. Just about every character was proposed to play the part of the murderer.

I recommend this as a way to take a look at the thinking and plotting of experienced mystery writers.

Verdict of 13, published by the detection club forty years after Double Death, had an entirely different list of authors.  H.R.F. Keating, Patricia Highsmith, Christianna Brand, Michael Underwood, Gwendoline Brand, Michael Gilbert, Peter Dickinson, Michael Innes, Celia Fremlin, Julian Symons, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis and P.D. James contributed never-before-published short stories for the book. Verdict of 13 is an anthology, which includes stories of detective puzzles and thrillers; a comic tale and a horrific one; realistic yarns and absolute fantasies. What unites the entries is that all of them, one way or another include some kind of a jury. It may be far from the traditional idea of a jury, but it is nonetheless an identifiable as such.

The concept is not as original as the idea for Double Death but I recommend this book highly because the writing is stellar. I am glad the Detection Club is still going strong.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Interview with Julia Buckley

by Grace Topping

A Dark and Stormy Murder
by Julia Buckley

“Lena London's literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains...

Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property.

Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good...”

Like many other writers, Julia Buckley began her career teaching school, moved on to writing and publishing books in various genres, and then turned to writing about murder and mayhem. She now has not one but two series with Berkley Prime Crime. After reading A Dark and Stormy Murder, I’m happy that she made the switch to mysteries.

Welcome, Julia, to Writers Who Kill

In A Dark and Stormy Murder, Lena London moves from Chicago to a quaint but small lakeside town to work for her favorite author, Camilla Graham. What was the hardest adjustment she had to make?

Julia Buckley
Lena takes to Blue Lake pretty quickly, but in some ways Blue Lake is like a town out of time, with sort of a Brigadoon quality. It has an old-fashioned vibe and a slower pace. People still buy postage stamps at a little window in the back of Bick’s Hardware.  If Lena ever misses anything, it’s the more fast-moving life she had in Chicago.

But as she and Camilla both acknowledge, Blue Lake is “relentlessly beautiful,” and not the sort of place you leave once you’ve been there.

Meeting a much-admired author is probably every reader’s dream come true. If you could spend time with a writer, who would it be and why?

While there are many writers that I’d enjoy meeting or sharing lunch with, there is only one writer that I ever hero-worshipped, and that is the late Mary Stewart (with some other Gothic suspense writers coming in a close second: Phyllis A. Whitney, Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier). Unfortunately all of these great writers are long gone, so I would have to travel in time to meet them.

Lena befriends reclusive Sam West. What made her trust him when everyone else suspected him of murdering his wife?

Lena is at heart a very trusting person, and innately good. Therefore she cannot necessarily see bad in others.  One has to read to find out if this quality in her helps or hinders her pursuit.

Writer Camilla Graham was a terrific character. I hope we’ll see more of her in future books. Do you see yourself expanding her character?

Of course. There is much that is not known about Camilla’s past, her late husband, James, and her family. She is almost seventy years old, so she has a whole life of memories for Lena to slowly interrogate.

Camilla’s books were said to be reminiscent of the terrific works by such writers as Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Mary Stewart. What do you think are the greatest differences between their books and the mysteries being written today?

That’s an interesting question. It’s true that you don’t find books quite like them, and many who read them now say they are too dated to be enjoyable (I disagree). In the case of Stewart, she imbued everything with a literary sensibility, so that one learned things about literature from reading her books. Because her husband was a famous geologist, she traveled the world with him, and then brought her experience and her natural flair for poetry to creating spectacular descriptions of setting.  

She also created good-hearted, intelligent heroines who had to find their own ways through danger in far-flung settings, and in the process they learned about themselves (and usually fell in love, as well).  I suppose the authors mentioned above were still writing in a time period when it was acceptable to immerse their young heroines in Gothic worlds, modernized from the days of the Brontes, but still capturing the wild and dark elements of another era.

Today’s Gothic-inspired books are modernized, as well. Still good, but different.

In A Dark and Stormy Murder, you left us with a clear lead-in to a sequel—the further adventures of Lena and Camilla. Without giving away the ending of the book, what’s next for Lena and Camilla?

Well, of course they will have to solve another couple of mysteries while they work on a new book of Camilla’s called Death on the Danube.

You wrote several books before your contract with Berkley. What was the most valuable thing you learned on the way to getting your first book published and then your contract with Berkley?

Every book was a learning experience, back to the first one I wrote in my early twenties just to see if I could finish a novel. It was terrible, but it started me on a path.  Every time I started a new book or got a new story idea, I was able to learn more about my own inclinations as a writer—my style, my preferences, my genres.

For example, I’ve written some books with darker themes, and they were reviewed well enough, but people seemed to respond more strongly when I wrote more light-hearted material. That was what made me consider sending out queries for cozy mysteries. I had enjoyed reading them ever since I discovered Joan Hess and Dorothy Cannell back in the 80s, and I got to a point that I thought I could write in that genre.

What advice would you give writers still trying to get published?

If you persist, you will most likely get there. It really is about persistence and numbers. If you send your book to only one or two agents (as I did in the early days) and they both reject the manuscript, you might come to the erroneous conclusion that it would never sell. But what if you sent it to 80 or 100 agents with the goal that you wanted to hear back from, say, 5? That is an achievable goal, and it makes the 75 rejections just a matter of recordkeeping. No need to let them be soul-crushers.

I also found that as my writing improved over the years, my rejection letters grew more encouraging. If you are getting personal notes and encouraging comments from agents, then you are very close! Don’t give up.

I also recommend reading articles about writing, going to writer-friendly conferences, and joining a writing critique group.  I’ve been with my group since 2000, and they’ve given me endless good advice, not to mention noticed tons of continuity errors in my manuscripts that helped with my revision.

In your second series with Berkley, the Undercover Dish series, your characters are hiding a secret, which really ties the hands of your main character, caterer Lilah Drake. Tell us about that series and The Big Chili.

My agent had the idea for a series with an “undercover” cook, and I proposed the Lilah story. Lilah Drake is a food artist—she loves to cook and bake, and she makes up her own recipes. She started charging people in her town for secret cooking that they could claim they made themselves.

This earned her a list of clients and a complicated series of problems.

What’s next for Lilah and her catering business?

In Cheddar Off Dead Lilah will stumble across a murder at Christmastime, and she will be forced to work with her former boyfriend, Jay Parker, in order to solve the crime. Meanwhile, she has a chance for a television spot on Chicagoland cable TV.

In your appearance on WYCC TV’s Mystery Marathon, you were quite poised. Have you made other appearances on TV? What was it like?

Well, thank you for that! I saw myself and immediately asked my husband and sons, “Do I really LOOK like that? Do I really SOUND like that?” I guess no one likes him or herself on camera.

I have taught high school for 28 years, and it has afforded me a lot of opportunities for public speaking; that may have honed my skills, but I had never been on television before.

What’s the hardest thing about promoting your books?

Really everything, but only because I am essentially shy and was brought up to believe that talking about yourself is rude—a general belief espoused by my parents and in my Catholic School, which downplayed the ol’ sinful pride.

So promotion continues to feel alien to me, though I force myself to do it and have made some really nice friends at conferences and online. It helps, and I’m getting better, but I still post things with the fear that I’m irritating everyone and the world in general is sick of hearing about my book.

You live in a big city but write about small towns. Where would you prefer to live, big city or small town?

I actually live about fifteen minutes outside of Chicago, so I have a nice compromise of a setting—a suburb that can feel like a small town but is a quick El ride away from the skyscrapers.

However, I have family members who live in small towns, and my grandparents used to have a little property in a small town in Michigan that became sort of a family retreat.  Because I’m not a huge fan of planes, my husband and I honeymooned in a little resort town similar to Blue Lake that was just about a three hour ride from Chicago.

The nice thing about the Midwest is that nothing is far away—not the city, not the country. When I visit my dad, I drive for about an hour and a half and suddenly I’m in farmland with totally open sky.

I’ve experienced both settings and I love them both. I once told my mom that I wished I lived way out in the country, and she laughed. “No you don’t,” she said. “You’d miss all the activity after one day.”  I thought about it, and she was right, which is why I’m probably in pretty good shape right where I am.

Thank you, Julia, for joining us on Writers Who Kill.

A Dark and Stormy Murder and The Big Chili are available at your favorite book seller. Cheddar Off Dead is being released September 6, 2016 but is available for pre-order.

Visit Julia at her website, or her Facebook page, Julia Buckley Mystery Novels, or see her on Twitter @juliabucks.

To view her interview on WYCC TV, go to her website: