If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


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, JuliaBuckley.com 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: www.JuliaBuckley.com


Kait said...

Great interview! Julia, just reading about two series makes me tired. You carry it off with great aplomb. Can't wait to dig in.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Julia, for joining us at Writers Who Kill. You amaze me writing two series!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I enjoyed reading Dark and Stormy Murder.

Shari Randall said...

Hi, Julia, I am also a big fan of the Gothic and adored reading Mary Stewart when I was younger. I would love to revisit her work (when I finish my manuscript) but part of me wonders if I would respond differently at this point in my life.
Best wishes with both of your series,
Shari (a fellow Catholic school survivor)

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for your excellent advice to new writers.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Julia. I can't wait to read your book Dark and Stormy Murder. I'm putting it on my TBO list. I used to love Mary Stewart, too, and still have her books so I think I'll start rereading them.

KM Rockwood said...

Mary Stewart is way up there on my list of favorites, esp. the Merlin trilogy!

Thanks for sharing so much with us about your series. They sound wonderful.

Best of luck (although I know there's really not much luck involved--it's mostly hard work & perseverance!) with your books.

Julia Buckley said...

Kait, thank you! It is a little daunting to write two series, but now I love my characters and will be sad to give up either of them.

Grace, thanks so much for hosting me on the blog!

Margaret, thank you for reading!

Shari, you might respond differently, but I think you will still love the Mary Stewart books. My sister just re-read AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND and was just in heaven. She had forgotten how good they were.

Warren, the advice is totally based on my own lessons learned over twenty years. :)

Gloria, I highly recommend them as re-reads. They just never lose their charm.

KM, I also read the Merlin Trilogy and was absolutely captivated, although it's been almost forty years since I've read it. I recall being enchanted by her description of the moment King Arthur was conceived.

Thanks to all of your for reading the interview!

carla said...

I'm a fan of Mary Stewart, too. Impressive body of work you have!

E. B. Davis said...

Great interview, Grace. I can see there will be additions to my TBR pile.