Welcome to the seven hundred and eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is contemporary and historical mystery author Joyce T Strand. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further… but not before you check out the giveaway that Joyce has kindly offered – details after the interview. My thanks go to Della of Dellagate for arranging this interview…
Morgen: Hello, Joyce. It’s great to have you back.
Joyce: Thanks for having me on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my contemporary and historical mysteries that I write to entertain the whodunit fans.
Morgen: I love whodunits, although I rarely get them right. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Joyce: I currently live in Southern California near San Diego, although I lived most of my working life in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is why many of my mysteries are set there. Before writing fiction, for more than 25 years, I spent most of my career writing by-lined articles, whitepapers, press releases, and fact sheets. When I lost my job in 2008, I had difficulty finding a new one and decided to write fiction. It was an interesting transition!
Morgen: San Francisco’s certainly a popular location for writers. A few of them have visited this blog. You write contemporary and historical mysteries, have you considered other genres?
Joyce: With The Reporter’s Story, I have now written and published two historical mysteries and five contemporary ones. Not only do I write mysteries, but I also really enjoy reading all kinds: cozy, thrillers, historical, and procedural. If I were to change genres, I would probably write historical novels. Clavell’s Shogun is my favorite novel, and to be able to write like that would be incredible. I felt like I was actually in medieval Japan and was drawn into the chess-playing plot of intrigue.
Morgen: History was one of my worst subjects at school; trying to remember all those dates. 1066, 1665, 1666 and the twentieth-century wars is about as good as I get. You’ve self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Joyce: I have self-published. Three circumstances led me to that route. (1) I am impatient. The traditional process just takes too much time. (2) My background and career in public relations exposed me to publishing and marketing, giving me just enough background to make me think I knew something. (3) The ability to produce e-books at low-cost and publish them on Kindle and Nook at no up-front charge. Eventually the proliferation of social media added to the marketing quiver. However, I believe that the clout of a big publisher still carries considerable punch to the widespread success of an author.
Morgen: I’d agree and so I’ve self-published but am also planning to submit to publishers… the best of both worlds. 🙂 You mentioned eBooks (Kindle and Nook), how involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Joyce: I confess that I took to the e-book tablet very quickly. I am not one who needs printed-paper pages to enjoy reading. I find the e-book format convenient and alluring. I carry my Kindle with me everywhere and seldom mind waiting in doctor’s offices or in lines because I can pull it out and read. Of course, I have at least fifty books loaded and beckoning me. At the same time, I get very excited when I receive the print copies of my own books—the cover is so enhancing, and flipping through the pages seeing my words in print is exciting. OK, so maybe I still do enjoy the printed pages a little!
Morgen: Me too. I prefer eBooks to read, especially when Mrs Kindle reads to me (very useful when checking my own writing). Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Joyce: Like most mystery readers, I suspect, I started out at a young age with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys. Then I moved on to Perry Mason and was convinced I wanted to become an attorney—until I picked up a law book. I believe the most influential author at my young age in creating a mystery, however, was Agatha Christie and Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, because I enjoyed solving the puzzle. She was great at misguiding with red herrings. But I also excelled at helping Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin work with the sedentary Nero Wolfe to cultivate his orchids and solve a client’s problem. And there was Ian Fleming’s James Bond, a character to pine after. And I even managed to get through a few Mickey Spillane’s.
Lest you think of me as a reader of only mysteries, I also read the classics on my own in high school, including those by Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Falkner, and Steinbeck. To me, Steinbeck’s novels are the most memorable. But as I grew older I continued to read thrillers by John Ludlum, John Grisham, Dick Francis, John Le Carré, Tom Clancy, Stieg Larsson, John D. McDonald (love Travis McGee), Mary Higgins Clark, Daphne de Maurier, and so many more.
Today I strive to write a mystery that has the complexity of Christie’s plots, the thrills of Mary Higgins Clark’s amateur sleuths, and the drive and significance of John Grisham’s legal thrillers.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of Trixie Belden nor Travis McGee… something else to add to my Kindle. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Joyce: When I first started writing I was pleased to publish a book a year. I had much to learn about the art and craft of writing fiction and so much more to discover about the publishing and marketing of books. Now, I strive to publish two a year—a historical one such as my current The Reporter’s Story, which I publish mid-year and a contemporary mystery, which I publish the end of the year. So I am currently working on my end-of-the-year contemporary Brynn Bancroft mystery. It is the third in her trio as the un-intentioned sleuth at a Sonoma winery where she is sure to encounter crime and most likely murder as she helps her ex-husband manage the winery.
Morgen: Ex-husbands can make a crime plot in themselves. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully formed?
Joyce: To me, writing is all about re-writing. After plotting, drafting character biographies, and researching, I write a first draft with the goal of just getting 90,000 words down in a coherent story. I walk away from that complete first draft for a week or so and return and rewrite it. Typically that requires some additional research. I add some detail; delete some pages. Then I edit it myself for consistency, plot holes, timing, and character faults. And then one final pass-through before I send it off to a structural editor.
Of course, when I get it returned from my structural editor, I need to rewrite it. Sometimes that requires additional research. It always requires deleting un-necessary backstory (I love history especially and want to tell everyone about all the interesting tidbits I learned in my research!)
For The Reporter’s Story I deleted 5,000 words and then added 3,000 new words. That meant I had to edit it again myself.
Then I send it to my copy editor. You got it! Her input requires an additional rewrite. And then it’s off to the proof-reader who manages to find typos and inconsistencies.
By the time I send the final manuscript off for formatting into the book, I’ve written at least six complete drafts. I’ve often wondered if this is how the classics were penned – or are there really successful authors able to write the perfect first draft?
Morgen: Very thorough. And yes, writing is all about re-writing, as you say. I wrote my chick-lit novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List in a month but then took a year editing it and re-edited it last month in preparation for the paperback version. Do you have to do much research?
Joyce: Yes, I have to do research, especially for my historical mysteries. For both The Reporter’s Story and The Judge’s Story, I read through an entire year of daily newspapers to help with accuracy for the time periods. I also read memoirs, books on the time periods, and am constantly checking on the Internet for time-period history.
For my contemporary mysteries, I’ve had to do research on police procedure, current crimes on which I base the plots, and the professional backgrounds of my characters. For example, Brynn Bancroft runs a winery. I had to learn some details about winemaking. This has been a favorite part of my research. I do enjoy wine.
Morgen: 🙂 I don’t like wine but Disaronno and Cokes help me. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Joyce: Thanks for asking. Here are the links to my author sites. Also, you can sign up for my newsletter on my website. I send it out perhaps six times a year when I have news about upcoming books.
- Website: http://joycestrand.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoyceTStrandAuthor
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5385246.Joyce_T_Strand
- Amazon author’s page: http://amzn.to/1R23Pvl
- Blog: http://strandssimplytips.blogspot.com
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Joyce: First, thank you to all who are reading this interview. I truly appreciate your interest. I would like to add that if you really enjoy a book, please write a review. It’s quite easy to post on Amazon, and it means so much to us.
Morgen: Oh, absolutely. Fifty Shades of Grey (of which I only got to page 64 and that was doing well) got where it was by word of mouth. Having someone say they enjoyed what we do makes it all worth it. Thank you, Joyce. It’s been great chatting to you.
Joyce has kindly provided me with an excerpt (Chapter 1) of her latest novel, The Reporter’s Story…
Emma Matheson entered the police station. As a recently hired reporter for the Gazette daily newspaper in 1912 San Francisco, she had convinced her editor to allow her to cover the frequent house burglaries as part of her daily assignments. Emma was determined to make her mark and prove that females were capable of reporting front-page news.
The desk sergeant had come to look forward to Emma’s visits and considered it his responsibility to train the young reporter in the ways of police work. The new mayor’s directive to co-operate with the news media reinforced his inclination. He would often give her tips on which burglaries to pursue.
“Ya might wanta see about that one there on Clay Street. Bunch of jewelry and stuff stolen. Probably worth—maybe $8,000. It would take me sixteen years to earn that much. Maid reported it. Officer said she seemed jittery. She wasn’t sure of the amount but said the missus would return today so there might be more to it. Burglar musta know’d master and mistress of the house were gone.”
Emma studied the report. “But the maid was there and she didn’t hear anything?”
“That’s what she said.”
“What makes you suspicious? Why do you think it’s worth a follow-up visit?”
He said, “Look at the report. The maid called police. Then she gives a report to the officer who responded. But when the butler comes into the room, he said that he wasn’t so sure there’s a theft. He said to wait until the master or mistress return home to know for sure.”
Emma continued reading the report. “It says the maid claimed the house was ransacked. But the butler wouldn’t let the officer check it out. That is kind of strange.” She looked up from the report. “If I wanted to go there to talk to them, what’s the best way?”
The sergeant studied the address. “Ya probably want to grab the cable car up the hill. Then it’s mebbe a two-block walk—where them new houses are—painted different colors.”
Break-ins happened frequently in the city, but Emma had learned to listen to the veteran sergeant and if his instincts suggested she should follow up, then she would.
And now for the synopsis of The Reporter’s Story…
A house burglary in 1912 San Francisco that the victim denies happening piques Emma Matheson’s reporter instincts. Why would a businessman deny that recovered loot was his and forego collecting his $8,000 worth of stolen jewelry? Why did he fire his maid and butler who originally reported the theft? The more she pursues the burglary that wasn’t a burglary, the more she sees it as a major story, involving murder, intrigue, and smuggling. Can she solve it and write the story that could project her to become the world-famous reporter she so covets? Or will she become one of its victims?
And more about Joyce…
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it contemporary and historical mysteries set in California. Actual events and / or real people inspired all of her published seven novels, although they are definitely fictionalized.
Her first three contemporary mysteries feature protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, a public relations executive who encounters murder and mayhem at her Silicon Valley company. Jillian’s boss, Brynn Bancroft, solves the next two mysteries when she leaves her position as Chief Financial Officer to run a winery in Sonoma.
In Strand’s first historical mystery, The Judge’s Story, a Superior Court Judge strives to discover the truth behind the mystery of a robbery-murder in a small California town in 1939. In her newest mystery, The Reporter’s Story, a house burglary in 1912 San Francisco piques a young reporter’s instincts leading to intrigue and murder.
Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike her protagonist Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and enjoys exploring and writing about the growing wine region in the Ramona Valley near San Diego.
And finally, the Giveaway:
- 1st Prize: Kindle Fire 7” WiFi 8GB Black plus ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
- 2nd Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card and ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
- 3rd Prize: ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
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