Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose and A Hole In One) and The Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons In The Attic).
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in several collections. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life.
How did you become interested in writing fiction?
I’ve been writing stories “inside my head” since I was a little girl, walking to and from elementary school. I honestly thought everyone did that. It wasn’t until I was married and commuting to work an hour each way that I said to my husband, Mike, that I should start writing down some of the stories (some would take a week to complete in my head). And he was like, “you write stories in your head?” He bought me a creative writing course for my birthday, and for the first time, I started writing down my stories.
How did you get published in the first place?
My first published credit was a flash fiction story in THEMA, a New Orleans based literary journal. It was called “Sylvia’s World” and it was in the Spring 2004 “Off on a Tangent” issue. I also started freelance writing in 2003, and left my secure day job in May 2003 to follow that dream. I’ve never looked back.
What draws you to writing mystery?
It’s absolutely my go-to genre to read, that and suspense. I read other things, but I love a good mystery. I grew up on Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Ed McBain. . . so many influences.
I loved your first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, which features an antique shop. You have your own special form of expertise in antiques. What is that?
Thank you, it’s wonderful when someone loves your work. I’ve been the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal (www.antiquesjournal.com) since 2008. Prior to that I was the Editor for Antiques & Collectibles Showcase (2005-2008), which was bought out in 2008. As luck would have it, NEAJ was looking for an editor. Timing is everything!
What draws you to antiques and collectibles?
My husband, Mike, started furnishing his house with antique furniture because it was less expensive than buying new. When we met, he’d take me antiquing and I love history and research. When I started writing for magazines, I took the path of antiques as a place to start. Back in 2003, antiques were in their heyday, thanks to PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. Our house is a mix of antiques and non, but I love that antiques really are green. They’ve lasted for generations without going into landfill. You can’t say that about much made today.
Your books have incredible twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. How do you think of such things? Do you plan everything out in advance, or do you just write “by the seat of your pants”?
It’s a bit of a combo. I start with a basic premise, i.e. in The Hanged Man’s Noose, a greedy developer 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 independent shops. We see that happening everywhere. . . but then I kind of pants my way through the chapters. When I’m working on the first draft, I try to write a chapter a day, and leave every chapter with a bit of a hook – not just for the reader, but to encourage me to come back the next day and write. I generally have no idea where the story is going until about three-quarters of the way through, and then I know how it has to end, at which point I go back and layer in all the clues and backstory. But an actual outline? Can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like.
You contributed recipes to two different cookbooks by various authors: Bake, Love, Write and We’d Rather Be Writing. Do you enjoy cooking? What recipes did you contribute?
I’m a terrible cook – to me food is to keep you going and I don’t “lust” after it if you know what I mean (though I LOVE cheese pizza). And I don’t bake (don’t even own a mixer) and the recipe for the Blueberry Lemon Pudding Cake is from a friend. . . but I do make the Easy Peasy Veggie Lasagna in Bake, Love, Write.
Fun fact: I post recipes for the food mentioned in my books (and the two cookbooks) on my website, http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/recipes/. They are on there in PDF format to print off.
The cookbooks offer advice on writing and relationships. What advice do you find most valuable?
Well, I suppose that’s depends what advice you’re looking for! Here’s what I wrote in Bake, Love, Write:
What’s your recipe for a lasting, loving relationship?
Trust and respect each another. Without trust and respect, you don’t have a relationship.
What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Make time to write every day. The writing muscle is like any other muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
You have edited several journals. What do you do as editor?
Being the editor of a magazine involves many things. Planning the issue so it’s cohesive. Assigning content to writers. Editing that content. Paying the writers without going over budget. Writing all the non-bylined “filler.” Making sure the photos are hi-res enough. There’s a lot to it beyond “editing.” But I love it, and I think I’m good at it.
What authors have especially influenced your own writing career?
In addition to those already mentioned? So many! Reading is absolutely the best teacher and I read at least one book a week, as well as short stories in anthologies, and in magazines like Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. But I’d say that the late, great Sue Grafton really hooked me with her alphabet mysteries. She will be greatly missed. And John Sandford is the absolute master of pacing. I’m in awe of him. I read Sandford and think. . . ah. . . that’s how it’s supposed to be done.
Visit Judy at the following links: