Interview: Joyce Tremel

Please welcome Joyce Tremel, author of In Spite of Murder.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would either be spent at our cabin under construction on the top of a mountain where I’d be doing something hands-on like cleaning log walls or sealing tongue and groove, or in Gettysburg, which is my favorite place in the world. A couple of years ago we discovered they have a World War II weekend complete with a USO dance, which is so much fun.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I don’t think I do. Very boring, I know.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
This is a hard question! I’d have to say everyone in my local Sisters in Crime group, which is a lot more than three people.

Do you listen to music when you write?
It depends on what I’m writing. When I wrote In Spite of Murder, the book my agent is pitching now, I listened to mostly country music because that’s what my characters listened to. For a WWII based short story I started, it’s Big Band music (which I love and listen to a lot anyway). Most of the time I like it quiet, though.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
I have no idea, so I’ll just say milk chocolate because I really like milk chocolate!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

In Spite of Murder came about because I was fired from my job as a police secretary. People had been telling me for years that I should write a book with a police secretary protagonist but I couldn’t come up with the right thing. Then when I lost my job, I was pissed off enough to want to kill off a few people, so an idea and a book was born.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
My protagonists all seem to be dealing with being alone in some form. In an earlier, unsold book I wrote, my character was a young widow whose police officer husband died violently and wouldn’t let herself get close to anyone. Eventually she learned to let people in.

The protagonist of In Spite of Murder has been divorced for a year after she caught her husband in bed with a local barmaid. She has to work with her ex every day because he’s a cop. Then she meets a hunky Irishman who is renovating the local hotel and has to deal with trusting again.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Irma Jean is funny and sarcastic and doesn’t hesitate to tell people what she thinks. Her mother has been married numerous times and Irma Jean, who is recently divorced, doesn’t want to turn into her mother. She also likes doing things her own way, which isn’t always ideal.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Irma Jean is like Stephanie Plum meets Daisy Duke (from the Dukes of Hazard for those who aren’t as old as I am!). I can think of another one, but throw in someone really bull-headed and that’s Irma Jean.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
That’s easy–we just did this at the Pennwriter’s Conference. It was all our local SinC members–including Nancy Martin, plus Jennie Bentley/Jenna Bennett and Hank Phillippi Ryan. Nice group, but I think we frightened the wait staff with all our talk of murder and dead bodies!

What’s next for you?
Besides my agent submitting In Spite of Murder, I’m working on a cozy series proposal for her to submit. I’d also like to finish my WWII short story and the second Spite book. I have more ideas for books than I’ll ever have time to write, but I think that’s the case for most writers.

Thanks for having me. This was fun! If anyone has any questions, post them and I’ll be happy to answer.


Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. Her fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. She is a member of Pennwriters as well as Sisters in Crime. Her blog post “What Does a Police Secretary Do?” is the number one Google search result on the topic. You can talk to Joyce on Twitter where she’s @JoyceTremel or email her at

12 thoughts on “Interview: Joyce Tremel”

  1. Would LOVE to read a sassy police detective protagonist series, especially since you’ve had insider experience. Also interested in your cozy series…can you tell us anything about that? Thanks for such an engaging interview!


  2. Cynthia, the cozy proposal has been fun to work on. I’m tweaking a few things and I hope to send it off to my agent soon. It came about through one of the rejections we got on ISoM. The editor basically said if I was interested in writing a cozy, she’d like to see something. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but my protagonist is a female brewmaster. And there will be recipes!


  3. Hey Joyce! (waves madly) I really hope ISoM finds a home, because Irma Jean is a hoot. And I think you’d be really good with a series about a brewmaster (I would not, as I know NOTHING about beer).

    Isn’t it funny how many stories come about because of getting fired/let go? I just finished the first draft of a Laurel Highlands story related to that premise, and I’ve got notes on a second one. As long as we change the names it’s good, right?


  4. Hi Joyce, A revenge novel. I’ve dreamed of one. My first published novel started with me making fun of a meeting at work. The scene morphed and shrank, but it got me started.


  5. Hi Mary! I hope ISoM finds a home, too. For the record, I’m finding I don’t know as much about beer and brewing as I thought I did. Thank goodness for the local brewmasters. One in particular showed me several ways to kill someone in a brewery. Fun stuff.

    After the shock of losing a job wears off, I think you enter a kind of no-holds-barred-zone where you want the people who wronged you to hurt as much as you did. We’re lucky that we can take revenge out on our characters. Even if we make them unrecognizable (like the mayor in ISoM) to the real person, WE KNOW WHO THEY ARE. It’s very satisfying!


  6. Hi Theresa! I know what you mean. ISoM started out that way. As I wrote it though, it became less about me wanting revenge and more about just telling Irma Jean’s story. After a gazillion revisions, it’s nothing like how it started out.


  7. This interview is so much fun! I really hope ISoM finds a home because I can’t wait to read it. And really, where would any good mystery writer be without our current/former colleagues and employers to mine for inspiration? It’s better than reading the news!


  8. Irma Jean sounds like my kinda girl! I love the idea of revenge; it’s so satisfying on a deep, primal level. Of course, I’m much too “good girl” to be able to act on my own in real life. (Or at least that I’ll admit to in public. Hee hee hee.) I hope ISoM finds a home. It sounds tasty!


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