Interview: Judy Penz Sheluk

Summer Reading Bonanza News: Read through to the end to see the Week 3 winner announcement!  Commenters on today’s post will be entered into next week’s drawing.

Please welcome Judy Penz Sheluk, author of The Hanged Man’s Noose.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
It would definitely be a hot, cloudless, summer day. I’d start off with something physical, a quick round of golf (nine holes walking) or a five-mile run. I’d come home and write my daily quota of 1,000 words and it would be so easy that I’d write another 1,000 just to have a day’s worth in the book bank. That done, I’d chill out on the back deck with my husband and a glass of white wine, preferably Australian chardonnay.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Hang Man's NooseBGNot sure if it’s a signature, but I’m with Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. Cheese pizza, no other toppings. I could eat a slice of cheese pizza every day for lunch or dinner and never tire of it. Of course, I’d have a side salad with lots of greens and tomatoes just to be healthy!

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
L.M. Montgomery. She’s best known for her Anne of Green Gables series, but when I was about eight, a friend of the family gave me a hardback copy of Emily Climbs. It’s the story of Emily Starr, a young girl who wants nothing more than to be a writer, and in fact, grows up to be one. I knew the minute I read that book that I wanted to be a writer, too. I still have that book on my bookshelf, though the dust cover is in tough shape.

Truman Capote. I can remember reading In Cold Blood when I was about ten and thinking, WOW, that’s how you paint a scene using nothing but the written word. There’s a movie about his time writing the book, Capote, which is phenomenal. I’ve seen that movie a dozen times.

Barry Dempster (http://www.barrydempster.com). He’s an award winning Canadian poet and author, and I’m proud to call him a friend. Barry taught a Creative Writing Workshop back in 2003, and I signed up for it. That workshop changed my life. I wrote my first short story, “Cleopatra Slippers,” in his class, and it was published in THEMA, a New Orleans literary publication. I stopped dreaming of becoming a writer, and became one. I’ve never looked back.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes, but mostly I listen to talk radio. In Toronto there are two stations I listen to: Newstalk 1010 and Talk 640. I alternate between the two, depending on the host and the topic being covered. And sometimes I just need silence.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Semi-dark chocolate. The Hanged Man’s Noose is an amateur sleuth mystery, and it’s set in a small town, but it’s an edgier read than a traditional cozy.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
It actually started off as a short story in one of Barry’s creative writing workshops. As a short story, it wasn’t particularly good, but I loved the main character, Arabella Carpenter, and I loved the town I’d created. On Christmas Eve 2012, I decided to expand it into a novel. That took another year and a whole lot of revisions, and in end, Arabella became a sidekick to Emily Garland, the protagonist. But I still love Arabella. I’m currently outlining the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose where she’ll be the protagonist and Emily will be along for the ride.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Arabella has a saying: Authenticity matters. I think in all my writing, that philosophy runs below the surface.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Emily Garland is a Toronto-based thirty-something freelance writer who’s tired of reporting on the same old condo stats. Her boyfriend has dumped her for a personal trainer. Her mother recently committed suicide, and Emily secretly blames Garrett Stonehaven, a prominent real estate developer, for her death. But instead of being jaded, she just wants to start over somewhere new. She gets her chance when she’s offered a long-term assignment in Lount’s Landing, where, coincidentally, Stonehaven has plans to covert an old elementary school into a megabox store.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
In appearance, a young Demi Moore, with the same angular features and long, straight dark hair. In personality, a bit like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, in that Emily is also a jogger, not much on fashion, and is determined to get to the truth, no matter the cost to her at a personal level. She’s also a freelance writer who has covered the housing beat for a long time. I’m not famous, but I’ve definitely lived that life. So part of Emily is me.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
In alphabetical order, some of my favorite authors: Agatha Christie, Michael Connelly, Tana French, Sue Grafton, Louise Penny and John Sandford. I thought about inviting Truman Capote, but I think he’d either dominate the conversation, or sit in a corner and brood because he wasn’t the center of attention!

What’s next for you?
I’m just about finished Skeletons in the Attic, another amateur sleuth mystery, but this one is set in a different town than The Hanged Man’s Noose, and with the exception of Arabella Carpenter, who makes a minor appearance, all the characters are different. I hope to send it out for publishing consideration by Labor Day. Then I’ll get serious about A Hole in One, the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose. I’m also hoping to write a couple more short stories. It’s great fun to be part of an anthology.

***

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of The Hanged Man’s Noose (July 21, 2015, Barking Rain Press). Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications and anthologies, including The Whole She-Bang 2 and World Enough and Crime. She also contributed to Bake, Love Write, a dessert cookbook featuring recipes from 105 authors.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry. She is currently the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, and the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime-Guppies, Sisters in Crime-Toronto, and Crime Writers of Canada.

Find Judy at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life. You can also sign up for Judy’s quarterly (or so) newsletter here.

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, is scheduled for publication July 21, 2015. Click here to sign up to receive the first 4 chapters FREE and get a 35% off coupon to buy the book!

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22 thoughts on “Interview: Judy Penz Sheluk”

  1. What an interesting series of questions and answers. Hummm — semi-dark chocolate; an interesting description.

  2. Thanks Barbara, Doward and Art for taking the time to read my interview. I loved the questions, especially the ones about what writers to invite to dinner. I have so many favorite writers, it was hard to decide! Oh, and Barbara — there is nothing better than a small little dish of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a glass of Chardonnay. Heaven!

    Thanks Mary, for inviting me. I love the Mysteristas blog, so it was a real thrill for me.

  3. Thanks for visiting! It’s fascinating that your stories feature different protagonists. Looking forward to checking them out!

  4. Judy, thanks so much for visiting. I am beside myself right now because I also LOVED the Emily Starr books and re-read all three until the covers fell off. (Ilse! Teddy! “The flash”!)

    Congratulations on your book release/birthday month! Looking forward to reading The Hanged Man’s Noose.

  5. Flashlight, not candlelight. But I did start buying blank books to write in (since I didn’t have a cousin Jimmy to procure them for me). How about you? 😄

  6. No cousin Jimmy for me either, Cynthia. I still buy blank books to write in, and they have to have a pretty cover! I suspect only writers buy those overpriced blank books.

  7. Hi Kristina, I find music distracting — I get singing along or get a song stuck in my head. Talk Radio, I can sort of drown it out until something piques my interest. I get lots of ideas from Talk Radio as well, the way callers react to things.

  8. I’ve been behind since losing my mom, going on our cruise and cleaning out her apt. And doing school visits! Playing catch up! Should be finished by next week! Glad I found the interview! Sheri

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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