Today, I’m standing in line waiting to purchase what ever seats are left for the Broadway opening of Cyrano de Bergerac. I happen to be right behind Joyce T. Strand, author of the Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries. Joyce has written two books, On Message and Open Meetings which has just been released.
Naomi: Step forward a few paces, will you please Joyce? That guy in front of you left. Thank you. Now, since we shall probably be in line here for at least another half hour, let’s start with just a brief synopsis of your book, OPEN MEETINGS – just released. In 20 words or less, tell me what it is about.
Joyce: Second mystery featuring PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest who helps local reporter investigate small-town California police following death of informant.
Naomi: That’s excellent, Joyce. I’m counting exactly 20 words
Joyce: Really? I counted 19 but then again, I counted the hyphenated one as one word.
Naomi: I counted PR-Executive as two words.
Joyce: I think technically it probably should be one.
Naomi: Are there any other words you’d like to add?
Naomi: Why are we debating this?
Joyce: No clue. It’s your blog.
Naomi: Right then. Let’s move on, step ahead. Who is your favorite character and why? You can use more than 20 words from here on out unless of course you only want to use 20 words taking into account hypens.
Joyce: My favorite all-time character is Atticus Finch. He counsels his children with tenderness, yet stands strong against his local friends and colleagues to do what he believes is right.
Naomi: He’s not in your book, is he? Seems to me he’s in that other book…what’s it called? You know, the one about that bird except there is no bird.”
Joyce: In my books, I’d choose Cynthia Anderson, the retired neighbor of protagonist Jillian Hillcrest. She also showed strength becoming a policeman at a time when it wasn’t easy, she supports Jillian, she helps solves mysteries, she nurtures her orchids, and she cooks.
Naomi: If this character called you up tomorrow and said, “Hey, let’s go do something”, what and where would you go with them?
Joyce: If Atticus Finch called me, I’d invite him and his kids to spend a day visiting. We’d go to a park, talk about current events, and I’d prepare a fun dinner with pasta and California red wine.
Naomi: Does Atticus Finch know Cynthia Anderson? What if they both called at the same time? Would you say something like “Sorry, Atti boy, I’ve got Cindy on the other line. Hold on for a moment.”
Joyce: (Stares strangely at Naomi) What are you drinking there?
Naomi: Diet coke? It might have a little rum in it though. Just a little.
Joyce: If Cynthia Anderson called me, first, we’d go check out the local orchid greenhouses. Then we’d go out to dinner — I’d probably have penne Bolognese and drink California red wine although I might start with a lemon drop. Then we’d go to a Broadway musical.
Naomi: I hope you already have tickets. What’s the hardest part about writing your book?
Joyce: Anticipating what my readers want – like my core readers want to learn a little from my mysteries, but not too much. Finding that balance has been challenging.
Naomi: Sounds like my son. Sure, I’ll learn a little but don’t overload my brain. I might not have any room left to play my video games. What’s the easiest part?
Joyce: Determining the plot and creating the characters. I read about real California cases and then fictionalize (highly!) them. I really enjoy creating characters – both good and bad guys. I can give them whatever strengths and weaknesses I choose.
Naomi: Plotting is the hardest part in my mind. My characters all sit there on the page, smoking their cigs, drinking their beers, chatting amongst themselves, all waiting for me to give them something to do. Do you do anything else besides write and if so what is it?
Joyce: Oh, yes. I have a busy life. I constantly do what my cats tell me – like feed them. Whenever possible, I attend Broadway plays – mostly in California, however. I eat Italian pastas at various great Italian restaurants, drink California red wine, tend to my orchids, and torture friends by dropping by. Oh, and I do the occasional babysitting of my daughter’s toddlers. (I intensely dislike the “G” word.)
Naomi: Your life sounds absolutely delightful. I’m going to join you and Atticus or Cynthia or whoever it is you are entertaining this week. I love pasta and shows too. What’s the ugliest thing in your closet?
Joyce: Oh, my, so much to choose from. I guess the very ugliest is the red sweater vest with sequins and green fringe. In my defense, I bought it on sale to wear during the holiday season.
Naomi: Oh no. That’s a very “G” word type thing to wear. What’s in the bottom of your purse, backpack, attaché or whatever you carry?
Joyce: Mmm, some old dried up chap stick, lots of pennies. Oh, dear, I don’t know what’s inside that crumbled up paper. Better not guess.
Naomi: Eww. Name one character in your story that is based on a real person and tell us who it is and how they are similar.
Joyce: Well, I did draw on my own experiences as a PR professional to create my protagonist Jillian Hillcrest. However, Jillian Hillcrest has characteristics I’ve always coveted, not necessarily those that I ever possessed. Jillian is professional, resourceful, patient, attractive, effective, and charming, and she is also tall (or at least taller than 5’ 3”), has thick hair, long, slender legs, and an on-pitch singing voice.
Naomi: 5’3″ is tall in my mind. Did you ever wonder if you were a little crazy for writing fantasy/fiction?
Joyce: No, I never wondered if I was crazy for writing fiction. I wonder about those who don’t read fiction. How do they face the little bumps we all encounter in – dare I call it “reality” — if they don’t delve into the world of make believe?
Naomi: Medication or alcohol. Did your friends ever wonder the same thing?
Joyce: They probably wouldn’t be my friends if they thought that writing books was crazy!!!!
Naomi: The ticket booth is now within sight of both of us so while we are preparing to plunk down hundreds of our hard earned dollars, you can find Joyce and her books on line at the following links: