Friday, 13 November 2015

Dancing with Myself JUDY PENZ SHELUK interviews JUDY PENZ SHELUK

Before the main event, a little something to get the juices flowing. Luca Veste's debut novel, DEAD GONE is available for free today if you don't already have it. You should snap it up as soon as you see this.

And now, the main event. A big welcome to Judy Penz Sheluk. If you have any questions, pop them in the comments. Here goes. Enjoy the dance...

Well, first off, I’m not a very good dancer. Think of Elaine on Seinfeld and you’ve got the general idea, but I’m practicing in case I ever get an invite onto the Ellen DeGeneres Show. (Hey, you put an idea out in the universe…) Anyway, with that in mind, I’m going to ask myself the sort of questions Ellen might ask:

How did you come up with the premise for The Hanged Man’s Noose?

I always start every story with a “What if this happened?” The Hanged Man’s Noose (US, CAN) tells the story of Toronto journalist Emily Garland, who is sent on assignment to the small town of Lount’s Landing. Her objective is to cover the story of a proposed mega-box store on the town’s Main Street. Emily quickly learns that not all the local business owners are on board and some, to their great misfortune, are more vocal than most. Murder and mayhem ensue.

I’ve seen firsthand how development can divide a community. I simply took that premise, asked myself “What If?” and took it one step—okay, a few steps—further.

How much of Emily is based on you and your life?

Emily is a freelance writer/journalist. I’ve been a freelance writer and editor since 2003, so we have that in common, though I’ve yet to be offered a lucrative assignment. Emily is a runner, and I’ve plodded my way along a few marathons, half marathons, and 10k’s over the past fifteen years. Emily is a bacon-eating vegetarian. I’m not a diehard vegetarian, though I do try to eat mostly vegetarian. That said, I’ve never quite been able to give up bacon. As for her age, Emily is thirty-two—and I used to be.

Where does the title come from?

The Hanged Man’s Noose is the name of the local pub on the town’s Main Street. The town of Lount’s Landing is fictional, but it is named after Samuel Lount, a real life Canadian politician who was hanged for treason in the nineteenth century. The bar’s owner is a bit of a history nut.

You categorize The Hanged Man’s Noose as an “amateur sleuth mystery with an edge.” What do you mean by that?

When people think of amateur sleuth mysteries, they often think of the traditional cozy, the sort of book where there’s a white picket fence and a cat on the cover. The Hanged Man’s Noose shares some cozy traits—the protagonist and her sidekick are amateur sleuths, in this case a journalist and an antiques shop owner, there’s minimal bad language, and the violence takes place off screen. But there are no cats, crafts or cookie recipes, no ghosts to help solve the crime, and the plot is a bit twisty. So I came up with the label “an amateur sleuth with an edge.” I even created a Goodreads Listopia category for it. Maybe the term will go viral!

What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?

A few years ago, author Greg Fallis was my instructor for Mystery II in the Fiction Writing certificate program at Gotham Writers Workshop. He critiqued a short story I had written and commented: “Remember, to your characters, this isn’t a story.” I’ve never forgotten that advice.

What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Definitely my own advice, which was, “You can always write a book later.” It would be many years before later came.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Join an association that ties into the genre you write. I personally belong to Sisters in Crime (International/Toronto/Guppies), Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Each of these organizations has offered me opportunities, information, resources, and most of all, the friendship and support of like-minded individuals. Membership really does have its privileges.

Your blog is a sounding board for new and established writers, and you speak candidly about the publishing process. What do you hope readers take away from your posts?

Ideally, my blog offers other writers equal measures of reality, inspiration, advice, and above all, hope. Writing is a lonely pursuit. There’s plenty of rejection. It’s important to know we aren’t alone. I also interview other authors to learn more about their work and their experiences so my readers are offered more than just one perspective. In the new year, I’ll also be interviewing some publishers.

Do you have anything else to add?

Hmmm. Well, it would be great if folks wanted to read The Hanged Man’s Noose. I’d also love to invite anyone interested in the writing life to sign up for my blog at It’s a weekly blog, I never sell or share emails, and you can unsubscribe at any time. What’s to lose?

Judy’s not much on leaving her office, but she is a bit of a social media butterfly. Find her on:

Triberr (you might want to follow or join her tribe, The Writing Journey)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much Nigel, for inviting me to dance. I'll let you know if Ellen calls!