1.Your new mystery sounds intriguing. I see from your bio that you published a YA novel when you were only 18 years old. What was that experience like for you? And what led you to move into the suspense genre?
I started writing a young adult novel, Face-Off, when I was 16, scribbling in a notebook during high school study halls. It was about twin teenage brothers who compete on the hockey rink for their father’s approval. I entered it in the Avon Flare Young Adult Novel Competition and heard that it won when I was a college freshman. It was both exciting and intimidating, trying to rewrite the novel to meet their editorial requirements while taking college classes and attempting to make new friends in the dorm. I had typed the original draft on an electric typewriter, so the whole manuscript needed to be retyped. I handwrote all the editing changes on the hard copy and my dad retyped it for me on his new word processor. It was then published by Avon Flare, under my maiden name Stacy Drumtra. This was before the Internet was popular, in the early 1990s, so authors didn’t promote themselves in the same way that they do today. I did one book-signing and that was about it. I switched to mystery and suspense in my mid-twenties, as I’d grown up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and I still enjoyed reading those genres as an adult.
2.How did you come up with the idea for your character in the mystery—Kris Langley?
I began my journalism career as an obit writer and editorial assistant for a daily newspaper, and one of my tasks was compiling the 25 Years Ago Today column. I was trying to come up with an idea for a mystery novel, and I thought, what if a rookie editorial assistant stumbled across an unsolved murder on the microfilm? What if she was haunted by a tragedy in her own past? What if she becomes obsessed with solving this old case as a way of redeeming herself from her past mistakes? I started writing, and named her Kris Langley. Kris will do what needs to be done to get the story, but she has a great deal of empathy for her sources and wants to get it right. Whether she’s writing an obit or a news story, she feels that people are trusting her with their words and their personal histories. As a result, Kris is very hard on herself when she makes a mistake.
3. Can you share a little bit about your current WIP?
It’s called Sign of the Messenger and is the first in a planned series. Burned-out R.N. Deirdre Sheridan has quit her job to become a massage therapist, hands-on healer and partner in a metaphysical center. As a result, she meets a client and new mother whose murder drives Deirdre toward bringing a killer to justice, even if it means exposing her hidden psychic gifts. The manuscript was a recipient of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant. Deirdre is serious and introspective, but she has a quirky partner named Crystal who offers comic relief.
4. Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?
I like to write about things that interest me. I’ve always enjoyed Greek and Roman mythology, and found it fascinating that ancient cultures created these stories about magical gods and goddesses. That interest made its way into Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, as the murder victim, Diana Ferguson, painted intriguing scenes inspired by Greek and Roman myth – scenes that ultimately will provide clues about her death. My interest in energy work, alternative medicine, and psychics led me to start writing my WIP Sign of the Messenger, and because of my interest in those subjects, I think it would be fun to develop those characters into a series. Face-Off resulted from my high school passion for ice hockey.
5. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I tend to write in the morning when my family is sleeping, and I work for about an hour at night. About 5-7 days a month, my parents or in-laws will help out with the kids, and I’ll work steadily from about 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. I also write in a notebook and carry manuscript pages around the house with me to edit when I get time. Sometimes, I’ll steal a few moments on my laptop in my walk-in closet. My laptop isn’t equipped with e-mail or the Internet, so that I’ll have no excuse to procrastinate on writing. There really isn’t a typical writing day at this time of my life, but I make steady progress by chipping away at it.
6. Promotion is a big part of the writing world these days. Tell us what you do to promote your work, and what that’s like for you?
It takes a great deal of time, and with the book launch, I’m spending much more time on promotion than fiction-writing. I launched http://www.stacyjuba.com over the summer, and it took me awhile to write all of the content. I also created a database of book reviewers, magazines, newspapers, book-related web sites, and blogs that do author interviews or accept guest articles. Currently, I’ve been concentrating on sending out review copies, publicizing my local events and signings, and building an on-line presence. I have six speaking engagements coming up for the remainder of the year – a library talk, two bookstore talks/signings, a debut author panel at the New England Crime Bake mystery writers conference, and two book club meetings. Once I get the book launched, I’ll concentrate on e-mailing bookstores and libraries, and I will probably set up a blog tour for sometime in 2010. I’m on Facebook, and plan to do more with Good Reads and Twitter next year. But, I want to be an author, not a full-time publicist, so after the book launch frenzy, I’ll concentrate on one or two big promotion tasks a month and get back to my work-in-progress for awhile. But, you do have to be organized and have a marketing plan with short and long term goals, especially if you’re with a small press, as authors need to take an active role in getting their books noticed.
7. From the positive reviews you have received, I can tell that you have definitely tapped into something that readers can relate to. Did you feel that you had found your niche when you began this book?
I definitely feel that mystery fiction is my niche. My first book Face-Off, a non-mystery, was successful and it has had a lot of longevity. But, for the long haul, young adult drama was not my niche. I kept trying to write literary-type YA fiction, but it wasn’t coming as naturally as Face-Off did and I wasn’t getting anywhere. When I started Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, I couldn’t believe how easy the writing was. The story just flowed out, chapter by chapter. I always liked a structured classroom as a child, and I think that’s why I like writing mystery novels – because of the structure. I can be creative within that structure, but mystery readers expect certain ingredients like a murder, suspects, clues, red herrings, and escalating tension. As the author, I know from page one that I need to include these aspects and I appreciate having a road map to guide me.
8. From your website, I see that you practice the healing art of Reiki. Can you tell us a little about that?
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us. If one’s life force energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Many people practice Reiki professionally, but I just do it for friends and family. It’s very easy to learn and the first level is often taught in a one-or two-day class. It’s a great tool for anyone to have. For example, if you’re a parent, you can use it to comfort a sick child and provide them with an extra healing touch. It’s a mystery how Reiki works since we’re talking about unseen energy, but that energy can most certainly be felt. The International Center for Reiki Training is a wonderful resource for anyone who would like more information. Their web site is http://www.reiki.org/
9. What is your most cherished reader reaction from your books?
I got a lot of fan mail from young readers, mostly preteen boys, after Face-Off and I was always touched that these young kids took the time to write me letters. More recently, I’ve been thrilled with the positive reviews that Twenty-Five Years Ago Today has received and from the notes sent to me by readers. It’s really exciting to finally have the book in the hands of readers and when someone tells me they enjoyed it, that makes my day.
10. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career, and why?
Winning the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant in 2005 for my work-in-progress probably had the biggest influence. I was at a crossroads, frustrated with all the rejection, and it gave me the confidence to continue mystery writing. It also gave me the opportunity to spend $1,000 on furthering my writing career. I used the money to take on-line classes on mystery writing and plotting, which helped to bring my writing to a higher level. I used the remainder to take a 6-week Tai Chi class, as research for my novel. I wound up studying Tai Chi for two years and I still practice it today.
11. What part of the craft of writing has improved since your first book?
I’m a much better editor now. With Face-Off, my editor sent me a nine-page letter filled with areas that needed to be fixed – pages of back story and excess description that needed to be cut, dialogue that needed punching up, scenes that needed more conflict. Now I catch most of that myself before it ever gets to an editor or agent. I still rely on my critique partners for feedback, to gain a fresh perspective, but they don’t see my chapters until I’ve rigorously edited them.
12. The Dames love animals. Do you have any pets? If so, tell us a little about them.
I had a beautiful gray Angora cat named Smokey from second grade until I was about 22, but I don’t currently have an animal. I keep a picture of Smokey in my office as she was very special to me. When I was little, I had a pet hamster named Puzzles, and that’s why the pet ferret in Twenty-Five Years Ago Today is named Puzzles. Perhaps someday, we’ll get a pet!