How old were you when you wrote your first story?
I’ve been writing stories in my head as long as I can remember. I’d walk to school and think up a story, and then finish it on the way home. Some stories I would keep going for a week or more. I actually thought everyone did that. It wasn’t until many years later I found out that’s not the case. I remember, in grade 10, having to write a story based on a picture the English teacher showed us. It was a picture of the jungle, very dark and gloomy. I don’t remember the story, any longer, but I remember the first line I wrote was Loneliness…
What genre was that?
I suppose it would be considered literary fiction, though the feelings evoked were definitely influenced by the recent death of my father. He was 42 when he died of stomach cancer, and I was just 14. I really was lonely. Your friends don’t really know what to say or do, and back then, there was no counseling, you were just supposed to suck it up and get on with it. My mom was ill prepared to deal with her own grief and a hormonal, rebellious, and angry teenager. It was a very dark period in both our lives.
Do you have another series in mind? Where would it be located?
I currently write two series. The Glass Dolphin Mysteries are set in the fictional town of Lount’s Landing, Ontario, Canada. The Glass Dolphin is the name of an antiques shop on the town’s historic Main Street. The protagonists are Emily Garland, a journalist, and Arabella Carpenter, the shop owner. The first book in the series is titled The Hanged Man’s Noose and Barking Rain Press released it in July 2015. I’m just finishing the second book in the series. Lount’s Landing is loosely based on Holland Landing, where I lived for many years.
My Marketville Mysteries are set in the fictional town of Marketville, Ontario, Canada (loosely based on Newmarket, which is a larger town just south of Holland Landing). The protagonist is Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. In book one, Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books, August 2016), Callie leaves Toronto to move into a house in Marketville left to her by her late father. The condition of inheritance is that she find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. When she finds an actual skeleton in the attic, she begins to have her doubts about her decision to move there. I’m currently writing the sequel.
I have a third series idea in mind, but it’s not fleshed out enough to talk about it. I’m thinking along the lines of a novella, vs. novel, for that series, and my hope is that it will be a comedic mystery series.
Where do you write from?
When I’m at home in Alliston, Ontario, I write in my home office on my iMac. When I’m at our cottage on Lake Superior (near Sault Ste. Marie) I tend to handwrite my stories in a notebook while sitting on the deck, and then transcribe the notes later on my iPad, or first thing in the morning. It’s a very different experience, writing by hand, and my handwriting is atrocious, but it’s quite liberating.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
I’ve had a lot of different jobs, from Credit Manager to Office Manager to Sales & Marketing Coordinator. I left the corporate world in 2003 to take up freelance writing and editing. I’ve never looked back. I can’t imagine a life without writing, but I also enjoy teaching creative writing, and did some of that online for a while. I may do that again.
How much support do you receive in relation to your writing and eventual publication? From where and whom?
My husband, Mike, is super supportive. He reads all my work before I send it out and he can find the smallest plot hole. My mom was really supportive, but she died in September 2016. She was handing out my bookmarks to the doctors and nurses in the hospital until the end, and the last book she read was Skeletons in the Attic. My friends are also very supportive, and I’ve had two Friends and Family Book Launches that were well attended and filled with love. But I think to be successful, as a writer, you have to be self-supportive. There’s a lot of rejection in this business, and for every great review, there’s someone who just doesn’t get your writing. This is true, even for runaway bestselling authors. At the end of the day, you have to go the tough stuff alone.
If you could do only one form of writing, would you write stories or keep a blog? Why?
Stories. I enjoy writing my blog, but it could never fill the void if I stopped writing short stories and books.
How did you find your niche?
My go-to genre to read is mystery. When I started writing The Hanged Man’s Noose, the goal was to write a book I’d like to read. That’s remained my goal. I also read a lot of mystery novels, and I learn from all of them, those I love and those I don’t. To quote Stephen King, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.
How much research do you do for your books?
Anything factual, I do a lot of research. Get a fact wrong, and you’ve lost the reader. I’ve also been the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal since 2007, and so a lot of the antiques side of things in the Glass Dolphin Mysteries comes from that knowledge base.
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
I knew it would be slow process, but I didn’t realize just how tough it would be to find a publisher. I thought my publishing history as a freelancer (magazines, newspapers) would make a difference but it didn’t. I did self-publish a collection of short stories, and found that process to be very simple, but selling them has been a challenge. Either way, there’s a lot of marketing involved, and very little is taken on by the publishers, so I’d certainly consider self-publishing in future, for another series.
What do you want engraved on your headstone?
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life. You can also find Judy on Facebook (facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk) and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk) and on her Amazon author page, amazon.com/author/judypenzsheluk.
Judy lives in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, with her husband, Mike, and their 14-month old Golden Retriever, Gibbs.