Today’s exclusive interview is with novelist and MTW_2017 participant, Judy Penz Sheluk. Writing from her home in Toronto, Judy’s most recent mystery is Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery #1 (August 2016, Imajin Books), which is available in both Kindle and paperback formats.
Here’s the blurb:
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
Tell us something about the book that the blurb doesn’t reveal:
Arabella Carpenter, one of the major characters in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series, has a role in Skeletons. It was fun to include a crossover character.
What was your favorite or most surprising comment/review about the book?
The most exciting was a surprise review by Dru Ann Love of Dru’s Book Musings. She’s an icon in the mystery community and while she hosts an author a day, she seldom reviews books and doesn’t accept review requests. When she wrote on her blog that she loved Skeletons, it made my day, week, and month.
If given a chance, which author (living or dead) would you like to meet/have met?
There are so many! Truman Capote, because In Cold Blood is one of the finest works of crime non-fiction, and I’d like to know what it was like pre-internet, to research and write. Sue Grafton, Tana French, Michael Connelly, John Sandford because their books take me to another place...I could go on and on!
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast as which characters?
Jennifer Lawrence as Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, the protagonist in Skeletons. Chris Noth as Leith Hampton, the lawyer. Bradley Cooper as Royce Ashford, neighbor and love interest.
What gave you the idea to write this book?
The idea for Skeletons in the Attic came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer's office. We were there to update our wills, and his Goldendoodle kept us company while our lawyer was detained at court. The opening scenes of this book are culled directly from that experience. Let that be your takeaway from this: everything that happens in a writer's life may end up in one of their stories.
Do you have pets?
I have a 14 month-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs (named after Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS). He is my fourth Golden, and as a kid I had a Golden mix. I love the breed (though not the dog hair!). My previous dogs were Sandy (mix), Einstein (named after the dog in Dean Koontz’s Watchers), Ranger, and Copper. Copper was 12 ½ when he died, and I’d forgotten how crazy puppies can be, but Gibbs is coming along nicely. I can’t imagine a house without a dog.
Are you traditionally published or self-published and why?
Both my novels are traditionally published, though with two different publishers. I made that decision because I have two series and I didn’t want to place on my books in one publisher’s basket.
I have two short story collections that I self-published. They are small collections, which I basically put out to test-drive how to do it. It was incredibly easy.
I have an idea for a novella series. I think I will self-publish, but I’m not sure. First I have to write it!
What conferences have you attended and what value have you found in attending conferences?
My first writer’s conference was Bloody Words in Toronto, 2012 and 2014. I was unpublished at the time and learned a lot. Unfortunately 2014 was the last year for Bloody Words. In 2015, I attended Bouchercon in Raleigh, NC, as a debut author, and in 2016, Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD as a debut author. They are very different – Bouchercon is huge and Malice is more intimate – but both were very worthwhile. If you attend thinking you will sell enough books for the money spent, you will be very disappointed. It’s more about making connections, getting your name out there, and learning more about the business.
Where Can Readers Find You?
You can find me at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where I blog about the writing life and interview and showcase other authors. You can also find me on Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk), Amazon, and on my Facebook author page (Judy Penz Sheluk)
Judy was kind enough to share an excerpt of Skeletons in the Attic below:
Leith let out a theatrical courtroom sigh, well practiced but over the top for his audience of one. “You haven’t really been listening, have you, Calamity?”
I was forced to admit I had not, although he now had my undivided attention. Marketville was a commuter community about an hour north of Toronto, the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It didn’t sound much like me, or my father.
“You’re saying my father owned a house in Marketville? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he live there?”
Leith shrugged. “It seems he couldn’t bear to part with it, and he couldn’t stand living in it. He’s been renting it out since 1986.”
The year my mother had left. I’d been six. I tried to remember a house in Marketville. Nothing came to mind. Even my memories of my mother were vague.
“The house has gone through some hard times, what with tenants coming and going over the years,” Leith continued. “I’ve done my best to manage the property for a modest monthly maintenance fee, but not living nearby…” He colored slightly and I wondered just how modest that fee had been. I glanced back at the photo of his vibrant young family and suspected such treasures did not come cheap. There was probably alimony for the other trophy wives as well. I decided to let it go. My father had trusted him. That had to be enough.
“So you’re saying I’ve inherited a fixer-upper.”
“I suppose you could put it that way, although your father had recently hired a company to make some basic improvements when the last tenant moved out.” He flipped through his notes in the folder. “Royce Contracting and Property Management. I gather the owner of the company, Royce Ashford, lives next door. But I’m not sure much, if anything, has been done to the house yet. Naturally all work would have stopped following your father’s death.”
“You said he wanted me to move into the house? When was he going to tell me?”
“I think the initial plan was that your father was going to move back in there. But of course now—”
“Now that he’s dead, you think he wanted me to move there?”
“Actually, it’s more than wanted, Calamity. It’s a provision of the will that you move into Sixteen Snapdragon Circle for a period of one year. After that time, you are free to do what you wish with it. Go back to renting it, continue to live there, or sell it.”
“And if I decide to sell it?”
“Homes in that area of Marketville typically sell quickly and for a decent price, certainly several times your parents’ original investment back in 1979. You’d have to put in some elbow grease, not to mention some basic renovations, but your father left you some money for that as well.”
“He had money set aside? Enough for renovations?” I thought about the shabby townhouse, the threadbare carpets, the flannel sheet covering holes in the fabric of the ancient olive green brocade sofa. I always thought my dad was frugal because he had to be. It never occurred to me he was squirreling away money to fix up a house I didn’t even know existed.
“About a hundred thousand dollars, although only half of that is allocated to renovation. The balance of fifty thousand would be paid to you in weekly installments while you lived there rent-free. Certainly enough for you to take a year off work and fulfill the other requirement.”
Fifty thousand dollars. Almost twice what I made in a single year at my call center job at the bank. Leaving there would definitely not be a hardship. And my month-to-month lease would be easy enough to break with thirty days notice. “What’s the other requirement?”
Leith leaned back in his chair and let out another one of his theatrical sighs. I got the impression he didn’t really approve of the condition.
“Your father wants you to find out who murdered your mother. And he believes the clues may be hidden in the Marketville house.”
Copyright 2016 Judy Penz Sheluk. Reprinted with permission.