Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pro-File: Julie Hyzy

Pro-File: Julie Hyzy

1. Tell us about your current novel (or project).

I’d love to! My third White House Chef Mystery, Eggsecutive Orders, just came out in January. The series features chef Olivia (Ollie) Paras who feeds the First Family and occasionally saves the world. This third book is set in the week leading up to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Not exactly mysterious, right? But … Ollie is also dealing with the worst kind of dinner guest— a dead one. NSA head Carl Minkus keeled over while dining with the president. Turns out, he was poisoned. Now Ollie and her crew have been banished from the kitchen until their innocence can be proved.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I’m currently at work writing a second book in my brand-new Manor of Murder Mysteries. The first in that series, Grace Under Pressure, will debut in June and I’ve recently jumped back into those characters’ lives to begin the second installment. My protagonist, Grace Wheaton, is the curator and director of Marshfield Manor a palatial home/museum/tourist attraction. When she arrived she thought she would have her hands full managing the estate—she had no idea she would be dragged into solving a murder and discovering that her family history holds some unsettling secrets of its own.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

I love writing and I find almost all of it to be incredibly gratifying. If I had to put my finger on the one greatest pleasure of a writing career, however, it would have to be creating characters. Plotting is fun, wordsmithing, while frustrating can be ultimately rewarding, but creating characters is by far the best. I love “connecting” with old friends inventing new ones. Sometimes I work very hard to put a character together exactly the way I envision, sometimes characters pop into my head fully formed and ready to play. Either way, I love every minute of it.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

Never having enough time to get everything done. With newsletters to write, personal (and group blogs) to keep up on, websites to update, bookstores to contact, and—most importantly—relationships to maintain, I often feel pulled in fifty different directions at once. This year will be a busy one. Even though I’m no longer president of the Midwest Chapter of MWA, it’s my daughter’s senior year in high school, which means that in the fall it will be her first year in college. Lots of stuff involved with that. And even though I don’t want to miss a minute of it, I still have two books to write and promote.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

If someone can talk you out of being a writer, then quit now and save yourself years of pain. But if this is truly your passion, then never, ever give up. Write every day. Don’t take shortcuts. Learn everything you can and keep learning. Make good connections. Persevere.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see
in print again?

To be honest, I have so many books in my TBR pile that I haven’t had a chance to notice who’s missing. So many wonderful books—and new ones coming out every day. I am so far behind… but what a wonderful problem to have!

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget
that moment.

Absolutely! My first novel, Artistic License, was a standalone romantic suspense. I didn’t make it a series, because I honestly never believed it would sell. I’d been fortunate to have several short stories published in anthologies, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to submit a novel. I’m glad I did. Sure, I received a lot of rejections, but even as I turned the manuscript around and submitted it elsewhere, I decided to embark on a new novel – Deadly Blessings. This time, however, I decided I would start a series. Rejections for Artistic License piled up—agents and editors I contacted weren’t interested. Some of them were kind enough to offer feedback and whenever I received any commentary, I’d go back to my manuscript to determine whether the criticisms were valid. Most often they were. Rather than get me down, the agents’ and editors’ feedback gave me hope that I really could do this. Encouraged, I dove back in, made changes, and tried again. And again…

I met Debbie Brod at a Love Is Murder Mystery Conference in 2003. At the time she was an acquisitions editor for Five Star. We were introduced by a mutual friend and Deb very kindly agreed to read Artistic License and get back to me. I was shocked—shocked—when she called me at home about a month later and told me that she was recommending it to Five Star. It was a Sunday morning, and when I got off the phone I jumped around and shouted a lot and my family thought I was a bit nuts. Actually, that’s not completely true. They’ve known me long enough to know I’m a little nuts. They also knew how important this was to me. I think we all jumped around and shouted for quite a while ;-)


Deb Baker said...

Fun interview and great questions, Ed. As a published author, I miss READING the most. I still do, but not nearly as much as I want to. Julie, can't wait for your new series!

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks for the great questions, Ed. You've coaxed the writer's life out of Julie for everyone to read. If you are truly a writer, no one can talk you out of it. Ask my family. Or Julie's.

Krista said...

I can't wait to read The Manor of Murder Mysteries. What fun!

I agree with Deb. There's not enough time for all the reading I'd like to do!

~ Krista

Mary Kennedy said...

A wonderful blog, Julie! I know exaxtly what you mean about the characters. When I finish a book, I find myself fantasizing that maybe my characters are continuing their lives. It always seems strange to write The End, and leave my characters behind. Where are they? In a sort of limbo? A lot of writer pals say they feel the same way. Of course, one of my non-writer pals said to me,"You need help, Mary! Professional help. Perhaps you should see a shrink." I had to remind her that I am shrink. LOL

Sheila Connolly said...

Good to see you here, Julie! I love your first series--I've learned so much about DC from it. I hope the next series is as much fun (and why do we keep doing this to ourselves?)

Julie Hyzy said...

Deb - so true. I have so many books staring at me, just waiting for me to get to them. I was very lucky to have gotten an early glimpse at your new Hannah Reed book, BUZZ OFF. Can't wait until that one comes out!

Leann - sounds like your family's a lot like mine. Don't you feel sorry for them? ;-)

Krista - thanks so much! I'm looking forward to your THE DIVA PAINTS THE TOWN. Comes out next week, right?

Mary - LOL! Love your friend's advice. But I'll bet you find writing helps work out issues, too. Where else can we kill off people who make us angry? (And get away with it!)

Sheila - No idea why we do this to ourselves. And I'm looking forward to your new series too! Love the title FUNDRAISING THE DEAD!

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Great blog, Julie. Your fans and readers (like me) love Ollie and have noted the new series with excitement.

Unpublished writers can take heart from your solid advice!

Julie Hyzy said...

Thanks, MJ!
Love your books too!

Cleo Coyle said...

I so admire you, Julie, so it’s no surprise that you've created an equally admirable character in Ollie Paras. I also applaud not only your excellent research into the workings of the White House and its kitchen but also your choice to put a woman in a profession so often dominated by men--a fascinating situation that is reflected now, of course, with our current female First Chef.

I also agree with you (and Mary) about the character being the thing. While fine wordplay is quite admirable (former poet here, and nobody enjoys a pun as much as I do!), the characters are what lift a work into the territory of resounding and indelible classic. Jane Eyre, Tarzan, Miss Marple, Sherlock, Scarlett, Marlowe, Scrooge...I am continually enthralled and inspired by the idea that the incarnation of one remarkable character in an author's mind can move millions of readers (regardless of language, culture, or age) centuries after being conceived. Congratulations again on winning the well deserved Barry and Anthony Awards this year and on the publication of Eggsecutive Orders. Now, of course, I'm looking forward to meeting Grace Wheaton!

~ Cleo
Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

Heather Webber said...

Julie, I'm looking forward to your latest Ollie (like Deb I'm having trouble finding the time to read). I have Artistic License on my keeper shelf--it's a great book with strong characters--but I especially like it because I picked it up at B'Con '04 where I met this great new author who was so warm and welcoming to this newbie...