Thursday, March 3, 2016

An Interview with Judy Fitzwater

By Pamela James:

Meet Judy Fitzwater, who is a series author and I long ago fell in love with her series characters.

MM: Let's get to know you. Give us the backstory on your writing life and what book you are writing?

JF: First, let me thank you for your kind words about my series. I love writing about Jennifer Marsh and her crazy group of friends. They always make me smile.
While each book in The Jennifer Marsh Mysteries has its own theme, I think at the core of the entire series is the importance of friendship. We all long for those special relationships, and I was very fortunate when I was living in the D.C. area to be invited to join a weekly critique group that became my support group. I doubt I would have ever been published without them. Not only did they help me learn my craft, but they became my cheerleaders and taught me about the business side of publishing. It lasted for several years before it disbanded, and, yes, I had a stack of rejections before I finally got published. Mine, however, was never as big as Jennifer’s. J
Now that I’m publishing independently, I have two talented writer friends with whom I share my manuscripts before I publish them. There’s so much more to writing than just the creative, fun part, like editing and revising, and did I mention editing again and again?
As for my newest project, I just released the 8th Jennifer mystery, DYING AT HONEYMOON INN and have been busy trying to get the word out about it. It’s set in the same location I used for my paranormal romance, VACATIONING WITH THE DEAD. My next book is going to be a fun one. It’s the “other” story of what happened in DYING AT HONEYMOON INN—from the ghosts’ point of view. (Yes, the mansion really is haunted, but Jennifer and Sam and my mystery readers don’t know that.) It should be an interesting challenge. I can’t wait to see how it works out.

MM: Where do you write?

JF: At home. I’m too easily distracted to go to a coffee shop or library or sit in a park to write. I used to write on my desktop in my office, but about three years ago I bought a laptop that I use only for writing. I curl up on the couch or stretch out in the sun room with my computer on my lap and peck away. I don’t allow myself to check e-mail, play games, or shop on the Internet with my laptop. Then I put the book on a thumb drive and transfer it to my desktop for editing. The laptop helps keep me focused.

MM: How many books have you written?

JF: Twelve. There are 8 in the Jennifer Marsh Mystery Series, two suspense novels (they’re great fun to write, lots of adventure and danger), DROWNING IN AIR and NO SAFE

PLACE, one funny ghost romance, VACATIONING WITH THE DEAD, and a non-fiction book about my adventures (and misadventures) in writing, THE ROCKY ROAD TO PUBLISHING. It’s honest and fun and has some helpful advice in it. Oh, and there’re two I’ve never published, plus many partials that may or may not ever get finished.

MM: They say it takes a village to write and publish a book. Who is in your village?

JF:  My husband and our two daughters, like me, are all liberal arts, English majors, so they’re the first part of my village. They are my first readers and critics. Currently I have two writer friends who read every book before I publish it, and who offer plot suggestions, some edits, etc. They’re terrific and can be brutally honest with me. We’re huge fans of each other’s work, so it’s easy to take criticism from them. And, darn it, they’re almost always right. They’re always up for an emergency phone call to offer suggestions when I get stuck or I’ve written myself into a corner. I have a couple of other readers as well, but that’s my main support base.

MM: What message would you like your reader to take away with them when they read your books?

JF: My message is pretty simple. Love the people who are dear to you, treat everyone well, care about those around you, be honest, be loyal, try your best, honor your word, don’t take anything for granted, trust your instincts, and believe that there is goodness in this world.

MM: If you were to host a small dinner party. What meal would you serve? Who would be your guests and tell us what you want to discuss with them?

JF: That’s so funny that you use the word “if”. I know how to cook, I just don’t do it every day. My mom was from Georgia, and my husband and I lived in North Carolina for several years, so there’s a definite Southern slant to my cooking. I know how to make great sausage gravy, cheese grits, and homemade pie crust—all sorts of bad-for-you kinds of food. When I’m entertaining, I like to make casseroles and cold vegetable dishes and salads, so that the food is in the oven and ready in the fridge just before my friends come over, and, hopefully, most of the kitchen is cleaned up. I hate being tied up in the kitchen when I want to be enjoying my guests. Oh, and I make great desserts when I have time—carrot cake, pecan or apple pie—that sort of thing. My guests would be anyone with a curious mind. I love to learn new things and talk to people who do things I’ve never done, who question life, who don’t like pat answers.

MM: Okay now for fun questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, movie/s, place to vacation, favorite charity or cause, song, do you listen to audio books?

JF: My favorite meal is one I don’t have to cook myself. Dessert—anything chocolate, but especially dark chocolate cake with fudge icing. Movie—American Dreamer, a jewel of a film no one’s ever heard of. It’s about a mystery writer who wins a contest, goes to Paris, hits her head, and thinks she’s a character in a novel. I’ve seen it lots of times and laugh all the way through it. Vacation—visiting with family and friends or going to the beach. We used to go to a lovely Murder Mystery Weekend in Pennsylvania every year. Lots of fun. It even inspired one of my books. I don’t listen to audio books. I do my best plotting when I’m doing mindless chores like laundry and cleaning, so I don’t want to be distracted while my mind is wandering.
MM: Do you binge watch any shows or movies?

JF: I don’t binge watch. Being a writer, I sit too much as it is, so I usually only watch one TV episode or one movie at a time, although there are some shows that grab you by the throat, and it’s hard not to click on the next episode in the DVR. Sometimes I give in, but two’s my limit.

MM: Do you have any hobbies or charity you want to tell us about and do you have any pets that let you live with them?

JF: We had a Norwich Terrier that deigned to live with us for 15 years and a Shih Tzu for nine years before that. Currently we are petless. I love to sleep in in the mornings, and you can’t do that with pets. Besides, Jennifer has Muffy and Mrs. Walker has Tiger, both of whom I really enjoy writing about. One of my daughters has two dogs and four cats, so I have visiting rights with all of them.
As for hobbies, I used to sew and do a lot of crafts—I like to work with my hands—but I don’t do those things very often anymore. I like to play bridge and Trivial Pursuit, but only in teams because I’m really lousy in the sports category. And I’ve been known to throw the occasional “murder” party where guests take on roles to solve a mystery.

MM: 2016 what is in store for you and for your readers this year?

JF: I hope to have the companion book to DYING AT HONEYMOON INN out by late spring. I’ll soon be releasing the last two Jennifer mysteries in paperback editions because readers have asked for them. After I get those things done, I’d like to write another suspense novel. I have an idea for one that’s been pestering me for years.

MM: What life lesson has writing taught you?

JF: To never give up. To believe in myself. To know that if someone else can do it, why can’t I (brain surgery excepted)? That if a person wants something badly enough and is willing to work hard for it, they’ll probably succeed.

MM: What would your protagonist tell us about you?

JF: Wow, that’s a hard one. I think she’d tell you she and I are a lot alike, but we’re not the same. I think she’d say I should have let her get published a lot earlier in the books because she’s a darned good writer and that it isn’t fair that I got published by telling her stories. And that some of the things she does that I think are so funny aren’t at all funny from her perspective, especially when she’s the one taking all the risks by confronting murderers. She probably also wishes I hadn’t made her a vegetarian because I’m not one myself, and who doesn’t like a good hamburger now and then?

MM: Tell us how you write your books?

JF: One page at a time. I start with a hook—an idea I find really intriguing—and I go from there. I never outline, and I frequently don’t know whodunit until I’m well into the book, which means I have to sometimes go back and adjust my plots to make them flow. I also trust my subconscious to put together bits and pieces that I write into a book and find a way to pull them all together.  There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning—or even the middle of the night—and suddenly seeing how it all fits.

MM: Leave us with some author words of wisdom?

JF: Not all books speak to all readers. A writer has to come to terms with that. Some people just aren’t going to “get” my sense of humor or what I’m trying to say or agree with my outlook on life. And that’s okay. If you don’t like an author’s books, then he or she didn’t write them for you. It doesn’t necessarily make the authors bad writers or mean their books are bad, or say anything about your taste. But when an author connects with a reader, it’s very special. It means we’ve done our jobs. We’ve entertained our readers. If we make you think or you pick up a little of our philosophy about life along the way, all the better. I hope you laugh at my comedies and hold your breath when my heroines and heroes are in danger. I just hope you’ve enjoyed the ride when you get to the end.


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