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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Author Interview & Contest with Judy Clemens

My author guest this week is Judy Clemens.

I came across her Grim Reaper Series totally by accident and found myself reading the fourth book first! Dying Echo was a great read and I couldn't wait to ask the author onto the blog and tell us more about the series.

Enjoy the interview and make sure you enter this weeks contest! There are three Kindle copies of the first book in the series up for grabs!


Amber - Welcome to Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here as a guest! Could you start things off by telling us a little about your Grim Reaper Series?

Judy - Sure! The Grim Reaper books are paranormal mysteries for adults (or whoever wants to read them!) that are grounded in the real world, with the small paranormal element of...ahem...the Grim Reaper, who is the protagnists' Watson. Each book takes place in a different locale, with Casey, the main character, traveling from place to place.

Amber - How did you come up with the idea for the Grim Reaper series? Was it a long process or did it just come to you?

Judy - My first mystery series, the Stella Crown books, was set in Pennsylvania on a dairy farm. She lived in one place, had a set group of friends, and, as I felt toward the end of the fifth book, a limited ability to provide a realistic "dead body" for many more stories. (I have recently begun work on another of these books, though! A few years of rest has given me new energy for Stella...) I needed a series with "legs," and I figured someone who was in a different place in each book would have more opportunities to run into dead bodies, or a least criminals. So that's how the idea first took shape. Then, as I was writing the book, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. As we lived with him through his last months, Death became such an intense part of my life that I thought it would be a fitting companion for a woman with a tragic past. And that's how the paranormal sidekick came to be.

Amber - Dying Echo is the fourth book in the series and the latest release. What can you tell us about it?

Judy - Casey spends her time running from her past, and trying to escape her own grief. In this fourth book of the series, she is called home to help out her brother. She doesn't want to return there, but her love for her brother pulls her back. So this is a book that brings her conflict with her past right in her way so she can't avoid it, like she usually does.

Amber - Writing a mystery can't be easy. How do you go about setting up the plot? Do you already know 'who did it' before you begin?

Judy - You know, it's different for each book. Sometimes the whole plot clicks into place, sometimes it's more like a fragile idea that needs a chance to grow. With DYING ECHO, I wasn't sure how it was going to end. I knew there were some bad guys, and what they did, but it took me a while to figure out who exactly they were and what exactly happened! Other books I have plotted out from start to finish, and it's just a matter of putting it in words. I have to admit, it is a lot easier that way!

Amber - Casey has been through a lot since the loss of her husband and child. Was it hard to write about her loss?

Judy - I do feel her pain in a lot of ways, but it was harder in the first two books, when my dad's death was pretty raw. I still miss him a lot, of course, but Casey's tragedy has become her own, separate from my personal life. I know I'm not alone when I say I have shed tears when writing certain scenes. We authors do get pretty connected to our characters!

Amber - Your Grim Reaper seems to be a techno freak. Do you also love ipads, apps etc?

Judy - I like technology, but it's not a real passion of mine, or anything. It's been fun in each book to have Death be obsessed with something different. In one book it's food, in one it's music, in another it's clothes... Just a little something to give Death an "in" in today's world.
> Amber - How do you pick the names for your characters? Do they have any special meanings?

Judy - I know it sounds weird, but often characters come to me with their names already attached! Sometimes, though, I need to change the name because there's another character whose name is too similar, or I just don't like it! And other times there are names that I hear that I just think are cool, so I use them! In Casey's case, my husband had a soccer player on his team whose last name was Maldonado, and I just had to use it.

Amber - Why did you decide to start writing? And how long did it take to get published?

Judy - I have written as long as I remember. My first "novel" was from my third grade year! As a kid and teenager I published a few short stories, then as an adult got serious about novels. I have several novels in the attic, so to speak, and TILL THE COWS COME home was my first published one, but my third attempt at a complete book. After finishing, it took almost four years for it to see print. I went through the whole agent search, publisher search, and all that, and finally found Poisoned Pen, who has been a fantastic home for me.

Amber - I am sure that being an author has its ups and downs. What experiences have you had so far?

Judy - Yes, there are definitely both sides of it. The ups are many -- having the book out there for people to read, being affirmed by the publishing industry, being a part of the wonderful mystery community...it's a great, great, thing, and I try not to take any of it for granted. The downs mostly have to do with marketing and trying to sell something new. It's so easy to see what other people are doing and to compare myself -- in a negative way, of course. It's hard to stay positive in today's publishing climate, when I write things I love, but they don't sell.

Amber - How will the series continue? Will there be more Grim Reaper books?

Judy - I believe there will be at least one more book in this series, but I need a little time to figure out where to take it. DYING ECHO ends with some questions, and I have to discover the answers before I write the next story. Another reason to go back to Stella and see what she's up to!

Amber - Is the Grim Reaper series your only work? Are you working on anything else?

Judy - Well, there's Stella, then I also have some novels for younger audiences I'm working on. I would dearly love to get published in the YA or middle-grade market one of these days! Those books of mine range from paranormal to romance to fantasy. I love reading all those different genres for those ages, so I guess it figures I like to write them, too!

Amber - A lot of authors have 'soundtracks' for their books. Is there any music that influenced your books?

Judy - The only thing I can think of right now is in my Stella books she is a classic rock fan (which is kind of funny, because I'm really not). Also, her cows like classical, which is because that's what my research cows actually listened to when I'd visit the farm! I can't write while I listen to music -- too distracting. But sometimes songs will come on the radio and will elicit a certain feeling, and give a sense of a scene. That's always fun. And kind of weird. Just the other day a song came on in the van and my son started telling me the whole scenario he pictured when he heard it. So I guess I'm not the only one who does that!

Amber - What have you been reading and watching lately? Do you have any recommendations for us?

Judy - Recent reads have included a wide variety of things. I just went through all the Spellman books by Lisa Lutz and LOVED those. I had a Sookie Stackhouse marathon earlier this summer (Charlaine Harris). My son got me into the BONE graphic novels by Jeff Smith, and they are so fun! Others on my recent list: Gerald Morris' SQUIRES TALES series, THE GODDESS TEST series, by Aimee Carter, and some books on marriage and family by Kevin Leman. As for shows, I've found WHITE COLLAR, which is very fun. I enjoy so much about it. I also like LEVERAGE, the BBC Inspector Lewis mysteries, and THE CLOSER. I've watch DEXTER, also, but that always feels a little funny to admit to...

Amber - What's your favorite paranormal movie of all time??

Judy - This is a hard one. So many good movies! One of my favorite movies ever is RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and that has the paranormal elements of the Ark of the Covenant. Does that count? I am not a horror movie buff, but I do like things with less scary supernatural things. I love TRUE BLOOD.

Amber - If you could be any famous person, alive or dead, who would you be? and why?

Judy - I should say something like Mother Teresa, shouldn't I? But I guess in many ways it would be JK Rowling. I'm sure there are downsides to her life (as with any person), but -- besides the monetary part, which would have its own issues -- how awesome would that be to know that you got millions and millions of kids (and adults!) to READ.

Amber - Thanks for visiting Amberkatze's Book Blog!


Contest Time!

There are 3 kindle copies of Embrace the Grim Reaper up for grabs! Three lucky winners will get to read the first book in the series!

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Mary Preston said...

We don't celebrate Halloween here in Australia. I have always wanted to dress up like witch though.

JenM said...

I will be visiting a friend out of town, so no dressing up for me.

Aurian said...

I am going to be dressed up like a scary witch, and wait for the trick and treaters in my street. This year will be the second time ever! Slowly American hollidays take over Holland ...

Stephanie said...

I won't be dressing up, but I will be watching scary movies and eating lots of treats.


clynsg said...

I really don't do anything anymore for Halloween. Live in the country, so don't get trick or treaters, and it has never been one of my favorite days anyway.

cgclynsg0 @ gmail dot com

Unknown said...

I will be taking my son tricker treating. Tore923@aol.com

Heather said...

I will be watching scary movies.

Birgit said...

Well, I'm not celebrating Halloween, but I might go for a scary movie session! Then again, I just bought a couple Doris Day DVDs so I might watch those ... ;-)
But seriously, I'd love to enjoy Halloween in the US one day - including dressing up and everything!

Nikki said...

I'll be dressing up a witch and handing out candy to the kiddies! :)