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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Author Interview & Contest with Juliet Blackwell

Now and again I like to read a good cozy mystery and there are quite a few about that have a paranormal element to them. Author Juliet Blackwell writes one of those paranormal cozy mysteries that I like so much and she was nice enough to answer some of my questions about her Witchcraft Mysteries and her upcoming Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries.

I hope you will all enjoy the interview and maybe even pick up one of Juliet's books. I really like them! Oh and if you want to try your luck...you could a book or two! Just enter the contest at the end of the interview.


Amber - Welcome to Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here as a guest! Could start of by telling us a little about your paranormal cozy mystery series?

Juliet - The Witchcraft Mysteries feature Lily Ivory, a misfit witch from a small West Texas town who has wandered the world looking for a safe place to establish a home. She winds up in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, which, for those who aren’t familiar with the area, is famous for its inclusive, non-judgmental atmosphere. For years Lily has had a special relationship with old things like clothing and furniture, even kitchen implements, items that people use on a daily basis. Since she’s been so cut off from friends and family, she has felt connected to other people through these items. So when she arrives in San Francisco, she sets up a vintage clothing store. She hopes to hide her witchy ways, but she soon finds out that not only does she need to use her magic to help unravel a mystery, but she’s surrounded by friends with whom she can finally be herself. As the series continues she develops more confidence in her self, her friends, and in her magic.

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

Juliet - The idea was easy – I’ve always been attracted by the paranormal, so when my editor at Obsidian asked if I had anything in the genre she could look at, I sat down and wrote a chapter or two based on an idea I’d had brewing for some time. But establishing the character of Lily was a little harder – my previous mystery series featured an artist with a decorative painting studio, and she was easy since her life was basically a direct rip-off of my own! But as I thought about Lily, I came to realize that I’d had a lifelong fascination with alternative systems of healing and beliefs –I used to be an anthropologist—and in fact my favorite aunt read tea leaves and cards and referred to herself as a witch. So I started talking to women –and a couple of men—who call themselves witches, and attended some coven meetings, and did all kinds of historical reading. It was fascinating…and the more I read, the clearer Lily became in my mind as a woman who has been blessed or cursed with a certain genetic ability…one that connected her to a historic tradition, as well as setting her apart from other people.

Amber - What kind of research have you done for the series? Anything interesting or is the research boring?

Juliet – Research is never boring! One of the aspects I most love about being an author is that I get to learn about so many things – I once wrote a character fascinated with bats, and learned about their different habits and lifestyles…who knew? So no, I never find the research tedious especially when it comes to witchcraft and belief systems. As I mentioned above, I’ve spoken with witches and attended coven meetings. I’ve also talked to healers and witches from many different cultures – my closest links are with Mexico, but I’ve met with folks from New Orleans, where my grandmother was from, and from the Caribbean, and with voodoo practitioners, and with Rom (gypsy) witches. There’s never enough time in the day to do all I’d like, and the worst part is that I can never include everything in the books! When all is said and done, they need to present a compelling, fun story, so they can’t read like a non-fiction research tome. Thus I have to leave out all sorts of interesting tidbits, those that I can’t manage to fit in here and there.

Amber - There have been two books in the Witchcraft Mystery so far. When is the next book due out? How many more will there be?

Juliet - The next is called Hexes and Hemlines, and it will be released in June 2011. I just finished the manuscript—Lily’s called in to consult on a case where a man was murdered and found surrounded by bad luck symbols. I enjoyed writing it particularly because we find out a little more about Lily’s background, as well as Oscar’s (her goblin/pot-bellied pig familiar). Then in June 2012 the fourth will be published, and I believe there will be more after that since they’re doing really well, finding their audience.

Amber - You also have a new series coming out in December. It looks really good :) Maybe you could tell us a little about it?

Juliet – The first in the Haunted Home Renovation series is called If Walls Could Talk. The protagonist is Mel Turner, who went through a painful divorce a couple of years previous to the books starting, and wanted to run away and hide -- but when her mother passed away unexpectedly and her dad had a hard time keeping things together, Mel stepped in to help him run his high-end construction business in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mel’s good at construction, but when she opens up the walls, she finds a mystery from the past, and a little more than she bargained for. I’m writing the second in the series right now, and I’m having a lot of fun weaving a spooky historical ghost story based on a real San Francisco legend into a modern day murder mystery.

Amber - Did you always wanted to be an author? Why cozy mysteries with magic and ghosts mixed into them? Has the paranormal always interested you?

Juliet –I think I thought about being an author when I was very young – like a lot of kids, I enjoyed making up stories, and I *loved* to read. But I grew up and went to graduate school in anthropology and the only writing I did for a long time was non-fiction, about immigration and cultural conflict. I also worked as a social worker for a while, then went on to become a professional artist. I became an author almost by mistake – my sister and I sort of dared each other to write a book, and we wound up writing the Art Lovers Mystery books together, which featured Annie Kincaid, an ex-art forger eking out a living in San Francisco by painting murals in rich people’s homes –which is what I was doing at the time. Annie was great fun – the fourth in the series, Arsenic and Old Paint, was just released—and my sister and I both learned a lot about writing and the publishing industry through our experiences. But when I started writing by myself, I wanted to write the sort of thing I really enjoyed reading, and I do love the paranormal. I’ve always been fascinated by it, and envied those who feel the call.

Amber - How do you pick the names for your characters? Do they have any special meanings?

Juliet –That’s an excellent question! Lily Ivory started out as Lilith, becaue I was reading about the legend of Lilith, a powerful woman from the Bible and folklore, and how she was reviled. But then it sort of morphed as the character changed in my mind. Still, the other day a fellow was telling me how Lily Ivory was perfect for a witch (rather “ethereal,” he said), while “Mel Turner” sounds capable and straightforward. So maybe there’s something unconscious at work ;-) Mel actually started out as Sophie, because I love that name, but then I met a friend named Sophie and couldn’t stop thinking of her as I wrote, so I changed it. I like using a rather girlie name, like Melanie, that’s shortened to a common man’s name, Mel—since Mel’s in a traditionally male profession, it seemed to fit. Oscar, on the other hand, was named for my neighbor’s black cat. When my beloved mutt passed away a couple of years ago, Oscar-the-cast started hanging around, trying to love me. I’ve never been a cat person, but he won me over with time and patience and his tricky feline ways. If anyone’s interested in “meeting” Oscar the Cat, he has his own Facebook fan page! There’s a link from my Juliet Blackwell FB page.

Amber - How long on average does it take you to write a book? Do you have a process you follow? or do you just start at page one and see what happens?

Juliet –I usually begin with an overall idea of a mystery or a strange event, and then I just start writing and let it go organically. Of course, that means there’s a lot of re-writing, because after the first rough draft I have to go back and see how everything plays out, place clues, that sort of thing. It’s important to be fair to the reader and give enough clues in case they want to try to figure out the mystery – not everyone does, but it’s best to play fair.

These days, though, when I’m under contract I am required to turn in an outline, so I have to try to think things through ahead of time. Still, when I actually start writing I usually veer off of the outline by about chapter two…I guess it’s just not the way I think! But so far my editor hasn’t had any problem with the books I turn in, so I guess it’s a process that works for us all.

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

Juliet –The worst part, by far, is having to promote and “sell” the books. I hate sales, and selling my own work is even harder for me. But it’s difficult to get one’s books into readers’ hands, especially these days when there’s so much competition and zero dollars to be spent on advertising and promotion. That’s why blogs such as yours are so great for authors – we can get the word out to readers who enjoy our kind of book.

The best part is that it’s the best job in the world! Writing can become obsessive – it is SO fun and creative, and exciting to spend a good part of everyday with characters and people in one’s mind. Other authors have become wonderful friends – so much so that if feels a little like high school, except that this time the creative geeks are the cool kids ;-) Connecting with readers is an incredible feeling, as well. How many people get to create something that winds up becoming part of someone’s life for a few hours or days, and might even be something meaningful? I’ve had some amazing letters from readers –people who’ve read my books in the hospital, or after natural disasters, and even though I think of my books as “fun” they’ve given people a respite, taken them to a different world for a little while. That’s just amazing to be a part of that.

Amber - What are you listening and watching lately? Is there any music or other media that influences your writing?

Juliet - I don’t watch television because I just don’t have the time, or don’t want to spend the little time I have on it! Plus, I’m cheap so I don’t have cable ;-) But I do occasionally get into a miniseries like The Wire or Six Feet Under, and then I have to watch all the DVDs one after another, immerse myself in the world for a while. Some of the writing for these shows is incredible, and I try to analyze the plot lines and intersections and threads. Music always influences me – I love all kinds of music, depending on my mood. My teenage son has even helped me learn to appreciate a lot of hip hop and rap, so I try to keep open to everything. But my biggest love is art – I’m a painter, and sometimes I just have to go into my studio and create in an entirely non-linear, non-verbal way. I also love looking at other people’s stuff and try to make time to go to Oakland’s art walk, and the occasional museum or gallery opening. And then there’s dancing and drinking…does that count? I find it’s very inspirational!

Amber - What books do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favourite authors/series?

Juliet –One of my first favorites was Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, who wrote some time ago. In fact, she’s still writing though she’s getting up there in years. She wrote traditional mysteries as Peters, and paranormal as Michaels. It always amuses me that people seem to think paranormal is a new obsession – it’s been around for a loooong time – What about Frankenstein? Dracula? Wuthering Heights? More recently there was Dark Shadows, then Buffy the Vampire Slayer…the market may be bigger than ever, but it’s always been there. I think fiction and paranormal go together so naturally because it’s the perfect place to play with concepts of life and death, morality, mortality, and what it means to be human. I now read mostly outside of my own genre – I’m a big Stephen King fan, and love Nick Hornby, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver, Sherman Alexie, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris. Mario Acevedo and Sophie Littlefield are both good friends and superb mystery writers – I adore their books. Right now I’m reading Nicole Peeler’s first, Tempest Rising.

Amber - A huge thank you for stopping by! I hope you will come back again sometime soon!


Contest Time

Juliet is very kindly giving away a set of her first two Witchcraft Mysteries! That means one lucky winner will get a copy of Secondhand Spirits and A Cast-off coven!

How To Enter

Do you read any cozy mysteries? Which ones do you like and/or want to recommend to us!

No Books = No Entry

Earn more entries for each link you place about this contest on the net. You can post on Facebook, Twitter & MySpace but make sure you add links here for me to confirm your entries! However please do not make individual postings for each entry. Please post all your entries in one post.

Advertise Amberkatze's Book Blog on your site and get an extra entry for this and every other contest!

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You can also earn extra entries by emailing your friends about the contest. Just make sure you send a copy of your email or receipt to me at Amberkatzes_book_blog at gmx dot net.

Make sure you post your links here so I can confirm your entries.

Keep the contests going by using the Bookdepository.com links/Banners below and around the site!

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The contest will stay open until Sunday 17th of October 2010 4pm CET and the winner will be picked by a randomizer. Entrants should check back to see if they have won. I do not hunt down winners and will pick new winners for any prizes not claimed within 7 days.


Linda Henderson said...

When I think Cozy mysteries I think Lillian Jackson Braun's cat series. For example, The Cat Who Went Bananas.

Tweeted http://twitter.com/BookOwner/status/26959493690

Posted to Facebook

seriousreader at live dot com

Janet said...

I just got interested in this genre and I am enjoying Wicked Weaves-Renaissance Faire Mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene.


debbie said...

I think M.C.Beaton fits into that cozy mystery slot. The last one I read was death of a witch.

Vickie said...

Cozy / amateur sleuth authors I like:
Hailey Lind
Juliet Blackwell
Shirley Damsgaard
Jenn McKinley
Madelyn Alt
Lorna Barrett
Ellis Peters
Elizabeth Peters
Jacqueline Winspear
Heather Webber
Dixie Cash

A'lina said...

I haven't read any cozy mysteries but I've been really interested in trying them. They sound like fun!

Sharon S. said...

Love your covers!! I can't wait to try your books.

Shirley Damsgaard: Ophelia & Abby Series

Mary Stanton: Beaufort & Company

Madelyn Alt:Bewitching Series

Van Pham said...

I haven't read any cozy mysteries but i do like the genre mysteries. The last series/mysteries Novels i read were the SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz.

Will definitely be checking out The witchcraft mysteries...love witches!


Martha Lawson said...

I haven't read any cozy mysteries yet. This series looks wonderful and I'd love to try them. I was a big fan of Murder, She Wrote, so I think I'd really like "cozies"!

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Barbara E. said...

I enjoy cozy mysteries - and one of the series that I've enjoyed is Shirley Damsgaard's Ophelia & Abby Series.


Anonymous said...

Y.S.Lee's The Agency series! I just love it, book one is "A Spy in the House", and book 2 "The Body at the Tower". There will be a third one coming out in 2012(x_x). It has mystery, action, romance, and a female spy in the Victorian era! This year I also read Alan Bradley's "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" which I believe qualifies in the mystery genre, and I enjoyed it, it's a great book, but I admit I found it a bit tiresome...


SandyG265 said...

I like Shirley Damsgaard's Abby & Ophelia series. And Casey Daniels' Chick series.

Julie S said...

I do love the mystery genre. While I usually read things that probably aren't cozy, I think "The Trouble with Magic" would fit that category. It's by Madelyn Alt.


Dovile said...

I haven't read many cozy mystery books, but I quite enjoyed Under My Spell and Rebel Fairy by Deborah Wright.

spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

Nicole C. said...

I like the Joanne Fluke Hannah Swenson cozies!


Unknown said...

I enjoy reading mysteries but I can't think of any titles rights now. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

Bookyurt said...

Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series. Still my all time favorite.


justpeachy36 said...

I have just recently started readind Cozy Mysteries. My favorite author so far is Laura Childs. She has three different Cozy mystery series': The Scrapbooking Mysteries, The Tea Shop Mysteries and The Cackleberry Club mysteries... all three are excellent. I also like Joyce and Jim Lavene...

Please enter me in the giveaway.


Stephanie said...

I read the Ophelia and Abby mysteries by Shirley Damsgaard, the Coffeehouse mysteries by Cleo Coyle, and the Ghost Duster mysteries by Wendy Roberts.


Victoria said...

I don't really read many mysteries but the series I do read is AUNT DIMITY by Nancy Atherton.

lingeorge said...

I absolutely loved "Exit Strategy" and "Made To Be Broken", by Kelley Armstrong. These were absolutely riveting. Charlaine Harris also did a whole mystery series. Actually, most of the Urban Fantasy that I read are actually mysteries. At least those are the ones that I am drawn to.

amp said...

I also think of Braun's "The Cat Who..." mysteries when I think of cozy mysteries. They are quick and fun reads.

Audra said...

I like the Opelia and Abby Mysteries- I would love to read Juliet"s books.

StyleVamp said...

One of my favorite mysteries is
"The Shadow In The Wind" by carlos Ruiz Zafron ...It's an amazing read!!

buddyt said...

If they qualify as cozy mysteries, I would go with an earlier commenter and suggest Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series as well as her Poiret series.

Great reads.


Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Jessica @ a GREAT read said...

Well in mysteries I really love Victoria Laurie's series, Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter. Those are both really good and engaging and the mystery elements are really strong. At least that's what I'm answering to in reference to cozy mysteries. They're cozy for me!

Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly series was good too and her first few Southern Vampire novels stuck to their "Southern Vampire Mystery" title.

Have button/banner in sidebar: http://jessica-agreatread.blogspot.com


Llehn said...

I love Agatha Christie's 13 At Dinner.

D Q said...

I enjoyed the Madelyn Alt mysteries-
The trouble with Magic
A Charmed death
Hex Marks the Spot
No Rest for the Wiccan


Sue Brandes said...

My favorite is A reigning Cats & Dogs Mystery series by Cynthia Baxter. Not sure if you consider them cozy mysteries. I would love to read your books. Love your book covers.
Sue B

Gaby G said...

I just started reading cozy mysteries so I don't have many recommendations. But I loved How To Host a Killer Party (A Party Planning Mystery #1) by Penny Warner, and I'm going to start reading Mum's the Word (Flower Shop Mystery Series #1)
by Kate Collins.

Thanks for this interview. I haven't read any books from Juliet Blackwell but they sounds great and their covers are so nice!!

Beth Caudill said...

I love to read good cozy mysteries.

Some Favorites:

Quilting - Earlene Fowler
Tea Shop - Laura Childs
Book Restoration - Kate Carlisle
Mysteries a la Mode - Wendy Lyn Watson
Vintage Magic - Annette Blair

There have been other cozy mysteries I've started and then stopped over the years. The ones I listed are my current favorites that I'm keeping up with.


Natasha said...

Most of the cozy mysteries I read are paranormal mysteries. Like Kimberly Frost & such. I love mysteries, and have only recently gotten into them, but this book sounds awesome. I want to start reading these! Count me in!!

I follow!
I tweeted:http://twitter.com/#!/AGreatBook/status/27365835173


Rhonda said...

I love cozy mysteries. I enjoy Diane Mott Davison, Carolyn Hart, jill Churchill and many other cozy authors.

Rosie said...

I love the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris. Also enjoy the Joanne Fluke series. Love the recipes that go along with them.

rosie0512 @ hotmail . com

Unknown said...

I haven't read any cozy mystery novels yet but I am interesting in reading them. They sound like a lot of fun. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

Kim - Bookishly Me said...

I read the Stephenie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and the southern vampire mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I also am rereading several Nancy drew novels. And I have some other series on my tbr pile along with this one.

Daelith said...

Some of my favorite cozy mystery series are:
Savannah Reid - G.A. McKevett
Callahan Garrity - Kathy Hogan Trocheck
Southern Sisters - Anne George
Molly Bearpaw - Jean Hager
Iris House B&B - Jean Hager
Haunted Bookshop - Alice Kimberly
Windriver Reservation - Margaret Coel
Goldy Bear Culinary - Diane Mott Davidson

cheleooc at yahoo dot com

Margaret said...

I don't know if it's really considered a cozy mystery (if by genre but you can definitely cuddle with it and a cat :P), but I find it such. Titles from 'A Bewitching Mystery' series like Hex Marks the Spot (by Madelyn Alt) is a lot of fun to read :)


AEKZ2 said...

I haven't read any cozy mysteries, but they sound like fun!

Read for your future! said...

I dont read mysteries i ready YA romance but i am reading firelight so its kind of a mysterie. I would love to read these books though

Unknown said...

I can't wait to read these books...I want to thank Amber for blogging about them for she is who introduced me to the series via her blog! I like Shirley Damsgaard's Ophelia and Abby Mysteries...THEY ARE HILARIOUS! I also highly enjoy the Madelyn Alt witch series! Both are must reads!

SiNn said...

honetsly id have to say

Kate Collins! is awesome her books fantastic and my fav ofthem

Mum's The word & Slay It with flower

Kim (Randominities) said...

I would heartily recommend The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. I love mysteries that are out of the ordinary. Cozy? I think so. It was a wonderfully fun book.

E.J. Stevens said...

I loved the 'Booklover's Mysteries' series with Alex Plumtree.

Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!
From the Shadows

Deirdre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deirdre said...

The series I most want to find more in at the moment is the Bewitching Mystery series starting with Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt

Twitted here: http://twitter.com/#!/wyvernfriend/status/27583624803

Sue Farrell said...

My favorite all-time cozy mystery series is "The Cat Who.." series written by Lillian Jackson Braun. But lately I've been reading a lot of Laura Childs and Diane Mott Davidson.


Brenda Hyde said...

Cozy Mysteries are a little new to me-- I loved Truly, Madly by Heather Webber, and need to pick up the second one in the series. I actually need to try more Cozy Mysteries!

wanda f said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wanda f said...

I haven't read any cozy mysteries but am very interested in trying them out Juliets books sound great and I love the paranormal romances by Kelley Armstrong and Charlaine Harris very interested in reading their mysteries as well.I follow on Twitter and I tweeted about giveaway

also posted on facebook


wanda f

susan1215 said...

I like Shirley Damsgaard's Abby & Ophelia series and Madelyn Alt:Bewitching Series

s2s2 at comcast dot net

clynsg said...

I suppose a lot depends on what your idea of a cozy mystery is--but since I read a lot of books, I suspect some of them would fall into that description. Possibly Earlene Fowler's Bennie Harper series, which are all based somewhat on quilting themes.

cgclynsg0 @ gmail dot com

Unknown said...

I like Tamar Myers-Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries, Tim Myers-Lighthouse Inn Mysteries and Stefanie Matteson-Charlotte Graham Mysteries. garrettsambo@aol.com

Brian_Brady said...

My first and all time favorite cozy mystery would be the 'Miss Marple' series by Agatha Christie. My current favorite cozy is the "Daisy Dalrymple Mystery Series" by Carola Dunn, start with "Death at Wentwater Court" and you have about 18 to catch up with after that. I just met Penny Warner at a book singing and read "How to Host a Killer Party", a very enjoyable book with party planning tips too !
Great Blog, Thanks