Amateur Sleuth Mystery Author Judy Penz Sheluk and The Hanged Man’s Noose @JudyPenzSheluk

I welcome Judy Penz Sheluk to my blog today. Judy’s debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was released in July 2015 from Barking Rain Press. Her short crime fiction is included in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing) and The Whole She-Bang 2 (Toronto Sisters in Crime). In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer and editor. For more about Judy, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook .
Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.
I’m definitely a pantser. At the time I began writing The Hanged Man’s Noose I was living in an area that, over the course of 25 years, had the surrounding farms and forests razed to make room for cookie cutter subdivisions and big box stores. Growth like that is never without dissention, and that gave me the idea for the premise of the novel: what if a ruthless developer planned to convert an old schoolhouse into mega-box store on a small town’s historic Main Street? Once I had the premise, I started writing. The great thing about pantsing is that you are free to go anywhere your imagination takes you as you write. Of course, that also means that there are times that you go off on a tangent, only to realize that you’ve spent the better part of a week with a bunch of pages that aren’t going anywhere!

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing. How about you?
I’m an editor in my day job, so I can’t help but edit as I go. When I’m working on a novel, I try to write a chapter a day, but I’ll go back and revisit the previous chapter or couple of chapters each day before I start. It refreshes the story in my mind, and it also helps me to find small issues. I like to have a very clean first draft.

 How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
In The Hanged Man’s Noose, the town of Lount’s Landing is named after a colorful Canadian politician, Samuel Lount, who was hanged for treason in Toronto in the nineteenth century. I did a fair bit of research on Lount, both online and in the library, though a lot of it didn’t make it into the final version of the book. A fun fact is that the title of the book comes from the name of the town’s pub; the owner is a history buff. Arabella Carpenter, one of the main characters, is an antiques shop owner. I’m by no means an expert, but as the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal since 2007, I’ve learned a lot. Some of that knowledge is in the book. And of course my protagonist, Emily Garland, is a freelance writer/editor, as I have been since 2003. Mind you, I’m still waiting for that lucrative assignment to come my way.

 What inspired your latest release?
The Hanged Man’s Noose was born from a short story I’d written in a creative writing class. That story bears no resemblance to the book, outside of the fictional town (Lount’s Landing) that I created and one of the main characters, Arabella Carpenter, but I liked both enough to want to expand the story into a novel.

 Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I’ve blogged extensively about this on my website. The archives are under “My Publishing Journey.” I discuss everything from my early attempts to find an agent (I don’t have one) to landing a publishing contract to applying for copyright.

 E-books, print, or both? Any preferences? Why?
I read both. E-books are fantastic for travel or commuting, and are often (though not always) less expensive. I also tend to buy crime fiction anthologies for my Kobo, because it’s easier to read a short story on the go. But I still love paperbacks. There’s something about holding a book in my hand that just feels right. I don’t like hardbacks. Even if they are well discounted, they are too heavy to hold and read comfortably.

 Have you had other careers before becoming a writer?
I spent years working as a Credit and Collections Manager for various firms—a couple of insurance companies, an automotive parts company, an auto glass company. Now that’s a depressing job, though it is recession-proof. The worse the economy is, the more need there is for a credit and collections. My last job was as a Sales and Marketing Coordinator at a furniture manufacturer. It was equally depressing. I’d tally up the sales budgets for all the VPs versus their actual sales. I always knew who was going to be fired. When my position was downsized, I decided to follow my passion: writing. That was in 2003. I’ve never looked back.

 Do you have or belong to a writing organization? Which one?
I belong to Sisters in Crime – International, Guppies (the great unpublished), Toronto, and Crime Writers of Canada. I do not think I would have been able to navigate the journey to publication without the encouragement, advice and support of these groups. My advice to any aspiring writer is to join an association that fits with your genre. The cost is minimal, and the benefits are enormous.

 What books are on your nightstand or by your chair?
I’m currently reading The Beggar’s Opera by Peggy Blair. It’s a mystery set in Havana, Cuba, and I’m really enjoying it. I always have several books in my to-read pile, mostly mysteries, but I also have sitting there, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

 What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
I’d like to say my favorite film was something classic like Casablanca, but the reality is that the one movie I never get tired of is The First Wives Club. I’m a huge fan of all of the stars in that movie. More importantly, it never fails to make me laugh. I’m a voracious reader, so I have a lot of favorite books and series. I’m going to say Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame). It’s the story of a young woman in Prince Edward Island who dreams about growing up and becoming a writer. I got that book as a Christmas gift when I was about eight. I still own it and it’s one of the few books I’ve kept over many years and many moves.

More about The Hanged Man’s Noose:
Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok. Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street. But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused. Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.
Buy it on: Amazon

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  1. Hi Stacy,
    Nice to hear you’re enjoying The Beggar’s Opera and thanks for the mention! Cheers, Peggy

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me, Stacy, and for asking such great questions. And Peggy, I finished The Beggar’s Opera a while ago and loved it.

  3. Judy, I had to laugh when I read what you’d like to say your favorite film is. Casablanca is my husband’s favourite film. I’ve had to watch so many times in the last 27 years, I know many of the lines. I’d like to say I’d rather watch The First Wives Clubs. The things we do for love…

Stacy Juba