So, a few weeks ago I downloaded a free book on my new e-reader. The book’s title was Dying to Get Published. It is a cozy murder mystery. I found myself laughing out loud and tears running down my cheeks. I honestly believe my dog feared for my sanity. I looked Judy up on the internet, sent her an email to tell her how much I enjoyed her book. She wrote me back and agreed to this interview. Judy is worthy of our Kudos and support. Do yourself a favor and buy one of her books. You will find yourself wanting more.
How long have you been writing?
A long time. My first paid gig was freelancing for a weekly newspaper in rural North Carolina. I wrote a cooking column and a social column, both from home. A few months into the job I began writing feature articles, one each week, on every possible subject you can imagine from a Japanese war bride to local history to a man who collected hundreds of ball caps. I learned that as long as I could capture the enthusiasm of the person I was talking with, I could make a story out of almost anything. Soon I was covering superior court, reporting on trials and sentencing hearings. During all of this I was trying to write my first novel and raise two small children. I finally finished that book, but it took me years. My first fiction sale was a mystery novel, DYING TO GET PUBLISHED. It came out in 1998 and was published by Ballantine Books. That became the first in a six-book series. (Number 7, DYING BEFORE “I DO”, will be out as soon as I can get it finished.) I’ve published three other books as well, DROWNING IN AIR, VACATIONING WITH THE DEAD, and NO SAFE PLACE. All are currently available as ebooks at all the major outlets.
What is the single most difficult part of writing for you?
Just doing the work. Planting myself in front of the computer and writing. Once I’m writing, I love it, but creating is exhausting work. Even mopping the floor can sometimes seem more enticing than pushing a story forward because I don’t outline and frequently have no idea where I’m going with a plot, which can be scary. Make a wrong choice, and I have to throw away pages. Ugh. That’s the worst. So it’s best to let ideas percolate in my brain before I sit down and put the words on paper.
How many hours a day do you write?
I have no answer for that. I can go for days without writing. Sometimes weeks, even months, depending on what’s going on in my personal life. But when I’m writing time passes at a different rate than it does in the real world. I look up at the clock and say, “Is it that late?” That’s how you know you’re doing something you love to do. Ideally, I write about 4 days a week, 3 or 4 hours at a time. Life interferes and I try to never beat myself up for not writing when I’m doing something else like having lunch with a friend or visiting with family. I once gave up an entire summer writing day and night to finish a book an agent had expressed interest in. And when it was done, she declined to represent it. I swore then I’d never be so dedicated to my work that I forget how to enjoy my life.
What is the most important advice you have for someone who wants to be published?
Write! And keep writing. When you finish one book, start writing the next. Don’t give up when you get rejected. The people who make it are the ones who never stop trying. And learn your craft. So many people think they can write books just because they love to read. There’s a lot to learn about fiction writing. Read the how-tos. Join professional organizations, find a critique group, listen to authors speak, make it your priority. It takes a lot more to succeed than talent.
Where do you find the inspiration for your stories? (I know is one of the stupidest questions anyone can ask a writer other than where do you get your ideas. I grab mine from this imagination cloud that floats over my head sometimes. But as you see, Judy was kind enough to answer.)
In my laundry basket. Seriously. Doing laundry, cleaning house, some sort of mindless task that keeps my hands busy—that’s when my mind starts to work. I remember specifically sorting clothes when an idea popped into my head: What if ghosts were actors? What if they didn’t go into the Light because they wouldn’t be able to act in Heaven? VACATIONING WITH THE DEAD was born out of that idea. The idea made me laugh. So did writing the whole book.
What do you like most about writing? What do you like the least?
I love the creative process. I love the crazy things my mind comes up with. Most of all, I love how my subconscious puts together all the elements I’ve thrown into a story and somehow makes them all work. I love waking up from a dead sleep knowing whodunit. And I love people reading my books and really enjoying them. I also like going on the adventure along with my characters. It’s so much safer to solve mysteries with a computer than being an actual police officer or private eye or amateur sleuth. What I like least is probably how physically exhausting creative work can be. And bad reviews from people who just don’t “get” my work. If a reader doesn’t share my sense of humor or adventure, he or she probably won’t like my books. And I probably wouldn’t like theirs either, assuming they ever wrote one. And that’s okay. If we were all alike, what a boring world this would be.
How long does it take you to finish a novel?
As long as my publisher says I have to write it. In actuality, about 9 months. I’m trying to shave that down, but it’s not easy for me.
What message are you trying to give with your books?
Simple messages. Be a good person. Be kind. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, murder. Be a good friend. Believe in your own power and strength and make your dreams come true. Fight for what you think is right. Value one another and never take anything for granted. I write about strong women because I think it’s important to see women taking charge of their lives and dealing with difficult situations. We may not be responsible for everything that happens in our lives, but we’re definitely responsible for how we react to what happens in our lives.
Do you have any other books that will be coming out soon?
Yes! I’m hard at work on the 7th Jennifer Marsh Mystery, DYING BEFORE “I DO”. It should be out in early 2014, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
What are your other books and where can we find out more about your work?
In addition to the Jennifer Marsh Mysteries, DYING TO GET PUBLISHED, DYING TO GET EVEN, DYING FOR A CLUE, DYING TO REMEMBER, DYING TO BE MURDERED, DYING TO GET HER MAN, and the soon to be released DYING BEFORE “I DO”, I’ve written two suspense novels and one paranormal romantic comedy. The suspense novels are DROWNING IN AIR, in which my heroine has lost all memory of 32 hours of her life (pretty inconvenient considering she’s in the middle of trying to get a mass murderer convicted), and NO SAFE PLACE, about a professor whose husband’s body turns back up again after she buried him, putting both her and her daughter in danger because of the secret life he was leading.
VACATIONING WITH THE DEAD is an all out fun romantic comedy in which the hero finds he’s inherited a mansion filled with the ghosts of actors from the 1920s, and the heroine is a travel reporter determined to discover how he achieves the amazing special effects for his murder mystery weekends.
Information about all of my books can be found on my website, www.judyfitzwater.com, and on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/#!/judyfitzwaterauthor, which I invite you to “like”. All nine of my books are available as ebooks from all the major retail outlets: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.