Award-winning writer, Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and is a past recipient of the William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for new mystery writers. She has written more than 2,000 articles and won over a dozen writing awards, including recognition from the New England Press Association, Parenting Publications of America, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Stuttering Foundation of America.
Your first book was published when you were 18 years old. Face-Off is out of print but you’re still receiving fan mail. Tell us about what prompted you to write the book.
When I was in high school, I loved watching ice hockey and loved to read, however, there were very few fiction novels written about the subject. I decided to write one purely for my own entertainment. It was a fun book to write, about twin teenage brothers who compete on the hockey rink for their father’s approval. I scribbled most of it in high school study halls and then typed it on my electric typewriter. On a whim, I submitted it to the Avon Flare Young Adult Novel Competition, which was aimed at teenage writers. To my delight, it won and was published under my maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, during my freshman year in college. The book has had a lot of longevity, and many teenage boys have written book reports on it and sent me letters. I recently discovered that the Hockey Hall of Fame has Face-Off on its recommended reading list for schools that visit the museum on field trips. My hope is to eventually reissue an updated edition for today’s young readers, as I think it would do quite well. The Internet was in its infancy when Face-Off was originally published, and it would be a huge advantage in promoting a new edition to schools, libraries, and hockey groups.
You worked as a reporter for many years and you now write fiction and freelance. What prompted the change?
I started working from home after I became a mom. I did a lot of magazine writing at first and won several awards, but I stopped doing that after awhile as it was draining my energy. I was always playing phone tag and spending hours on the computer researching articles, and I came to the realization that if I remained a reporter, I would never have the chance to be an author. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Now, I write newsletter articles and press releases for a few regular clients that I feel very fortunate to work with, including the Melanoma Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives from melanoma (http://www.skincheck.org). There are significantly fewer phone calls for newsletters, so it fits better into my family’s schedule and it also leaves time for my fiction career.
The bio on your website says you love to read mystery novels. Who are your favorite mystery authors—and why?
I enjoy cozy mystery series with likable recurring characters, such as Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series, Cynthia Baxter’s Reigning Cats and Dogs series, Denise Swanson’s Scumble River Mysteries, and Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen novels. I’m always happy to find a new mystery series, as when I pick up the latest installments, it’s like visiting with an old friend. I also enjoy suspense novels, like those of Lisa Gardner and Mary Higgins Clark. I tend to read those books quickly as they’re so fast-paced, they’re hard to put down.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
The biggest challenge was getting published. It took several years to find a publisher for my second book, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. It was agented for three years, but it didn’t sell. The book publishing industry is competitive and it can be discouraging for new authors trying to find a home for their work. I thought about quitting a few times, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’d had a lot of interest in my work from agents and editors, and I was also a recipient of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant, awarded annually at the Malice Domestic Convention in Arlington, VA. It’s hard to give up on your dream when you have hope. Deep down, I felt that if I could just get my mystery novels published, readers would like them, so I persevered even when it seemed bleak.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
My debut mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today was released in October 2009 from Mainly Murder Press as a trade paperback. For twenty-five years, Diana Ferguson’s killer has gotten away with murder. When rookie obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant Kris Langley investigates the cold case of the artistic young cocktail waitress who was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology, she must fight to stay off the obituary page herself. It is available for purchase at http://www.mainlymurderpress.com/, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. It will also be carried in independent bookstores, and if your local bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, they should be able to order it by the ISBN: 978-0-615-29011-9. More information is available on my web site, http://www.stacyjuba.com/.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
Mainly Murder Press will publish my second mystery novel, Sink or Swim, in Fall 2010. When reality TV turns to murder, it’s sink, swim, or die. Not only has Cassidy Novak walked the plank and lost a hit action-adventure reality show set aboard a Tall Ship, she has also attracted a stalker who is masterminding his own twisted game. As her former competitors get knocked off one by one, Cassidy refuses to play by his bizarre rules. Soon, Cassidy must walk the plank once again--this time for her life. I’m polishing up a paranormal young adult thriller Dark Before Dawn, and I’m also working on Sign of the Messenger, the first in a planned series about Deirdre Sheridan, a psychic healer and the co-owner of a quirky New Age shop.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
I’d say hone your craft and learn how to edit your work. I’ve critiqued a lot of manuscripts and the most common mistakes I see are: 1) Too much back story, 2) Excess dialogue and description that don’t advance the story, 3) Point of view problems, and 4) Improper use of commas. I can recognize these flaws in other writers’ manuscripts because I’ve been guilty of them myself. Find critique partners to exchange manuscripts with, either on-line or through a writer’s group, whichever fits better into your lifestyle. You’ll gain fresh perspective into your own writing and you will become a better editor.
You are a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. How has membership in those organizations helped your writing career?
Twenty-Five Years Ago Today was published as a direct result of my membership in Sisters in Crime. I belong to an on-line subchapter called the Guppies, and someone was kind enough to forward the news that an exciting new independent publisher, Mainly Murder Press, was seeking submissions. I’ve found wonderful critique partners through the Guppies as well, and I’ve learned a great deal about book promotion through my published Sisters. I also belong to the Sisters in Crime New England Chapter, which has helped me to make regional contacts. This has led to guest blogging invitations, speaking engagements, invitations to write newsletter articles, and opportunities to take classes and workshops. In addition, both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America publish informative newsletters which have been extremely helpful to me over the years.
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
I’m doing a book signing and author talk November 21, 2009 at Kaleidoscope Books, Cards & Gifts in Upton, MA. During the weekend of November 15, 2009, I’ll appear on the “D is For Debut” Panel at the New England Crime Bake mystery and suspense writers conference. I’ll also be doing a book signing there and will meet with several authors for manuscript critiques. The event features Sue Grafton as the keynote speaker and should be a fun weekend. I’ll also be meeting with a couple of local book clubs in November and December.
Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.
I’m really excited about the opportunity to have Twenty-Five Years Ago Today in print, and it’s been an amazing feeling to share the book with readers. I always hoped this day would come, but I honestly didn’t know if it would. I’d like to tell new writers not to give up. You’ll never know where the road will lead unless you follow it. If writing makes you happy, you enjoy interacting with other authors and keeping up with the publishing industry, and you have inner drive and determination, then you’re on the right path. Keep at it and see where it takes you.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
My web site is http://www.stacyjuba.com/. I also have a Facebook page, which can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/ylh2q4h. I’m also on GoodReads, http://tinyurl.com/yghnn44 , and weRead http://tinyurl.com/yg3stya .