I’m a big fan of cozy mysteries for their quirkiness, pun, and play on words. Do puns and coming up with those unique titles come naturally?
All titles are subject to be changed by the publisher. In the case of my Undercover Dish mysteries, the only one I suggested was The Big Chili. They came up with the other two.
For my other two series, they kept all of my titles except one.
What’s the hardest part of writing a cozy mystery?
It’s often quite easy to come up with a basic premise, but it becomes harder when you have to weave details and clues into your basic storyline. But sometimes it’s very fun, and when big ideas come, it’s quite rewarding!
I am a member of one writing group and two book clubs. My writing group has been together for twenty years, so we know each other’s work and goals, and that’s very helpful.
The book clubs are just for fun—one is with some ladies on my block, and another is with colleagues at work.
Are you active in any professional associations?
I am a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Chicago Writer’s Association. These are organizations to which I pay dues and who sponsor various events/gatherings throughout the year.
I work full time, so I don’t always have much time to spare for events or conferences, but now that more things are on Zoom it’s been a bit easier to attend lectures and meetings and things.
I start with a basic idea and a vague understanding of perpetrator and motive. I generally stick to this idea, but I have twice changed the murderer’s identity because I ended up liking the original perpetrator and didn’t want them to go to jail.
What do you think makes for a perfect murder mystery?
There are all kinds of mysteries, and I like them all, but the perfect one is the one you can’t put down.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part is the middle. I love writing beginnings, and I enjoy the drama of climactic scenes and the generally happy tone of resolutions. It’s that middle section that is daunting, where I have to create clues, dialogues and details that keep the pace escalating. I often feel like I’m writing the most boring scenes in the world, but I have to get those details down.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I often lose track of what day it is in my text. So, the editor or copy editor will say, “Isn’t it Monday at this point? Didn’t you say a week had gone by?” I’m terrible of keeping track, so I just say, “Okay, you’re right. I’ll change it so that it makes sense.”
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I love getting e-mails and letters from readers—the fact that they read my books and reference them is very rewarding. Even back before I was published and I got regular rejection letters, I would get encouragement from agents or editors, telling me to keep submitting because I was getting close. And they were right.
How have you learned to write past writer’s rejection?
As I mentioned above, not all rejections are bad. You can really use them to your advantage by studying what the agent or editor says. If there was a specific reason for rejecting the manuscript (point of view, narrative voice, plotting, pacing, characterization), then I always had something to address, or to learn from. I think that my writing got better through practice, but it also got better because agents and editors told me the truth, and I listened to them.
I’ve realized that you don’t have to be perfect to get a book published, and that while some bestsellers are absolutely amazing, some are not that well written. And this reality is a good reminder that writing is subjective—what one agent loves another might dislike. So you need to send out your manuscript to enough people that you can try to win the numbers game.
What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
That you ultimately have to write what YOU would like to read and find your audience. If you write what you think people are looking for you risk losing your authentic voice.
Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
My next Hungarian Tea House book will come out May 25. It continues the story of Hana Keller, a Hungarian-American woman who runs a tea house with her mother and grandmother. In the first two books, Hana finds out not only that her grandmother is psychic, but that she may have inherited this gift.
This third installment is set in a snowy December just before Christmas. Hana sees something strange while she’s out running errands, and it ends up being an important clue in a police investigation. A local college professor has been killed, and Hana senses that what she saw might be the key to everything. Meanwhile, her handsome boyfriend, Erik Wolf, is trying to solve the murder before Christmas. While they hunt for a killer, there's also a chance for the reader to learn some quaint Hungarian Christmas traditions!
I love that idea of introducing Christmas traditions from Hungary to your readers. If you’d like to learn more about Julia’s writing, here are some links to get you started.
Amazon Page: https://amzn.to/330XX6G